If you haven’t yet heard of the 5-Headed Dragon, BESOCHEMPS, you’re either new here, or I haven’t been doing my job. (Please don’t scroll away yet – we aren’t a cult and this discussion about a 5-Headed Dragon is neither frivolous or foolish.)

Over twenty years ago I began serving brave folks intent upon reclaiming their freedom from their hellish relationship with tobacco. It seemed logical to asked the group to share their personal experiences and I attempted to recall mine. I had been “smober’ for over 10 years but it took more than 25 quit attempts before I found a quit that I could live with. I had started smoking (despite already being asthmatic) at age 12 at church camp. (Holy smokes?) Eventually I developed a 3-pack per day habit. (And on days when drinking or other drugs were in play, I could smoke 4 packs per day.) So I had plenty of experiences to share with the brave folks in my groups.

I had always been a fan of Creature Double Feature and a great friend turned me on to Dungeons and Dragons when I went away to college. And so the beast was birthed – a Dragon with five heads, one representing each of the five motivators:

A depiction of BESOCHEMPS, the 5-headed dragon. This is a very helpful way to look at and better understand the complex relationships we often call addictions.
This stunning and sobering depiction of the 5-Headed Dragon, BESOCHEMPS, was created by the very talented Santiago Bautista. Each of the heads is different and influential to varying degrees. Subsequently, each person has a unique relationship with their substance of choice.

Around the room I started to see eyes open wide as people started to see their foe more clearly. This BESOCHEMPS model was a better way to help people see their relationship with tobacco. Anecdotally, lots of folks started having more success quitting smoking. This “fictional” beast was real enough to help thousands of smokers. They were able to use it for their own good and for the good of the people who loved them.

When compared to the US unassisted quit rate (people quitting on their own) people using BESOCHEMPS had a quit rate six or seven times higher! And for some of us “soot-suckers,” adding medications can boost quit rates even higher. Please remember that this site is searchable and you can learn more about each of the “heads” of the “dragon.” And depending upon where you are located, you can attend QuittersWin groups where folks “speak dragon.”

PROLOGUE: The BESOCHEMPS model of addiction has been used to successfully address every sort of illicit substance use, and even compulsive behaviors that aren’t directly related to a substance (gambling, binge-spending, cutting, etc.) The dragon has helped brave folks reclaim their freedom in substance use treatment settings, hospitals, faith-based organizations, mental health settings, academic institutions, community based groups, and correctional facilities. For more information or to request a private response to questions, please feel free to CONTACT me.

BESOCHEMPS has helped countless individuals break out of the prison of addictions.

You deserve to be free.

You don’t need to do it alone.


Solstice and Solace

Some people say that today is the “shortest day of the year.” Technically it’s the day of the year (if you live in the northern hemisphere) when there are fewer hours and minutes of daylight than any other. So in actuality, today will be neither longer nor shorter than yesterday. And while this cold and dark time may seem bleak or even lifeless, this is a season of great hope.

Today, and in this season, everything around us – the cold, the dark, the quiet – speaks of the cyclical nature of all things. Our memories of the cool crisp autumn air – just a short time ago makes us reach back to the time when those brilliantly colored leaves, dancing on a breeze, were mere buds on their branches, glowing a bright green. Ah, and there we are again reminiscing about a season past when life burst from the cold earth; a season past and sure to come again, the spring just around the corner, waiting to thrill and intrigue us once again.

Especially in the stillness and cold of the season, may we each find peace in the darkness, hope in the certainty that brighter days are absolutely ahead, and generosity of spirit to share our warmth and light with others.

Tidings of comfort and joy to you and yours at this wonder-filled time of the year.


As a child I remember being stunned first by the beauty of the rows of pristine white stones arrayed in lines on the lush green grass when my family visited Arlington National Cemetery. The markers seemed to radiate in every direction for as far as I could see and fell into rows no matter which way I looked! But a moment later, as I took in the beauty, I was overwhelmed by the solemn realization that each of these stones, so beautiful, marked the graves of the dutiful.

“Freedom isn’t free,” we’ve heard the phrase, perhaps more times than we can count, but have we counted the cost of our freedom? Can we count the cost? Where would we even begin? How do you tally a price that was paid in the time, sweat, pain, blood, and lives of veterans over the span of generations? How would we count the tears of their loved ones?

Let us all be dutiful about expressing gratitude to those who served and who suffer to this day because of their service in defense of our freedom – especially, but not only today!

If you’re battling an addiction, let us seek our freedom with the fierce and courageous determination of the men and women who have sacrificed for the sake of freedom. In doing so, perhaps we pay tribute to them.

Yes or No?

Yes or no? Oh, if only it was that simple!

A few months ago I noticed a billboard on my drive to one of my consulting gigs. It was sponsored by an organization that serves addicted individuals. The sign said, “It’s a disease, not a choice,” and upon reading it my first response was delight at the sight of a message designed to combat stigma. Yay, billboard! Keep battling the blame and shame that can keep so many addicted folks in the game.

