Thoughts of a drug addict

The cravings kicking in again. What do I do? Do I listen to it? How do I resist it? I will try smoke a roll up instead.

Rolls some tobacco in a small rizla, sparks it. Takes the first puff, a sigh of relief. Yes…feel better. It’s 11 am only. I was up late. I can’t remember what time I fell asleep, but I definitely didn’t sleep much. My room’s a mess. There’s stuff lying around everywhere. I need to get my act together. I have an appointment with my GP and social worker later. I need me meds. The pain is getting intolerable. It’s pricking my legs and lower back. I can’t do without me meds.

Finishes the cigarette and eyes meet the glass and a bottle of whisky lying neatly on the coffee table. One morning drink would do me good. It will numb the pain a bit. I never drink to get drunk. I just drink to swish my mouth with the taste of whisky. I only drink scotch. I drink neat. On the rocks, no mixers. No Coca-Cola, no red bull, a bit of water. That’s a healthier choice. I am putting too much stuff in my body already. I still think about what I put in myself. Got to make better choices where I still have control. I am not addicted to sugar. Sugar addiction apparently, is worse than cocaine. I have read many articles on it. Some say it is, while others claim it may not be the case. Anyhow, consuming sugar in excess is definitely not healthy, and it deals with the same pleasure and reward systems in the brain like cocaine and other addictive drugs. Here’s one article, it talks about sugar’s effects on the brain and body.

Here’s another piece- this one’s rather simple in findings and explanation.

Purpose of review: To review research that tests the validity of the analogy between addictive drugs, like cocaine, and hyperpalatable foods, notably those high in added sugar (i.e., sucrose).

Recent findings: Available evidence in humans shows that sugar and sweetness can induce reward and craving that are comparable in magnitude to those induced by addictive drugs. Although this evidence is limited by the inherent difficulty of comparing different types of rewards and psychological experiences in humans, it is nevertheless supported by recent experimental research on sugar and sweet reward in laboratory rats. Overall, this research has revealed that sugar and sweet reward can not only substitute to addictive drugs, like cocaine, but can even be more rewarding and attractive. At the neurobiological level, the neural substrates of sugar and sweet reward appear to be more robust than those of cocaine (i.e., more resistant to functional failures), possibly reflecting past selective evolutionary pressures for seeking and taking foods high in sugar and calories.

Summary: The biological robustness in the neural substrates of sugar and sweet reward may be sufficient to explain why many people can have difficultly to control the consumption of foods high in sugar when continuously exposed to them.

Ahmed SH, Guillem K, Vandaele Y. Sugar addiction: pushing the drug-sugar analogy to the limit. Curr Opin Clin Nutr Metab Care. 2013 Jul;16(4):434-9. doi: 10.1097/MCO.0b013e328361c8b8. PMID: 23719144.

What the hell am I doing, exploring sugar addiction? It’s a multi billion dollar industry. From baby food to sweets, to desserts to doughnuts. Sugar is everywhere….

Sweet Lord!

Does it even matter? When I am addicted myself! Addicted to this, addicted to that, and now I am addicted to ?? What’s next? Definitely not sugar! I am sweet enough 😌.

Where’s that from? Oh yeah! Brick Top from Snatch. I thought it was Lock, Stock, Two Smoking Barrels, but this just shows how smoked my memory is.

Good memories, that movie’s a classic. Helps me forget about my addictions briefly, it does! Pours whisky, Johnnie Walker into the glass. Reaches out to the bedside fridge freezer, taking out some ice cubes and putting them into the glass of whisky.

These words bring about so many thoughts, stir so much in my head. The taste though and the smell, that’s what gives the satisfaction. Johnnie Walker, isn’t he some cat killer in Kafka on the Shore by Murakami. A strange twisted piece of work that is, indeed! This boy recommended me to read the book. I just couldn’t get into it, but Johnnie Walker hooked me in. It was a good change for a few days. I took less drugs when I was reading. I don’t usually read. I do but not fantasy and fictional stories. I like to stick to reality you see. Hmm.., that probably doesn’t sound right coming from my mouth. After all, I have addiction problems. Do I really stick to reality? Or do I know a tune called stick and cut! Like jelly beans, freaking creams, filled to brim. Why do my thoughts keep wandering off?

