The question is never why the addiction? The question is why the pain?
BOOK REVIEW: In the Realm of the Hungry Ghosts, Close Encounters with Addiction, by Gabor Mate, MD. The hungry ghost of Buddhist lore has a huge mouth and belly but his tiny throat prevents the ghost from ever being satiated. The hungry ghost is an apt metaphor for the drug addict who can never get enough. The question is never why the addiction, but, why the pain?
Usually drug addicts have been neglected and oppressed in childhood. People who have suffered multiple adverse childhood experiences are the most likely to succumb to substance addiction later in life. The question is not what is wrong with you, the question is what happened to you. Why the pain? What is the root cause of your posttraumatic stress disorder?
Adverse Childhood Experiences
The answer is to teach the addict new ways to sooth her hungry soul inflamed by the intense torment imposed by adverse childhood experiences. These negative experiences are unconsciously repeated throughout the life of the damaged alcoholic. All their lives they’ve been ignored, abandoned, and, in turn, self-abandoned ad infinitum. If you want to understand what makes a sweet and innocent little child into an addict, read this book:
Drugs are the self-medication for adverse childhood experiences
Drugs and alcohol offer an emotional anesthetic; as an antidote to a frightful feeling of emptiness; as a tonic against fatigue, boredom, alienation, and a sense of personal inadequacy; as a stress reliever and social lubricant. For some adventurous souls drugs may even open a temporary portal to spiritual transcendence.
Addiction is a flight from distress. The addict is seeking safety. It is impossible to understand addiction without asking what relief the addict finds, or hopes to find, in the drug or the addictive behavior. Addicts are self-medicating conditions like depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress and other types of mental illness. Most hard-core substance abusers came from abusive homes. Some abuse was physical and other abuse was emotional or psychological. Even though a negligent parent may be physically present, she may not be in attunement with her child.
We are all hungry ghosts
A sense of deficient emptiness pervades our entire culture. The skid row heroin addict is more painfully conscious of this void than most people and has limited means of escaping it. The rest of us find other ways of suppressing our fear of emptiness or of distracting ourselves from it. Television, internet, career, family, gambling, sexual acting out, etc. Most of us have the privilege of keeping our perversions private. Mentally ill crack heads living on the streets are forced to publicly showcase the terrible unrest of their hungry souls. At the core of all addictions there lies a spiritual void. Street people muttering to themselves are attempting to escape an agonizing discomfort within their own selves.