Why are some people seemingly immune to addiction and others aren’t? This question was posted on The Real Edition’s discussion board following an article posted by fiedawn, WHY DO SOME PEOPLE HAVE ADDICTIVE PERSONALITIES AND OTHERS SEEM IMMUNE?
I think many factors are involved in the susceptibility one has to addiction. I know it will vary from person to person and from decade to decade, but this was my personal experience.
Community and connection
In a secularist society like America’s, many of us grew up in a nuclear family watching TV, playing video games, and going to public school. We didn’t go to church.
My parents were spiritual, but did not believe in restriction us to one religion. They were forced to grow up Catholics and didn’t want that for us. They figured when we were old enough we could choose our own belief system.
So as an American kid in the 80s and 90s, we were brought up as consumers. We had a more or less decent public education, but were not given the tools we needed to cope with life. Products and celebrities replaced gods. We were taught to be independent, self-gratifying, and self-important. Above all we were told to be successful. But as human beings we have all these thoughts and emotions that are tricky to deal with, and there was nothing to replace the role of the church or the extended family in our lives. There were no elders to turn to or priests to confide in–just MTV.
Like Matt Mendoza said in the ReLaunch podcast, the cure for addiction is community. You’re not going to feel lost and lonely with a group of loving people supporting you. You’re less likely to turn to drugs if you’re already satisfied and happy with life, which usually has nothing to do with how much money you make or what title you go by at the office. This is why I think group therapy and 12 step programs are so effective in combatting addiction. They fill that missing role.
As a teenager, drugs were readily available to me. Even though I lived in a small, rural southern town, marijuana and coke, albeit overpriced and totally stepped on, were easy to come by. Later, ecstasy, LSD, and prescription drugs were added to the menu. I think if it’s there, kids will try it.
In my case, it was a painfully boring town. The only things to do were to meet in cars at the Wal-mart parking lot or go sit in the woods to drink beer. Trying a new drug was an adventure that I always looked forward to. None of us were seeking to become addicts. We were just looking for a new sensation.
So, what if drugs weren’t available? By the same argument, stick a person with a so-called addictive personality in the jungle with a tribe of natives where there are no drugs for hundreds of miles. They won’t go crazy or self-implode. They’ll find news ways of coping with their thoughts and feelings, which is what kids should be taught before they get to that dangerous adolescent age.
So I started using drugs as a novelty, a cure for boredom. You don’t have to be miserable or running away from something to develop an addiction. In my case, I had a loving family, good grades, and I was an all around nice, normal person. I may have been a little angsty about the aforementioned consumerism I was born into. We all can feel something’s missing from that sort of life, but drinking and drugs just become habit. Humans are very routine-oriented. I’m reading The Power of Habit right now and habits are literally branded into your brain structure. Just like brushing your teeth, or walking your dog, or putting your left shoe on first, if you make drugs part of your ritual, soon you can’t imagine your normal routine without them.
But this is different from physiological addiction, which is the most severe of all because you can’t reason yourself out of it. Habits are bad, but usually not deadly. I stayed in habit mode for a long time, until I met heroin. I don’t care who you are, how well-adjusted you are, or how many loving, understanding people you have around you, if you do heroin, or any opiate for a few days in a row, you’re physically hooked and no one is immune to that. Instant addict.
Fiedawn used a great quote to open his piece: Fear is an iron-clad protective cloak. Why are some people saved from addiction by it?
There are some of those kids in school whose fear checks their curiosity about drugs. They won’t give into the peer pressure no matter what. They are the ones you might call “immune” to addiction.
But most drug users I know have a certain risk-taking personality. They like to live on the edge and play with fire. If it weren’t drugs, they’d be the ones skydiving, or walking the high wire, or fighting fires for the sheer thrill of it.
Risk taking personalities are necessary for human progress. They are the people who become heroes, innovators, explorers, and visionaries. They are the Napoleons, the Einsteins, the Neil Armstrongs, the Elon Musks or Steve Jobs of the world, but you know what they say about idle hands, and risk-takers are more likely to try drugs when offered them and then take them to the extreme.
So I don’t know if it’s so much that people are inherently addicts or immune or addiction. I could blame my addictive tendencies on my grandfather who was an alcoholic, but no one in the rest of my family is an addict. I could blame it on society or the troublemaking crowd I ran with. But I won’t. I think it depends on all of these variables, and in the end, I blame no one. I’m not going to label myself as addiction-prone. I think I was lost and that most addicts are. I would just say I’m a human in a desperate search for fulfillment.
What do you think? The discussion continues here…