In a recent TED Talk, journalist and author Johann Hari suggests that “Everything you think you know about addiction is wrong.” He argues that most people in our society see addiction as a simple chemical dependency, when it is actually the result of a failure to connect – with family, with friends, with the community, with God, or with a larger sense of purpose.
His ideas are proving to be somewhat controversial in the recovery and addiction communities, not so much because of his basic premise, but because of his assertion that these ideas are “new.” (The studies he sites have been well known to psychologists and addiction professionals for years.) He does also seem to oversimplify, in some ways, what is often a very complicated and nuanced problem. And, he calls for the legalization of all recreational drugs as a possible solution, an idea which always sparks a strong debate.
In spite of some of the questionable aspects of his speech, at The Meadows, we do agree with his core principle: that disconnection – with peers, with communities, with one’s sense of self and/or with a higher power – can play a major role in triggering addiction and other behavioral issues.
One of the most important goals we have for our patients at The Meadows is that they learn how to become interdependent. The Meadows Model, developed by Pia Mellody, names dependency as one the four core issues that must be addressed before a person can make a full recovery from addiction or mood disorders. Doing so requires one to reconnect with the child he or she once was. Being too dependent comes from not having needs and wants met as a child. Being anti-dependent comes from being shamed for having needs and wants as child.
Becoming interdependent means learning how to balance your own needs and wants with those of others. If you are interdependent, you are able to ask for help when you need it, help others when they make a reasonable request, and say “no” when necessary to prevent yourself from stretching yourself too thin and becoming resentful.
Without interdependence, there is no recovery. As an addict, the ability to rely on others for help and emotional support, and to give that help and support to others, is critical to staying sober. Without the tools to make and maintain these connections, recovery is impossible to sustain.
A Higher Power
Step 11 in the 12 Step Model for Recovery requires the addict to find a connection with a higher power:
“Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understand Him, praying only for knowledge of his will for us and the power to carry that out.”
In most cases, addicts have either always struggled to connect with God, their Higher Power, or their sense of purpose; or, in some way, they got disconnected along the way. Recovery is about getting connected or reconnected.
Jim Corrington, Director of The Meadows Outpatient Services, likes to use the analogy of an orange extension cord to explain:
An orange extension cord is useless and without purpose when it’s hanging on the wall. You have to plug it into a source of power to give it potential. It does not reach its full potential until you plug something else into IT. So, too, an individual must stay plugged into their source of power, AND, stay connected to others around them to reach sobriety, and with it, their full potential.
How to Reconnect
Addictions manifest in those areas where people are disconnected but seeking to connect. “Faulty wiring” caused by childhood trauma can make it difficult for them to connect with others or with their sense of purpose, so they end up trying to fill the gap with substances or unhealthy behaviors.
At The Meadows, we take a holistic approach to healing that helps patients to reconnect through their minds, bodies, and spirits. Therapy sessions and workshops allow them to find out how they became disconnected, to work on ways to build better relationships with others and to learn how to nurture themselves. Our new brain center helps them to address any dysregulation they may be experiencing in the brain and nervous system. And, physical activities like Yoga, Tai Chi, equine therapy and ropes courses, allow them to gain even deeper insights into themselves.
If you or a loved one are struggling with an addiction or a disorder and are seeking ways to reconnect, we can help. Contact us for more information.