Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Addiction, and how to treat it

I'm no stranger to addiction. A few years back I had a number of episodes where I gambled away everything I had on the slots and poker machines of Las Vegas. And this while I worked for the company that serviced those machines.

Even now, if you put me in a casino and put money in my hands, that money will soon be gone.

I beat that addiction, if you can put it that way, by simply not going to casinos anymore.

In my time as a homeless person, I've seen many people who shows signs of addiction: Alcohol, Crack, Cocaine, Marijuana, and yes, Gambling.

I've sat through a few of the 12-Step programs, forced to, really, by the kind folks at the Salvation Army shelter in Roanoke, VA. I have serious issues with that type of program, and I have some suggestions on different ways to handle addiction, which works in well with what I want to do with Project Five-Star. Yes, I still want that to work, somehow.

The problems I have with 12-Step programs are:

1) They don't work for everyone. I don't necessarily believe in a higher power and that's one of the central points of the program.

2) You are in danger of falling back into your addiction if you stop going to meetings. This is because the program does not handle the reason for the addiction in the first place. Personally I think this is why so many drop out of it, only to return at a later time.

3) They don't address the reason for the addiction. (I know, I said that before, it's rather important.)

4) It assumes you're addicted for life, something I don't necessarily believe in.

So, with those issues addressed, let me talk about what I'd like to see in an addiction recovery program:

1) A sit-down with a psychiatrist to get to the root of the problem. In my case, lack of money has always been my issue, so I had a desire, fed by the endorphins that the pretty lights and sounds of winning caused in my brain, to get the 'big win' so I would have more money. The problem is, I didn't know when to stop. I didn't need a psychiatrist to tell me this. Other people might need a little help to discover the root of their addictions and address those issues.

2) Once you have those underlying problems cornered, you learn to deal with them. This is a highly personal adventure yet the addicted need to be guided through the process. But rather than make you sit through meetings where the same topics are covered ad nauseum (think the 'losing is an illness' scene from 'The Natural,') let's redirect the energy spent on an addiction and thinking about an addiction to something more positive.

3) Redirect the energy to a hobby that you enjoy. Maybe even more than one hobby in case the hobbies you choose are easily finished, boring or otherwise unsatisfying. Find a hobby you can enjoy, a skill you're good at that makes those endorphins flow in a productive manner.

When you think about it, all 12-Step meetings are simply a redirection of energy, but it only lasts as long as the meeting.

In my case, writing has redirected much of the energy I might have spent gambling. Also playing video games, though some might consider that to be unproductive. It's a hobby I enjoy, and the endorphins flow just fine without me spending more than $15/month. As far as writing being productive, well some might argue that in my case it hasn't been as productive as it might be. I say I have 3 books published. How many do you have? I have 168 posts in this blog and a few more in other blogs. I say I have at least two movie scripts at various stages of development, one TV series, and thousands of ideas flowing through my head, which have ultimately thrown any ideas of gambling out of my head. So this idea has worked for me.

That's the gist of what I hope to put together for Project Five-Star. I'm no expert, I don't claim to know everything. Falling off the wagon is likely to occur whichever method you choose. It's just an idea. You can take it and run, or leave it and go back to your AA meeting.

As always, thanks for reading!