To fully understand why the individual becomes addicted we must consider addictive behavior in our societal lives. It is misleading to think only certain members of society have "addictive personalities". When in fact, everyone is susceptible to addiction and many have multiple addictions that go unnoticed, masquerading as normal activities. We live in an addictive society!

Society not only leads us to addictive waters, it trains us to drink, from cradle to grave. When total neophytes (whether a cave dwelling native or a child setting out for the first day of kindergarten) are thrust into our strange world, they’re in for a rude awakening, are they not? This rude awakening is all about conformity. Conformity is the single most devastating effect on a child other than death itself. But then, it is a walking death . . . never to be accepted for oneself. We can’t accurately refer to it as life when there is no freedom of individuality, no happiness, no joy, no spirit . . . the bright light in a child’s eyes forever extinguished by conformity.

All humans are born unique and naturally eager to express their individuality. Yet are we encouraged to bring our unique talents, creativity and (horrors!) original thought to our fellow members of society? Can we, may we bring it to our homes, daycare, schools, workplaces and government (we all know the answer to that one)? No, we are trained not to be ourselves. Individualism is discouraged and disciplined out of us. We quickly learn that resistance is futile for resistance is punished and cooperation is rewarded. When we are "persuaded" to give up our natural born individuality for the "good" of the group/society and permit others to define us and create our image for us, we become mentally and emotionally bankrupt. Sound suspiciously like brainwashing? It is brainwashing.

Inborn individuality, however long suppressed, is always trying to surface. But because our experience in the world tells us it will be met with opposition, we must push it back down. This self-imposed suppression (which we’ve done since childhood for survival) results in hopelessness, disappointment and despair. Denied our individuality by society, we develop inner alienation and loneliness. We feel despised, rejected and abandoned for we know we’ll never be liked or loved for who we really are.

The prime directive of a society such as ours, is to get its members to conform and those that don’t are systematically disenfranchised. They are labeled (labeling is part of being disenfranchised, don’t forget) eccentric, rebellious, foolish, unsophisticated, ethnically challenged! Conformity is confused with civilization. Civilization has nothing to do with it! Our country was forged by men and women who were very much the individualists. People and society flourish when individuality is allowed to blossom without interference.

Minds that are forced to conform are diseased. They are in a constant state of "dis ease", the opposite of "at ease". Visualize an unborn child. Soon this child enters the world and we (in our programmed wisdom) are going to do our utmost to mold him/her into an acceptable member of society. Our goal is to make him/her diseased, never at ease with the self or the world, just like we are. Does this sound civilized? Does this sound healthy?

We label families as dysfunctional when really the whole of society is dysfunctional. Society created dysfunctional families. Families didn’t pull abusive behavior out of thin air and suddenly decide to be a Royal Pain for everyone around them. Abuse, in all its forms, stems from the loss of individual identity. In frustration with ourselves and our relationship to the unnatural expectations of society, we take it out on each other.

We hear a lot out about peer pressure and how this leads many people into addiction. And it’s true, it does. The point we are missing, however, is that peers are not pressuring peers to "drop out" as we had assumed. Remember that these same peers have been taught since childhood to conform to the group. So when they pressure a peer to join the group, they’re pressuring him/her to "drop in". They come on like rebels but they are really conformists clinging to the group. This accounts for the peers' inability to say no to peer pressure. How can we preach "just say no" to people who have been taught to "just say yes" to the group? People want to know why there are gangs today. They have been taught conformity to the group in our school system. Gangs are a by-product of our schools/society.

When a society is composed of people denied their birthright and individuality, sold a lie that it’s in their best interest to conform, then in turn sell themselves the lie out of survival, then sell the lie to the next generation, we have a toxic society perpetuating itself. Why are we doing this to our children? Why are we doing this to ourselves? Because it is the way it has always been done. This is what we are told. We can’t remember exactly who it was who told us . . . and we can’t remember when . . . but we’re certain someone told us . . . aren’t we? We have met the enemy and they are us.

Another damaging process of our society, that works in conjunction with conformity, is to demand perfection. For whatever reason, to correct, to control, we teach our children that they are bad if they make a mistake. Prodding to excel, discipline for the sake of discipline, are both unrealistic expectations that have boomeranged. Perfectionism is an illusion that can never be attained! Yet our society continues to demand perfection. Ironically, those who demand perfection are usually the very ones who fall far short of perfection themselves. Every succeeding generation is subjected to more and more demands for perfectionism, all in the guise of excellence.

How can the children learn from their mistakes when they have to keep hiding them from parents, teachers and peers? Mistakes are opportunities for learning! Children allowed to be individualists, make mistakes, learn from them and move on. Children not allowed to learn from them become confused and lose all discernment in a fruitless search for perfection. As a result they have no self-confidence for they can’t trust their own perception. This is why recovering alcoholics and addicts think of themselves as bad people trying to be good instead of sick people trying to become well. They think this way because in their minds they weren’t perfect when they became dependent on alcohol or drugs, therefore they were bad. They aren’t allowing themselves to make a mistake and learn from it because this is what they have been taught.

Though there are other contributing factors which we’ll explore in Part II of this article, the main ingredients leading to addiction are: Conformity, Perfectionism, Self-depreciation and Self-hatred.

