What makes an Addict


What makes an addict or not? How do we differentiate between people who are addicts and people who are not addicts. In fact, there’s a third group those idiots. So we got three groups of people. First of all, the normals, then the idiots and then the addicts.

Now let’s look at just with alcohol because it’s an easy one to deal with. The normal, in someone like my wife, m y wife can do the most extraordinary thing. She can leave half a glass full of wine and I would say, “How did you do that?” and she will say, “Because I didn’t want it.” I said, “No, you didn’t hear the question. I said, how did you do that?” because I can’t do that. If I leave half a glass of wine it sings to me and I have to go back. Go back and pick it up and drink it to put it out of its misery.

I don’t know how to have half of something. They sell cigarettes or rather they sell chocolates by the box, so you eat them by the box. You don’t just have one, it’s a ludicrous concept. But my wife is perfectly capable of eating one chocolate or having half a glass full of wine. She’s a normy and I I find that very distressing and very disturbing because I’d like to be a normy too but I’m not I wasn’t born with it that.

Then the second group, the idiots. They’re usually medical students. They do something because they just want to let off steam. If we went up to London tonight and swept the streets for the people who are drunk, a fair number would be medical students. That’s because that’s what they do as medical students. It’s part of their culture. They go out and get drunk.

Now in my medical student days, we used to go to the hospital in the morning. We did do some work, you’d be glad to know. Then in the afternoon we’d play rugby and then in the evening we’d go to the King and Queen and get slaughtered. Then during the night we’d go to the nurse’s home and get the other.

But this doesn’t mean to say that we were workaholics, exercise addicts, alcoholics, and sex and love addicts. It just means medical students. They’re just idiots. Because we had no better philosophy, no better culture to really think about in really creating our lives.

I suppose it’s something to do with medical student training being particularly emotionally demanding, you know, cutting up corpses as we used to do in those days and then torturing frogs in physiology and all over the rest of it. You do need to let your hair down sometime. We used to let it down all the time, but I don’t think that made us addicts of any kind. It just made us idiots. I don’t think you can become an addict, I think you have to be born with it.

The third category of those of us who are addicts, the question that we need to look at is not what do you do or when do you do it or how much do you do but why. The answer to the why question is always the same. It’s to change the way we feel,” But why would you want to change the way you feel? You got everything you could possibly need.” “Yes, but I still feel empty.” “Okay, well have this.” “Well I want two.” “Well alright, well have two.” “Well I want the other one.” Okay, well have the other…” “No, I want the one that Lucy’s got.” Have the ones that’s Lucy’s…You see, nothing satisfies that’s an addict.

The WHY question is the important one. We’re always trying to change the way we feel regardless of what we’ve got, regardless of how much we’re loved, regardless of how well we’ve been looked after by other people, regardless of our childhood. You can’t make an addict by giving him too little or giving him too much. You have to be born as an addict. The questions that we look at, the twelve characteristics of addiction, first of all we tend to use something on our own. We tend to like to eat or drink or whatever just by ourselves.

Secondly, we’re always preoccupied on it. You know, I’ll give up sometime but not today but what I have today, you know, we’re always trying to control.

Thirdly, we use it as a medicine. We want to use various substances and processes as a tranquilizer or anti-depressant or pain killer or whatever. We’re always trying to change the way we feel as if it was a medicine.

Forth, we want to use primarily for mood altering effect. We want to use something, to change the way we feel. My wife Meg for example, as I said, will drink alcohol for the taste. You don’t drink alcohol for the taste that’s ridiculous. You drink alcohol, “Yeey! Man!” that’s why you drink. You don’t drink for the taste that’s silly.

I would go around drinking up and eating up other people’s leftovers and I’m a doctor for heaven’s sake. They’re humiliating behaviour but I would do that in the course of my addiction.

Fifth, the protection of supply. We protect the time, the energy, the money. Here’s his school fees, the rent, the children’s holiday money, the clothing money all that is negotiable. But this is the alcohol money and that’s ring fence you don’t touch that. You don’t touch the time that I will go gambling. That’s my gambling time and so on. We protect the time, the energy, the money.

Sixth, the tendency to use more than planned. The first one triggers the need for the next, the next, the next. So if you want to find out if you have an alcohol problem for example, have two drinks a day at lunch time everyday for a week and nothing else whatever and you’ll find that you can do it.

You come back and say, “Well there was this extraordinary opportunity, the business opportunity. There we were we’re talking about it and we had to…” but where were you discussing? “Well, in the pub of course.” “It’s the baby’s christening and you have to wet the baby’s head.” It was the Queen’s birthday. It was…” they’ll find some reason for breaking that because what they can’t do is to stimulate the more button and then keep it in control.

You can go completely dry, you can do that. You can change some spirits to wine or something like that, you can do that. But what they can’t do is to press the more button and then stop. So you got to have the two drinks at lunch time everyday for a week. The tendency to use more, more , more is the thing that we really have to look at.

Number seven, is having a higher capacity than other people. I remember my son Robin said to me once, that he’d had sixteen pints and eight shorts and still wasn’t drunk and that proved he wasn’t an alcoholic. I said, on the contrary it proves you’re an Olympic athlete as far as alcohol is concerned. You’re in such good training. The higher capacity is actually a point against not a point in favor.

Number eight, the tendency to continue despite damage. You’ve lost your car, you’ve lost your job, you’ve lost your wife, what do you do? You go back to the pub because you don’t associate the pub as the place that’s caused the damage. That’s the one place that you are understood. That’s the one place that we feel okay, but in fact you continue despite all the evidence, despite all the damage.

Number nine, the tendency to cross addict. You put down the alcohol, you pick up the nicotine. You put down the nicotine, you pick up the sugar, you put down the sugar, you pick up the gambling. You go from one to the other.

Number ten, the tendency to have a dependence for a particular behaviour. So it’s a state dependent learning. The snooker player who’s alcoholic can’t hold the cue until it’s had the alcohol. He’s dependent upon it because otherwise his hand is shaky. Get the alcohol then it’s clear then he could park.

Next one, the tendency to go anywhere to find the substance. You won’t get out of bed but if somebody says, some good quality of skunk, twenty miles away you’ll be shooting out of bed. You’ll find it. If you want to find out where the pubs are open on a bank holiday, the alcoholic will tell you, he knows, she knows.

And finally, the tendency to continue despite the serious repeated concern of other people. We go on and on and on regardless of what other people tell us. If they’re worried about us, that’s their problem. It’s not going to change our behaviour.