Four packets of cigerettes a day to none

Stopping smoking
Stopping smoking

Smoking  was a thrill at first giving me a sense of graduating from adolescence and along with becoming engaged to the love of my life at 19 it made me feel sophisticated, as women did in 1964. We were in denial about the dangers. What started with 3 cigarettes a day with coffee breaks turned into chainsmoking and being driven to smoke even when I didn’t want to. In those days a packet only cost $2. My beloved father had died the year before so I joined my peers, mother, and stepfather in this regrettable habit. We could smoke sitting at our desks so I smoked from 19 to 35yrs old when a close friend had a heart attack and  unexpectedly died at age 40. He was a fit man but heavy smoker. I asked a psychologist colleague how can I give up enjoying watching a movie at night with my husband  while smoking and having coffee? He said that in time without cigarettes I will get that same buzz just over coffee. Sceptically, for the sake of living longer and being better role models for our teenage children, we embarked on a community course to quit smoking. One important aspect was it would take 21 days to get out of the habit, using tomato juice (Vitamin C) to help clear the system of nicotine and for cravings to stop. It worked because the motivation was high and we were committed to the end goal. It was true we did still get the bliss of settling down to a movie and coffee without the cigarettes. I was so proud to be free from the compulsion to smoke and could get a ‘high’ without it. It’s been 37 years of being free with a couple of short stints during the ‘harm minimisation’ campaign when I got into denial and started smoking to test if I could just smoke 3 cigarettes a day again. Huh! Within a few days I was chainsmoking and went through hell to quit. But I did quit once more, thanks to hypnosis and Nicotine Anonymous meetings. No longer do I have recurring dreams of being a part time smoker, being able to control how many I smoked. I’m free, not a slave to a cigarette. I shudder to think how I could possibly enjoy and afford smoking today when there’s a possibility it will cost $40 a packet soon and what’s worse having to stand outside in the street to smoke one cigarette. I’m not even tempted any more and after tests thankfully I don’t have emphysema. Sometime when I get the natural buzz or high from normal moments of living I grin at the ridiculous thought I had that without smoking I wouldn’t be able to have bliss.


13th Stepping Protection

setting foot on the ceiling 3, photo by Thiago Tavares, Maringa, Brazil,, sex addiction
setting foot on the ceiling 3, photo by Thiago Tavares, Maringa, Brazil,, sex addiction

A discussion has evolved from my post on the practice of 13th Stepping – having sex with a person who is more vulnerable than yourself. There have been comments denigrating the 12 Step program, partly blaming 13th stepping. Having worked for over 20 years in the recovery field I can only say that if someone criticises the 12 Step program and fellowship then they are ignorant about how beneficial and lifesaving it is for those who suffer from addiction. There are other programs such as cognitive behavioural therapies which may work for those who commit fully to them but nevertheless larger numbers have benefited from the 12 Step program. Now I will deal with this particular request:

If anyone has any ideas about how to curb 13th stepping at meetings, i would love to hear it. I feel so protective of the other young women at meetings, and I want to do whatever is within my power to encourage self respect, dignity, and focus on recovery. It took a lot of pain for me to see how abusive I was with 13th stepping people, and how abused I let myself be. I would like to do what i can to help these girls make better choices than I have. Thank you, Lauren K