First we set the stage with conformity so we’re deprived of the self-empowerment of individual thought, then we lose our self-confidence in a fruitless search for perfection and then we begin to feel disgust and hatred for ourselves. All this ultimately leads to addiction.

Society compels us to get with the program and we respond with hopeless apathy coupled with depression as attitude adjustment. Groomed in the image that will best conform to society, we internalize our frustration, our hurt, at not being accepted for ourselves. We are never at peace with our conscious mind. This is why we alter our consciousness with chemical and compulsive/obsessive addictions. Addictions hide the hurt and bury the pain.

Addictions are divided into two groups: Substance and Compulsive. Substance are ingestive, mood-altering chemical addictions, natural and artificial, legal and prescribed.

Compulsive are obsessive and repetitive behavior addictions. Compulsive addictions are only limited by ones imagination.

It has been thought that people who abuse food or drugs are trying to fill a void inside themselves. This is false! People are born filled with their own individuality. It is not until they are taught as children to suppress it that they fall into psychological trouble.

Whether addicted to substance or compulsion, addicts are a product of a societal process gone bad, not of a people gone bad. Recognizing this is the most important step to changing this sick process into the healthy process we need it to be. And change it we must, actively. For it will not change itself. It will keep perpetuating itself in a downward spiral with each succeeding generation.

We say we live in a free country . . . but we are not free. The only real freedom is freedom to be ourselves.


Exploring the Labyrinth of the Human Mind Part II

Biological Origins and Reactions It would be easy to assume that addictions of apparent biological origin were genetic but in many cases they are genetic only in relation to environmental susceptibility. Not everyone is exposed to the same environment, therefore its unknown if genetics are involved or if it`s a reaction to stimulus.

Continual stimulous can have different results in different people. A child (or adult) subjected to relentless pressure or abuse can react in various ways. They can, if among the very fortunate few, be "immune" to the stimulous or at least put on a very good act that they are and conform to the "norm".

Others will "express" their inner fears and rage by acting out in sociopathic directions. This can be anywhere in our society; childcare, government, law enforcement, military, education, criminal justice, family, community, workplace, corporate, medical and psychological "institutions".

The remainder in this social trifecta, in which there is no winner, is the "whipping boy", the addict, who directs the fear and rage inward in an attempt to avoid inflicting them on society. Society responds in like manner, blaming the addict, reaffirming the self-hatred.

I`m sure you`ve heard it said, "Oh, that person is just too sensitive". Perhaps then, we need to classify the hypersensitive as genetically predisposed. But if we do that, then we also have to classify the hyperinsensitive as genetically predisposed as well. Instead of classifying anyone, why don`t we approach it in a logical manner. Stimulus is logical. It has a cause and a result.

If a child is provoked physically, psychologically or emotionally in a negative manner, there is going to be a reaction. Conformity, sociopathic or addictive, the diseased trifecta in our toxic society.

Addiction is an escape. Whether from fear, self-hatred, grief, or loss ( individuality, power or opportunity). Chemical addictions that are a combo of psychological and biological are the most difficult to defeat. Those that are "lucky" enough to become addicted through bad choices alone usually have an easier time quitting. This is why not everyone can be held to the same standard and degree of success. Though, unfortunately, they are by the ignorant.

Stimulus that results in addiction can take many forms. Physical and emotional abuse can program a brain to react with nerve impulses. Continual overstimulation can cause neuropathic changes causing a chemical imbalance in the brain. Depression, anxiety and intense restlessness lead many to an attempt to self-medicate with illegal drugs such as cocaine and methamphetamine.

One form of stimulus that has taken firm root in our society is "demand for perfection". This irrational quest accounts for much of the high anxiety our youth falls victim to. Our news is filled with child abuse and ridiculous demands for perfection in the guise of excellence. Does a child deserve to be beaten or killed for being slow to do their numbers or abc`s? Or for not learning fast enough (or on demand) in the high art of "potty training"? Sound ridiculous? When caregivers ( daycare or family) can`t differentiate between teaching and abuse, perhaps they are not teaching at all, but parroting. Every succeeding generation is parroting in excess. This is, in no way, excellence, but overkill. We shouldn`t be surprised to find children that have survived this unrealistic expectation in their "education" to develop overstimulated neurotransmitters. Or surprised at Attention Deficit Disorder (which is "treated" with Ritalin which is methamphetamine!) in our students where there was no such disorder before.

Another stimulus aggravating youth and causing high anxiety is the daily bombardment with fears of the future. In fact, it has gotten so bad that many youth are resigned to believing there is no future! To fear the future, one needs only to live in the present. To see the high cost of living, high rent, high mortgage (if they dare to hope for buying a home), loss of jobs to underdeveloped countries and now China, high cost of education, downsizing, etc. Not only do they see it but their teachers are cracking that psychological whip. Telling them they must be in the top of their class to succeed when obviously that is only for the few. Where does that leave the rest of the class? Clearly todays educators are a product of their own brainwashing when they have nothing positive to say to their students; no hope, no encouragement and no praise for individual accomplishments of this generation.

When drug users are driven by an underlying psychiatric disorder, stimulents have a paradoxical, calming effect. Those with an organic illness such as hypothyroidism (low thyroid) also may turn to self-medication to treat their own accompanying depression. However the self-medicating acquire their brain disorder, whether actually genetic or through outside stimulus, it is a disease. It is most certainly not moral or criminal.

Donna Rae