According to World Health Organization around 31 million people have drug use disorders. Harmful use of alcohol results in 3.3 million deaths each year, and it causes more than 5% of the global disease burden. These are bare facts. The thought? What the hell is wrong with us, that we do it to ourselves – committing a veiled, stretched over time suicide?
The image of addiction we have is twofold and depends on the context – on the one hand we see a tramp, and on the other, the tragedy of an addicted ‘great man’. We despise the drunkard, and we sympathize with the great addicted man. His drinking is somehow “better”, even sanctified in a way. Yet it’s the same addiction.
When I was a teenage girl we all were full of rebel and urge for an infinite freedom, which sense we actually didn’t understand. We raised our eyes towards Jim Morrison, Kurt Cobain and many long haired screamers from heavy metal bands, who replaced gods for us. We read Blake, Ginsberg and Keourac, thinking that we are the next great generation like them, the beatniks of 90’s. We skipped classes, drank cheap wine and smoked pot. We ‘expanded our awareness’ by reaching for heavier drugs. That was our ‘fuck you world’ religion. And we thought we were the smartest in the world.
In fact, we were just a bunch of lost young people unable to cope with themselves. Trapped into myths, overwhelmed by our own fears, sorrows and weaknesses. No one taught us how to deal with them. Reaching for stimulants made everything easier. Especially when we’ve seen those we admired would do the same.
The cult of intoxication is old, and its correlation with artistry and the avant-garde has always been strong. Have you ever wonder how Baudelaire’s ‘Artificial Paradises’ was created?
I can’t escape the impression that addictions, in a way, are glorified by our society. There’s so many biographies of great people that are build upon this fatal base. A story with a tragic background sells better.
There is nothing like an artist bending under the pain of reality. A brilliant creature who can only deal with himself through drugs and loses – world can only regret a lost genius. So moving and romantic, Right? Wrong. It’s total bullshit.
When we gaze at drunken idols, we see only the splendor of fame. We don’t see them hungover or be in a bad mood and sleeping all day. Or puking, stinging, gibberishing, smelly from not washing themselves. It’s hidden behind a veil of a ‘tragedy’. But we don’t need more tragic idols. It’s time to disenchant addiction.
Of course there is no rule here – there are people more and less susceptible to addiction. I’d say those more vulnerable or lost in their reality fall first. Those who carry a great void within themselves. How long does it take for them to understand that this hole cannot even be flooded with an ocean of alcohol? Sometimes whole life. Sometimes never.
Long time ago I had a friend who was type of a guy everyone wanted to hang out with. Super cool in every aspect of his nailing existence – from long hair and a leather jacket to the twisted poems he wrote while on high. I remember once we were sitting at the edge of the park, it must have been in the late 90’s. Drinking wine, smoking cigarettes, talking. Beautiful moment, one of those which would happened so often when you’re 15 and you had that feeling that everything can happen in your life. That absolutely everything was possible. Listening to The Doors and Janis, we missed times we never got to know. We didn’t give a shit about school, parents and the world. We wanted to live like them, listen to music, lie in the meadow, smoke weed and sleep under the stars.
Jack died at the age of 40 five years ago. Cirrhosis. We didn’t keep in touch, but when I’ve seen him for the last time he was a destroyed human wreckage. He stopped writing poems, but unfortunately continued on cheap wine and god knows what else. He was nothing like Jim Morrison. He was more like those people who gather at railway stations to collect some money for drugs. Hope he’s having amazing Woodstock now, wherever he is.
I’m only in my middle 30s, but I have several friends at similar age who passed away because drug overdose or drinking. Why this is happening to us, aren’t we thinking creatures?
We can explain a lot by psychology. Studies show that we are directed by many processes happening in our subconscious mind. In the case of an addicted mind we’re dealing with rationalization, projection (projecting their own problems into someone else) and repression.
The addict’s logic is twisted. It makes them not see things as they are. Gives them ability to explain away their behavior by denial and cognitive dissonance (holding two or more contradictory beliefs). I have focused on this issue deeper here: https://wholeworldinmyhead.com/2020/05/19/dealing-with-an-addicted-mind/
Addiction mechanisms make us slide slowly, lose our sense of self while we spiraleing deeper into void. It’s unbelievable how addicts are good at creating a reality where their destructive behavior is never the fault of the substance they overuse.
Would it be easier to deal with an addiction if we did not reach for stimulants so thoughtlessly? I don’t know the answer for that question. What I know for sure is that there are many myths about this that need to be faced.