Finishes the drink. Gets ready, putting on the clothes lying on the floor. Brushes teeth, puts on the cap and heads to the GP to pick up the prescription. Then off to pharmacy to pick up prescribed medication. Some methadone, some benzodiazapines. That should take care of me for a week.

I will speak to my key worker over the phone. It’s not like they have a good opinion of me. I don’t blame ’em, they only see me as an addict. They don’t see the rest of me, the person who I was. That person is still somewhere inside me. I know I need help to fix up. I need help to go back to being who I was. I am not living in the past but being where I currently am, it sure gets depressing thinking about it.

I only have a few friends and even those, I am not sure whether they are my real friends. Real friends serve you long way. You heard that tune? Here it is… you will love it. One of my favourites. Yes we surely had a blast, we’re like family, me and you! I have always been open to you. Thinking about this one friend. Not a friend but at least that’s what I think of him, when I speak to him. He’s good at listening, talking to him is helping me. I have been getting more productive, the more conversations I have with him. Despite family bereavement, I have found some purpose and meaning. I am not entirely sure, what it is yet. I do know that, finally someone who understands me, understands how I feel, has reached out to me. He is one of the very few who saw my intelligence. He didn’t look at me as an addict. I have a good day, when I speak to him.

Last time we spoke, we talked about habit formations. He talked to me about the cue, routine and reward system. The habit loop, I was telling him about how to tune in and listen to the body. He then told me, how neurobiology influences the habits, how habits are ingrained and what we do then becomes automatic. I didn’t think that 88% of our mind was subconscious. The good news though, it can be altered… it’s never too late. I want to believe that. I don’t want to keep living like the way I currently am. It won’t lead to a better place. Right now, I am swimming in quick sand. I am not struggling to get out. Once I start, initially it will feel like struggle. It won’t be easy but it’s not impossible. I am willing to give it a try.

Fragility

It’s very easy for me to talk about the good things that I am constantly trying to improve on and implement.

Today I want to talk about the difficult stuff. Fragility- how vulnerable humans can be? How easy it is to do away with the positive emotions that require a lot of work to build and let them be overwhelmed by the negative emotions that are quick to take over. Our survival mechanism that has been built in us, ensures that we feel these negative emotions for our own benefit. This is how we survive and thrive in the world.

To give you some context, I took up some challenges to build new habits and compound on them, all was well until it wasn’t. One of the challenges was a combo of meditation and exercise twice a day for 90 days. I meditated and exercised at least once every day for the last 50 or so days. I have skipped the last 3 days and missed some meditation sessions and/or exercise combo that goes with them, so there goes the 90 days challenge as I broke continuity. It doesn’t sound that bad writing that yeah, I missed those 3 days, but when I talk about why I missed those 3 days, it may sound like that I went through a slump. In those 3 days, my mind was occupied with anxiety, worries and cues for depression seemed to be returning. I was trying to suppress those emotions simultaneously, which is the worst thing to do when feeling such way.

” It’s good to express your emotions and it’s not good to suppress your emotions”.

This is a line I repeat often in some classes I have been holding. Yet, I was not exercising this myself. That said, I don’t mean that you should scream when you’re angry or eat sugary foods when craving food. Good and wanted emotions are good to express and bad and unwanted emotions should be managed and controlled. The 3 days I skipped on all the little things I do to win the day and ingrain the process fell apart. In those 3 days, I felt a lot of other emotions too; self-doubts, feelings of being ungrateful, feelings of burn-out because I may be trying to take on too many tasks, combined with some concerns for my well-being and health and thinking how this may impact me. All of this to me, highlights how fragile and vulnerable I can be at times and, how easy it can be to get derailed. I can go into much deeper details and how my mind works but that may not necessarily be how your mind works. If you have through experiences learnt the cues for anxiety and depression, if you have learnt through reflection how to overcome, if you have learnt to not suppress emotions, rather allow yourself to feel the emotions and then overriding it with your cognitions and actions to stop these cues from returning. This is how perhaps; I think I have been able to pick myself up through slumps and periods of low mood and energy. To re-centre myself, I have to take a step back and start again at the causes and resolving those causes. The causes and cues of these negative feelings and slumps can be rectified through addressing the cause and/or reinforcing the actions that will subside these emotions and bring back the positivity and process back in sight.

