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No matter who we are or where we come from, I believe we all want the same things—to feel we belong and are loved by those closest to us must surely be at the top of the list.
But when life doesn’t go as planned or the relationships we have don’t bring the comfort we’re looking for, turning to drugs or alcohol to fill the void may feel like a viable solution.
In this TED talk, British author and journalist, Johann Hari, explains that new research has been shedding light on the fact that everything we think we know about addiction may not be entirely true—that addiction is either a moral weakness or it is a disease. In his desire to help those he loved who had become drug addicts, he was impelled to go on a quest, looking for a better way to address this problem.
After extensive and exhaustive research spanning the globe, he came to this conclusion, “the opposite of addiction isn’t sobriety but connection.”
And just what is this connection he is talking about? He explains that we, as human beings, need to bond with other human beings. Nothing new there, but when some seem unable to maintain close relationships, or “can’t bear to be present in their lives” because of trauma or some other adverse circumstance, “(they) will bond with something that gives relief,” he says. That “something” can be substances which, when indulged in heavily and often, can lead to addictive behavior.
Some years ago, I decided that after a lifetime of regular alcohol use, I wanted to be free of its influence. My journey to let go of drinking resulted in discovering that a more lasting, satisfying way of being myself was already present within me.
Glimpsing this completely changed my life.
I spent many a youthful night drinking with friends. We had a lot of fun together; put a drink in our hands and the fun seemed to double. Everyone we hung out with drank—it just seemed to be a part of the culture. Not only that, it was also a family tradition since my dad and many members of that side of the family were heavy drinkers. That was another way for me to justify the indulgence and to be a silent member of the “pack.” I say silent because I would have gotten into big trouble had my dad known what I was up to.
But deep down, I knew this wasn’t a good thing for me to engage in because for one, I wasn’t of legal age yet. That alone should have been a deterrent, but it wasn’t. And as the years rolled on, I started to feel I couldn’t have any fun unless I was drinking. It became part of my lifestyle.
I don’t ever remember having any physical dependency on alcohol, it was just more of a social thing. But about 33 million Americans really struggle with an addiction to alcohol. It is no secret how destructive it can be physically, emotionally and financially. Both my dad and ex-husband suffered from alcoholism, and it caused great strife and grief in our family. A lot of effort and anguish were wasted in getting them to quit. “Loving an addict is hard,” Hari says, and that certainly felt true in our case.
I wish I could say that I had approached them with more love and understanding, but I used more the pleading, shaming or condemning approach. And I can tell you, none of those tactics worked.
At times, I felt hypocritical.
Here I was having my regular social drinks and then telling them they needed to quit. Those long ago conversations often turned into confrontations, which got us nowhere.
Finally, when I was in my early thirties, I came to the realization that the only one I could change was myself and that my happiness wasn’t dependent on another’s actions. The biggest help I found in understanding this better was through a spiritual journey that led me to deep study of two books, The Bible and another one called, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy.
These books helped me to discover and feel the higher connection to Divine Love. Jesus tells us in his Sermon on the Mount, “Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled.” I felt this was a promise. I was thirsting after something more satisfying than alcohol or friendships based on social drinking—deeply desiring to be filled with goodness and love, and to feel whole.
But the most important impetus to stop was the fact that I had two young daughters who I loved more than anything and I wanted to be a good role model for them. That meant teaching them that they didn’t need stimulants to make them more interesting at a party or make them feel satisfied with themselves.
So, as my spiritual education continued, the empty spaces that I felt were a part of me started to fill in through understanding that I was already made whole and complete by a benevolent Creator. Once I realized I didn’t need anything external for that to be true about me, it felt easy to completely let go of this habit.
I didn’t lose any friendships when I quit drinking. That was a concern. A few friends asked why I quit, but I never felt judged or excluded.
Each of us can nurture our human connections. And, the most important connection we can discover is the one we have to a perfect, all good Creator. We don’t have to travel far to find it because this connection, and the self-worth and strength that come with it, is right within us.
Author: Malissa Lakin-Watson
Editor: Renée Picard
Photo: Jason Scragz via Flickr