Explore with me the idea that addiction as a syndrome occurs with the basic need for escape. Escape from life, or work, or death, financial troubles, relationships, or the lack thereof, pain or all of the above. When our natural “fight or flight” response is so great that it is desperate for an outlet people find something to throw themselves into.
Some things we use to escape or hide are: gambling, going to the gym, drugs (prescribed or not and that includes alcohol), sex, work, music, video games, football, appearance or shopping. If we try to recognize the need to escape, to flee, it feels like for our very lives; understand that we are not engaging in behaviors for healthy reasons like entertainment, sustenance, medicine, but for the sense of escape – no matter how fleeting that is – which our “addiction” provides, maybe we can get a clue as to what really needs to be addressed in our lives.
We need to ask, what we are escaping from? When we go shopping, drink a rum & coke, eat a box of Oreos, shoot heroine, have an affair, or whatever our choice of escape is, we are running from a severe discomfort in our lives. It’s a reaction we have learned.
We’ve been trained to believe we need to go drink and party and happy hour at the end of the week (TGIF!) or workday (“It’s Miller Time”). And the idea that sex is the key to happiness is force fed to us through every media stream and patriarchal hand-me-downs. We believe that working overtime will get us that wonderful thing some day. Or keep us from facing our hot mess of a life.
What can we do to change it? Introspective searching is appropriate. Ask, do we need a different job? To fix a silence in a friendship? To admit to a wrong, own up to it – take responsibility and try to make changes or amends, so we can forgive ourselves and grow some self-esteem, is a good start. But until we face the fears we are running from, we will continue to run back to the arms of our addictions and unhealthy choices and beliefs.
Only in facing our deepest fears, can we conquer them, love and accept ourselves, and not need the kind of escape we’ve come to believe is our only relief.
Now consider that as a species we cannot afford to run from our fears like addicts anymore. Our world is unraveling economically, socially, politically, and environmentally. Ours will not simply be like the Fall of the Roman Empire. At the most crucial time in our human history, we need to face our fears in a hurry. Extinction is coming for life on Earth as we see the destruction of species after species, by the thousands, every day now, and large swaths of ocean developing growing frightening “dead zones” with no oxygen. We see it in the stories of water contamination in communities around the world. We cannot afford to run from this.
An apocalypse is coming and if we can’t handle our petty lives now, we will not be able to save so much as a time capsule, much less a few Earthlings. We must overcome our fears, our addictions – it’s what we need. It may save the World.
– Hopefawn Levenson Robertson (1/09/18)
A version of this was also printed at: The Ghion Journal