|It is obvious from inspection that certain substances are habituating: we get used to them. The chemical basis for various addictions is apparently the subject of lucrative research projects. The fact is that the physical component of addiction is also easy to counteract: just stop taking the substance.|
That is easier said than done. I was greatly impressed with Alexander King's autobiography Mine Enemy Grows Older. He writes cogently of the addiction that ruined his life and of the various treatments for it. (These are elements of a full life of creativity as an artist for major magazines in the 1930s thru 1950s. At one point, having used pseudonyms for his works, he was scheduled to accepted several awards on the same night, but avoided giving himself away.) The physical component is one thing. The psychological side of addiction is another.
Barbara Branden discussed smoking, or rather, not smoking. http://solohq.com/Articles/Branden/On_Smoking.shtml Like King, she writes of a nagging desire that haunted her as she attempted to quit smoking. Unlike King, Brandon got over it with insight.
That is the point. However habituating a substance may be, addiction is all the head. It is a choice. The failures of whatever therapies to cure all addicts only reflects the failures of the theories of therapy. Different people respond differently. Trashing out AA is fine if you are an Objectivist. It is no surprise that they find a lot of success among Irish Catholics who accept the religious framework. For an Objectivist, some other model would work better. It still remains that addiction is a matter of choice.
I have smoked and quit over the years. Not having smoked for about 15 years, I took it up socially. From about 1999, I smoked between a pack a month and a pack a week. I would buy a pack, smoke a couple and throw the rest away. Going without has been easier and harder depending on undefined factors at the moment, but going without is possible and doable. Reading Barbara's essay made it much easier. I have not had a cigarette since May.
Drinking has been much easier to stay away from. Where the difference is in me, I am not sure. I just know that I was never a drinker, a one beer date. There was one time about 2000 when I bought a six-pack on Friday night and Monday morning when I went to make my lunch for work, there was the six-pack. I had forgotten all about it. Living in Northern Michigan made drinking easier: two to four beers a night, every night. (And the cigarettes to go with them.) Finally, after we moved to Ann Arbor, and I was still drinking, I blew a Monday morning interview because I was hung-over from the weekend. That was in May and I have not had a drink since -- but neither have I wanted one. I just quit. For me, apparently, there is no chemical component to alcohol habituation. My wife still drinks. We have a case of pretty good wine here. I have no interest in it. My wife has 1000 murder mysteries and I have no interest in them, either. For me, the two are the same: no physical component.
As for the "addictive personality" I have been a coin collector. You will find my posts here on Numismatics. I write professionally about the forms and uses of money. When I was a collector, there was a physical component to the process. Buying started with an urge. There was the thrill of the hunt, the growing excitement in seeing material, considering choices, etc., and then the consequences: pride of ownership versus buyer's remorse. Buyer's remorse can be compelling. After about five or six years of active collecting, I got a job as an editor at Coin World newspaper. Call it "aversion therapy." I was so thoroughly and completely forced to participate in the hobby in ways that I did not like that I sold my collection. At that point, I stopped having urges to own things.
But I was never a material person. Like many Objectivists, I celebrate the mind side of the mind-body dichotomy. I always saw consumerism as social metaphysics and pseudo-self esteem. I drive a 1990 Camry. There was one time, I was walking home from the store with my daughter. She was about ten. It was March and it started to sleet. She looked at my feet and my tennis shoes had holes in them, my toes were sticking out. "Dad! Aren't your feet cold?!" Yes, I said, but we'll be home soon. It doesn't matter.
So, for me, as habituating as "buying" had become, it was pretty easy to give up. Other people have other needs.
Identifying those needs and addressing them is how addictions are overcome. The physical side of it is pretty easy in most cases. However, there are exceptions. Native Americans never got addicted to tobacco, but they were destroyed by alcohol. For Europeans, the matter is different.... or not...