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THE OPPOSITE OF ADDICTION

Johann Hari, a British writer and journalist, claims that the true cause of addiction is social and emotional—a lack of connection, rather than a series of chemical triggers. In a recent TED Talk, he ties together scientific experiments and drug decriminalization policies to argue that, if the “cause” of addiction is isolation, then the “cure” must be a kind of social recovery, involving not just individual addicts but a shift in the culture. He argues,

Human beings have a natural and innate need to bond, and when we’re happy and healthy, we’ll bond and connect with each other, but if you can’t do that, because you’re traumatized or isolated or beaten down by life, you will bond with something that will give you some sense of relief.

The motivation for his research comes from personal experience with addiction and relationships with addicts and alcoholics. As many recovering addicts know, active addiction destroys relationships, and building community — building connection — can be one of the enduring gifts of sobriety. Yet Hari argues that it is the kinder and
more reasonable option to maintain relationships, when safe, with addicts and alcoholics even in the depths of their disease. Finally, he says,

For 100 years now, we’ve been singing war songs about addicts. I think all along we should have been singing love songs to them, because the opposite of addiction is not sobriety. The opposite of addiction is connection.

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