Johann Hari’s TED Talk

*Also see “Is Addiction a Social Disease?” about J. Hari’s article and social diseases in America today. The post contains a previous post which addresses the false notion that addicts are just disconnected.


     Since there are many things we could discuss from Johann Hari’s TED Talk, I’m going to hold off on the whole ‘post-surgery/Vietnam soldiers returning home’ thing right now except to say that, contrary to his assertion, anyone can become an addict, regardless of circumstances. Even those who simply develop a physical dependency for some reason must still experience withdrawal, and this alone can drive continued use, despite returning home to a supportive environment.

     Many, however, can stop (post-surgery, for example) because they have maintained sufficient willpower to stop. Those who do not stop have lost sufficient willpower, and as well, many who do not stop or easily give away their power like using more than not using. That is what distinguishes an addict from a non-addict. Addicts lose power more easily and love drugs and alcohol, whereas normal people have greater willpower and don’t want to be fucking plastered all day long. Addicts indeed suffer from both a spiritual problem and a weak or vulnerable will. I don’t care what anybody says about anything. That is the truth.

     Generally speaking, addicts are basically wimps about pretty much everything. They can’t stand feeling uncomfortable, they can’t deal with suffering of any kind, and they hate having to grow up and assume personal responsibility. Sorry. And yes, it may well be more difficult for ‘addict brains’, as it were, to stop compared to other people, but it’s not impossible by any stretch, and we cannot use this disease nonsense to continue using substitution drugs or to abscond ourselves from accountability.

On the rat analogy:

     I find the initial analogy about rats pulling the crack lever less frequently while in the “rat park” to be ridiculous. I’m pretty sure the limbic system of the rat brain isn’t capable of experiencing the depth of spiritual suffering as well as spiritual rapture (no offense to any rats, rat lovers or PC lunatics). Look, the fact is that addicts couldn’t give two shits about alternative distractions. Human addicts are completely different than rat addicts. You can wave anything you want in the face of an addict, and he cares nothing. He will not be not drawn to such nourishment. He just wants the dope, trust me.

     Providing ample human connection etc. will have zero effect on our desire to use and get high. In fact, it might increase our desire, as we have not lost everything yet and are falsely reassured by the blessings we have been showered with. It will maintain our false belief that what we’re doing isn’t so bad (because we still have so much stuff and people still love and approve of us) so why stop now? Trust me, that’s how we think. Positive reinforcement is the last thing we need. It’s like, “Hey buddy, I know you like to speedball three times a day but we’re gonna give you 20k to start a bagel shop.” Um, no. You don’t wanna do that. 

     The experiment worked simply because the ‘rat park’ provided ample distraction in just the same way the drug did without the presence of other distractions, but what human addicts suffer from is not having an amusement park nearby. Human addicts suffer from a spiritual problem, regardless of their connections and surroundings. A person can be thoroughly loved/connected and become an addict while another person who is abused, alone and destitute becomes a great success. Just as many loved, popular, spoiled brats become addicts as anybody else. In fact, most addicts I know had were from loving families and had a plethora of emotional nourishment or ‘connection’, as it were.

     So there isn’t much that will prevent an addict from becoming an addict if he or she wants and loves to drink or use. That’s the truth, but you can believe whatever you want. As well, nothing will stop an addict except a spiritual experience that lifts his obsession and lights within a fire for God. Addicts are different than normal people or rats who can just stop. Not only can we not stop once we lose the power of choice, but we also don’t want to stop. That’s right, addicts don’t want to stop.

     Hari seems like a nice enough guy but you run into the same thing with every non-addict trying to describe the nature of addiction, which is that they don’t really have any clue what they are talking about. It’s no fault of his own, as it is admittedly difficult, if not impossible, to completely understand something you haven’t ever experienced. So yeah, he has essentially missed the crux of the solution by missing the nature of our problem. That said, he certainly has a good yet somewhat unrelated point about this macro-cultural problem we have (the lack of connection) and is definitely heading in a much better direction than the methadone/dual-diagnoses/psychotropic crowd.
On social recovery:

     His idea of social recovery is backwards. That is to say, there is no social recovery without individual recovery. Individual recovery precedes our social recovery, as it is us and our condition that creates and attracts to us our social reality. You can’t give an addict his recovery or feeling of connection. Outside forces cannot fix us, such as environment. I saw everybody giving him a standing ovation at the end, but that is only because it sounds inspirational and because people want it to be true, but not because it actually is.

     You see, that will never happen to me because I’m an addict who tells a truth which opposes what people want to hear and believe. That is why nobody will publish me, why I don’t really sell that many books and why progressive radio stations rejected my requests to interview about the spiritual solution and what have you. Anything that runs contrary to the status quo gets muzzled and replaced by “Astro Turf”, propaganda and manipulation. Here’s another great TED Talk by CBS whistleblower, Sharyl Attkisson, on media bullshit and the doctored reality that we live in. To note, what she touches on is just the tip of the iceberg.

     So the fact is that drugs cause the spiritual problem to deepen and widen. Most addicts don’t start off completely F’ed, but many do lack a spiritual life or purpose/service (that is to say, we worship ourselves, our comfort and desires before God, sacrifice and spiritual growth), though that is true of practically every human on earth. I personally enjoyed drinking and using more than I enjoyed my friends, family, hobbies, passions etc. (of which there were many).

On the opposite of addiction:

     JH concludes his talk with his catch phrase that “the opposite of addiction isn’t sobriety; the opposite of addiction is connection.” I guess I’ll just rephrase this more accurately. The opposite of addiction is the absence of self and selfishness. The opposite of addiction is God, which yes, does involve sobriety, i.e. reality – a fundamental requirement and foundation for the rest of our “life” recovery. Stigmatizing and punishing addicts has nothing to do with anything. Addicts will use because that’s what we do. We want to. Trust me, every addict I’ve ever known doesn’t give a shit about having friends. We want to get jammed and stay jammed 24/7. We want to saturate every square inch of our central nervous system at all costs. Doesn’t matter what we have or what we lose.


