The War on Drug Addicts
Lots of people get addicted to one thing or another. Alcohol, cigarettes, drugs, gambling, sex, shopping (seriously) and on and on. I like Dr. Gabor Mate`s take on what addiction is and why it develops. He believes childhood trauma is the direct result of addiction. Every woman he has ever counselled has been a victim of sexual abuse. Every man he has ever counselled has suffered through a physically abusive environment. Here is something we probably all know about cancer, for instance, but didn`t know about addiction: it is genetic and is turned on or off by the environment. Think about that. My friend grew up in a household where her father was addicted to both alcohol and cigarettes. He lived on the stuff for 30 years yet she never took to smoking and she barely drinks. Perhaps she doesn`t have a gene for addiction.
The Addiction Gene
Mate talks about a study that proved people who were genetically predisposed to becoming addicts didn`t – that gene was `turned off` so to speak – because of the good childhood. I have a question. How do we know when someone is predisposed to becoming an addict. Just asking. Dr Mate insists that people who are addicts yet insist they had a `blessed childhood` truly didn`t. They may remember or choose to remember a “blessed childhood“ but that really hasn`t been the case. A closer, more honest analysis of an addict`s childhood often reveals stressors the alcoholic didn`t remember having suffered. For some people, dredging up and resolving these traumas isn`t possible. Alcohol or drugs remain the crutch that helps them live their lives. I remember reading about a woman who suffered such severe abuse that she developed several personalities in order to cope. She kept a distant, cordial relationship with her parents after she left home and married. She was afraid to delve too deeply into her background in case she discovered for certain that her parents were indeed her childhood abusers. It was just too difficult a journey for her to make.
Addiction in Adulthood
As an adult, if an extraordinary thing happens to a person, addiction is highly unlikely to happen. The brain isn`t able to make that connection. The infrastructure is formed in childhood and addiction won`t happen. Remarkable. Will-power seems to have nothing to do with it. Our impulses come from much deeper brain areas than that which we use to make an informed decision. The gap between the two takes a split second. As for people who`ve had dreadful childhoods but don`t become addicts, there are other negative outcomes. Some repeat the cycle. Some make themselves ill because they repress so much harm in their lives. Some develop eating disorders or self-mutilate. However, the lucky ones have the opportunity to process their difficult beginnings as they happened, and this can make a huge impact on avoiding adulthood addiction. The overwhelming number of people who become addicts are those who had overwhelming trauma and had no one there to help them to cope.
The War on Drugs
Mate admits that less than 5% of his clients succeed at leaving addiction. This is true across the country. We also know this to be the case with support groups such as AA, and others. There is no cure for addiction and getting it under control is like fighting fire with gasoline. The anguish, the guilt, the origins of pain, these things are unavoidable obstacles. And for some, they are unconquerable. Mate insists that the so-called War on Drugs isn`t helping anyone; the addicts or the families of addicts are still marginalized and maybe more so. He believes there is a war on drug addicts. Special homes,end of the war against people, resources that are allotted into treatment centres rather than jails are the tools needed to help more addicts break the cycle of addiction.
What is an Addiction
It`s anything compulsory that gives you pleasure or relief to the point that it interferes in your daily functioning. Mate himself blew $8,000 in one day on CDs when he was younger. People who call themselves workaholics are trying to fill an empty void. Work gives them fulfillment and a sense of purpose but certainly too much of it creates a void in personal relationships. Their early lives may have been that of neglect or a chaotic household perhaps, one where a parent came and went or where divorce was frequent. A lack of family stability early in life cannot be erased. It often causes something known as avoidant personality disorder, a condition where people deliberately sabotage their relationships first, before the partner can cause them emotional harm.
