- Jason McCarty
Addiction is Good For You
I’ve written before on the idea that addiction can give a person reason to look more deeply into his/her life, resolving issues, hurts, and longings previously ignored. The person might never have honestly looked at their life. I want to take a brief moment and spend a bit more time on this subject. In my practice, and in my past work with clients in treatment, I have seen some real healing that arose from dealing with much more in a person’s life than just overcoming the addiction. The addiction was the symptom of a greater web of interacting influences.
Now, many of you are wondering how I could say such a thing when addiction has led to death, illness, and lives destroyed? How can I say this when your son or daughter, when your mother or father, are still stuck in the cycle and you have to watch his/her life struggle in pain, dysfunction, and lack of direction? It’s a good question. First of all, I’m not saying that dealing with an addiction is fun or painless, or that it even should be. I’m also not saying people should just try and be positive. I would never say that because it sucks to have to deal with this problem. It’s maddening, unfair, relentless at times, and ultimately illogical. But with all that said, if those struggling with addiction are willing to listen, they will find that their addiction is there for a reason, that their addiction is there to get their attention. The very thing we need to learn in life comes out of pain. It doesn’t come out of happiness. There are certainly other ways that life teaches us lessons other than addiction and sometimes people are willing to look at it that way, but when it comes to addiction, it feels so hard to have hope, and so hard to see the positive. We have already decided that addiction means “horrible”, and that addiction means “evil”, but most of the time we do not listen more closely to what the addicted person is saying with their behavior and actions, and the addicted person does not listen more closely to the addiction, or their Self, either.
What am I saying? One thing I am saying is that for many people, addiction breaks through the bullshit, the façade, the Ego. It can often bring people back to themselves, back to who they really are, not who they have been trying to be. This can become more complicated with people who have endured lots of abuse and neglect in childhood, for their sense of self is so underdeveloped that they cannot lose their Ego (or false self) – they need the protection since the confidence in Self is low or underdeveloped. This is why therapy can take longer for some people so they have time to build up their sense of self before losing their false ego structure. This is only one example of how addiction is good for you. It can help you return back to yourself.
Another way it can be good for you is that it can show needs that were not fulfilled, such as belonging for instance. There are quite a few people in addiction because it is a place to belong. Some addictive communities are developed in rebellion to the greater society that did not accept them. Whether one had a learning disability in school, looked different, was not the popular kid, or felt like the black sheep at home, they did not feel they belonged. Many people find a sense of belonging in communities of “users.” The problem eventually comes where those relationships are empty in the long run. Even still, they are accepted for who and what they are. To some degree this phenomenon is linked to what I said in the previous paragraph because the addicted person or the addicted community are involved in the complete opposite of what the general society is after – a false sense of success and happiness. Society has its own ugly Ego that it has to do deal with and addiction is the sign and the call to pay attention – same as with an individual. But both relationships exist to break through what it means to be normal, accepted, and okay. Society needs to grow psychologically and spiritually in how it embraces a greater population of differences and the individual needs to grow psychologically and spiritually in how he or she embraces his or her inner world, or Self.
It is the fear and judgment of addiction that keeps its ugliness perpetuating. It is buying into the despair and seeming helplessness that only helps to keep it going. Again, I’m not saying this should all be easy or simple. Some people will need a lot of help to work through and heal from addiction but I still believe the same fundamental principles are at play. At some point we need to build a different relationship with addiction, both globally, and individually. We need to be more curious, more compassionate, more understanding, more responsible, and more open.
Lastly, when a loved one is addicted, or if you are addicted yourself, one thing to think about is the idea that you have no idea where this journey is leading. How do we know that some people shouldn’t travel through addiction on the way to healing? I have seen it help and heal many people – again, healing way more than just overcoming the addiction. If people are willing to listen and be open when they’ve had enough, they might realize that addiction was good for them.