Connection? The Opposite of Addiction?

Johann Hari has been getting a lot of attention recently, a lot of traction out of a premise he hopes will help the world understand addiction a little better, namely:

‘The Opposite Of Addiction Is Not Sobriety. The Opposite Of Addiction Is Connection.’

This attention long overdue, desperately needed, and essential to the world of recovery.  It makes sense, is founded on a bit of research, and is likely welcome to so many who have struggled with conventional treatment programs.  He’s also a journalist, so he knows how to write, how to offer evidence, to logically explain his premise.  Whether he’s hit a bull’s eye or not isn’t really the issue; if he’s hit on THE truth or a partial truth, the continued discourse and need to look beyond what we currently have in place to help those suffering is the only way we can hope to help that one person who hasn’t been served by that current, somewhat sparse, menu of treatments.

Personally, I believe what he is saying makes sense in a very over simplified way. The evidence and research he offers regarding rats and Vietnam have been used to support his point, but it wouldn’t take much to throw a wrench in his argument.  If it was all so simple, AA and other 12-step programs would have a 100% success rate because they are founded on community and connection. Problem is, current data shows the success rate is about 10%.  Of course just writing that could spark the ire of 12-step supporters (and I again have to say I consider myself ‘in the program’ precisely because I get that connection from the rooms.)

I think the most important thing in watching and keeping an open mind here is that he’s onto something. Something, not everything. It just happens to be a small piece of the puzzle.  I am still more convinced that addiction is multifaceted, having different pieces which if you are unfortunate enough to have all of them makes treatment very difficult.  If I went back to Pleasure Unwoven, that documentary on addiction which points out 5 different levels of addiction

1. Genes
2. Reward
3. Memory
4. Stress
5. Choice

I could easily go through the various forms of treatment program and explain how each level either ‘fits’ into a specific treatment or not.

For example:  someone who has suffered trauma as a child is not going to be saved by the 12-step program.  Period.  Those who think that are doing severe damage to those people who have trauma and who come into the program as their sole treatment plan.  Without professional therapeutic help, trauma simply gets locked away to emerge later.

Another example: there are some people who don’t believe in psycho-pharmacology as a legitimate form of treatment.  Perhaps psych-meds are over prescribed by too many general practitioners who don’t hold an expertise in the field.  I personally have spent decades fighting an issue with my brain chemistry which until recently wasn’t successfully dealt with until I saw a professional psychiatrist. Because I self-medicated heavily on an over-the-counter cold medicine (DXM) for 15 years, monthly for a week at a time, nearly 1/4 of those 15 years I spent tripping….yeah, like LSD tripping.  I learned how to curb my behavior to mask being high, and successful taught my brain that it no longer needed to create happy chemicals.  Just like in the researched effects of long-term ecstasy use, there can be irreparable damage.  ‘Connection’ isn’t going to cut it for me.  Considering the early age at which kids are starting to use heavy drugs, there will be significant damage done to brain chemistry.  All the connection in the world, all the meetings in the world are not going to fix that sort of neurological damage.

I happen to have all 5 levels listed above making me a quintuple threat.  Treating all five of these levels is the best form of treatment so a one-size-fit-all philosophy, approach, program, belief is likely to fall short.

Again, the more information out there the better.  What I am so happy about is that these sorts of articles are being offered via social media—making that connection which tells us we are not alone and it’s actually okay to step away from the pack and to create our own program of recovery.  That’s what I am calling, “Re(DIS)covery!”

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