     Whereas normal people don’t want to feel high and out of control all of the time, addicts love it. Normalcy and sanity and honesty is like nails on a chalkboard for us. Chaos and misery and drugs are familiar and comfortable, if you can fathom such a thing. Addicts are basically just backwards people. We are insane, and without God, there is no hope.

     Drugs are a false solution to life, but human connection is not powerful enough to replace addiction with. Personally, the only thing powerful enough to replace my addiction with is a willingness to put my spiritual growth first and a love for God over drugs. Why? For one, the power of God was required to restore me to sanity, and two, spiritual growth has been the only thing I have come to care about more than drugs. Nothing else. And yes, doing the right thing feeds that desire. Moral action makes us feels good about ourselves. That’s why it works. It’s not wrong to teach that to an addict, because it’s TRUE. 

     I have no idea why we continuously have to take God out of the equation, but spiritual growth via spiritual action such as SERVICE is the solution for drug addicts. Service is an action that actually harnesses enough power to change the way we feel inside. And the whole stigma thing has been so contorted. Showering addicts with love (meaning unhealthy love such as unearned blessings and full access to things such as your presence) simply perpetuates the problem.

     I saw that he has 3+ million hits for this one talk. Theory and fluff will obviously make you quite popular, but just like many other real world issues, theory and idealism, while it sounds good, does not solve the problem. Once again, non-addict academics cannot solve addiction, just like they cannot solve anything they have no actual experience with. It’s the same way that lawyers cannot run government, even though government is basically all lawyers. They are failing miserably, 1) because they actually believe you just have to write more and more laws and tax people more to solve everything, which is pure ignorance, and 2) they will never admit when they’re wrong, so they have to continue the same insanity so as not to put their feet in their mouths.

     You need recovered addicts who have applied real world solutions to tell you what they have done. I and thousands of others I know attempt to do this, but is anyone listening? Not really. I may have a few readers, but to be perfectly honest, most people want to hear the fluff. That is fine. I really don’t even care anymore. But hey, when that doesn’t work, and when you give your addict 20k to start a business and he winds up under a fucking bridge, come back and read through this blog and see if he thinks, speaks and acts the way I describe here.

     I probably won’t be here by then, but I’ll leave all of this free stuff here for you to sift through… and I know how much everybody loves free stuff.

     But if you do come back, I promise you that he or she (addict) has a spiritual problem and must repair themselves in this way. Sure, part of our spiritual recovery involves human connection and meaningful relationships, so before anyone starts projecting anonymously through their keyboard, I’m not questioning or denying any of that.

     At the same time, we must be careful not to jump into too much at first. We take on a bit, relax into it, get stronger, hit a plateau and then take on a little more. I actually wouldn’t recommend too many intense relationships right off the bat, especially intimate ones. Addicts tend to lose themselves easily and relationships are the perfect self-sucking, life-sucking, recovery-sucking thing. Why? Because intimate relationships and sex are drugs themselves. They alter our mood and effect our brain chemistry. But the point is we have to keep our spiritual health first above everything else or we will fail.

     In fact, he or she may need a miracle to occur. Why? Because we will only stop for something as powerful as the drug itself… and let me tell you, for people like me, drugs like heroin are quite powerful. It solved my LIFE problem, but falsely of course. I love drugs and alcohol with all my heart. Now I love God, or try anyway. That’s it. And yes, I love God more than anybody in my life, although my kids are right up there. The love for a child is some powerful shit, so I admittedly get a little confused when I start thinking about Abraham and such moral dilemmas.

     At any rate, you have to get them to want to do something more than drugs, and believe me, there isn’t too much we want to do more than drugs. Some of us want to pursue our dreams but only if we are okay enough to pursue them. As well, there is very much a moral component to finding an adequate replacement to drugs. It must involve action and service, not merely connection. So no standing ovation, but that’s okay. It’s not about that. It’s about changing addicts so they can stop hurting their families and go help other people get better.

P.S. Please pick up the new book and let me know what you think. I’m curious to know how shitty it is, so don’t hold back.

4 thoughts on “Johann Hari’s TED Talk

  1. You're right. Hari's wrong. I was so offended by his ignorant nonsense that I haven't listened to a TED talk since I heard it, but I'm still reading your posts regularly. I'll be getting your second book, too.

  2. Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts on this talk. This is really, really good stuff. Especially for parents and partners. I think I'm going to come back and reread this post many times, as there are so many good things to remember in it. Thanks again.

  3. Totally agree. Tons of people have asserted this for years and years and years, so it is nothing novel as he implies. More importantly, it has very little or nothing at all to do with addiction, whether fueling, maintaining, preventing or removing it. Thanks so much for reading.

  4. Hey Charlotte, Thank you and my pleasure entirely.

    I remember a while ago some clinician posted a comment that what I was doing was extremely destructive. Lol. The piece he couldn't stand was about the failure of various conventional treatment methods, such as trigger identification / relapse prevention and so forth. He said that writing down (invented) triggers “works for most people”.

    I wrote back suggesting he go talk to some moms. I don't know if he ever did, but if so, he would have very soon realized the bitter failure of such methods, which do less than nothing to fix or even address what ails the addict, let alone remove his condition of insanity.

    At any rate, Hari's “connection” idea, which by the way is mainstream (so I don't understand the title of the talk/article) is the same type of thing, where we try to attribute addiction to something external and/or sentimental. Nonsense.

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