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When you see unhealthy behavior in almost any person, be it a politician, an alcoholic, an addict of any kind, it’s easy to get frustrated, angry, to become dismissive, to judge.
But what we are really seeing is an emptiness and a fear, absolutely brought on by some childhood pain.
I lived with someone who broke their addiction but still lived as an addict, it just manifested in other ways.
I’ve fallen into addiction myself and had to claw my way back out, one uncertain step at a time.
Addiction is a weird thing. It feels like you are controlling your circumstances by engaging in an activity that will make your pain or emptiness ‘better’. But of course, all you are doing in the long run is falling wildly out of control.
It’s an impulse, a driving need, a fleeing from uncertainty and a world of danger with no hope of forgiveness. It’s a numbing of fear and a deep-seated feeling that there is no reliable safety to be found.
So it manifests as either self harm or other harm (which is really, in the end, another form of self harm).
Substance abuse, self abuse, other abuse – these are what we generally think of when we think of addiction.
But addiction can also show itself in other ways: as compulsive shopping, hoarding, never-ending forays to the internet, chronic tv watching or uncontrollable eating habits.
Addiction can be manifested in never ending streams of relationships, partners, or even jobs!
And perhaps most pernicious of all are the empty, high functioning addicts who gain control of governments, corporations, positions of great authority.
Their addiction is often fed by money and power. And there is never ENOUGH money or power as neither can nurture or fill the soul. The reach and impact of those who have found large scale influence is so great that the relentless pursuit of these things has almost brought our world to the brink of unstoppable climactic change.
No addict in denial ever wants LESS of their drug of choice. And justification, amelioration, lies, charm and even force are the tools that addiction will use to be able to feed unimpeded.
And it all leads back to the child whose world has undergone a massive destabilization. The result is a feeling of being cast off, alone, and with no sure, safe, loving thing to be trusted again.
So what can be done?
Well, the solution is one our western world finds difficult.
The solution is to offer ever increasing love and compassion along with socially and communally encouraged guidelines.
Basically, the addict MUST find some kind of emotional safety once again. Preferably in a non- judgemental, nurturing, patient environment.
In our times, if a cure isn’t a quick fix, we want nothing to do with it. We want fast-acting relief!
Well hold on…
Doesn’t that sound like a … societal addiction?
Can our society, as it’s structured, really solve addiction? Or can it only churn out an ever increasing number of addicts?
Before colonization, Indigenous people had very few issues with addiction, if any at all. The various societal structures that had developed thrived successfully for millennia before Columbus ever stumbled to the shore.
And some of the first acts of the European colonists, once they had power, was to do to Indigenous children what they had done to each other for many, many centuries:
Traumatize the child.
Take the child from home. Isolate them. Kill some of them and experiment on and abuse others.
Destroy that child’s ability to trust in the world, in other people, in safety, in themselves.
Generation after generation.
And this trauma, to varying degrees, has been practiced on children (no matter their background) time and time again.
It’s a sickness we have inherited.
This is the world that isn’t really working for us.
Can we find our way back to community, to love, to acceptance?
If we want to cure our culture of addiction, we must.
Aaron Paquette is a First Nations Metis artist, author and speaker. Based in Edmonton, Aberta, his Bestselling Novel ‘Lightfinder’ was published 2014 through Kegedonce Press and is now in 2nd printing.
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