Comparing Recovery from Drug Addiction to Recovery from Exponential Growth Addiction
“If you accept the expectations of others, especially negative ones, then you never will change the outcome.” – Michael Jordan
Right now I am helping out a friend who is a recovering drug addict. It’s hard to help an addict and often makes me feel incapable and frustrated. It seems that whatever I do has next to no impact. Constantly putting effort in and getting next to no apparent result, whether it be for this friend or any person or any project in my life, is abhorrent to me and I find myself wanting to avoid this type of situation at all costs. And yet, here I am, the last resort for this friend. How do keep my sanity? How is improvement possible? And most importantly for you my dear CACOR reader, what does all this have to do with our self destruction?
We’ll start with the last question first and eventually get to the other two. What is clear to me, and many others, is that addiction to growth and the fossil fuels we use to fuel that growth, is a behaviour that is addiction like in this way: an addiction in any behaviour which gives short term pleasure/escape from pain/suffering that the person/society KNOWS is destructive and possibly fatal in the longer term. Our society now KNOWS climate change and toxic chemicals and species extinction are all going to, at the very least, eventually destroy our current high energy/consumption life style. And yet we continue. And yet we drive LARGER cars. And yet we fly MORE. And yet we consume MORE energy every year. And yet GHG emissions CONTINUE to rise. We know, and yet we don’t act. We don’t change. We are frozen. Just like a drug addict. Just like my friend. Perhaps this explains why I help my friend; could it be that learning to help him is also learning how to wean myself off my addiction to a lifestyle that I know is destroying the world and eventually me and my family?
I think so. Here is a part of our conversation yesterday to support this thought. Yesterday I attended a zoom meeting about compassionate communication hosted by the Deep Adaption Forum that has the goal of how to cope with and communicate with others/ourselves compassionately about the ongoing collapse of our current way of life. [that is, assuming that we do not change]. He asked me about it and here was part of my reply. I said that we seem to be acting much like him, like an addict, in that we live in a way that we know is self destructive, but we are unable to change from that path. The difference is that for an addict, if he/she is successful in the recovery journey, there is light at the end of the tunnel. My friend can live a good life free of addiction. My friend has hope. For me, and those in groups like the Deep Adaption Forum, we strive to live and act and feel in a way that does not destroy the world, that brings joy into our lives and into the lives of others, knowing that our individual efforts have little to no chance of having any impact on humanities path to self destruction. Yes, we hope that from the ashes lessons will have been learned so that a new social order can arise that is, like all Indigenous peoples, connected to the land and thus lives within the limits of our ecosystems, but that is rather abstract. When he heard this he said that this was actually much harder than the recovery process for a drug addict like him because while he saw hope that his life could get better in the near future, I, and others like minded, did not see a large chance of that happening for us or those around us.
This insight shocked me. Yes, it is obvious, but I had never seen it in this light. The recognition that what we are asking of people as they face the realities of the Climate Emergency [and all the others too] is MORE difficult than the struggles of drug/gambling/etc. addict shocked me to my core. After sleeping on it I see ever more clearly what an inner, dare I say the word “spiritual” war this is within our souls and within a society that has seen exponential growth as the saviour saving us from hunger and want and need, a growth that had, until recently, lifted millions from hunger and cold and suffering. Seeing what was “good” as now being “bad” is a huge challenge – especially if we are asked to embark on admitting that all we once believed as good and true has become its evil twin – especially when we know that whatever we do as individuals is likely [but not necessarily!] to have no impact on the eventual demise of the world as we know it.
The greatest shortcoming of the human race is our inability to understand the exponential function.
Albert Allen Bartlett, mathematician
So, dear addict, there we have it. We must stop our self destructive, addictive high energy/consumption way of life, we must focus on positive alternatives in how we live and eat and play that can become the seeds for a new socio-economic-political order – all the while knowing that unless millions of others do the same it is all for naught. And yet we MUST try. That is what life is all about. All life dies, and yet, while it can, all life strives to survive; no, not merely survive, but thrive. I saw that while paddling in La Verendrye Reserve in Quebec a few days ago – a seedling growing in the dead roots of a dead stump on a sandy beach. Life arising from death. Life arising where it had no right to be. And yet, there it was. Alive. Surviving. Thriving. [so far] Life defies logic. Life defies Entropy. If Entropy ruled the Universe there would be no life, for Life defies random disorder and decay, life constructs order and complexity of out random atoms and random energies. We can do the same, because we too are alive, and while we are alive, can, and must, strive. Why? Because the truth is, that like the story of the Butterfly effect, it is possible, however remote that possibility, that what we do will matter. It will certainly matter to you and I, because giving up is a certain death sentence.
Like any addict we get to choose; life or death. Change or remaining trapped by our addiction. The good news is that you are not alone in this journey. There are millions like you, not in denial, not in despair, but working to wean themselves off our addictive high energy/consumption, isolated, not connected to the land way of life. You can do it. I can do it. We can do it……eventually, although the road be hard and loss and grief be part of the journey. Life will go on, in some unknown form, and we have the privilege of helping that future world be born.