I know it’s not Wednesday, unless you are actually reading this on a Wednesday. In which case, happy Wednesday!
I have a different story about Wednesdays.
I talk to a fair amount of people who are addicted to drugs or alcohol, or World of Warcraft, or porn, or masturbation, or shoes (and you know who you are), or Real Housewives of Vancouver. For most people in my line of work the actual addiction itself is almost secondary for much of our discussion. What the recent literature is saying is that what is really important is that weird stuff happening on a neurological and emotional level way way deep.
It is a fairly good bet that the reason you said yes to that rail or joint or seventh glass of wine on Saturday night had much less to do with your lack of willpower than you might think. Perhaps the cards were far more stacked against you than you ever imagined. So let’s talk about Wednesday.
You have been trying to skip a weekend for months. We talked about the problem and it’s becoming more and more about bingeing. Time to “take a weekend off” to prove to yourself that you are not a drug addict or alcoholic or whatever personally destructive name tag you want to wear.
There is a huge elephant in the room that no one wants to really talk about. The binge probably actually started on about Wednesday. Maybe it was on Wednesday that the thought first entered your mind. You know how it went. All you said to yourself was, “O crap, the weekend is coming!”. That was all. Harmless, right? Wrong.
I have heard several clinicians and university nerds talk about this. Apparently there is much more going on just under the surface than most of us realize. What if thinking about using actually gave me a little hit of happy goodness? Turns out it probably does.
Most of us have heard of adrenaline or dopamine or serotonin. Here’s a story. Yes that seems very random. Have you ever seen that cheesy commercial “This Is Your Brain On Drugs”? You know, the one that makes you want to eat eggs. Cocaine addicts, lots of cocaine addicts, have reported to me that commercials like that actually make their mouths water, and not for eggs.
Why do you think that is? If you’ve ever had an extended encounter with cocaine you will know there is a very specific and pronounced taste to that white powder. Users will often rub it on their gums to numb the surface of their skin, just for kicks. You taste every line, every puff. It is a very sensory experience. Ten years later a person who was once addicted to cocaine finds her mouth-watering during a story about a weekend binge. A wedding celebration has brought back some bad thinking about drinking. Apparently when Johnny started fixating on the weekend some of the good stuff was released in his brain and an association is made. More thoughts can equal more goodies and by the time John gets in his car on Friday night to drive to his dealer’s house he’s pretty much toast. Many addicts report that during the ride over they often berate themselves for being weak, yet again. Many promise themselves they will never do this again, or at least get help. At this point it’s just a game you play every time you disappoint yourself. This is familiar territory. You keep your foot on the gas pedal because you are, in a very real sense, already high.
The science on addiction is changing. Clinicians and front-line workers are incredibly open to new information and are much more willing to speak about dangerous subjects than we once were. Addiction humbles people. The carnage of broken lives that my colleagues in the addictions field and I have witnessed changes a person. I respect the drug more than I used to.
Today my colleague Dawn and I spoke with some amazing parents who were absolutely frightened by the prospect of their teenager’s exposure to drugs in their local high school. They should be. At the end of the day there was a real sense that those parents needed to become better informed. Information really can be powerful. Knowing that I am vulnerable earlier cannot but help me when I find myself hungry, angry, lonely or tired (HALT). Knowing I am vulnerable can literally be half or more of the battle.