I want to share with you an amazing message given by Johann Hari in a recent Ted Talk. It’s amazing because it makes so much sense on a topic that is both painful and sensitive to so many of us – addiction. I’ve included the link below. I think it’s worth the time to watch and listen.
Hari’s main point is that addiction isn’t about some physical dependence on something: he gives loads of evidence showing that many of us, including drug addicts, have experiences with habit-forming drugs, and don’t end up needing them afterwards, or even experiencing withdrawal. The real underlying reason for addiction – to drugs, alcohol, sugar, work, exercising – anything at all that we turn to compulsively – is, in his words, isolation. Of “not being able to bear to be present in our lives”.
Our response to drug addicts is to punish them. Our response to alcoholics is to avoid them. Our response to food addicts is to shame them. All isolating. All fail to work.
The real answer, he claims, is connecting, bonding. If for some reason we aren’t able to bond with other people or with our world, then we will bond to whatever we can – and this might be drugs, alcohol, food, work – anything that gives us something to connect with, avoiding our sense of isolation.
Addictive substances and addictive habits, looking at it from Hari’s point of view, are natural ways of coping with the unbearable. He points out that our modern society is one of the loneliest societies that have ever been! No wonder addiction has become a way of living for so many!
How can we truly help ourselves, our friends, and our society?
There is all kinds of help out there – from 12-step programs to rehabilitation centres, to harm reduction, to community support. The one thing they all have in common is community support, where the addict is loved back to a healthy balance.
Hari’s suggestion: deepen the connection. Love our friend, or ourselves, no matter what. Commit to being there for them, so that we all know that we are no longer alone.
Because the opposite of addiction is connection.
Everything you think you know about addiction is wrong!
-Kitty Thomas, The Auction