Beyond Blue

Beyond Blue

The Least Harmful Addiction

Thanks to Reader Peg, who posted the following comment on the “The Happy Ending” post:

“My current medicine of choice for myself is smoking about ten cigarettes a day. Before I get the health lecture, I quit twice for four years when my kids were small. I have tried antidepressants without success. I now realize after listening to you and others that they very well may need more time to work, but I am sensitive to changes in my body and when I got constipated or just felt like my brain/thinking was encased in something, I quit the meds. I didn’t feel like I was spontaneous on meds. Now I don’t have the extreme symptoms of depression that you describe, more of a low grade type. I’ve gone to counseling for help on a short-term basis several times. My Catholic faith has helped me a great deal and I need it very much.


“I would like to get off the nicotine, but find when I try, I go into panic mode. I no longer feel that weight gain is the greatest problem from quitting that I would encounter. I am afraid that some of the anger that I am suppressing will come out. I already have a tendency to anger and fear temper. I want to grow up but it is so much easier to find comfort in the nicotine when I feel stressed or sorry for myself. My heart sinks when I go to buy a pack of cigarettes and that tells me I really don’t want to do it. Any suggestions?”

First of all, Peg, who gave you my diary? (Oh yeah, it’s online.) And would you like to have Thanksgiving at our house? Because you would fit in so well with my family.

Okay, your question. Here’s what I would say if I were a woman with normal wiring and brain chemistry, enlightened and grounded, free of all vices and addictions (a person so boring that she wouldn’t have enough material–personal strife and issues–to cover one blog post, much less two to four posts a day, like moi): pray about it, use the patch (or some other seen-on-TV technique), and offer it up (the withdrawal symptoms and everything) to God (while doing charity work).


You won’t get a health lecture from me because if you came and stayed with my family for a night, you could give us an even longer one before you left. Although I’m Catholic, I’m not big on hypocrisy, and I know better to throw stones from my house of stained-glass windows. My two cents wouldn’t be found on WebMD, but here it goes:

Yes, smoking is bad for you. Every idiot knows that. But so are obesity, alcohol abuse, bad relationships, and every other kind of addiction. They all raise your blood pressure, weaken your immunity, increase your chances of heart disease and diabetes, and eventually kill you. You’ve just got to know which addiction will kill you the fastest.


After years of dancing with the devil in his many disguises, I know my killers (listed here in their order of most threatening to least threatening): depression (intense suicidal thoughts), alcoholism, toxic relationships, nicotine, sugar, caffeine, and Internet abuse.

Each morning presents an opportunity to live addiction free. And each morning I decline that invitation, hanging on to at least three from that list. Because come on, we all have crutches, and anyone without them are as dull as David’s scissors (they don’t cut anything–and their only purpose is to trigger temper tantrums from preschoolers).

For example, today was a success: I inhaled a rather large Hershey chocolate bar (milk chocolate and almonds, from the vending machine at the bowling alley), drank four large cups of coffee, and checked my e-mail and Beyond Blue messages constantly. That’s fantastic considering the bad boys I avoided–booze, lung rockets (cigs), and dys rels (dysfunctional relationships).


I guess I just try to be pragmatic in my recovery, which (if I’m truly honest) is a four-story apartment (forget the interior castle that Teresa of Avila writes about): The ground floor is survival–literally keeping myself alive; the second level, staying out of the psych ward; the third deck is status quo, meaning not getting worse; and the final tier is moving toward health (yeah!! That’s what I’m shooting for.)

What that means: When I was severely suicidal a year ago, getting drunk wouldn’t have been the WORST thing I could have done. Killing myself would have been. On many days, I contemplated getting hammered, if only to escape the pain for an hour. I knew, on some level, that getting plastered wasn’t a permanent solution and would make me feel even worse. But still, it would have been better than taking the twenty bottles of pills stashed in the garage that I was seriously considering.


At very difficult times in my sobriety, I have gone on smoking binges. That’s not healthy behavior (thank you, I know that), but it beat the bottle (for me a box of Marlboro Lights was much less dangerous than a shot of vodka), and it got me through the acute craving for alcohol and back to level three (status quo).

There have been a few days in my life (maybe five?) that have been addiction-free, hours that I have lived like Jesus, and the Buddha, and Mother Teresa. During these spells, I was sun bathing on level four–blasting to a healthy new me. And then I accidentally walked into some pile of animal waste and I grabbed for the coffee or the computer or the Kit Kat. Oh well. Not a huge deal, in the big picture.

But before you think I rationalize every bad behavior I have, and it’s okay for you to smoke your ten cigs a day, read on for the dozen addiction zappers and depression busters I try to implement into my life in order to stay on the upper two levels of recovery.

