“Hello, my name is Luke. I’m an alcoholic.” Every addiction recovery meeting starts with this type of introduction. “Hi, my name is ____________, and my addiction is ____________.” Though I’ve never been in a position where I’ve had to introduce myself in this way, I can imagine how vulnerable and deeply felt such an introduction would be.
While in high school, drugs and alcohol were easily accessible. However, I never touched any of it not because I didn’t want to, but because I was terrified of facing my dad once I was caught. Everyone eventually gets caught; it’s just a matter of time. Don’t get the wrong idea, my dad was awesome. I was terrified largely because I didn’t want to disappoint him. My family was very close and loving. I had a healthy sense of belonging, along with a deep sense of knowing that what we each chose to do in life had a direct impact on us all. Lady Gaga said it well in one of her recent songs: “I love you more than dope.” In her live performance, she makes a very vulnerable, heartfelt confession (with expletives of course). Kelly Clarkson’s “Addicted” is another great video to check out.
As it concerns addictions, let’s face it; we all have our pet ones—gossiping, anger, worry, Netflix, smartphones, ice cream, shopping, making money, etc. In a society highly conducive to addiction, maybe frequent vulnerable confession would do us all some good. It might even make us feel more connected rather than so separated by our vices.
Research in the last 20 years has yielded some amazing new insights into how addicts should be treated. In the past, the only way of dealing with them was from the angle of usage—users should stop using… period… if they don’t comply then lock them up! In the distant past, our society tried the enforcement of prohibition. It didn’t work. In recent decades, we’ve launched an all out “War on Drugs” and financed countless, very expensive “drying out” facilities and programs. Still, addiction is at an all-time high. Why is it that we can’t get a handle on our addictions?
When you have 30-minutes, watch the recent TED talk by Johann Hari, “Everything You Think You Know About Addiction Is Wrong.” In very straightforward, conversational language he spells out what the past few decades of addiction research has yielded. Basically, he reveals the research has identified that addiction is not primarily an enforcement issue as much as it is a relationship (bonding) issue. I’m confident you’ll find his talk intriguing. Here’s a couple notable quotes:
“The amount of floor space an individual has in their home has been steadily increasing [since the 1950s], and I think that’s like a metaphor for the choice we’ve made as a culture. We’ve traded floorspace for friends, we’ve traded stuff for connections, and the result is we are one of the loneliest societies there has ever been…
What I’ve tried to do now, and I can’t tell you I do it consistently and I can’t tell you it’s easy, is to say to the addicts in my life that I want to deepen the connection with them, to say to them, I love you whether you’re using or you’re not. I love you, whatever state you’re in, and if you need me, I’ll come and sit with you because I love you and I don’t want you to be alone or to feel alone.
And I think the core of that message — you’re not alone, we love you — has to be at every level of how we respond to addicts, socially, politically and individually. For 100 years now, we’ve been singing war songs about addicts. I think all along we should have been singing love songs to them, because the opposite of addiction is not sobriety. The opposite of addiction is connection.”
In my last article, “That’s It; I’m Out Of Here!” I wrote of how I’ve observed the greatest thing at risk with all our “culture wars” is our inability to maintain deep and lasting relationships. Reinforcing my observation, I recently read an article about the obesity epidemic our world is facing. Apparently, Australia and the United States lose more people to death due to obesity than any other nation. And at this point, in America obesity claims more lives than poverty, smoking, and problem drinking does. Doctors, nutritionists, charitable and governmental organizations have been working tirelessly to combat our addiction to junk food. But here’s the fact that made me push away from the computer and take a walk to think: loneliness has now contributed to more deaths in Australia than obesity has.
LONELINESS! Stop reading and take a walk if you need to…
I’m not going to pretend to have all the answers when it comes to addictions, but it seems to me if we would take Jesus’ words to love our neighbor as ourselves more seriously, it might go a long way to preventing needless deaths. There’s a lot of things we are not qualified to deal with directly, but loneliness is one we can all help out with it. In a society that is connected more than ever via the internet, phones, texting, social media, and more, why is there a deathly epidemic of loneliness? Is it the fault of technology, or is it the fault of those using the technology?
“Hello, my name is Luke. For better or worse, hit me up. I’m sorry; I love you. No one needs to be alone.”