Haven’t you often wondered what is it that makes a drunkard immerse himself in alcohol and then in a nearby gutter repeatedly…..repeatedly even after knowing that his life is “literally” at stake?But most of us won’t find out because we will never ask. We won’t even approach him lest he catches us in his manipulations of extracting money for his next drink.
Maybe we wouldn’t say the same if we knew the harsh reality of their conditions and the scientific reasons behind their actions. I can say this because I never hear anyone say, “Oh look at him! He’s got cancer. Bloody fool! Now he’ll waste all his life!” Nor do I hear anyone say “He’s got diabetes. What an uncouth and uneducated person! Waste of life!”
No. we don’t hear people say this because they know and understand that Diabetes and Cancer was not chosen. That the person fell “prey” to it. We are in fact more caring towards them and empathize with them. Why did we then label and shun the addicts before hearing their side of the story?
It’s because even in this age of development we are still ignorant about the science involved behind the development of the human brain. Addiction like any other mental disorder is a result of a “physical” damage or underdevelopment of the brain. It’s not a choice. Why else do you feel, that a person in his sane mind would willingly destroy his career, relationships and life?
To better understand this damage, imagine yourself as a computer programmer who has designed a new software program for his computer. Now your computer will run the program in a way that is limited to your programming skills, your mistakes in the programming and the content of the programming in terms of what it is intended to do. It will do nothing else. Just what you programmed. If you want it to execute another function you have to reprogram it. Similarly the human brain is programmed on the basis of its experience with the environment (in all possible terms) right from the moment of conception and up to death. The only difference in a human brain and a computer is that the programming and reprogramming of the brain is a simultaneous and a lifelong process unlike your computer. This either results in confusion and chaos or just a complete void, both equally damaging.
It’s during the phase of the initial programming (age 0 to 12 years) that damage to essential parts of the brain brings problems in adolescence and adulthood in the form of addiction.
You may say of course no environment can be perfect and that all of us have endured some damage. Why then are we sober and the addicts still addicts? Well you are sober my friend because you still have not found your drug of choice. Or maybe you have found your action of choice. If not drugs and alcohol, each of us is addicted to something, someone or some action in our life that helps us stay sane or so called “normal”. We pursue that person, thing and action with just as much of passion as an addict seeks his substance. We are no different. Take away an addicts drug and he is unmanageable. So if you want to find out if you are addicted to anything check subtracting what makes you unmanageable. That’s your drug.
With this information now in your hand I expect you to treat an addict as just a fellow human being and not an outcast. These are people with a disease just as fatal as diabetes or cancer or AIDS. They are the ones most in need of help.
Their addiction is their loudest cry for help!
Inputs: Nida Shaikh
Volunteer @ Practical Life Skills
An addiction training center, Pune