  • http://HASH(0xd061424) susanrumpel

    My greatest mental health tools I have gained in the last 18 months are those I learned @ Recovery Inc. This self-help non-profit group has been around for 70 years, in locations all over the U.S. and some in Canada. Nothing I have read or tried has helped me (Other than Catholic faith) the way this fabulous healthy new mental health language has (cognitive behavioral). The web site is Groups are run by trained volunteers. The skills you learn help you to deal with anxiety and anger with gospel values (although the group is non-religious). When we stop working up our anxiety and anger, we experience less tension, less symptoms, less relapse into illness. Check it out, pass it on. Susan

  • http://HASH(0xd062ab4) Rhonda

    Caffine, chocolate and the internet… these three work for me on a regular basis. Strange to see my vices laid out by someone else and to read them! And ya – all the vices written about trump suicidal thoughts/plans. At that point bring on the prescribed sleeping meds while attempting to patiently wait for recovery/remission. I like the zappers and busters list.

  • http://HASH(0xd06372c) jennifer

    your blog has been helpful i lost my husband 3 months ago on the jan 27 o7 i have been feeling real depressed last night was real bad. i am glad i found your blog today it has made me laugh some again yes i have given all this to god but the grief has been real bad for me right now thanks jp

  • http://HASH(0xd063a50) Peg

    Therese, thank you for taking the time to respond to my post and making me feel welcome and posting so many helpful suggestions. It really helps to have your support. I give up the smokes when I am gone all day doing something else (like watching our grandkids), so I have hope now and some tools to do what I need to do. God bless you.

  • http://HASH(0xd06415c) HASH(0xd064090)

    As a medical intuitive, I have found many people who have had soul contracts/curses on them from their family/friends to be ruined/addicted to alchol. a soul contract is something repeated like a mantra, & doesn’t necessarily come from us. I have taken many contracts off coming from generations back- Irish men sitting in a bar saying, “Every man in my family is going to be ruined by alchol !” and 4 generations later, I am working with an Irish-Mexican family with 6 boys, 4 killed by drunk driving, 1 in jail for drunk driving and 1 an alcholic. I removed that statement & replaced it (this has to happen too) with “No one in this family is hurt by or addicted to alchol, and they are happy, healthy with boundless joy. ” & ask God to change the contracts. I have had many people change dramatically and quit drinking after this, and have come to realize we not only create OUR REALITY, we create the reality of our future offspring by what we say & do today.

  • http://HASH(0xd0650bc) Pat

    Seriously though, does there really exist a “least harmful addiction” ? I think not. Ultimately, an addiction can lead to powerlessness and unmanageability with the ultimate endpoints of either insanity or death. To suggest that there is a “least harmful addiction”is truly a bad idea. Patrick

  • http://HASH(0xd0666c4) Stacey

    To someone who THINKS he/she has no addiction, it is very easy to be superior Patrick. Everyone deals with problems in their own way and no one, not even you, deals with every problem in a healthy textbook manner. If to suggest there is a “least harmful addiction” is such a truly bad idea, why did so many respond with a “thank you”? Let me guess-because they want to be justified in their “addiction”. I know that I have an addiction (more than one) and I am not ashamed of that fact. I am actually thankful. The alternative for me WOULD be insanity or death. I would rather cut 10-20 years off my life and be happy, motivated and contribute to society than to spend those extra years in bed as a burden to my family/society.Take it from me-there ARE least harmful addictions. I have done every drug in the free world and for me crack was a VERY harmful addiction. Maybe some people can handle it, I cannot, therefore it is more harmful to me than other types of amphetamine like drugs. I don’t want anyone here to feel guilty for trying to survive and comments like yours do just that. I hope that whoever reading this, who is struggling with an addiction, can ignore comments that only seem to put them down and take the advise of Ms. Borchard – who I myself would like to thank for her article. IT ROCKED!! lol.

  • http://HASH(0xd067054) Ulukula

    Just found you folks!!! Greaat!!! O just got out of the pshych ward after a two week stay. No smoking at the place. I was really fine but also very clear that once I was out of there I was going to smoke. The idea that I can manage life on lifes’ terms without cigarettes is a joke!!! Some day….. until then I’m puffin

  • Paul C. Herson

    Caffeine Addiction – Caffeine Effects and Withdrawal part II
    Caffeine addiction shows up when a person cannot stop consuming caffeine in high amounts, causing his/her body to demand the substance and react negatively if that no caffeine is intake. Caffeine may not be addictive in the traditional sense, but the body builds up a tolerance over time; some people find it very hard to function well without at least one cup of strong coffee or tea in the morning. The stimulating effects of caffeine are caused by a central nervous reaction, the heart rate increases, blood vessels expand and the brain receives more oxygen. These caffeine effects can last for up to 8 hours, and once they go off then the body feels extremely lazy and slow as a side effect.
    Caffeine addiction can even cause death, mainly because the abuse of any stimulant can cause high blood pressure or and heart problems, so if you abuse of it chances are you put yourself at the highest risk of a heart attack.
    You need to be careful with caffeine withdrawal because it affects your overall health and therefore, you need to control your consumption of caffeinated products to prevent your body reactions to caffeine withdrawals. If you need more information about caffeine effects and caffeine addiction symptoms or prevention, please investigate a little further on this topics.
    You can find more info at:

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