Single people in early recovery are discouraged from entering into relationships because the idea of successful recovery is when you first develop a healthy relationship with self. That’s a life skill which needs honing before success can be achieved in a relationship with another person. However, in the fellowship as in any other part of life such as church groups, cultural associations or sporting clubs etc, lust and love tempt us into relationships which are perhaps too soon, therefore temporary and unsuccessful. Finding partners in the fellowship can be an end result that is fulfilling because it is within a mutual program and the communication is understood. However, there are in the fellowship a minority of people who are not ethical just as there are a larger number of people with integrity and who are good role models for recovery. The strategy for those who may be inclined to be 13th Stepped is to remember that in recovery I am not responsible for the disease but I am responsible for my recovery and therefore report any love interest to your sponsor and be guided. Look on it as being for a short time and when you are strong in your recovery you can choose the right partner more wisely. If you are like Lauren K and notice 13th Stepping in meetings, (1) one way of dealing with your fears is to share, when your turn comes, what you see and feel about the 13th Stepping going on, without mentioning names. (2) Another way is to ask that the topic at your meeting be “how to stop 13th Stepping” and this will mean that when people share on the topic the message will perhaps hit home to those who are the perpetrators. (3) Another way is to ask for a guest speaker who will speak on the subject at the beginning of the meeting. (4) If all else fails, or as well as, you can call for a group conscience meeting especially to ask for that problem to be dealt with, or attend the next group conscience meeting and put the subject on the agenda for discussion. (5) It will be more effective if you set up a group (2-3 members) who will act on this issue. Maybe you will find out another way of doing it but at least you have some suggestions to begin with.


When motivation waxes and wanes

Up and down 1, photo by sanja gjenero, Zagreb, CroatiaEnergy can seem to disappear when motivation becomes low. It is important not to hand over our power to the negative feelings which are also affected by negative associations. Notice how invincible we feel when motivation is high and we then have the energy to reach great achievements. So when motivation waxes and wanes we need to remember that it is a natural occurrence and not allow ourselves to over react one way or the other. Some strategies are listening to relaxing music, writing, reading, dancing, drawing, yoga, walking and many other options including regular medication as required, meeting with people we like, discussing our state with a therapist, mentor or priest. Quite often lack of motivation can create problems in recovery from obsessive compulsions and it becomes extremely hard to stay committed to the program we have chosen. At such times, rather than resort to substance or process abuse to relieve our pain, we can use whatever has worked in the past that results in a healthy outcome.

I have had some minor health problems lately
and this had affected my motivation causing
it to wax and wane
so I gave myself permission to take it easy
and I repeated affirmations such as
I am a magnate for good health
I am a magnate for a happy secure life
because otherwise I could be absorbed by
the negativity of ill health
already I am finding myself more motivated

Up and down 1, photo by sanja gjenero, Zagreb, Croatia


Obesity in young girls

Tummy, photo by Kia Abell, United StatesI had a comment from Renee about a problem they were experiencing, which is worth writing a post on here. Many families are faced with the discomfort that a member’s compulsion can cause. There is a concern for what is obvious and then struggling with a need to not cause distress for the person in question, as can be seen in this plea:

Was wondering if anyone could help on an issue that my partner and I are having with his daughter. We have custody of her week on/week off. She is 10 years old and a beautiful girl but her weight is beginning to spiral out of control. She is now in a size 14 and around 50 kilos. We give her nothing but healthy food and we walk together but she has begun to steal food. It started with occassional pieces of chocolate leftover from celebrations to taking chocolate that was for a friends son for Xmas. It is only getting worse. She now rarely eats her dinner, preferring to sneak food into her room to eat. Her mother is not a great help as she often sends whole large bags of chips or lollies with her. My partners daughter will not talk about anything instead getting angry at us for finding out, she will not admit to what she has done. We really just want to help her! What can we do?

Imagine that the substance and behaviour were not food but rather a drug, would you be afraid to sit down with your partner’s daughter and discuss the problem? The same applies for compulsive eating as for any other compulsion. Of course she is uncomfortable to talk about it and becomes defensive – that’s how compulsive behaviour presents itself. You may be afraid that if you speak to her she may become anorexic. Better to ask her to talk to you both about something of concern. Make sure you use a nurturing method of talking. Explain that your concern is about her eating patterns and her weight gain. Ask her how she feels about it. If she continues to stand her ground then it is better that you see a therapist to help you plan a strategy. You may even take her to a doctor who can determine that she is obese and write a letter to give to the mother requesting that she stop contributing to the child’s obesity. Remember to use a nurturing tone at all times because fear can sometimes make us sound angry and that does not have a good outcome.

