addictionNo one dreams of becoming an addict as a child.  No one woke up one morning saying to themselves, “I think I’m going to become an alcoholic today.”  So then why does it happen?

I know for myself, it happened suddenly when my family was facing a crisis that I didn’t know how to handle.  It seemed all hope was lost.  I couldn’t face the pain, so each night after my family went to bed, I downed a large glass of whiskey to knock myself out.  I did this for a year.  I’ll never forget hearing a voice inside me say, “Would you like to deal with your addiction?”  Instantly I went into justifying why I didn’t have an addiction; “I’m a good person”, “I speak about resilience for a living, there’s no way I have an addiction”.  When I finally broke down, I found myself saying, “Ok maybe I am struggling with it, but I have a good reason! I’m helpless right now!”  Addiction can always be justified by the one struggling.

But I did.  Lucky for me I chose to be brave to admit it, find support and haven’t had a problem since.  It surprised me that I could fall easily into addictions trap.  It was humbling to think that someone with education, a good upbringing and purpose could find myself there.

But it’s easier than we think.

Addiction is there when we are needing relief.  It becomes our way of redeeming ourselves, to numb the pain, to escape despair.

“My question is never why the addiction, but why the pain?”, Gabor Mate.  Trying to solve addiction is barking up the wrong tree.  No one wants to find themselves emerged in addiction, so when they end up at the end of a bottle that doesn’t end one needs to ask what is that person trying to numb or escape from?  There you find your solution to addiction.  All addictions start with pain whether the person is aware of it or not.

Think about it, why would anyone put themselves or people closest to them at risk over a hit?  Whatever situation drove them to that addiction is louder than anything.  They need to forget and nothing will sway them; not the threat of death, not potentially losing family and friends.  This itself should speak volumes to how far down pain’s path that person must be in order to forfeit such valuable things in life.  What they need is to be brought back to hope and life, not judged and told to “get it together”.

Before we are all quick to judge the addict, how many of us have found ourselves “needing” a glass of wine at the end of a hard day to “take the edge off” or feeling the need to smoke a joint in order to ease anxiety or social interactions?  We may not be overdosing on the street, but the root that we all feel is the same: someone or something please take away my discomfort!  The sad thing is that it works.  It not only takes away the pain, but also helps the world become full of excitement for a short moment in time.  That in itself is addicting.

“It makes me brave in ways I can’t be without it”, I once heard someone say of marijuana.  Is the issue weed?  No.  The issue is someone doesn’t feel they are enough.  They believe they are not brave and need something outside of themselves to create it for them.  “Nothing bothers me when I’m high. There’s no stress in my life”.

“The reason I do drugs is so I don’t feel the feelings I feel when I don’t do drugs”. “I’m not afraid of dying, sometimes I’m more afraid of living”, said a few clients from rehab.

It is the role of culture to help its members know how to deal with pain and suffering.  Our culture has no idea how to deal with suffering.  Without direct words, we drive people into isolation only to resurface with their remarkable story of transformation, which usually is still only a mask over the pain that leads to further pain and possible addiciton.

“No society can understand itself without looking at it’s shadow” (Gabor Mate).  It’s time we get real about our pain and be able to embrace hearing about other’s suffering as well.   Never underestimate the power of vulnerable, safe community. It exposes shame that drove us to the addictive behavior and heals us because pain is healed through connection.  Pain is also prevented through loving connection.

“Confess your struggles to one another and you will be healed”.  You and I can be someone’s courage by our listening, supportive ears.  Every time we make sure our loved ones are cared for and loved, we are solving the issue of addiction.

One of my greatest passions is to create safe spaces for people to be courageous about their struggles that brings people together into community that heals.  One of the ways I do this is through my annual shows where my goal is to take the audience from “oh those people” to “Oh my, me too”. There’s power when we can empathize with those struggling.  It means there is hope for restoration.  My next show, Attached, which is all about addiction seeks to do just that.  It’s playing at the Big Secret Theatre in Calgary, AB June 8-11.  If you’re in the area, I would love to have you come.  You can find tickets and more information by clicking here.