The ladder of addiction
I've got this friend who was one of those sneaky smokers for about 20 years - one of those blokes who doesn't really smoke full-on, just a bit socially and after he's had an argument with his girlfriend. Couple a day.
Anyway, she hated his smoking, so he did everything he could to stop and miraculously, a few years back, he did.
The thing was, he'd used his secret smoking as some kind of warped reward system. When he got home after work, he'd have a few durries, and destroy his lungs; it was the middle-aged guy equivalent of shooting his pistols in the air at the saloon.
Once he gave up smoking, however, he started boozing a little more. He'd buy a six-pack on his way home and before he knew it, was knocking them all over each night. Then he started buying his beer by the case "because it was cheaper", and six beers became 10.
Now, this is where I feel culpable, because one night I suggested he try a single malt whiskey. He'd been saying he'd put on so much weight because of his beer drinking, I recommended he maybe just have a quiet Scotch to end the day instead.
Bad idea. He took to Scotch like poop sticks to dog's fur. He tried them all and became a much heavier drinker under the guise of "budding single malt connoisseur".
Instead of a six-pack of beer, he was now smashing half a bottle, sometime a full bottle of Scotch a night, which was as destructive as it was expensive.
Things went pear-shaped with his missus around this time and his drinking got more consistently epic. A few of us had a chat with him and he agreed he needed to do something about it.
His doctor prescribed a drug called Naltrexone to reign his boozing in, but that didn't seem to help. Then the doctor put him on another drug for alcoholics called Campral, but that didn't slow him down either.
As a last-ditch effort he was prescribed Antabuse - a very serious drug for alcoholics that results in very dangerous side-effects if you drink alcohol. Hell, you can't even wear aftershave or eat trifle while you're taking this stuff.
But it seemed to do the trick.
He stopped boozing, but simultaneously developed insomnia. He couldn't sleep, so he tried having a small joint at bedtime and this seemed to help. Soon he was smoking pot like his life depended on it.
Still, he was off the smokes and the grog, so it was some kind of victory. I've known this guy a long time, and he used to be quite fond of marijuana, but hadn't touched it for years.
Now, however, he was smoking two joints a night just to get to sleep.
Ever helpful, his doctor suggested he try sleeping pills to help with his insomnia. He gave the usuals a go, first Restavit, then Normison and finally Stillnox.
Things got out of hand on that front quite quickly and he stopped socialising with us because he couldn't drink - he was still on the Antabuse, and didn't feel like he had any way of blowing off steam.
He'd just take a bunch of sleeping pills and go to bed.
It was around this time his mother passed away, and as happens there was quite a cache of prescription drugs left behind when she shuffled off.
He gave a spare OxyNorm a try one night and it seemed a match was made in hell. OxyNorm is a semi-synthetic opioid, pretty much legal heroin.
My friend is still holding down a job, but has admitted to me he "only feels good" now when he's necked some Oxies and has a few more handy for later.
He's basically on his way to becoming a heroin addict - which he sees as clearly as anyone - and why I'm writing this piece with his consent.
It seems he's just one of those people who needs a vice - or at least has told himself he does - and by trying to suffocate one as commonplace as smoking ciggies, he's quickly climbed a ladder of addiction that doesn't have many rungs left.
I'm at a loss as to what to tell him, because God knows I like to blow off steam with a few coldies or Scotches when the time is right.
This bloke, however, doesn't seem to have an off-switch.
So, I guess I'm asking whether you've ever had a similar person in your life, and what they did to overcome what I guess you'd deem an addictive personality.
Some of you might suggest golf or fitness, but he's not really the type.