Willpower has nothing to do with addiction. When talking about willpower, Mate states it makes people aware that they themselves can and should make rational decisions, place themselves in the driver`s seat and maintain control. This can apply to something as simple as the hour a person gets out of bed in the morning to whether or not a person strays from a diet. This isn`t to suggest that people don`t fail in their quest to practice willpower. But usually the choices they make or don`t make don`t tend to interfere with their daily functioning. If that`s the case then the situation is not one where willpower can help. There is a far bigger issue at hand. Addiction is far more intense. It controls the addict. It is always the driver. There is no question about control. Willpower cannot battle with addiction because one is nothing like the either. Apples and oranges.
Creative Genius and Addiction
No. Creative beauty isn`t the result of addiction. A sense of passion about one`s work means the creator is in charge. Addiction places the drug or other stimulus in charge. Sometimes some good can come of creativity and addiction but this is extremely rare and it never overcomes the bad. If you want to test whether physical beauty results from addiction, click here.
Doctor Heal Thyself
As previously noted, Mate has a shopping addiction – and it is truly astounding, especially for a man (ha). He shares that information with his clients. They often snicker and shake their heads. Shopping. Ha. It could be worse. Well, yes and no. If Mate ends up having to mortgage his house to satisfy his compulsion then it doesn`t get much worse. Mate contends he has had a stable upbringing. Okay now what. Mate seems to contradict himself here. But it is what it is I guess.
Vancouver`s East Side
The places where Mate`s clients live are often infested with roaches and rodents. Mate`s office is swarming with roaches. Gross. That`s how it is there. It wasn`t always like that but now the East Side is so neglected, regional government doesn`t regulate it and doesn`t care enough to clean it up. Vancouver Services feeds people and finds them housing but the quality of housing cannot be helped. Not without government funding and perhaps a little philanthropy. More than ever, it seems to me, that addicts in Vancouver are marginalized. Not only do people look down on them for their disease, but they are forced to live in squalor. What do most people think about that situation. Ick probably. That`s hardly helpful to anyone. Vancouver politics is slowly changing according to Mate. There seems to be the stirrings of an effort to “clean up“ the East Side. If that`s the case, perhaps Mate will receive a little more of those aforementioned resources he needs to help more clients overcome their addictions.
Celebrity and Addiction
Mate`s theory that bad childhoods create addicts make me wonder if that also implies to the many celebrities we have lost in recent years. Some famous drug users who also overdosed include Marilyn Monroe, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Whitney Houston, John Belushi, Rick James, Chris Farley, Sigmund Freud (euthanasia), Judy Garland, Michael Jackson, Alan Ladd, Bruce Lee, and many others. These are irreplaceable people. Did they all suffer from early childhood trauma. We know this is the case for Marilyn Monroe (Norma Jeane Baker), Michael Jackson unquestionably suffered traumatic childhoods. Hoffman and Houston did not (so far as anyone knows). In a rare interview on ABCNEWS’ Primetime, Houston stated that she
used alcohol, marijuana, cocaine and prescription drugs at different points during her career. She was known to use crack but wouldn`t admit to it. Perhaps she, like many others on the list, are exceptions in Mate`s theory about childhood abuse and addiction simply due to their celebrity and easy access to drugs.
Oprah Winfrey was subjected to continual sexual abuse by male relatives as a young child. Traumatized, she became addicted to alcohol and drugs. She was pregnant by 14 but she went into labour went it was premature and it died soon after birth. Somehow this woman overcame dreadful beginnings and so far as I know, doesn`t currently struggle with addiction.
Demi Moore is another celebrity who had a dreadful beginning and has been in and out of rehab. I don`t know what her current status is in terms of drug use. She was born to an alcoholic father and a bipolar mother. They were only married for two months. Her stepfather struggled to hold down a job due to his own addictions and because of this the family moved more than 40 times. Both her mother and stepfather were serious alcoholics who also physically abused each other. In 1980, Moore’s stepfather committed suicide. During her childhood, however, the family suffered in poverty and Moore had both a vision and a kidney problem that she could barely afford to treat. Moore is estranged from her mother.
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