Sunday, September 18, 2016

Addiction: Lessons from a Taxi Driver

On my trip to Berlin, Germany, I took a taxi to leave my hotel and it turned out to be the same driver who drove me the day ago. It was early in the morning and he apparently felt so happy about this synchronicity that he was quite chatty. He told me about a customer he had driven earlier who got into his taxi announcing, "I am drunk!". "No problem", responded the nice cab driver, "being drunk happens to the best of us." The guest asked to be driven to a particular club in the city, but when they got there at 5:30 am, it was already closed. He asked to be driven to a different bar instead but the cab driver suggested that just maybe he wanted to go home to bed. After a little back and forth the drunk customer agreed. He later complimented the taxi driver for his wisdom and said that everything would be better if he had a friend like him. 

"Loneliness", the cab driver said to me, "is what causes addiction!" He revealed that he had stopped smoking 4 days ago. He had also mentioned this fact to his drunken guest, and the guy only laughed at him. "Come on man, live a little!", and gave him two cigarettes after he got out of the car. The cab drivers was tempted, and even lid one, but after a couple of inhales he threw both cigarettes away. 

The story seems a bit surreal, but that's what temptation is all about. You make a commitment, you try your best to stay the course, and four days into the tour de force, a drunk guy gives you a couple of cigarettes as a tip. Parting, the drunk guest told him that he also could quit drinking if only he had more support. The taxi drivers asked whether he was in a relationship to which the guest responded that his old girlfriend was complaining too much, so he left her. Looks like the drunk guy in the taxi is not yet ready for change. Life's certainly sends him plenty of messages to change his ways.

When I listened to the taxi driver's story I was thinking that it is now the second time that someone mentioned the danger of loneliness and the power of relationships in healing addictions. The other is Johann Hari, author of "Chasing the Scream"; a book that I had just recently purchased. The cab driver added, "If you are alone, sit down and listen to some classical music instead." I asked him whether he did that, and he responded, "More than that, I play the drums in a band as well." He then played one of his band's songs, and it actually sounded quite good. In any case, we reached my destination and I will never find out whether his attempt to quit smoking will work or not. What I can say though, if there is someone who has a shot at quitting, it is him. He has amazing insights on the addiction topic, and I am happy that I can share his wisdom with you.

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