Tuesday, June 21, 2011
Addiction: A Thief In The Night?
In the fall 2010 semester I wrote a series on student addiction for the Patriot Talon. Writing the series has become a highlight of my life thus far. The privilege of conversing with different specialists on the subject, and the personal conversations with various people concerning their past, or present addiction truly impacted my thoughts and functioning invaluably.
The types of addictions I wrote about included: Drug addictions, body image addictions/ eating disorders, technology addictions, and sex and pornography addictions.
Here is an excerpt of a final column I wrote to sum up the series:
"I feel pressured to look a certain way because ...
I don't have many friends, so I ...
I was lonely and seeking intimacy, so I ...
You fill in the blank; but whatever it is, college kids likely struggle with it and may even be addicted to it.
While writing the series on addictions in student life, I must have heard six different variations of the same cry, a cry of need in some way: "I smoke weed because it releases inhibitions and dulls anxiety," and "I didn't date in high school, so I sought intimacy with pornography."
My favorite description of an addiction I found while interviewing experts is the counterfeit concept that Chris Legg, licensed professional counselor in Tyler, told me about.
"I think, overall, addictions are usually about us trying to meet a totally appropriate need, a totally appropriate desire, just in an inappropriate way," Legg said. "All addictions are counterfeit versions, and so the real thing that you want, you're still not getting."
I love this perspective because it humanizes the people controlled by their addiction.
Often times, I find spectators of addiction speak of it in such a morally black-and-white fashion, and what I mean by that is people commonly consider addicts to be fools because they just need to stop, since it's obviously "wrong" or "bad" for them.
Common stereotypes simply do not do justice to the real transparent lives of addicts.
Looking at addictions as simply counterfeit, cheap versions of real, legitimate needs people may be looking for, allows for healthy people to relate and empathize rather than chastise or belittle.
What I realized is addictions are really all the same underneath the various manifestations.
People are looking for something whether it is intimacy, acceptance or a way to escape their realities because of hurt, shame and remorse or to supplement low self-esteem, loneliness, anxiety or rejection.
Addicts are people who struggle in life just like you and me, but instead choose the cheap, fake, quick version of the Rolex watch they really want rather than saving up for the real thing.
It's easier in the short term, but often it obliterates the long term.
It's almost as though I have had and continue to have a ringside seat in watching people struggle with addictions, as I'm sure many of you do also.
I have many people in my life that have or do meet the criteria of an addict, including my older sister who struggled with addictions to many substances.
I have to say several of my friends and family, who smoke marijuana use other illicit drugs, drink in excess or are addicted to the way they look, stand among some of the most unique, intelligent and beautiful people I know.
I sincerely enjoy them as individuals, but I don't enjoy their substance abuse or addictive actions.
Addictions are so relevant in this generation, and I feel as though I've observed addictions swallow up the potential of people I love.
I want to see people live life to its fullest and watching people become dependant on a substance or an action that is rapidly or slowly eating away years of their lives, or inhibiting their lives to any degree really hurts me.
I've seen addictions ruin dreams, families, relationships and personal health."
Find the complete column printed in the Patriot Talon here.
What are your thoughts on addiction? Leave a comment, or post on my Facebook!