My God is better than your God (ii):
“On Addiction and Hatred”
I have chosen a more formal set-up to this commentary because it is one that I know about intimately. All of us do, to one degree or another. So I wish to take a step away from the personal disgust and outrage that these topics can so often promote, blocking your mind three words into an argument because you have already decided who and what this piece of shit you’re yelling at is.
When you hear that addiction is an illness, a mental illness, those who do not suffer from the better known problems: with drugs, with alcohol, with pornography, with their phones . . . to these people who can shake their heads and feel better about themselves that they have not fallen so hard they can only think ‘it’s about self-control’ and ‘you can stop if you really want to.’ Some people might add ‘but they don’t want to. They just want to use my tax dollars to keep themselves on welfare and I say fuck that, fuck these lazy assholes because I–‘ and on and on and on, making somebody else’s problem all about themselves.
But addiction is a mental illness, something that consumes your character and so often makes you into a person you never wanted to become. Look at this:
This man is not dead. How does someone find themselves reduced to this state, passed out in the snow, pissed all over himself (and perhaps by others, stray cats and drunk frat boys who may very well find themselves beside him twenty years from now)? Do we feel pity, empathy, or blame him and say that it’s all his fault?
Of course it is his fault, although addiction is an insidious sickness and it roves inside your mind like a demonic possession until the very end of your life, when it is okay to get high again because you are dying.
Do you know what the biggest danger for a person going through recovery, whether with AA or NA, or maybe just in a locked program at a mental hospital, do you know what really causes these people to fall off the wagon and resume their failing lives? Sure, you can talk about nerves, about stress, about self-medication and all of those other psychiatric terms so overused that their meanings have become fragmented like a shattered mirror reflecting in a thousand pieces all our misunderstandings on anxiety, depression, and all the other symptoms we must deal with every day. But all of that becomes meaningless in the glare of an overwhelming gloom.
No, the greatest threat to the addict is boredom. Life sober to someone not used to it is unbearably slow. They sit around. They are supposed to rest, to relax, to learn how to settle down and get a job and a new place to live and maybe meet someone to take care of and who will take care of them. But that doesn’t happen right away, if at all. And the recovered junkie sits alone in whatever shithole they have scraped enough cash together to live in month-to-month. They have no idea what to do with themselves.
Inevitably they call an old friend or an old friend gets in touch with them, one of those taboo figures that all the treatment plans warn you to stay away from. “Wanna go see a movie?” one or the other might ask. “Sure,” they say. At least it is something to do.
Eventually they will go back to one place or the other and the friend will accompany them and they will watch TV and talk and grow nervous and bouncy, like they are going to jump out of their skin. They sweat. They feel a bubbling need. Maybe they don’t even make it to the movie. Maybe what usually happens happens first. The friend says “Wanna get high?” just like they did when asking about the movie, seeing no difference, ultimately, in their form of entertainment.
And of course, of course, most of the time they will submit. There might be one or two stronger willed people who will allow their outrage, allow their born-again venture into sobriety to overflow into a loud and final condemnation of this person who had already ruined their life. They truly are evangelical about it, like a former smoker fake coughing loudly to show their disapproval.
But, then again, this boiling rage may keep burning and burning and there is only one way to make it stop but please please don’t let me stop because if I fall, if I fall again I will never stop and never stop and never stop and oh fuck it, gimme somea that!
Addiction is an illness. We all have our addictions. Some are addicted to the news. Many more are addicted to pointing out the inaccuracies in someone’s speech, in their bold claims, in their outright lies. Other people sink even further into an obsessive conspiratorial mindset where suddenly everything they perceive as a threat is part of some greater plot, some grand mess that only this truth-teller can see. They need to get the word out, need to go to the town square and shout out the truth for all those heretics to see!
And we think these people crazy. We can’t stand the sight of them. We . . . we even hate them. “Goddamn drunks” or “Goddamn lunatics” or “Goddamn blacks” or Jews or Muslims or Christians or Republicans, Democrats, Libertarians, Communists, Mexicans, Chinese, white motherfuckers, et cetera et cetera et cetera et cetera.
We are suddenly consumed by hatred, a dark cloud that can overwhelm even the simplest thought, driving through a town with all those (choose your own racially denigrating word; I do not believe in censorship nor do I believe there is such a thing as a bad word within context, but, hell, I have probably alienated enough people as it is). Why are they here? Why don’t they get back to where they belong? And why are there so many of them? Honk! Honk! “Get the fuck out of my way you (the same choice that you made before)!”
Addiction is all about your way of life. We are addicted to how things have always been. And the second things begin going a different way, whether it be a new job, a marriage, the birth of children, a new pet, a new home, a new President . . . something falls apart inside of you and you fight fight fight to somehow get the world back to where you think it belongs. This addiction knows no political party, knows no race or class or distinction. It disregards all shibboleths and makes a mockery of anything anyone believes in with all of their being. And so hatred is born. A hatred of everything. Even a hatred of ourselves, which causes us to find a cure, to ‘self-medicate’ until we can get our minds back to what we think of as normal.
I wanted to draw a link between these otherwise contrary behaviors and point out that no one escapes from this pain. We try to be good, try to be decent, but there is always something to hate. Even the most tolerant and accepting person, the one who says that everyone is worthy of respect, have one deep-seated exception. They hate all people who hate other people for any reason whatsoever. They hate them. They truly hate them. Why can’t they see that they’re wrong, that they’re disgusting, that they have no right to even live? It is just a seed, a germ, and it can be overwhelming.
I think I need a drink. . . .