I drove by that billboard a few times each week for perhaps a month without really thinking about its message – without recognizing its error. When I saw the error on the sign my eyes were opened to a very common error seen and heard in our conversations and our culture. This error, this habit of thought, is at the root of much of the painful divide that furls eyebrows, fuels arguments, and robs us of the sanctity of community.

The billboard was guilty of lazy logic. It reduced an incredibly complex issue into a binary problem. The sign implied that addiction was either a disease or a choice. Lazy logic is easy, quick, and wrong!

What four letter word do YOU see above? Some answers are complicated!

The vulnerability to addiction is an incredibly complex convergence of several factors. There is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ description of or solution for addiction. I’ve built a presentation for my group clinical work that tries to explain the factors that can create the foundation of a vulnerability to addiction, but that’s a post for another day (or better yet, come to group!) Suffice it to say that “A or B” thinking isn’t ever going to get to the root of such a nuanced, layered, multi-faceted issue as addiction.

But what other issues have we applied the lazy logic of binary thinking to? Whenever we reduce the options to two –

  • yes/no
  • good/evil
  • tall/short
  • right/wrong
  • right/left
  • nature/nurture
  • genetics/lifestyle…

…we’re moving away from understanding others and toward a place where it’s easier to judge others. (Another sign on my way to work today warned not to be so busy judging others that you don’t have time to love them.) Binary thinking is easy, lazy, common, and leads to misunderstanding and unnecessary division.

The answer to most questions in this world is neither “yes” nor “no!” I recently used a geographical example and said that between the mountain of black and the mountain of white, there is vast valley of gray. One of the participants in that group keenly pointed out that only the very peaks of the mountains in my illustration were black or white. He’s so right!

For every resounding “Always” and absolute “Never” there are countless cases where the real answer (convenient or not) is maybe, sometimes, usually, rarely, occasionally, under certain circumstances, most of the time, often, or it depends. Life is complicated. People are complicated. Take the time to try to understand before deciding, because quick deciding can lead to painful dividing.

Thanks for listening, and thank you for trying (along with me) to resist the temptation to know the ‘right answer’ because in many cases the answer isn’t binary.

Massachusetts Temporarily Bans All Vaping Products

Yesterday afternoon the Governor of Massachusetts, Charles D. Baker, declared a state of emergency and announced at a press conference that the state will ban the sale of all vaping products. While precise details are not available at this time (exact starting date of the ban, duration, etc.,) comments made during the presser make it sound like the ban may last four months.

The pause in marketing of these products will hopefully give health officials time to better understand the growing number of serious lung illnesses and deaths (9 as of this writing) that are linked to vaping.

To be clear, the purpose of this post is NOT to offer up to the minute details on the 500+ cases of potential vaping associated pulmonary illness (VAPI.) Neither is it my intent to defend or criticize the Governor’s decision. In the spirit of “accepting things I cannot change,” I recognize that neither my applause nor my griping will change the circumstances.

In response to the Declaration of Emergency, I have heard folks who vape say things like, “What do they (the government, I suppose) want me to do, go back to smoking cigarettes?

If there’s a 4 month ban on vaping sales in the state, it will certainly create considerable inconvenience for people who vape. But a vaping ban will not “make” anyone go back to smoking! The Governor’s ban does not force anyone to smoke tobacco (or any other substance.) Vaping is a choice just like smoking is a choice. Stopping is also a choice. Stopping is not an easy choice for many of us. It took me 25 to 30 serious quit attempts before I found “the quit that could live with.” Nope, not easy, but absolutely possible!

I don’t think any of us like to feel forced into situations. We all like to have choices. So, maybe at first glance, the vaping ban appears to take away your choice. A scenario without a choice feels wrong! But there is a choice we can insert into this scenario. We can choose to see this ban as an invitation to make a change (probably a change we’ve been thinking about for a while!) Let that sink in. Massage it a little if you need to. Doesn’t it feel better to have a choice? There are, after all, always at least two ways to look at any situation.

So instead of accusing the Governor, let’s try choosing to get off of nicotine’s leash, once and for all! That mission has been near and dear to my heart for over 20 years. I count it a privilege to serve individuals who are brave enough for this journey.

Consider this an invitation to talk with your healthcare provider about the seven FDA approved tobacco cessation medications. Along with behavioral and social support, those legitimate medications can increase your chances of success! Check out the QuittersWin groups that are offered in Massachusetts and other supports!

Change is Beautiful!

Change is beautiful and essential. When we stop changing, I think we stop living! While not wanting to rush the seasons to change (as if my wanting it made it so – LOL!) I have been a fan of autumn for as long as I can remember. So, revisiting a series of quotes and photos of lovely leaves had an appeal I couldn’t resist. I hope you will enjoy them (again.)

As usual, I suggest you find one that really “speaks” to you and post it in a place where it can remind you, provoke you, inspire you, or warn you. And, of course, enjoy the photos. May they evoke memories of crisp smelling brisk days, the laughter of children jumping into piles of leaves, and the tart juicy taste of a freshly-picked apple – delicious!

Find a quote and photo (“quoto?”) that motivates you (“quotivation?” “motograph?”) and bring on the change!

