thinking about psychological addictions and avoidance behaviors
November 23rd, 2019, 05:45 am
So why am I not anti-drug? I've been close to several people who I believed were suffering from drug problems -- even people who destroyed their lives with drug abuse -- yet I'm a libertarian when it comes to drug laws.
Well, three reasons. First, drug laws are demonstrably ineffective -- everybody I've ever known who had a drug problem experienced no difficulty acquiring illegal drugs in whatever volume they desired, despite the US locking up more people (as a proportion of the population) than any other country in the world (except perhaps North Korea).
Second, drug laws are applied in horribly racist ways. Depending on the state jurisdiction you're looking at, black people are charged with drug crimes at a rate up to 10 times that of white people, even though people of all races use drugs at the same rate.
Third, drug laws punish people for punishing themselves, which is sadistic and pointless. Instead we should offer medical and psychiatric treatment for people who have drug problems.
Broadly speaking, I think there are two kinds of drug problems. There's physical addiction -- people whose bodies become so dependent upon a drug that it is extremely difficult for them to quit, even if they want to.
And there's psychological addiction -- people who use drugs to avoid facing their feelings, to avoid facing reality.
Sometimes people are both physically and psychologically addicted to drugs. They can reinforce each other. Especially if the person doesn't want to face that they have a drug problem -- using drugs to avoid facing that they have a drug problem.
I've known people with both kinds of drug problems. I'd say that physical addiction is worse -- when you're physically addicted you need the drug in your body ALL the time or you're in physical and emotional pain. That's tough on your body and on your ability to cope with life. It can lead to an early death, depending on how dangerous your drug of choice is.
Psychological addiction, when it hasn't been overwhelmed by simultaneous physical addiction, is more about avoidance -- avoiding certain kinds of memories, emotions, conversations, and realizations. But the nature of emotions is that they continue to exist within your brain and within your body, despite your attempts to avoid them. You're not avoiding them so much as you've created an energy barrier, within your body, to keep you from experiencing certain emotions directly and fully. This energy barrier will have side effects, both mentally and physically, such as tense muscles or physical pain, unruly digestion and diarrhea, panic attacks, or temper tantrums.
As I've been working recently to face my own psychological triggers, I understand that it involves time, work, and attention ... and courage. For a person who is psychologically addicted to drugs to overcome this addiction, they would need to make a personal commitment to facing whatever crap they've been trying to avoid -- which means putting up with whatever emotions result. You have to live your life more bravely.
As I've been paying attention to certain subreddits and trying to offer emotional support to people online, there's one huge theme that underlies many of these online cries for help.
People are experiencing difficult emotions, and they don't want to experience them anymore! Generally they want some sort of solution that will stop them from experiencing these emotions.
A lot of the time they don't know what to do -- they want somebody to tell them what to do.
But a lot of the advice I give has nothing to do.
Instead, I try to get people more comfortable with allowing their emotions to exist. It's OK to feel whatever you're feeling, there's nothing wrong with you.
People say stuff like, "I can't handle this!"
But they're already handling this. What they mean is they don't know how to make the emotions go away. But you can't make the emotions go away. You have to feel your emotions.
Sometimes people need others to acknowledge their emotions. Sometimes they need permission to feel their emotions. Sometimes they need to hear that there is nothing wrong with their emotions. Sometimes they need to hear that they won't feel these emotions forever. Sometimes they need reminders that they can comfort themselves, they can find healthy ways to distract themselves. Sometimes they need to hear that other people have felt these emotions also and are OK.
But people generally fear strong emotions in this culture.
Some people assume that if you're experiencing strong emotions you must need therapy. But more often it is those who are avoiding their strong emotions who need therapy. A person who is openly grieving a breakup, crying and journaling and raging -- will probably be OK after a while. It's the person who doesn't want to cry, doesn't want to write about their emotions, doesn't want to indulge in rage -- that's the person who probably needs therapy -- because otherwise, one day they'll find themselves in a crisis, overwhelmed by emotions they "can't deal with" -- emotions they don't want to feel, won't let themselves feel ...
It's OK to feel. We're humans, we have emotions, we feel things. Feel some more, feel again, take a break and then feel even more. It's OK. It's who we are, we are people who have feelings, all the feelings, even the feelings that are socially unacceptable, we feel them anyway. Yes, big boys cry, and big girls rage, emotions are not limited by gender or age. Everybody has them. You can have them too. You don't need to block them with drugs -- that doesn't work anyway, not forever.
[Previous entry: "pot calling kettle white"] [TOC] [Next entry: "mirrorality"]