I was sitting in a café with a friend of mine. We both ordered our argeeli (another name for the hookah or shisha). These are water pipes, and are used to smoke flavored or straight tobacco. I ordered mine mint flavored, dried, with a glass of Perrier and he ordered a grape mint argeeli and a glass of Lazeeza (a non-alcoholic barley drink). My friend began talking about how annoyed he is of this argeeli habit, and made a rather interesting comment. He said, “I can’t believe I have to smoke every day. It’s like I have to make time for my argeeli as if it’s my girl”.
Let’s talk a little bit about this argeeli phenomenon that has permeated the Arab American culture so effectively. I want to discuss it as a lead into a broader discussion on the pattern of addiction. I know, from my own past use of argeeli, that hanging out with friends revolved around argeeli. We would go to a café to smoke, or go to one another’s house to smoke, or go to the park to smoke, or hey, we’d go camping to smoke. We’d barbeque and smoke right after, and everyone who would come over my house brought with them their argeeli bag, full of their latest prized argeeli possessions. Hell, I left Michigan between 2013-2016, and upon returning I learned about the Hookah to Go Cups! Literally, they make disposable hookah’s out of plastic cups and sell them at various stores around Dearborn, Michigan. This makes the hookah easily used in a car or for a outing at a friend’s house, so that now you don’t have to carry around your personal argeeli. You can just pick up a to-go cup on your way to wherever you were going.
Back to my friend’s comment about making time for his argeeli. What a profound statement! An addiction is a lot like a relationship, based on dependency. An abusive relationship at that. The drug use begins with excitement and novelty, turns into an impulse with mostly positive feelings. You get excited just thinking about the substance or addictive activity, and the excitement rises until you release the excitement by doing the said activity. This is a lot like new lovers, who think about one another day and night, and then must see each other to relieve the rising tension. Now if the relationship moves in an abusive direction, one side (possibly both sides) feels trapped, and the excitement becomes a chronic anxiety. In the realm of addiction, the impulsive behavior eventually becomes compulsive, and instead of excitement preceding the addictive behavior, it’s anxiety that reigns supreme and is temporarily relieved by partaking in the activity. This pattern exists whether the behavior is smoking cigarettes, using marijuana, taking opioids, or over-indulging in pornography and prostitution. What becomes interesting, is that oftentimes, the dependent will defend the addiction, and sometimes even praise the addictive substance or behavior.
Addiction, and yes, that includes argeeli use, is reminiscent of Stockholm Syndrome, and we should be careful not to cast blame onto the victim, while not normalizing the behavior of the captor. The purpose of noticing the pattern discussed above is in order to be better equipped at recognizing our own maladaptive behaviors and also in having more insight when discussing the topic of addiction, regardless of what substance or behavior is in question. This allows us to build some empathy, knowledge, and if we are brave enough, introspection!