Smoke Screens

No Smoking - American Cancer Society's Great A...
No Smoking – American Cancer Society’s Great American Smoke Out (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


Bill White recently posted on tobacco use in recovery. He’s been way ahead of the field on this and challenges not only treatment providers, but recovering people as well:


People in recovery are dying from smoking-related diseases in large numbers, but they are also dying from conceptual blindness:  the failure to see the contradiction between claiming recovery status in the presence of continued addiction to nicotine.  Too many recoveries and too many lives are going up in smoke.


Anna David recently posted a first-person account of her path to becoming tobacco-free:


Then, when I was nine months sober, I met an older woman who’d been sober, it seemed, forever. She and I were at dinner with a few other sober friends after a meeting and I did what was routine behavior at that point: I went outside several times throughout the meal to smoke. And one of the times that I returned, this woman started, in the most direct and yet gentle way imaginable, confronting me about the fact that I smoked. People had of course brought the topic up with me before but there was something different about her approach. She said things that made a lot of sense—things like that every time I inhaled on a cigarette, I was telling myself that I hated myself and that getting sober but not quitting smoking was like switching seats on the Titanic. “Honey,” I recall her saying as she leaned forward on the table, “You’re putting a smoke screen between you and your Higher Power.” It was just the kind of thing that I would have mocked before sobriety but which made a lot of sense to who I was becoming. At the end of dinner, she offered to meet me at a Nicotine Anonymous meeting the following evening.


2012′s most popular posts #5 – Ex-addicts staying sober through sport

Awesome. A very cool tribe within the recovering community.

More than 4,700 people have participated in Phoenix, which Scott Strode started in 2007. Most join the group because they’ve struggled with drug or alcohol addiction.

“Life should be better once you get sober,” said Strode, 38. “(We want to) help people build a new life, a new self-image and have fun without getting high.”

Phoenix offers around 50 programs every week, ranging from casual walks and yoga to mountain biking and ice climbing. Activities are led by field instructors, all of whom are in recovery and happy to show beginners the ropes. The organization provides the gear and also offers grants to help people purchase their own equipment. Nearly all events — with the exception of overnight activities or ski trips — are free.

“It’s a great way to introduce people into something that then later becomes … sort of their coping mechanism, as opposed to picking up a drink or a drug, ” Strode said.

He notes that Phoenix isn’t a substitute for any other recovery support program; in fact, many in the group are also in 12-step programs. But Strode believes the natural “high” that people get from Phoenix activities can be transformative.

Anyone who has been sober for 48 hours is welcome to come to one of Phoenix’s open sessions to participate in an activity and learn about the group. After attending several events, individuals are invited to join, provided they sign a pledge to treat everyone respectfully and stay sober. Some members are hard-core athletes, but the group welcomes people of all fitness levels. Most participants have never been active.


Everyone, from Yale to jail

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Greater Good has a nice piece on the benefits of helping others in addiction recovery:

In recent years, a growing body of research has found that helping others brings measurable physical and psychological benefits to the helper. Building on this work, Pagano is exploring the particular and sometimes surprising benefits of altruism for people battling alcoholism and drug addiction. Her studies have shown that addicts who help others, even in small ways—such as calling other AA members to remind them about meetings or making coffee like Victor did—can significantly improve their chances of staying sober and avoiding relapse, among adults and adolescents alike.

As she learned more about the different treatments for addiction, she was surprised that there seemed to be no one looking at the role of doing service.

“It was all about what services to give these suffering patients,” she says, “and nothing about getting them active or about how their own experiences about getting sober and being sober can be useful to others.”

She decided to explore the impact that helping others could have on people in recovery. She started by looking at data from one of the largest studies of addiction to date, with 1,726 participants. Though the study, run out of the University of Connecticut, was not focused on helping behavior specifically, Pagano was able to measure it by looking at how many study participants became AA sponsors or completed the 12th step of AA, which involves helping others in recovery.

When she compared helpers to non-helpers in AA, she found that 40 percent of helpers avoided taking a drink in the 12 months following the 3-month treatment period, while only 22 percent of non-helpers stayed sober—a doubling effect rarely seen in social science research, she says.

In addition, when Pagano looked at the age, gender, income, work status, addiction severity level, and level of antisocial personality disorder of the participants in the study, she found that none of these characteristics predicted helping behavior.

“Someone from Yale to jail had an equal chance of being a helper,” she says.

I also just learned of an organization called Adversity2Advocacy whose mission is, To inspire, to educate, and to facilitate the process of turning personal challenges into service to others facing similar challenges.

Here’s a radio segment about them that includes some discussion about helping and addiction.

It’s very interesting how we’re discovering all of these lifestyle-based mechanisms of change for other problem areas and that AA has been a vehicle for these mechanisms for decades.