The nature of addiction is not well understood in our society. From the right, addiction is seen as largely a character defect; a level of laziness wherein the addict will not get her act together and pull herself up by the boots straps to take responsibility for life. From the left, addiction is a disease rooted in genetics that leaves the addict largely helpless to his cravings. He needs intense behavioral programming to help him stay in recovery and he must be ever vigilant, because his biology places him at life-long risk.
Depending on where we fall on the ideological scale, we largely accept these beliefs as fact. Even public funding supports these beliefs as most substance abuse programs are founded on behavioral principles and the philosophy that addiction is genetic and has no relationship to mental health.
I take issue with this. From my own experience, I classify myself as an addict. I’ve been addicted to many things in my life: cocaine, anger, sex, cigarettes and diet coke, to name a few. I don’t really struggle with addictive impulses now, nor have I for years. Although I can never really compare my inner struggle to anyone else’s, my compulsions to indulge were very real and felt impossible at points to overcome.
I’ve never been to rehab. I’ve never attended a 12-step meeting. I don’t have any particular problem with any of those tools, but what I did do was dedicate my focus to establishing an improved relationship with myself. I recently came across the book, Chasing the Scream by Johann Hari, a well-researched account of how our addictive impulses are more about our lack of connection, our lack of bonding, much more than any genetic problem were are just condemned to live with.
This new discussion on the subject challenges both the left and right standards of thinking and suggests we can overcome addiction altogether by focusing on the key relationships in our lives and doing whatever we can to feel bonded and connected. Personally, I take the theory one step further and suggest the most important relationship in our lives is our relationship with ourselves. I know for me, the more I committed to a loving, respectful, bonded and connected relationship to myself, the less need I had for my addictions. The struggle simply no longer existed.
Additionally, when I look back on times in my life I became more susceptible to my cravings, I can see how I had become disconnected from myself and it was through reconnection I emerged craving-free once more.
There are a lot of things you can be addicted to aside from drugs or alcohol. Fact is, we are all either in active addiction or active recovery. The only difference lies in the quality of the relationship you have with yourself.