A crutch is any form of reliance that is leaned and relied upon so heavily in supporting or motivating recovery, that if suddenly removed would significantly elevate risk of relapse.
Why lean or count heavily upon any person, place, thing or activity? Why risk sudden removal? Why allow your freedom, healing and possibly your life to depend upon the presence of a source of support whose reliability is beyond your ability to control?
A person or "quitting buddy" is the most obvious crutch. Creating and leaning heavily upon the expectation that some other person will behave in a supportive manner is dangerous.
While great when expectations are fulfilled, what happens when they're not? Why tie your fate to the actions or inactions of others, to their sympathies, time demands, comments, emotions, lack of dependency recovery understanding or indifference?
While there's nothing wrong with enjoying their support when it's there, picture your recovery standing entirely on its own when it's not.
Envision your core motivations and resolve actually strengthening during moments when those who we thought would be supportive are not. Take pride in the fact that you remain standing and saying "no" to wanting without use of any crutch.
Waiting for another nicotine dependent person to join us in recovery often turns into a deadly delay tactic. You're waiting for a crutch.
While wonderful when able to share coming home with a spouse, significant other, family member, friend or co-worker, serious drug recovery programs never partner two new ex-users together. But why?
Such programs understand that risk of relapse during early recovery remains high. Partnering newbies with newbies increases likelihood that should one relapse that the other will quickly follow suit. Instead, effective programs partner new ex-users with stable long-term ex-users.
Successful recovery isn't about learning from someone who likely knows less about successful cessation than you do. Although misery loves company, why fear your healing or delay for even a day the greatest awakening your mind and life will likely ever know?
Success is not dependent upon being able to lean on a person who ended nicotine use with us, but in understanding what's required to stand entirely on our own. It's about abiding by the Law of Addiction (Chapter 2).
While obedience to the Law provides 100 percent odds of success, how many smokers have ever heard of it? Statistically, only 1 in 8.7 who attempt un-educated recovery succeed in remaining nicotine-free for six months.
That doesn't mean that two new ex-users navigating recovery together can't both succeed. We see it all the time. In fact, it is impossible for either to relapse so long as neither allows nicotine back into their body.
Still, Romeo and Juliet is the tragic tale of a love so great that it would rather be dead than apart.
Each year millions surrender life itself rather than stop smoking. But this isn't Romeo and Juliet being played out on some grand scale. It isn't love reaching for a deadly chemical, but physical dependence upon one.
What are the odds that nicotine addiction won't be the cause of ending a marriage or other long-term relationship in which both are smokers, and both refuse to stop unless the other stops too?
Statistically, roughly half of adult smokers smoke themselves to death. The death toll is staggering. Smoking is blamed for 20% of all deaths in developed nations. Here in the U.S., the average female claimed by smoking loses 14.5 years of life expectancy, while the average male loses 13.2.
Waiting on our partner to be our "recovery buddy" often proves deadly. One partner needs to be brave, go first, and blaze a trail home that the other can eventually follow.
There were a number of times during my thirty-year struggle where I wanted others to pick me up and carry me home. I waited, and waited and waited for dear friends to stop with me. Finally, I got my wish.
My best friend and I became "recovery buddies" in 1984. I recall two things about that experience. It was the only time during our friendship that we ever yelled at each other. I also recall that within an hour of learning that he'd relapsed, that I relapsed too.
But the story had a healthy ending. Jim attended a 2002 recovery seminar I presented at the high school from which my daughters graduated.
Standing on the auditorium stage, I shared this crutch and "buddy system" lesson and our mutual failure 18 years earlier. I recall hoping that as a seasoned ex-user that I could now lend a hand in showing Jim the way home. He succeeded. And he's still free today.
As Joel's "Buddy Systems" article proclaims, "Take heart ... your primary focus needs to be on your own [success] now." "Soon you will be the seasoned veteran." "Many programs use the phrase, 'To keep it, you have to give it away,'" writes Joel. "No where is this more true than when dealing with addictions."
