Thursday, December 06, 2007


I've played with statistics here before, and I tend to be pretty skeptical of statistics about prevalence of substance abuse. How do you define and measure recovery? How can you believe what an alcoholic/addict tells you about their alcohol/drug use?

That being said, I started wondering about smoking among alcoholics -- specifically, how many smokers are alcoholics/druggies? So I found some statistics.

I've seen statistics, and heard anecdotes and observed, that 80%-90% of alcoholics are or were smokers. Let's call it 70% for the sake of argument.

Government statistics indicate 21% of adults smoke. Let's call it 25%, since the respondents probably lied.

Now the really tricky piece: what percentage of the population is alcoholic/addict? This is pure guesswork, IMHO. I've seen guesses range from about 10% to about 25%. Let's call it 15%.

Okay, using these guesses: of those ten people freezing on the loading dock on their smoke break, four are alcoholics and/or druggies. That's right: crank through these not-unreasonable numbers, and you can expect over 40% of the smokers you see to abuse other substances.

I don't know about you, but I never really thought about smoking as an indicator of other addictions. Turns out it's probably not a bad clue that someone has serious problems with more than tobacco.


Which gives me additional perspective on the smoking-cessation support forums on the web. The one at is great, the people are terrific, it really helps me a lot. The approach is so different from 12-step recovery, though. I keep wanting to post, "Of course we can't quit, of course we relapse, of course we don't have the will-power, of course we're too weak to stop, of course we are picking fights with people. We're addicts and we're powerless!" There's no way I can approach cigarettes as anything but incinerated alcohol.

It's fascinating to me that 12-step recovery dominates overcoming every addiction you can name -- except smoking. There is, in fact, Nicotine Anonymous, but it has nothing like the status of 12-stepping for other addictions. Why do we turn alcohol, drugs, over-eating, sex obsession and codependence over to a Higher Power, but depend on self-will to overcome nicotine?

I'm not saying it's good or bad, it's just interesting that we, as a society and culture, treat nicotine differently. As for me, as I said, I have to 12-step my smoking or I'm lost.


I've been reminded of some of our AA sayings about days and years. You sometimes hear, when an oldtimer relapses, "He had too many years and not enough days." I've heard, and said myself: "The years come easy. It's the days that are hard."

I've got my smoking counter on this blog in hours. My sobriety counter is in days, but I can only remember my days to the nearest hundred or so.

A day is a BIG deal to me again! :)


At 12/10/2007 06:37:00 PM, Blogger dAAve said...

Let's keep it simple.

At 12/10/2007 09:13:00 PM, Blogger Phil said...


Aw, dAAve, I broke it down into as simple terms as I could! I thought even an engineer could follow it... :)


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