Our drug addict nephew is coming to live with us to heal.
Once I used to think that addicts were weak, spineless and pathetic creatures.
Now I see things otherwise.
Our entire society breeds addicts, at issue is only the kind of addiction.
The choice we seem to face is not “I am an addict or I am not an addict” Rather our choice seems to be limited to “which addiction do I choose”. And, by the way, I use the word ‘choice’ fallaciously.
Let’s start with this quote from Gabor Mate’s In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts, a book about addicts of the lower East Side Vancouver, Canada’s drug capital.
We’ve already defined addiction as any relapsing behaviour that satisfies short term craving and persists despite long term negative consequences that we are well aware of.
The precursor to addiction is dislocation. Chronically dislocated people are the most vunerable to addiction. Think Indiginous CDNs – removed from family, culture, language, a shredded value system with a resultant loss of belonging in the moral and spiritual sense. The ravages of social breakdowns – alienation, violence and addiction is now striking China as it becomes “rich” and “modern” as it has followed the example of the West in its massive urbanization move and sundering people from their connections to the land, traditions and community. Dislocation continues to be an ever-acceleration feature of modern living, owing to rapid economic and social changes that human culture and human relationships cannot swiftly adapt to. The disruption of family life and the erosion of stable communities afflice many segments of society in Canada today. Even the left over community, the remnant nuclear family is under severe pressure with a high divorce rate [and many young not even considering marriage/commitment at all and often not desired children, https://www.phillymag.com/news/2020/02/01/millennials-having-kids/ ] and single parent households or in many cases, tow parents having to work outside the home. For these endemic cultural and economic reasons many children today who are not abused and who come from loving homes have lost their primary emotional attachment with the nurturing adults their their lives with the results disastrous for their development. As children become increasingly less connected to adults they rely more on each other – a wholesale cultural subversion of the natural order of things. [eg. Peer reared money are far more likely to consume alcohol than mother reared ones. Peer affiliation is the strongest social factor in predicting onset and early development of adolescent substance use.
In short, the addiction process takes hold in people who have suffered dislocation and whose place in the normal human communal context has been disrupted: whether they’ve been abused or emotionally neglected: are inadequately attuned children or peer-oriented teens or members of subcultures historically subjected to exploitation.
Mate is certainly not alone in this thinking. Psychologists and sociologists point to a building anxiety in societies where social dislocation occurs and basic structures that once held people in a sense of value and purpose are disappearing. Bruce K. Alexander, Professor Emeritus, Psychology Department, Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, Canada, from his book “The Globalization of Addiction” says:
Dislocation is the condition of great number of human beings who have been shorn from their cultures and individual identities by the globalisation of the “free-market society” in which the needs of the people are subordinated to the imperatives of markets and the economy. Dislocation afflicts both people who have been physically displaced, such as economic immigrants and refugees, and people who have remained in place while their cultures disintegrated around them. Dislocation occurs during boom times as well as recessions, among the rich as well as the poor, along capitalists as well as workers. Today, dislocation threatens to become universal, as global free-market society undermines ever more aspects of social and cultural life everywhere. http://www.localise.nz/2015/03/04/social-dislocation/
Here’s an odd thought. I propose a slight change in the G.Mate’s definition of addiction that I hope can change it from something inherently negative to reveal it’s positive side. I do this because I believe Instead of thinking of all addiction is “BAD” it is more helpful to think of a version of addiction that instead of being self-centred is “other-centred”. In other words, we use the same brain chemistry and social forces to direct that addiction energy outwards instead of inwards. We make this innate drive we have to increase life instead of decrease life. Why propose this? Well, frankly to do great things you need to be obsessed. Why? Because doing great things is not usually logical or sensible and needs a lot of energy and drive and persistence to succeed. Here is an example from a BBC video I just watched. The Judean Date Palm has been extinct since the time of the crusades, from a combination of climate change and infrastructure decay. After discovering some well preserved seeds in fortress of Masada. In 2005 Dr. Elaine Solowey from the Center for Sustainable Agriculture at the Arava Institute for Environmental Studies managed to sprout several of these seeds, and a preserved 2000-year-old seed sprouted. It is the oldest verified human-assisted germination of a seed .By 2015 Methuselah [the name of the gree] had produced pollen that has been used successfully to pollinate female date palms. As of 2019, additional Judean date palm seeds have been grown. Cleary Dr.Elaine and the people helping her were addicted. To life. To making the world a better life. To bringing back a great source of food and beauty to the Judean wilderness.
This story can be viewed as a way to escape our addiction trap. Rather than seeing ourselves as the dominant force in Nature, a Nature which we must subjugate and rule over; rather than create societies based upon the unconscious idea that we TAKE and subtract from the land, how about we imagine ourselves as gardeners? How about we see ourselves as a species that IMPROVES the landscape? And not just for ourselves, but for other life as well? Here is a historical example of people who did just that. Many Native American tribe had actually deliberately started fires in order to free up the land for agriculture, or promote the growth of certain plants that would attract deer and other animals they could hunt.
However, their occasional, controlled fires helped to clear away the brush and debris and rejuvenate the forest. By gradually clearing away flammable material on the ground, Native Americans’ deliberate fires may have prevented large forest fires like those we see today. As Dr. Kevin Ryan, a former Forest Service research put it, “Anthropogenic fire shaped North American millennia, so that many ecosystems are dependent on periodic fire.”
What the fires did was increase the food supply for deer and thus allowed the Natives to “farm” the deer when they hunted. Additionally nuts were an important food supply and nut tree growth was encouraged. In the foothills and mountains of Appalachia, one of the most plentiful trees was the American Chestnut, [in Ohio the “buckeye” was an important food source] which once grew to an enormous size. Indians of the Eastern coast subsisted on a mix of hunting, gathering wild foods, and farming crops such as maize (corn), squash, and beans. This was a sustainable way to live than saw humans live as part of the environment, modifying it yes, but also improving it.
Inspired by this history there is a modern movement called Forest Gardening. It is an outgrowth of the Permaculture approach to food production – a method focused totally on sustainability of our food supply – but not only for humans, for animals as well.
A Forest Garden is a designed agronomic system based on trees, shrubs and perennial plants. These are mixed in such a way as to mimic the structure of a natural forest – the most stable and sustainable type of ecosystem in this [UK] climate. The crops which are produced will often include fruits, nuts, edible leaves, spices, medicinal plant products, poles, fibres for tying, basketry materials, honey, fuelwood, fodder, mulches, game, sap products. Forest gardens (often called home gardens) have been used for millennia in tropical regions, where they still often form a major part of the food producing systems which people rely on. https://www.agroforestry.co.uk/about-agroforestry/forest-gardening/#:~:text=A%20Forest%20Garden%20is%20a,of%20ecosystem%20in%20this%20climate.
So, what can you do? What can I do? Know that you are not a consumer – you are a creator of good things. So, go out and connect with the land around you, the people around you, no more covid isolation and help to heal the Earth. Now we are all gardeners, we are all healers, because the humans have done so much damage that is don’t’ heal the planet, illnesses like addiction are only the tip or the iceberg of our woes. Vote to stop the growth economy. Help your neighbours. Play with your grandchildren. Give away as much as you can. Talk with your kids, a lot. If you’re addicted, and that includes shopping, gambling and being a workaholic – find help. Remember that it’s not really about you, unless it is you working, you talking with others on a task that goes way beyond you – you on a mission to heal the Earth for the future.