Joel's crutches article tells the story of one of his clinic participants turning to alcohol. "Boy did I ever drink my brains out, today," she enthusiastically proclaimed, "But I did not smoke!"
"She was so proud of her accomplishment," recalls Joel. "Two whole days without smoking a single cigarette, to her being bombed out of her mind was a safe alternative to the deadly effects of cigarettes."
"Just 24 hours earlier I had made a special point of mentioning the dangers of replacing one addiction with another," writes Joel. "In [stopping] smoking one should not start using any other crutches which might be dangerous or addictive."
Using alcohol, illegal drugs or addictive prescription medications as nicotine cessation crutches also elevates the risk of relapse due to diminished inhibitions while using them.
It can foster psychological associations that can present problems when unable to obtain or use them. And let's not forget the risk of establishing a chemical dependency upon them, and trading one dependency for another.
As Joel notes, "In many of these cases the end result will be a more significant problem than just the original problem, smoking. The new addiction can cause the person's life to end in shambles, and when it comes time to deal with the new dependence he or she will often relapse to cigarettes."
Some Internet sites teach users to "do whatever it takes" to stop. Advice such as this is disturbing. "I guess that can be translated to taking any food, any drug, legal or illegal, or participate in any activity, no matter how ludicrous or dangerous that activity might be," writes Joel.
"Does the comment smoke crack cocaine, or shoot up heroin, or drink as much alcohol as it takes, or administer lethal dosages of arsenic or cyanide make any sense to anyone as practical advice to stop smoking," asks Joel? "If not, the comment 'do whatever it takes' loses any real concept of credibility."
"As far as stopping smoking goes, the advice should not be 'do whatever it takes to stop smoking,' but rather, 'do what it takes to stop,' " asserts Joel. "What it takes to stop is simply sticking to your commitment to Never Take Another Puff!" And to be a bit more inclusive, to never take another puff, dip, chew or vape.
At first blush, some crutches appear harmless. For instance, consider an exercise program that was started on your first day of recovery. But imagine your mind so tying the program to successful recovery that you became totally convinced that it was the primary reason you were succeeding.
What would happen if your exercise facility suddenly closed or if bad weather, transportation problems, illness or injury made exercise impossible?
Exercise is always beneficial and I am in no way trying to discourage activity or exercise. However, while beneficial, exercise is not a nicotine dependency recovery requirement.
View your program in terms of the direct benefits it provides, not as a primary source of recovery motivation. In your mind, see your recovery remaining strong with or without it, and your ability and willingness to exercise as a benefit rather than a requirement.
What if your computer crashes and you can't afford a new one? What if your Internet service provider has problems and its servers crash for a week? Worse yet, what if the company hosting your online support site goes bankrupt or abruptly discontinues service? Picture your recovery and resolve remaining strong even without a computer.
Hope for the best, yet prepare for the worst. Consider printing your favorite articles. If keeping an online recovery journal, diary or log, be sure to print or save a copy every now and then.
Remove as much risk as possible from all sources of support. Create dependability and longevity by preserving what you deem valuable.
Food can become an "aaah" wanting satisfaction crutch, as can other oral hand-to-mouth substitutes for cigarettes, e-cigarettes, cigars, pipes, oral tobacco or replacement nicotine products. In fact, any new emotion producing activity or significant lifestyle change can be leaned upon as a crutch.
"If you are going to develop a crutch," writes Joel, "make sure it is one which you can maintain for the rest of your life without any interruption, one that carries no risks and can be done anywhere, anytime."
"About the only crutch that comes close to meeting these criteria is breathing. The day you have to stop breathing, smoking will be of little concern. But until that day, to stay free from cigarettes all you need to do is - Never Take Another Puff!"
Consider building your recovery so as to enable it to stand entirely on its own. If you now realize that you have developed a crutch, picture continuing on and succeeding even if it's suddenly removed. You'll be fine. The next few minutes are all we can control and each is entirely do-able.