I just finished reading Unhooked: How to Quit Anything, by Dr. Frederick Woolverton and Susan Shapiro, about treating addiction from the psychologists perspective. I’d previously read Shapiro’s memoir about quitting smoking, in which she worked closely with Dr. Woolveron to work through her anxiety, depression and many addictions. The best thing about her book was the accurate depiction of how hard quitting something actually is. Dr. W says a person will feel like hell for a year after they quit; that seems honest, if not a bit of an understatement. This resonated with my experiences, as quitting never improves my wellbeing as I desire it should, but rather uncovers new problems and anxieties.
Dr. W says a key dynamic addicts need to understand is that “the void substances seek to replace can never be filled” (101). Again, this is true to my experience but not necessarily true of all the self-help philosophies out there. Healthy habits don’t fill the void any better than bad habits. I can quit a 20+ year addiction to Pepsi, and I’m left with the void. Apples don’t fill the void any better than Pepsi did.
The theory behind Dr. W’s addiction treatment is “that people use substances to soothe themselves in the way they should have been calmed and soothed in their formative years” (112). This resonates with me 100%. And, it makes me scared for my son, who is inconsolable and refuses to be soothed. (He came out this way!) I see so much of my childhood in his simply in our emotional responses to reality, regardless of how different those realities are. His life is far removed from mine in material and psychological ways, but his responses to this life are not unlike my own. I’m trying to find healthy and effective ways to self-soothe and to help Benjamin do the same, but I’m not finding it very manageable.