Several people have now asked me to comment on this article from the Huffington Post – you’ll have to excuse the source, of course, which poses as a news site. My apologies.
Certainly connection to self and others is part of any equation, as we are social creatures by nature and need human connection, but the fact is that people will use and become addicted if they want to use and become addicted, regardless of external circumstances. Strong connections and supportive environments will neither prevent nor vanquish addiction. Moreover, once we become addicted, we have to contend with the fact that we have gone insane – that we have the lost of the power of choice.
To regain power of choice, something quite powerful must occur. As well, lasting change usually occurs as a direct result of rigorous work and a sincere desire to change as opposed to the environment in which we find ourselves. I had a very loving and supportive familial environment, as well as many close friends and bonds, and I could not have cared any less. I wanted to get jammed out of my skull, 24/7. That said, I certainly believe that lack of connection to self, others, Mother Earth and God is a macro-cultural condition, and varies in degree depending on the individual.
The article asserts that the true cause of addiction is a lack of human connection, which is certainly a bit more accurate than any nonsense emanating from the pharmaceutical model. The idea is that if we are part of a loving environment with many strong human connections, we may not become addicts. As well, if we secure a loving environment with many strong human connections after becoming addicts, our addiction will vanish or cease to reappear. Unfortunately, the latter would imply that our environment has not only restored us to sanity, but is capable of maintaining it, which isn’t possible.
The other problem with this premise is that it really has nothing to do with addiction. I know this will be very hard for people and clinicians to understand, but for many addicts there is often no reason why we use. Many of us just picked up one day and boom, what do you know, we love drugs. Sure life isn’t perfect and we suffer, but nobody’s life is perfect and everybody suffers.
One day, long ago, a friend gave me an Oxycontin before playing a round of golf, and when it kicked in and saturated my entire nervous system, I thought I had died and gone to heaven. I fell madly in love with Oxycontin, that is, until I met heroin. But the thing is, there was nothing particularly wrong in my life. I was content, going to college, had tons of friends, was dating, working hard, etc.
Guess what my problem was?
I loved drugs. In fact, I was a walking dumpster. Using was not at all an extension of my environment or my degree of connection to others. Using was an extension of my selfishness and my preoccupation with comfort and feeling good 24/7, and I believe that is the case for most, if not all of us.
Let me tell you, human connection is wonderful, but if all an addict does is return from treatment to a loving environment, he or she is still 100% an addict and is subject to relapse at any time and for no apparent reason. To be an addict is to have gone insane. The bottom line is that environment and connections can neither prevent us from becoming addicts, nor fix us once we get there. I agree that opening ourselves up and cultivating strong connections with others, Earth and God are certainly crucial in the totality of our recovery, but without moral action, we will ultimately fail.
Regardless of what you think about the ‘disease’ part of our addiction – the physical part – nobody can deny that the character and the moral compass of an active addict takes a beating over the years, and like our connections, must also be repaired. If we have done the wrong thing, common sense and logic dictate that doing the right thing will help to repair the inner damage that was done by doing the wrong thing. We still have to change the kind of people we have become. We still have to do some work. We still have to give back, and thus, environmental and social change is only part of the equation.
Furthermore, having the immense support I did after becoming addicted had zero effect in reducing the severity of my addiction. On the contrary, my addiction grew worse as I was showered with love and friendship. Look, addicts love drugs and want to use. I read stuff all of the time by non-addicts who claim that no addict wants to be an addict, but sorry, that is just not true. We will use as long as we want and we will stop for no one. We will stop if and when we want to for we are purely selfish beings. Yes we should stop because what we are doing is wrong, and despite what anybody says, it is immoral, but even that won’t stop us.
By the way, saying that addiction has to do with morals doesn’t conflict with this article’s assessment. If we become disconnected from God, from others, from ourselves or from the ground we stand on, addict or not, we will also begin to lose our moral compass. The two are related. That seems obvious.
Finally, the lack of human connection is a human condition. The author is correct that we are social beings and need each other to thrive and feel whole. However, all of us are disconnected. You could argue that our entire culture has become more and more disconnected, disinterested and without purpose. We seem to care about nothing, as ambitions instead revolve around acquiring the latest phone or app, or ingesting the latest gossip or criticism. Social media, for example, is indeed numbing our minds and removing our passion – almost plying us to robotically accept whatever is happening.
The point is that all of us may be disconnected in some way but we don’t all become junkies. And there are millions of us who come from loving, strong environments and still easily mutate into pathetic junkies. Why? Because we are not like everybody else. Whereas normal people hate the feeling of being out of control, addicts love it. And the truth is that most addicts who return to wonderful environments absolutely cannot wait to relapse.
I realize that none of this may make any sense to normal, or rather, non-addicted people out there, but just try to tweak your mind a bit and consider that what is backward to you is forward to the addict. We want to be the way we are… until we don’t.
God, help us…