Tummy, photo by Kia Abell, United States


PhD Graduation Celebration

Graduation 2, photo by Christopher Rayan, Selangor, MalaysiaLast Saturday I had my PhD Celebration at the Rose Garden Pavilion in the Royal Botanic Gardens between 12.30 and 4.30. Many weddings and other celebrations are held there because it is such an attractive venue with ambiance. There were 61 people and those who wished sat on the comfortable benches around the inside of the Pavilion and others sat outside in the beautiful garden. Everyone commented on this amazing venue. I bought food from Peter’s Cafe – roasts and baked potatoes ready sliced in nice trays. Also delicious foods prepared by my daughter Tina and my daughter-in-law Nella with help from their husbands Bill and Paul. I invited guests to bring their own drinks and desserts so that individual needs could be taken care of personally, without tempting those who don’t drink alcohol and those who don’t eat sweets.

I had intended to provide dance music so that we could let our hair down and indulge in some Greek dancing as well as other dances. However, my equipment didn’t work – drats! The Pavilion has slate flooring which is ideal for dancing. I hired the Pavilion including the nearby toilet for four hours at what I thought was a reasonable fee for such a delightful place.

Well known celebrity Bruce Barry, my dear friend, played the role of MC. Bruce shared about his experience of reading my Doctoral Thesis cover to cover, and in his charming way introduced my University Supervisor and mentor – Dr. Neil Davidson who spoke about our journey together which resulted with my graduation. Neil also read emails from Professor Stuart Hill, the founding Chair for the School of Social Ecology where I began my Uni studies in 1991, and from Debbie Horsfall – my previous Supervisor and mentor. Their kind words warmed my heart. This was followed by another friend, Steve Kirkham, reading out friendly congratulations from Bob and Colleen Ellicott who reminded me of our association which began when he was the Member for Wentworth and I was a Welfare Worker in the Community Centre in Surry Hills over 30 yrs ago. Many constituents benefited from The Hon. Bob Ellicott’s monthly visits.

Community leaders and close friends also expressed their congratulations on Saturday. These were Greek speaking community workers/radio announcers Fay Giallusi, Sophia Catharios and Litsa Diakovasili as well as John August, President of the Humanist Society of NSW.

Finally, my son Paul Zagoridis who spoke on behalf of my daughter Tina and their spouses Nella and Bill respectively and their children (who all struggled along with me on my academic journey). His words filled my heart. The previous day they attended my Graduation and as I looked at them from where I was seated on the stage next to the ‘top brass’ of UWS, I felt honoured and overcome with emotion.

Another delight of the Rose Garden Celebration was having people enter their congratulations in a book chosen for that event in which I have also glued the congratulation cards received. I got home and arranged the flowers which were given to me and opened the remaining gifts. What a delightful day.

Many thanks to all who came to share my celebration. Also my thanks to the printer: MBE who produced my new coloured business card in 3 days when others said it would take 2 weeks and for giving me a discount too.

Click here to download the Affie Adagio PhD Thesis in PDF format

Graduation 2, photo by Christopher Rayan, Selangor, Malaysia


13th Step Consequences

Addicted 4, photo by Nicole Dee, Landing, OntarioI have written about the dangers of getting sexually involved with someone who is early in recovery from addiction and/or any other vulnerable state. This is commonly known in the 12 Step fellowship as 13th Step consequences and needs to be treated as a serious warning, even though the term causes nervous laughter.? Steve’s comment is an example of such a traumatic outcome and here is my response:

Steve, I was sorry to read that you have had such a traumatic experience and that you are now disabled with a muscle disease too. Not all AA members are as thoughtless as the one who hurt you and your partner. There are many AA members who are careful not to get involved in that way and who make good supportive friends for each other and for new members. Perhaps you could both try another meeting if you want the benefit of the program. Then again no one says you must use AA. There is a group known as SMART Recovery and it does not encourage friendships? between its members, as there is no buddy system. It is based on Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and does not use a God perspective.


