“I know I can quit when I want to. I am just not ready to quit yet…”
“I feel so ashamed of what I have become. I can’t go home for Christmas this year. I am going to tell my family I have to work…”
“I am not sure when it got so crazy. It has been a long time since I felt in control of my own life…”Young adults trying to stay ahead of their addictions and anxieties
It’s All About Grace
For years I have struggled to understand addiction. I couldn’t get it. So many live in the shame/blame game of constant hiding and guilt and repeated cycles. To me it seemed the addict would DO ANYTHING to escape that life…SO WHY????
Many theories of addiction exist. Most believe addiction is merely a disease we treat clinically. Timothy McMahan King in his insightful book Addiction Nation: What the Opioid Crisis Reveals About Us details how addiction is disease, culture, context, and pervasive in American society.
Putting it bluntly, Gerald May in Addiction and Grace states, “All people are addicts…To be alive is to be addicted, and to be alive and addicted is to stand in need of grace.”
STANDING IN NEED OF GRACE…this I can wrap my mind around. OF COURSE…
Just like Paul, I constantly do the thing I don’t want to do and it makes me feel miserable. And the very acts I LONG TO DO…promote kindness and selflessness…I fail to do every day. My quick tongue is ALWAYS ahead of my logical thinking brain! I NEED SOME GRACE. ADDICTED TO SARCASM and RUDENESS. And it does bring me anxiety and depression…
So what is the answer?
Quit the Shame Game
Like all addictions, the natural response is SHAME. When I want to hide that is when shame has its most power. When my mouth threatens to tear apart a relationship, just like a drug or alcohol can do, instead of running away I must run TO my home and community of support.
Obviously, connection to community unites when relationships were smashed open through harsh words. But where is the data which concludes that healing could occur when relationships have been pulled asunder through drugs and alcohol through HOME AND COMMUNITY.
DOES IT EXIST…
When soldiers returned from the Vietnam War, 43 % reported that they had been using heroin on a regular basis while away. Of the reported users 20% considered themselves addicted to the drug. Believing The United States was entering a new era of addiction crisis, the US government prepared for follow up treatments and regular drug testing for all returning military men. However, after six months home, the new veterans were reported to have returned to their former abstinence of drugs or their former level of drug use before their deployment.
In other words, once home, the heroin did not have the addiction effect it had while in Viet Nam. CONTEXT WAS KEY. The government concluded, “We need to look for at addiction from an angle for which the disease model does not occur.”
There’s No Place Like Home
Researchers like Neil Levy and Bruce Alexander state that addiction is “embedded in a social context.” Rather than a reflection of an aberrant individual, addiction occurs as a response to an untenable situation. Wouldn’t this account for the Vietnam Vets addiction and their ability to quit their heroin use when they returned to their loving environments?
King records several other historical and longitudinal studies which reveal patterns of displacement and cultural disintegration precede substance abuse. What happens when the displacement and disintegration are reversed? OFTEN SO ARE THE ADDICTIONS AND ABUSES…
King, in Addition Nation discusses “a place to call home is a powerful prerequisite in helping people recover.” Home is a place to unpack our past and connect.
Alexander tells the story of the Alkali Lake Band in British Columbia where alcoholism went from nearly 100% to a 98% sobriety rate in seven short years. The culture of the tribe changed when the Chief and his wife and local police committed to principles of Alcoholics Anonymous, reinstituted prohibition on the island, increased access to treatment and committed themselves to old cultural practices in the community. These cultural practices bound the culture together through their uniqueness and identity. Their motto, “culture is treatment” rings true in homes and communities dedicated to openness with unity instead of shame or blame.
What about those who are never able to “return home” to their safe place?
Most adults have two homes: the home we come from and the home we make. Our adult children may struggle to make their own homes safe from stress and trauma. Perhaps this is because they need help in understanding the home they emerged from. Can they distinguish when the confrontations where necessary and where they were emotionally “over the top?” Do they need us to LISTEN to their perspective on those memories?
We can connect to our adult children through authentic revelation of the home they grew up in. Imperfection, doubt, mistakes make up the fabric of our children’s formative years as much as birthday parties, summer camp, and winter vacations. Own the joy and the sorrow. Speak openly about your pain and your glory.
Build a unique identity within your own family. The place called home equates to a place of healing where all members are open to growth and let go of shame and blame. Hear the stories of your adult children… build openness and connection.
Next Week Part Five:
How changing the world through connecting adult children to their parents changes the world: How far can the revolution go?