So many different thoughts and arguments exist when the topic of addiction comes up. Most people automatically associate drugs and alcohol when the word “addiction” is mentioned. They get pained looks on their faces because the family member or former friend who has fallen into the using or drinking lifestyle is sad at best. There are no easy or simple answers to the problem of addiction. Pointing fingers at druggies and alcoholics as the basis of the problem is counterproductive.
Recovering-addict-turned-comedian, Mark Lundholm, explains addiction in possibly the best, most simplistic way I’ve heard. He says what someone is addicted to isn’t the problem. Caffeine, marijuana, cocaine, crack, methamphetamine, heroin, alcohol, food, porn, sex, relationships, gambling, video games, attention – it’s all the same. It’s not the “what.” The foundation of any addiction is “now.” We are addicted to now. Our fast-paced, have-it-now society has pushed and promoted this behavior. We want food now? There is a microwave or a fast-food restaurant to make it happen. Nevermind the question of health. We want creativity? We want nearly instant relief from pain? We want to get past grief or trauma now? We yearn for intimacy? Anyone of those chemical or non-chemical remedies are at our fingertips. Is any one of those choices worse than another? Obviously, chemical use might get you dead faster. However, the others can be just as devastating to your mental, emotional, spiritual, relational, and physical health. The mere fact that the fast-food drive-thru exists confirms this have-it-now-no-matter-the-cost attitude.
In reality, addiction is the evidence of life being out of balance. The NOW attitude leads our human nature to engage in whatever gives us relief from pain or stress. Once respite has been achieved, our brains have locked into memory all the related sensory information, causing a craving that is virtually irresistible. Those of us with coffee or sugar (aka sweet tooth) addictions can smell a Dunkin Donuts within a mile and begin to salivate. Okay, that may be an exaggeration, but you get the point.
We can write-off the addict/alcoholic as the scum of society, but until we teach people to take the time to deal with the get-it-now attitude, to learn that achieving anything of value (pain relief, weight loss, fitness, inner satisfaction, creativity, etc.) takes time, very little progress will be made. When instant gratification isn’t the goal, when grief is a process to work through, when a relationship is worth the time and effort to repair – that is when recovery begins. I am grateful for the opportunity to be a small part of experiencing “aha” moments of people who struggle with addiction. And in those moments, I find the inspiration to overcome my own challenges.