Addiction to touching

833820_hands.jpgLaurie commented on my post called Touch to stay alive asking whether it is possible to be addicted to touching, because she feels it may be her compulsion as she was deprived of touch? This compulsion is a symptom of codependence and love addiction which have the underlying characteristics of low self esteem, fear of intimacy and lack of trust, to name a few. In such a case we become addicted to touch and yet attracting more deprivation. Recovery will ease the pain because we learn how to give and receive affection in a healthy manner. Otherwise we attract those who reject us or those who are needy.

I recommend reading Pia Mellody’s books Facing Codependence and Facing Love Addiction. It is important to understand how in a relationship we can either be a love addict or an avoidant – the “back walking away”. We can switch roles too, which comes with fear of intimacy, low self esteem and lacking in trust. In recovery we learn to think rationally.

Recovery is also possible through belonging to self help groups like CoDA and SLAA, where it extremely invaluable to hear how members have found recover.y. Sometimes therapy is also needed with an experienced, qualified therapist who specialises in codependence and love addiction.

Hands, photo by Julia Freeman-Woolpert, Concord, United States,


This too shall pass

566501_world_cup_germany_2006.jpgI’ve written about burnout in the last two posts because it is so prevalent in our day and age. Having experienced it myself, I shared with you about how burnout crept up on me and its consequences to my health. Fortunately, I was able to nip it in the bud, nevertheless it had left me not as strong as I am normally. As a food addict in recovery this causes me to think of rewarding myself with trigger foods to give me the energy. However, I reminded myself of the saying this too shall pass. So, I gave myself permission to do everything at 80% level so as to recuperate and not put myself at risk of burnout again. Admittedly, it takes a while to get back to normal.

I was lacking in energy to go to hydrotherapy so
using an NLP (Nurolinguistic Programming) technique
to integrate the different selves
I got in touch with that self in me who
is responsible for this sabotage and found out
that it was a he, and that he wanted more recreation
so I agreed to spend time writing and sketching
which I had not done in at least a year
and was pleased to find as a result
I was eager to go to my next hydrotherapy session


Natural high

light FX:9 # 1,photo by Michael Bretherton, Brisbane, Australia,  fireworksIt is possible to get a natural high without risking our health with using substances or processes which can be life threatening. Some people can reach a natural high easier because of their genetic make-up. Nevertheless, there are many testimonials about how once people came into recovery from addictions they not only became free from symptoms of mental illnesses but also came to experience natural highs.

before I gave up chainsmoking through NicA
my fear was that I would become boring
fortunately I reached a stage where
smoking was losing its joy for me
so after a few weeks in recovery
and as a non smoker I experienced
what felt like the first natural high in my life
and I was smoke free, how unbelievable?!
but how empowering and what serenity?
and this is now a common event, without smoking

light FX:9 # 1,photo by Michael Bretherton, Brisbane, Australia, fireworks


Secrets fester

Ball, photo by Marcelo Gerpe, Buenos Aires, Argentina, stimulus responseWe should not confuse the concept of secrets and confidentiality. Confidentiality is when we don’t disclose information that belongs to someone else unless respecting that person’s privacy is threatening to someone else. Having a secret is withholding information because there is shame about it and that can only cause the secret to fester. One thing leads to another and before long the secret is exposed and so are the lies that have been used to cover it up. This is the basis for compulsions and addiction.

Gary came into the halfway house after detox
and the first lessons her learnt were that
he needed to abstain from using drugs
he needed to go to meetings every day
he needed to keep his own area clean
he needed to do likewise with the rest of the home
and he needed to be ‘up front, honest and open’
about how he felt and what he was doing
in other words ‘no secrets’ because they
go hand in hand with lies and shame
which are what everyone needs to be free of
so as to be in recovery from addictions