3 days of slump may have seemed like a huge setback to me in my head and because of the overwhelming feelings I felt in those 3 days. What helped me is being able to detach myself from’ my Self’ and observe myself objectively. I know that I can never do this with full objectivity but what helps me is, talking about myself in 3rd person as if I am not me and am just looking at my behaviour/actions because that’s what’s visible outwardly, I then observe my emotions and try see how they are affecting my thoughts and behaviours. Wherever there is a disconnect and wherever there is a causal reaction, those areas identified then need to be rectified. It may all sound a bit fancy because of how I might be explaining things, to give an example and make a relation between emotions, thoughts, and behaviours. Consider this, which in my case, is one of the cues for depression and anxiety returning. What I want to do is wake up and carry on with my daily routine but instead, I lay about in bed. In not getting up off the bed, I start feeling lazy, this then brings feelings of being unproductive and uselessness, I reinforce these feelings through my actions of remaining lazy. The actions reinforce the thoughts in my mind that yes, the feelings and behaviours confirm that I am actually lazy, unproductive, and useless, the thoughts then turn to rumination. Rumination is a cue for depression returning. It’s not a simple process for me, thoughts, behaviours and emotions either reinforce each other or often there is a disconnect, when my feelings and thoughts lag the actions/behaviours. Sometimes it is my actions that lag the emotions. What I am simply saying is, yeah, it’s complex to explain it. Which shows how fragile and vulnerable I can be.

Once we are in the fragile and vulnerable state, our lower self, survival instincts, survival mechanism overtake our rational thinking and rational behaviour and we fall into old habits which may also be a precursor for anxiety and depression. We may feel afraid, we may become distrustful of others and/or ourselves. We may start eating unhealthy foods/ binge eat/ consume high sugar foods. We oversleep, we may lose our appetite, we may become disengaged with our surroundings and disconnected with those close to us.

Being able to reflect while going through this can be really helpful, as it can help you get back on track. I am a big believer in dreams and what shape they take in our sleep. If we try connecting to our unconscious and subconscious minds and what they are trying to tell us, we can recognise the areas where we have to give attention. I am not going to delve into interpretation of dreams. I am not an expert in the area, I feel that I am well connected with how my dreams are shaped and my ability to influence my own dreams in my sleep. Anyhow, back to the topic at hand. Reflection, allowing yourself time to feel emotions, accepting them is a good way to address the slump. Self-awareness and recognising early on the shift in your routines, behaviour and emotions is a great tool to possess too. Remembering this one line, that no soul is burdened beyond what it can bear helps me a lot. It helps me reinforce the confidence and grants me persistence and wisdom to keep working towards my goals and visions. The ability to implement even in small ways, this is the way to start working on your dreams and goals. Wishful thinking and having great ideas lead to get rich quick schemes and hoping for overnight success if you lack the courage to pursue them knowing and dealing with periods of setbacks. In modern age, our brains are more prone to instant gratification because of the impact of the social media, environment, constant bombardment of advertisements and reality TV shows.

Most of all knowing yourself and your ability to re-centre when overwhelmed is what can help you overcome setbacks. In all honesty I want to add that I don’t think I know myself well. It’s an ongoing process that perhaps never ends till you’re dead.

p.s. I do not suffer from clinical depression. What I talk about in this blog is the feelings of depression that people may feel in different stages of their lives. This is not an expert advice, just moments of self-reflection. I really wrote this to allow myself to feel all emotions and be able to reflect on them. It also helped me overcome the slump which in the moment was overwhelming. Keep a note of this when reading it. Thank you!

Deep Reflections

It’s the last 10 blessed nights of Ramadan. I want to take this opportunity to reflect upon my life, goals and dreams.

The meandering path that I have tread upon, the struggle against the heavy currents, the deep desire to constantly improve, learn more about myself and increase in knowledge. Through the practise of martial arts the main lesson that I have learnt is that by going to the first principles, we can see how different paths in life are similar. Through reflection I have been able to seek these similarities in many different fields and sciences, the principles hold through time. Principles are universal and those who deny it, they are deluded within the realm of their ego and self-esteem. Humility and open-mindedness are traits to possess when seeking knowledge, it will help develop critical thinking, analytical thinking and a mindset that questions before you start following anything blindly.

I am reading a psychology book which talks about the minds of masses. Throughout history we can delve into this study and see how many events of the past have been shaped because of these factors, perhaps I will write all of this in another blog post. For now, let me stick to discussing my reflections, goals and dreams.

