We Are All Adicts

We are living in an age of addiction; a time of unbridled desire and reckless overconsumption. We point our fingers at the drunks stumbling down the street at two o'clock in the afternoon and recognise the drug-addled malefactors shuffling behind abandoned buildings in the outer suburbs of town. Dirty, disgusting addicts wasting away their lives, we may say.

Think about it this way though, addiction may be closer to home than we think, it may have infiltrated our immediate family or close circle of friends. Perhaps a distant uncle gets combative at family gatherings after a few glasses or port or you sometimes see a neighbour smoking a bong out of their bathroom window. This is the addiction that we talk about around the dinner table and whisper about in the playground. It is the overt and identified kind. We express our strong opinions about it and, in some cases, try to help. These are the addicts on display. These are the ones we know.

These are the people that society has characterised as "true addicts", but we often overlook a simple fact; we may be addicts ourselves. Addiction is much like other psychological issue in that it manifests in varying degrees of severity. Some individuals may be overcome by its powerful current in the river of life, while others may experience it more subtly, like a dripping tap. You may be unaware of your own addictive tendencies or simply brush them off as non-threatening character flaws.

It could be that a sister is limiting her food intake and exercising multiple times a day or that a father is frequenting strip clubs and meeting women in hotels while his family wonders why he always has to work late.

The truth is that each one of us possesses the same attributes that fuel alcoholic binges, restrictive eating patterns, and marital infidelity. Addiction resides in your psyche and binds you together with all other addicted beings in the world. Addiction, as Carl Jung would have put it, is archetypal. This means that we all share its energy in the unconscious part of our psyche. It is a feeling that we know instinctively and is imprinted in our DNA. We are unable to get rid of it.

For every human interaction there is a potential addiction. There are people addicted to sarcasm, they hardly ever speak an earnest word. Others are addicted to exaggeration, they cannot tell a story without adding several inches to the punchline. Some of us are addicted to misery, being much more comfortable when things are coming apart at the seams. Perhaps their notion of love has been fashioned by discomfort.

Addiction is inside you just as it resides in me. It is a universal presence that lives in our unconscious and rises and falls according to the personal story of our life. You may have already felt your addiction lurking in the shadows. It may be waking from its slumber and gently modifying the nature of your thoughts. Do not feel ashamed, as it is part of your nature. Look around and you will not feel so alone. Addiction is everywhere.

One of the most prevalent types of addiction today is the fascination with technological devices. People just cannot put their smartphones or tablets down. These little computers give us so much pleasure that we keep them with us at all times. Social media, email, texting, and surfing the web are incessantly available. Behaviour like this is rapidly becoming the norm.

There is also a surge of attention focused on enhancing our physical appearance. It seems as though we no longer want to accept the aging process. Growing old is no longer the 'in' thing to do, and the lines on our faces are the perceived enemy. Small wrinkles above your brow glaring at you relentlessly, seeming to expand every day. You cannot look into the mirror without seeing it. You are now engaged in a cycle of obsessive thinking. You poke, prod, and rub it but it is there to stay. You realise that a small shot of botox will make it all go away. Here lies the compulsive action. A few months later the cycle repeats itself. Yes, this is addiction. You have become dependent on a shot to make you feel better. Without it you feel insecure and your self-confidence is lost. Society has approved the idea that looking younger is vital no matter how it is achieved.

Until it is acknowledged, addiction will continue to gather strength. There is nothing you can do to stop this avalanche. Whether you are in a rehab or quietly dealing with your issues at home, there is only one real solution. Acknowledge its existence and offer your friendship. This may sound counter-intuitive. How can we befriend something that is so destructive and selfish? The answer is that it is the things we despise and resent that pull away at our strength and ability to function. Alternatively, it is kindness and compassion that has the ability to diffuse negative energy. Addiction is a part of each on of us and therefore should be embraced as one of our many qualities.

Give your addiction a name, Betty or Frank. Imagine what it looks like. Invite it over for coffee and conversation. You will be amazed that a small amount of recognition and positive attention will transform your relationship to it. Your addiction will surrender and no longer control you. Your addiction will become your ally. Peace will be restored.

Photo credit New York Times

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