Our Season of Discontent

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Why? Arghhh…I know, I know…genetic predisposition, environmental factors, nature, nurture…but we’re missing something. We must be. Why the compulsion to take something to feel better? Why do we think that that will fill whatever the void is? And why do we keep taking things even when it didn’t work before?

We humans do things that make no damned sense sometimes. It’s frustrating to me as an addictions therapist to watch patients struggle so hard. Many patients come into treatment earnestly wanting a better life, but when they realize the amount of work involved in actually making a better life, some become less inclined. My response when I see the loss of inclination in their micro-expressions is this: “If your life sucks so badly that you need to be high for all of it, don’t you think it’s time to change your life instead of numbing yourself to the suckage?” Often patients don’t see all of the work that they are doing to get and stay high; and they don’t realize that getting their lives together would actually be less effort. It is usually at this point that I ask the patient to recount an average day’s events for me, and what, exactly, is involved in maintaining their habit. Inevitably, maintaining the habit takes significantly more effort…and risk. Though still reticent, the patient usually concedes my point and agrees to try things “my way” for awhile.

But…getting back to my original point…what’s missing? What are we looking for? Is it a sense of belonging and acceptance? Is it unconditional love? Is it a break in the boredom? Is it something general missing or is it exclusive and different for each of us? I’m sure on some level it’s a unique amalgam for each of us, but it seems to be a general sense of entitlement to something more in life. And this is not true only for “addicts;” it’s true for everyone; “addicts” just have a more dysfunctional way of coping with the associated frustration that causes more problems in their lives.

I guess the inclination to pop something into our mouths in the hopes that it will fix what ails us isn’t so unusual. Hey…it works for headaches and cold symptoms. We get into trouble when we expect it to fix our boredom, though, and our problems or life events, and our…well, our general discontent. For those, there is no easy fix. For those, it takes time, planning, and effort. We have to identify the actual problem, not just the perceived problem, and then work to find an adaptive solution. And we need to realize that instant gratification is not likely, and that we are not promised or entitled…to anything.

When we’re children, everything is magic. We make everything fun, and our “job” is play. There is no sense of entitlement in small children. There is no judgement, either. There is fun, love, and acceptance. There is only here and now. Why do we lose all of that as we grow? There is a wisdom in the way children view the world and in the way they do things. It’s ironic that as we grow and become adults, we think we know better…yet our lives become harder because of the way we begin to view the world and the way we do things. We lose the simplicity and the enjoyment. Where is the wisdom in that?

I don’t pretend to know the answer to solving all of the world’s addiction issues. I do know that there is a void needing filling, and that until we figure out what that need is, we will never be able to do so… not adequately anyway. I also know that a good first step is to try to lose the sense of entitlement we inherit as we get older. We need to get back some of our childlike simplicity, to become more present, and to relearn to unconditionally love and accept others as we did when we were small. We must “become as little children.” Hmmm…good advice…I know I’ve read that somewhere before.

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