Heal the World, Heal Addiction?
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Heal the World, Heal Addiction?


heal the worldI recently had a long conversation with my younger brother about addiction and mental health. He is not an addict—well, maybe he’s addicted to his music a little bit but there is nothing in his life that he uses to self-destruct at present. The gist of our conversation started off with him trying to understand my issues and understand how many years I was completely vacant from my family—there physically but without conversation or feeling emanating from me.

He and I have many deep conversations about life and such these days. It makes me feel wonderful that he is actually interested and wants to understand my volatile mind. I wish, at 27, I’d been able to ascertain life on the level he does but when you’re body is full of chemicals and hopelessness, your mind doesn’t exactly function properly. I can only hope that watching me fall into a black pit of nothingness deterred him from attempting to go where I did.

He did admit that he drank a lot in college. Still, that’s what you do in college, right? Or even if you don’t go to college, the general pattern is you get plastered, get in fights, suffer horrendous hangovers the next morning and all the rest of the usual crap that is almost expected of young adults today. The difference between my brother and me is that he could see the destructiveness of his behavior and wanted out. I, on the other hand, could not and on the odd occasion when I knew I had taken it too far, I could always move into denial and tell myself that it was perfectly normal for someone my age. As we say in Ireland, “Sure it’s only a bit of craic!”

And right there is the problem in my little country—the casual acceptance of it all.  The sheer ignorance of our nation that’s poisoning ourselves on every available occasion with enough alcohol to fill a bathtub seems to be perfectly okay to most people.

Not everyone who drinks is alcoholic; I understand that. But if the tendencies are there for someone to become an active alcoholic, then there is little or no chance of avoiding it over here. Drinking and partying define youth culture. It’s been that way for decades and it doesn’t look like changing anytime soon. It’s ingrained in our psyche. Alcohol is at the forefront of our culture, whether we like it or not. Yes, you will hear people talk about the good old days when things weren’t as violent and dangerous as they are now but the fact of the matter is that Ireland has been steeped in alcoholism since time began. And there’s no denying that that along with active alcoholism comes the destruction of family, of people.

I was in a queue recently at an airport and overheard a conversation that three young American girls were having. They were talking about a party they were going to and one asked another if they were going to drink. Her reply was, “I might have one drink—I’m not sure yet.”  It was just about the most bizarre thing I could imagine hearing from 20-somethings. That same conversation in Ireland would have gone like this…actually, there wouldn’t have been a conversation, just statements like, “I’m going to get off my head, drink till I can’t walk, then take yokes (ecstasy) and get a ride (sex with someone).” As shocked, appalled and perhaps insulted as some may be by that, it’s the stark truth of what our young people view as having a good time—harming themselves as much as possible physically, mentally and emotionally in order to get a kick out of life. Even if you’re not really into that scene, many can’t help be sucked into it. Why? Because we give our youth no other alternative. Because, in my opinion, we have lost touch with being human.

What we continuously fail to teach our children is that they are worth far more than self-destruction through the Irish drinking culture mentality. Why do we see it as acceptable that our children haven’t got enough self worth to want to treat themselves better? It’s self-harm being carried out right in front of us and we stand by watching it on a daily basis without ever doing anything about it.

I did it to myself in the most spectacular fashion and only stopped four years ago. My friends did it to themselves and some of them paid the ultimate price and are dead now. While not everyone who drinks becomes an addict or alcoholic, those diseases do stem from a lack of self worth and feeling misplaced in this world. If we put more time into teaching our children to value themselves, the potential addicts and alcoholics might never even become active. Our children would feel so at ease with themselves and the world that they wouldn’t have to turn to drugs and alcohol to numb whatever it is that’s hurting inside or pursue annihilation to have a perceived good time. And it’s not just drugs or alcohol that is the problem but addiction right across the board—from food to sex to gambling and online gaming.

But instead we accept that our hospitals are full of people who have drunk themselves into blackouts, drugged themselves into comas, ate themselves into heart attacks and smoked themselves into lung disease. We blame the government for not doing this or that or the church or whomever for the state of our children and yes they all have a huge part to play. But ultimately, we’re responsible for what we teach our offspring, how they view themselves and how, in the long term, they live their lives.

It doesn’t have to be like this. Our children are dying and becoming ill because parents, politicians, movie stars, magazines and society in general tell us that we are not okay as we are, we have to measure up, we must be the best and we must look a certain way. We are creating a nation of clones with our small-minded limited thinking.

Inside every single person is a uniqueness that we are led to believe is wrong so we push it down until we hide it altogether. We think that we mustn’t appear to be different—to be ourselves. We think we must conform to a strict, limited way of thinking or we will be shunned. Nobody can live life contentedly in such a regime and dictatorship. It creates soul sickness and discontentment and we deal with it by going inwards and eventually imploding. We will search for something to make this life bearable or we will end it. That is the nature of the human being.

Is this really what we want for our children and the future of our world? I have a 12-year-old son who jokes that really there could be a zombie apocalypse in the future. From the research I have done on drugs and alcohol, I’m afraid it’s already upon us and has been for quite a long time. Heroin, meth, alcohol and opiate-based prescription pills are all making zombies of our children and loved ones. But the thing to remember is that these substances cannot cause such harm without the decision to take them in the first place.

The list of substances that can be used is endless and the damage that is done is catastrophic. And many will view these broken people as scum, low lives and untouchable because of the lack of understanding about addiction.

In a world where human life has no value unless that life fits into a preconceived idea of perfection, we shall continue to lose our children to addiction and destructive lifestyles and we will most definitely continue to bury them. Unless we wake up and realize that our thinking and understanding needs to change and evolve on a grand scale, we will be the ones who will ultimately destroy human civilization long before the end of the world is upon us. Thankfully there is help for those who want it.

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About Author

Nicola O’Hanlon is part of the blogging community for the recovery website intherooms.com. You can see her blogs on iloverecovery.com. She was born and still lives in Wexford, Ireland.