There is no doubt the pandemic, especially with this second round of lockdowns, has triggered distress in many people, creating a spike in addiction behaviours. Whether these are new dependencies or old ones, whether they involve alcohol, drugs, food, gaming, gambling, internet, shopping, or something else, there is a lot of suffering out there. And it’s not just the person with the addiction that’s suffering. Everyone around them also hurts, and as we know from the old saying, ‘hurt people, hurt people’, so the cycle will be perpetuated and passed down throughout families.
What you may not know about addiction, is that in most cases, the single biggest cause is disconnection. Yes, disconnection. Disconnection at the deepest level, from your true self.
How do we know this? American Psychologist Dr Bruce Alexander and his researchers conducted experiments in the 1970s, now referred to as ‘Rat Park’, which demonstrated that when rats were separated from their community, caged alone, and offered two water sources, one filled with water and the other laced with opioids, that they would repeatedly drink the drugged water until they overdosed and died.
Dr Alexander then went on to explore his hypothesis, that this behaviour related more to the environment of isolation, than to the addiction, building a second ‘rat park’ where the rats were free to roam, play and socialise together. In this setting they were once again given access to both types of water, but clearly preferred the plain water. Where they did partake of the drug laced water, it was intermittently and always in moderation.
His conclusion? Our addictions can, in immediate and powerful ways, change how we feel, think, relate and behave. They can transport us, or numb us, from our pain. They can take us from distress to quiet. That is why we sink into them and want to stay there. So, if you put this knowledge into the context of social distancing and stay at home orders, or being considered ‘non-essential’, you will see and understand why addictions are increasing at a rapid rate.
The good news is, you CAN heal from your addiction.
To quote trauma expert Dr Gabor Mate, “when you heal from addiction what do you call that? You call that recovery. Recovery means to find something. But you can’t find anything that isn’t there all along, so what is it that people recover? Well they recover their true selves. But that means that their true self was never destroyed. So it doesn’t matter how hurt and traumatized you are, that true self is never destroyed it can’t be. It cannot be. And that means as long as there’s a functioning mind here that isn’t demented, and maybe even then the true self can always be recovered. That’s just the natural process, healing is a natural process.”
So just as we know the old saying, ‘hurt people, hurt people’, we can expand that thinking to ‘transformed people, transform people’. Now I don’t know about you, but I believe that’s a cycle worthy of being perpetuated!
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