One of my dreams in life is to eradicate poverty and child abuse. I know it’s idealistic to believe that all vices can be eliminated completely. However, I want to do what I can within my capacity and I want to achieve this through education. Hence, one of my main dreams from a younger age has been to establish an educational institution which is self-sustaining and once set-up it can function with minimum injection of additional capital- be that through any public or private means.

What I want that educational institution to be like? I have spent many hours in the past years thinking over it and I can say that the more I think and visualise it, the clearer the image of this institution becomes. It’s just an idea that I have shared on many other platforms before, not yet implemented on my part. However, there are many institutions around that have implemented many aspects similar to my thinking. I have learnt a lot by looking at these different institutions and how they function. One such institution is Zaytuna. If you read my blog, I would suggest you donate to them because for 1) educating and teaching others is an ongoing charity unlike other forms of charity which once given gets a set reward and 2) Zaytuna is one of those institutions that instil the principles in its pupils that help them succeed in whatever field they want to pursue afterwards. How do they do that? Through teaching the first principles, by developing the minds of the pupils enabling them to think for themselves; it grants them the ability to make sound judgement, utilising good morals and values. Through teaching them rhetoric and grammar, through teaching them the skills of effective communication, through eloquence.

I haven’t had the opportunity to study there and hence my words cannot describe their system the best way. However, what I would like to add to this is that, if you’d like to get to know the Islamic teachings through traditional way, not what the Mainstream media portrays what Islam is. E.g. Islam was the first religion to grant women equal rights, the first wife of Prophet pbuh, was a businesswoman, a source of comfort for him, a friend, who shared the responsibility of the household together. By getting to the correct teachings you can perhaps come to change your views about Islam, whether you follow its teachings or you don’t. The best way to remove animosity towards one another is by taking interest in others. Real interest that shows the real morals and values of the community, the people, the nation, the society.

I think prejudice, judging others and forming opinions without properly knowing others is the wrong way to get to know someone. It is an easy way for closed-minded people to stay within their comfort zones and live inside the bubble of their ego. We should especially be bursting these bubbles in these times, we have so much free time. Let’s take this opportunity to learn about ourselves and others. Reflect within and learn to see the goodness in others. If we look at others with faults, that’s all we will ever find. To expand on this, when we look at others with faults, we really are just extending our own subconscious on others. That’s a deep thing to ponder over.

For those of you who know me personally or are at least acquainted with me, I would like to request that you kindly donate what you can towards Zaytuna. If you wish to see more helpful muslims as your neighbours, as your friends, as community leaders who lead as good role models, as loving and caring members of the society then please donate. The institution runs with the help of donors and you can be part of providing good education, which becomes a means of an ongoing reward for yourself and anyone on whose behalf you donate, be they your deceased loved ones or those who are alive and close to you.

In my next few posts, I will perhaps talk a bit more about the educational institution that I want to build. It’s my long-term goal, if and when I have the capacity to follow this path. I will also talk about the mind of the masses and how to understand it. I perhaps being one of those deep thinkers, and who isn’t easily swayed by trends and someone who likes to call themselves a non-conformist (as in my name as the author), you can understand why I would lean towards reading such deep books. Anyhow, to end this blog, I would like to say, don’t fall into the trap of knowing-it-all and don’t fall into the trap that you’re worthless. Rather have a balanced approach, stay humble, stay curious, curiosity towards learning, not being nosy in other people’s matters or curiosity that leads to hate and envy. To create a harmonious society, I firmly believe that we all should strive to better ourselves individually, and then, only then extend that help forward. That said, this tells me that it is time for me to stop writing and look within myself to better myself. Look within, what’s within is what’s reflected outwards. See the funny thing about delusional people is that, they themselves don’t ever realise that they are deluded. The irony! Hmm, I still have the habit of being spontaneous when I write, just typing my mind out loud, perhaps it is my strength. With time, I will start writing articles with better research process. I am fairly new with this blog so I focus on consistency because I love writing. I started loving it more by sharing more and writing more often. You develop a passion by engaging in the arts. The art of writing has now become my passion, I know there is always room for improvement. The grammar, the sentence structure, how I articulate my thoughts, so much more to improve on. With time and years to come, I will seek to improve. I would love to hear your thoughts and feedback. Feel free to share this and help raise funds for a good cause.

Until next time,

Keep safe