(Part 2.1) Misunderstanding and Misdiagnosing Addiction
Addiction is addiction, I hope to make that very clear. I can sometimes be a stickler for the meaning of words and there are plenty of words in the English language-culture that are over-used to the point of having lost any sense of a concise and universal meaning.
“Love” is such a word I’ve written about before, and “addiction” falls into this same category.
I’d bet every single person reading this has behaviors or substances they over-use, excessively rely on, desire too often, or maybe even indulge in with a near-religious fervor.
I’m willing to bet this because otherwise why would you be reading the ramblings of a flawed, opinionated, unemployable middle-aged woman who has her own set of proverbial crutches and there are certainly those who would consider their routine use as addictions.
Habitual use of a substance or regularly indulging in preferred behaviors is not the equivalent of addiction. Coffee, sugar, shopping, working, gambling, sex, media, drama—all these are potentially addictive, yet most of us consume them on a regular basis a good part of our lives without becoming addicts.
Because we throw around words like workaholic, shopaholic, chocoholic as well as confuse ‘the habitual user’ with ‘the addict’ we minimize what it really means to be an addict.
When we consider these tendencies to be on some kind of continuum with “teetotaler” on one side and “addict” on the other and “habitual user” somewhere in the middle, this may be descriptive and convenient for the modern mind, but it’s doing a real disservice to truly understanding addicts.
We end up putting that continuum in a hierarchical position, with ‘teetotaler’ at the top of some faulty ladder of excellence and morality. It is a dangerously flawed perception.
I’ve known teetotalers who put their kind at the top of this morality pyramid and to them I say, “Congratulations! You can count yourself among some of the most virulent hypocrites, criminals and blood-thirsty tyrants of all time! Just ask Donald Trump, maker of Trump Vodka. Or Hitler, or Guevara, or John D. Rockefeller . . .
“It is no measure of health to be well-adjusted
to a profoundly sick society.”
I believe the key to addressing this tragic social situation is simply corrected.
First, stop playing stupid with serious words. True addiction is a matter of life and death.
Second, stop portraying characters in active addiction and those enabling the active addiction of others as heroes of entertainment and sport. Stop voting for them and stop working for them. You know who they are! They are the ones who want MORE MORE MORE MORE MORE! Stop admiring this quality, stop giving it center stage.
Infamous drug-runner in the Iran-Contra conspiracy, Barry Seal,
glamorized by Tom Cruise in American Made.
“Bad-ass” Steve Murphy from the popular Netflix series Narcos: “Back then, we were just finding out about the effects of cocaine on the human brain. We didn’t know much, but we knew it was some pretty powerful shit. Cocaine hijacks the pleasure centers in the brain. A rat will choose cocaine over food and water. It would choose cocaine over sleep, over sex… over life itself. The human brain isn’t quite the same as a rodent’s… unless we’re talking about cocaine.”
When someone tells you, or shows you, they are an addict, believe them.
I find this post so necessary to write because I have been guilty of all of this myself on multiple occasions. It was arrogant and dismissive and naive on my part and I wish I’d known better; I wish I’d listened better. I wish I’d known what to do, how to really help. I might have even saved a precious life.
It’s Rick that got me to see the fine, but very distinct line in the sand.
I’d often heard the line “addicts can’t stop.” I heard it, but I didn’t understand it.
I know I’m not alone in this because that line is being blurred by influences penetrating the culture, from psychology to media to pharmacy to the self-help, naval-gazing industry keeping folks clueless.
Just because you crave coffee every morning at 7 and a cocktail at 4 does not mean you ‘can’t stop.’
Can’t stop means you drink that first sip of coffee and keep drinking until the moment you find it sounds like a marvelous idea to try a back flip from your balcony. And then that routine sounds like a good idea, day after day, until the moment you go for it.
Rick: “My addiction progressed to the point that getting more was all that mattered. I’d go at any hours, to any sort of location to get ‘served’ – that’s what they call it. It was more important than food. In fact, they call them ‘chefs,’ the guys who are good at cooking powder cocaine into crack.
Redd was one of my dealers, a chef, who later taught me to cook. He died a few years ago. He was blind in one eye and couldn’t see out the other, literally.
I would only eat actual food when I got so weak I needed the energy so I could use more. One time when I ran out again that night and called to see if they had more, Redd said his friend had just had a stroke and died after smoking that crack.
My response was something like, ‘Wow, sorry to hear that man. Do you have any more?’
It was to the point that getting more was the only thing I cared about, to the point I moved Redd in with me. That was the beginning of the end—the accelerated downward spiral. The quality of the crack suddenly became much more potent, to the point I would sometimes pass out after taking a hit.”
When I really listen to Rick I hear something I should have understood ages ago.
When we blur the addiction line that should be obvious by minimizing, mis-categorizing, misdiagnosing, dismissing, enabling, aggrandizing and in general remaining ignorant of the addicts’ plights, are we not conveniently and covertly excusing our own bad habits which pale in comparison?
Are we buying into the teetotaler’s faulty morality ladder? Are we actually using the addicts as scapegoats?
And it’s not like that’s not bad enough.
Because it seems very clear that Hollywood wants it this way.
Why would that be?
“Reality is just a crutch for people who can’t handle drugs.”
Robin Williams, dead of drug overdose.