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Creating a Different Future for Addiction

Addiction as we know it today is defined in a completely different manner that the origins of the word. When looking at the etymology, addiction was first used in the 16th century and defined as: "To devote, or give up (oneself) to a habit or occupation". This is prior to any use of the word relating to abusing substances, and mostly held a positive point of view of devotion. I have been thinking a lot about what we believe addiction is, and question whether it is beneficial to view the overuse of substances as something "negative" or "problematic".

I often have people who come to my office and state that their goal is to stop using all substances. Our society asks that people no longer use, or want to use substances for everyone else's sake. "I don't want to hurt my family anymore," "I want to stop doing drugs to get my kids back," "I want to stop because I have to,". I want to remind all of my readers that there is nothing wrong with that point of view. I have had the same thoughts in my head, pushing me to be "different", "better", "the Annie I have always wanted to be".

However, I want to acknowledge that the origin of this word talks about "the giving up of oneself," so where have you given up yourself in your addiction, in your recovery, and even in your life time? How old were you when you were told to give up you because being you just wasn't acceptable, palatable, right, etc.? I cannot count the number of experiences I recall where I was told I wasn't right because I was disorganized, because my parents were getting a divorce, because a psychologist told me I was going to be bad at math. I gave up various aspects of me to be the me I thought everyone wanted.

Have you ever felt like you have given up who you are in order to be someone else? And were you made wrong for that? And did you use addiction to give up yourself in favor of something else? Something that would create the connection with the rest of the world? I know, these are some weird questions, AND I wonder if any of you feel that they might be true for you?

In my own journey I discovered that I was not willing to acknowledge my difference, and I gave up myself in favor of whatever anyone wanted me to be. I tried to be popular, I tried to be unpopular, I tried to be the good daughter, I tried to be the trouble maker I devoted myself to everyone....except me. I was so lost by the end of it. I had no friends I was neither popular, unpopular, good or bad, and the only thing left to do was drink. I couldn't be right, and I couldn't be wrong, and I couldn't be me, so the only thing left to do was check the fuck out. (that's right, I said it)

A few years ago this idea of "rat park" was introduced via TEDtalk. The boiled down point of view is that if rats are just in an empty cage they will of course use drugs because there is nothing else around them. If rats have a place to play then all the rats could have more fun, more opportunity, more connection, and they wouldn't desire to use drugs. I wonder if that same principle applies to humans? Humans possess one trait that rats do not, judgement. How much of addiction is wrapped up in judgement of self, others, society, etc.? What would it take to change that?

I want to acknowledge that in order for us to truly change addiction it would require some radical action. Everyone would require their own "rat park", and that would mean that everyone would be allowed to be the best version of themselves. This is talking beyond the individual, and even the collective. Systemically we would have to create change in order for a global rat park to exist. What would it take to create a Global version of this idea? What would have to change in order for everyone to BE themselves without judgement?

If you would like to discuss this among other topics, check out my Addiction 101 group under "groups and retreats " section of my website and contact me.

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