W. H. E. N.

We all WANT to do things that we know aren’t good for us from time to time. And feeding those urges with occasional splurges may be OK now and then. But when it feels like the habit has us on its leash, it’s time to take our control back! Whether it’s eating junk food, smoking cigarettes, binge-spending, or some other habitual behavior we’re trying to curb, this simple word might help!


WHEN I become aware that I want to ________, I’m going to ask myself…

W – Why do I want?

  • behavioral trigger* – what I’m doing?
  • social trigger* – who I’m with or where I am?
  • chemical craving* – drop in blood sugar, nicotine level, or hunger?
  • emotional urge* – trying to cover anxiety, anger, or boredom?
  • psychological compulsion* – feeling self destructive?

H,E – How Else can I satisfy that want (without binging, drinking, etc.?)

…and remind myself that I…

N – Never Need to overeat, smoke, etc.

WHEN. Notice WHEN your in a state of want and spell WHEN.

*Some of you recognized the 5 items under the question, “Why do I want?” Those reasons for wanting are also called the “5 Heads of the Dragon,” a highly effective way to address unhealthy relationships with food, drugs, alcohol, shopping, and lots of other behaviors. To read more about the “5 Headed Dragon,” read this or search for the word BESOCHEMPS on this site! When people quit smoking on their own, only about 5% of them stay free for a whole year, but when folks use the BESOCHEMPS model of addiction, they have a 35% chance of getting free and staying free.

WHEN you want, I hope you’ll find the W H E N really helps! Keep taking good care of you and remember that staying in touch means staying on track.

Blow Away Your Stress?

Some of us carry a “stress-buster” in our pockets every day. In fact some of us would NEVER think of leaving home without them. Most of them come in a handy pack of 20 – some with a flip-top box! In order to use these alleged reducers of stress, one generally needs to light them on fire, which necessitates the carrying of matches or lighters.

Yes, I’m talking about cigarettes and to be clear – the TRUTH is that they don’t reduce stress. They increase heart rate, respiratory rate, and blood pressure, while delivering thousands of chemicals to through the lungs into the circulatory system where they are delivered to cells throughout the entire body.

But that’s more about cigarettes than I really want to say. What I really want to suggest is an alternative stress-reducing behavior that really works, costs less, smells better, and is not linked to any negative health conditions. In fact the regular use of this stress-buster has actually been associated with lower blood pressure! They can also fit neatly into a pocket so we can always have them with us. They are drastically less expensive, too!

There is even less of a social stigma related to the use of my suggested stress buster. In fact, people who use my suggested stress-buster will generally be perceived (even by complete strangers) as fun, interesting, and even youthful! Widespread adoption of this stress-management practice could prevent premature death of millions of individuals.

While insurance coverage for this product isn’t likely in the foreseeable future, it’s so affordable that cost will not be a factor for any current user of those other supposed “stress reducers.” If you or someone you love is using cigarettes to manage their stress, these tubes of bubble stuff are a bargain! I can get 100 of these little vials for $15 at a craft store (look in the wedding section.)

Each of these tiny tubes of bubble stuff can support approximately 30 minutes of deep breathing (which is an FDA approved treatment for stress and hypertension.)

Each of these little tubes of bubble stuff can be used for approximately 30 minutes of deep breathing practice. Deep breathing for 15 minutes a day (5 sessions of 3 minutes each or 3 sessions of 5 minutes each) has been shown to lower blood pressure. Do the math! A 15 cent vial of bubble stuff covers two days of deep breathing (without any annoying child-proof lids!)

No, I’m not saying you should stop taking your blood pressure medicine. No, I’m not practicing medicine without a license. No, I’m not offering this suggestion as an alternative to seeing your medical professional. But this intervention is simple, affordable, portable, and let’s face it – FUN! And yes – deep breathing is an FDA approved treatment for stress and high blood pressure! In clinical trials it has also been shown to either amuse or annoy 73% of cats. (I may have made that last part up, but it sounds plausible, right?)

WARNING: Blowing bubbles may cause you to smile, smirk, or even laugh out loud. In some cases bubble blowers report feeling less stress and occasional bouts of apathy in regards to things they used to freak out about. Don’t blow bubbles while operating heavy machinery or juggling chainsaws. Contact your Doctor if you think he or she could benefit from blowing bubbles.

Oh, I See!

Who’s outside today (or who was recently?) What wonders are waiting for us – sometimes right under our nose (or our feet?) When we take a few moments to really stop and look around – look closely around – we might find something truly amazing or at least something that’s interesting.

‘Spent any time with your head in the clouds recently? Or taken time to sit or lay down in the grass? Overhead or under foot, there are wonderful things to behold, but we need to be still. We need to be looking. We need to be really present.

Of course, the more present and available we are to those wonders, the less aware we are of whatever (probably petty) worries or fears we had been fixated upon.

I’d love to hear what sort of wonders you found today or in the days to come. I wanted to share this photograph of dew on the eyes of a dragonfly. It’s the sort of thing we might all walk by unaware. Watch for the little things that can make a big difference in our day.

Thanks for taking good care of you!

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