Those haunted by addiction keep working against relapse

Even when the habit is gone, certain behaviors may lead to a relapse. But a relapse doesn't mean failure.  By making up the mind and implementing a program to aid on the road to recovery, people can find a way to live with the ghost of addiction.

Even when the habit is gone, certain behaviors may lead to a relapse. But a relapse doesn't mean failure. By making up the mind and implementing a program to aid on the road to recovery, people can find a way to live with the ghost of addiction. (Graphic illustration by Senior Airman Stephen Cadette)

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- "If an addict who has been completely cured starts smoking again, he no longer experiences the discomfort of his first addiction. The dead drug leaves a ghost behind. At certain hours it haunts the house."  said Jean Cocteau, French novelist and filmmaker.

Even when the habit is gone, the addiction doesn't go away.  Any recovering addict understands that there are certain behaviors, mentally and physically, that may lead to a relapse. 

But a relapse doesn't mean failure.  However discouraging, the more often a person fights the addiction, the more likely for success. By making up the mind and implementing a program to aid on the road to recovery, people can find a way to live with the ghost of addiction.

The Power of Positive Thinking
Lloyd Conley sat in the screened in porch of his Philippine apartment and smoked his last cigarette. It was 11:38 a.m., Jan. 15, 1987, a moment he said he'll never forget.  He took six unopened packs of cigarettes he kept in the freezer and threw them into the furnace.

When he went to bed, he thought of the cravings that would threaten his resolve the next day.

"And I woke up that next morning and waited for the cravings to hit...and they never came," the 30th Medical Group health care specialist said.

This was the second time he had tried to quit smoking. 

"I tried to quit smoking once before and then my grandfather died and I had to go home on emergency leave....it (not smoking) went out the window at that point."

Mr. Conley quit for good the second time around.  Many nicotine addicts stumble several times on the road to freedom from addiction.  According to the study by researchers at Boston University School of Dental Medicine, between 60 and 90 percent of smokers relapse within the first year of quitting. 

Most will be more likely to succeed if they've made the personal decision to kick the habit. To reduce the risk of relapse, identify the problem and work towards quitting as a goal.

"You really have to see your problem, and one thing that I found out was that breaking a habit and achieving a goal were one in the same... you have to want to do it," Mr. Conley said.

Wanting to quit smoking for the right reasons is essential--the addict has to own the decision and not quit for anyone or anything else.

"A lot of people will come into the Health and Wellness Center and say that their family or co-workers want them to quit," said Judy Taggart, Vandenberg health educator. "That's not the right reason. A person is less likely to relapse if they're doing for themselves, because they want it."

Once users decide to quit, they may want to supplement their decision with medication or a program to aid in the process.

Not a Magic Serum
In a rusted chair, Blade, a vampire hunter who is half vampire with all of a vampire's strengths, sits consumed with a thirst for blood as he injects a serum into his arm. Instantaneously, this blood-thirsty Marvel comic-book character's blood cravings subside, allowing him the clear mind to defeat the world's strongest vampires.

Unfortunately for addicts, there is no magic serum make the cravings subside.

However, there are programs and products, offered through the Health and Wellness center here, that will aid in the battle of defeating the personal demon of addiction.

Tina Levins, Vandenberg Fitness Program coordinator, highly reccommends one program called 1-800-NO-BUTTS.

"It's an over the phone counseling that smokers can rely on," she said. "This program is under-publicized and a good resource for people who don't need anonymity but still need the accountability factor and support of others."

Other products offered at Vandenberg include nicotine gum, zyban, nicotine patch and well as a smoking cessation class.

Even with the products, it is important for people to remember that a relapse might happen but it doesn't make mean failure.

"It really doesn't matter how many times you quit," M. Levins said. "It just matters that you stick with quitting because the odds are with you to eventually succeed."

Jean Cocteau stated addiction leaves behind a ghost that haunts your body. By making a strong decision, sticking with it and using supplemental programs or products as aids, the addict has the power to make peace with the ghost of addiction.

This article is the last in a four-part series on factors that contribute to a healthy, positive mental state.