I read an immensely powerful and provocative story this weekend that has me thinking about our journey.
The story attempts to debunk the long-held belief that the drug causes addiction. It has always been a bit of a no-brainer that heroin, cocaine and alcohol cause us to become addicted. I have always subscribed to the theory that some people have the “gene” and some don’t. This story takes a totally different approach and argues that human isolation is the real issue. The argument seems logical and the research seems convincing. The author, Johann Hari, who has written the book, writes, “Professor Peter Cohen argues that human beings have a deep need to bond and form connections. It’s how we get our satisfaction. If we can’t connect with each other, we will connect with anything we can find –the whirr of a roulette wheel or the prick of a syringe. He says we should stop talking about ‘addiction’ altogether, and instead call it ‘bonding.’ A heroin addict has bonded with heroin because she couldn’t bond as fully with anything else.” The writer draws this conclusion: “So the opposite of addiction is not sobriety. It is human connection.”
That strikes me as nothing short of profound and sets down an extraordinary challenge for all of us. If addiction comes from loneliness and isolation then certainly the addicted person owns some of that. As a friend of mine says, “It’s an inside job.”
Yet, I am taken by our fundamental obligation to love people fiercely and with joy. I have become preoccupied lately with that overpowering sense that I need to love people openly and with abandon.
It is only in the last couple of years that I have become willing to tell male friends that I love them. And, I notice that the expression of affection is more often greeted with enthusiasm and a return of the emotion these days.
As the “me” culture seems to become more rampant, selfishness tends to overwhelm us. It strikes me as logical that selfishness leads to isolation for others in or around our lives. If we are all focused on ourselves that leaves little time and space for embracing the lonely and isolated.
I find brief but important connections can be made with a joke and friendliness in the coffee shop, the grocery story and even on walks around campus. It is naive to think that each connection we make can save someone from addiction. However, a habit of friendly connection strengthens the human bonds between people and just might make other addictive “bonds” superfluous.
Tim J McGuire is the author of “Some People Even Take Them Home” A Disabled Dad, A Down Syndrome Son and Our Journey To Acceptance