Quit Smoking with Acupuncture Treatment: Details of a Success Story
Acupuncture is commonly used in treatment of addictions such as smoking. I’ve had good success in my acupuncture-healing clinic helping people stop smoking and let go of other addictive-compulsive behaviors.
Addictive behaviors are complex. There’s not a magic pill to stop smoking. And there are many factors to consider. First of all, does the person have the desire to stop? If so, what are their reasons for doing so? There’s a big difference between wanting to stop due to pressure from someone else like our doctor or partner, verses stopping because we want to. Many 12-Step programs say addicts have to “hit rock bottom” before they will consider giving up their addictive behavior. Some smokers need to have a health scare. It’s obviously more ideal to address the behavior before it gets to that point.
Some people wish to stop because they understand the damage they are doing to their health, or wish to feel healthier. Yet the fixation of the addictive habit, or various underlying factors often get in the way of making a change.
Acupuncture as I practice it treats the individual. Every person is different. We all have different histories and reasons for doing what we do. We also have different constitutions and physiological strengths and weaknesses. The patient’s individuality is addressed in treatments that are tailor made for them.
I’d like to share a success story. A man came to me looking to stop smoking. He’d been a regular smoker for 30 years. It was something he loved doing. It was not only relaxing for him, it also had ritualistic and social elements to it. Lately however, he felt his body had become weakened from smoking. He was also worried about the damage he was doing to his body.
Upon the initial consultation, we talked about his reasons for smoking, mainly its use in mood control to manage anxiety, boredom, frustration. It was also something he did socially with his friends. He was used to the ritual of lighting up after coming home from work, or using it as an activity to take a break from the stress of work. It was also an aspect of his personality people had come to associate with him. All these aspects relating to the addictive behavior had to be addressed through the acupuncture-healing treatment.
The pulse is the main diagnostic tool used in acupuncture. I use it to measure the functional energy in all of the organs of the body, including the various aspects of the mind and emotions.
When addressing addictions, I always pay special attention to the Kidney pulse: this can indicate the level of willpower currently available within the person. If the kidney energy is especially low, the first priority in treatment is strengthening the will.
The next pulse I assess is the Spleen/Pancreas. This organ system is considered the root of the digestive system in Chinese Medical theory, and home of mental consciousness. Weakness in this system can indicate “stickiness” that can cause addictions to linger. It can manifest as obesity of the body, or sluggish obsessive tendencies of the mind. In any case, digestive “dampness” must be cleared before additive behaviors can be eliminated.
In addition, I check for signs of “blood” fixation. In Chinese Medicine, the blood carries consciousness, as well the emotions. It is the mediumship for the spirit. Our spirit is essentially what animates and attracts us. It can become over-engaged in certain things, and under-engaged in others. There are visible clues relating to the blood that can show up on the body. Lipomas or cysts will often indicate hypo-enthusiasm in an aspect of life: things we avoid or feel lack of confidence about. Spider veins, bruises or varicosities often indicate hyper-engagement or fixation.
With the patient in question, I observed strong kidneys, a very “damp” spleen, and hyperactive blood fixation in the lungs and liver. What this means is the patient had strong willpower, a relatively weak-distracted mind, and fixation in relation to sensual pleasures (lung) and fantasy (liver). The blood fixation pulses can also indicate unresolved emotions relating to the associated organs: lungs relate to grief, morality and orderliness; the liver to anger, frustration, creativity and genital sexuality.
The patient came for weekly treatments and had great success. In addition to diminishing and ultimately eliminating the addictive behavior of smoking, he gained greater awareness into reasons why he smoked. He also developed greater capacity to withstand stress and anxiety in his life without needing to “self-medicate” with cigarettes and alcohol. He was surprised by this. He also noted the fact that he was making these changes completely for himself, not needing the praise or blame of those around him. Other addictive behaviors and coping mechanisms, such as overeating, excessive use of alcohol and sex, also began to disappear during the course of treatment, even though we weren’t directly working on them.
By treating the person instead of just the behavior of smoking, the patient’s overall strength and wellbeing improved. He had an easier time breaking through his addictive habits and letting them go. There was not a big struggle, but a gradual letting go of old behaviors with growing awareness of his triggers and ways to supplement healthier behaviors in their place.
The Digestive system (Spleen) strengthened overall, allowing his mind to become more steady with less need for distraction. The fixations shown in his blood dissipated, showing the habits were become less ingrained. His spirit was letting go of interest in these things. This allowed a feeling of greater “space” in his consciousness. He reported feeling more present, with less need to escape. The spirit became less focused on his feelings and obsessive thoughts, and more aware of the world around him.
Working with addictive behaviors in this way instigates a change in consciousness. When the blood becomes less fixated, it is free to be present and aware. When the spleen becomes less damp, and heat is drained from the blood, there is less agitation, discomfort and worry harassing the mind.
When something is stuck (fixated) in the blood, it generates heat that will agitate the mind and spirit. Anything that is not flowing smoothly will generate heat. This leads to a sense of agitation, which may manifest physically through the muscles and skin, or mentally and emotionally through obsessive thoughts, impulsive actions or moodiness. A common way we try and cope with this “heat” agitation is through dampening it through addictive behaviors like overeating, sex, alcohol, cigarettes, marijuana.
The process of recovering from addictive behaviors occurs through strengthening the mind (via the Spleen/Pancreas), clearing the heat (agitation) from the blood, and strengthening the will to invigorate the spirit and break up fixations. After these criteria have been met however, there is more work to be done. There’s always the danger of recurrence: slipping back into old patterns. It is part of our therapeutic work to figure out what keeps generating heat in the blood or dampness in the spleen. Old “hauntings” or thought patterns may need to be rectified. Relationships may need to be addressed if they cause the person stress. Lifestyle choices such as diet may need to be examined. Any of these factors can create an internal terrain that supports addictive behaviors.
When we understand how to maintain a strong internal environment within ourselves, we become less a slave to our addictions and the moods that cause them. The ability to stay steady and present when confronted with stress often needs to be empowered when dealing with addictions. This is achieved therapeutically through strengthening lung and kidney function. First we must detox that which is continually weakening these energies. The body is then given the chance to build back on its own. If it needs a boost, acupuncture can provide that. If the person needs a big detox, the acupuncture treatment can instigate that as well. Every person is different: some need a big flush, others need a boost. As a great Chinese Medical scholar once said: in order to heal, “some people need a hug, others needs a push.”