Is every addiction bad?

Every form of addiction is bad, no matter whether the narcotic be alcohol or morphine or idealism. - Carl Jung

However, I have also learned that what seems good is not necessarily good and what seems bad is not necessarily bad.  I think every gifts of nature or medicine of man’s ingenuity can be useful and misused.

On whom and when to use these tools may be case by case and moment by moment decisions.  

If I am dying from cancer I’d be grateful if my prescriber were sufficiently knowledgeable to help me manage with the appropriate tools.  If I suffer back pain from being sedentary and poor nutrition and didn’t know better, I’d be grateful if my doctor took the time to teach me self-management instead of giving me a way to avoid addressing the real cause of my pain and suffering by prescribing me a quick fix.  

If I am unable to manage the content of my thoughts and become preoccupied with memories of regrets and shame of the unchangeable past or fear and hope of an imagined future; I’d be grateful if my doctor took the time to share with me the potential of Breath Awareness Meditation (Anapana) as one way to gradually improve my ability to pay attention to the present moment, enjoy the vividness of each present moment, develop self-compassion and a sense of oneness, instead of only offering me a substitute of exogenous mind-altering chemical depressant, stimulant or hallucinogen (natural or synthetic).  I believe the potential for addiction of a given substance is proportional to its effectiveness in reducing the symptoms of my suffering and inversely proportional to my awareness, ability to meet my real needs and reduce the true cause of my suffering.

If I suffer pre-diabetes or type 2 diabetes (30% of Ontarians) due to my average Canadian diet and didn’t want to, or think I am just too busy to know better, I’d be grateful if my prescriber took lots of time to share with me that there are great many more pain, sufferings and illness that lays await for me unless I change my ways.

I’d be grateful to the producer, regulator and promoters of medications to direct some of their resources and creative energy to remind my prescriber of the importance patient self-management in the care of diabetes; and that in many cases by following well publicized dietary guidelines the need for medications can be decreased or sometimes eliminated.  Finally, I’d be grateful to the government elected by the people for the people to make it known to me and repeatedly (I think this is necessary to counter the repeated advertisement promoting the more profitable substitutes) remind me that it is foremost my duty as a citizen, a patient, a son, a brother, a father, a teacher and a leader to be be a role model of wellness for everyone around me.

It took some persuasion and negotiation to get Don to join our psychotherapy group; but he eventually came.  He was happy and surprised to meet his grade 5 teacher who was also attending. He told me he had a hard time in school but he can also remembered she was very kind to him.  Don is now 49 years old. Even though he is still on methadone maintenance program, I am grateful for his gradual transformation. During one group, he shared with us his new realization that “addictions” is a common humanity; the only difference is whether one knows it or not.  

Another patient (John) reflected that he now feels a peace that was never possible before.  He used to be afraid to leave the house in the day for the fear that he will become enraged at strangers and cause them bodily harm.  Now John meditates daily with his wife and eats 400 grams of non-starchy vegetables per day. He enjoys great relationships with his wife, daughter and his grandchildren.  He told me he will grow a vegetable garden this spring.
Over the years, he managed to wean himself off opioids, alcohol while on cannabis.  He told me he made cannabutter and baked brownies. He gradually weaned himself off the brownies as well.  Next he quit tobacco. He now manages his chronic back pain without any substance but by addressing his real need for wholefoods, appropriate physical activity, a sense of equanimity with everything (including his back pain), an improved ability to pay attention to what is important and a sense of self-compassion.

For type 2 diabetes, John’s HbA1C was 11.1 on SGLT, DDP4 and metformin in 2016. His last HbA1C was 5.5.  This type results is not uncommon in my patient population. According to a study published in Lancet, “at 12 months, almost half of participants achieved remission to a non-diabetic state and off antidiabetic drugs. Remission of type 2 diabetes is a practical target for primary care”

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