I want to share something very personal with you this month. It’s very controversial, so I often never mention it to my friends. My father is an addict. His father was an alcoholic and so was his father. Knowing this shameful part of my family history has been a weight on my heart, but also a motivator for me to learn all that I can to keep myself and my kids healthy so that we do not fall into the family history of addiction.
When I first learned about my father’s alcoholism and drug use, I assumed he didn’t have a strong will and was weak. After reading all I could on the subject, I became convinced that it wasn’t his character at fault but his brain. Science tells us that addicts become that way because of how their body reacts to certain substances. We now know, for example, that anyone can become addicted to anything, even sugar.
All of that learning has helped me to gain respect and compassion for my father instead of disappointment. As I have learned more at Hen Sen Herbs about natural health care, I think that often people fall into addiction as a way to try and help themselves. They feel better after drinking or smoking marijuana, but that begins a cycle of needing it to feel good and further damaging their body.
But, we all know there are recovery centers for this sort of thing that have been around for over a hundred years. That is true, and yet it doesn’t work for everyone. My father has been to rehab three times. Each time, he goes through the roller-coaster of recovery, and with his head all clear and his body feeling well, he promises to live a healthier lifestyle.
A few months to by and then he’s back to his old habits. I have always wondered why a father could feel better and make promises then break them, over and over again. A recent article about human behavior is helping me understand that we need more than just a recovery center. We need balance in our community to have a healthy life.
Author Johann Hari has written a book called, “Chasing The Scream: The First And Last Days of the War on Drugs” and argues that the cause of drug abuse is not as simple as a biochemical reaction in the brain. She writes about a study of rats done by Professor Alexander, where he created a “Rat Park” – basically an oasis where rats had plenty to do and plenty of good foods and water. They had a build in community and atmosphere that met their needs. They had one water source contaminated with cocaine, and another one without.
The rats tried both water sources, but most of them avoided the drugged water. Only a small number of them used it, but it didn’t cause any of them to become abusers or die. The next phase of his experiment was to turn some of them into addicts by isolating them and giving them only the drugged water for 57 days, and then returning them to the Rat Park. The results were surprising. After returning to their happy community, those rats recovered and went back to having a normal life!
Hari writes more about her research in the article, “The Likely Cause of Addiction Has Been Discovered, And It’s Not What You Think.” She suggests that those who use prescription pain pills after surgery are real life examples of the theory that with a good community, environment and life, most people won’t become drug users. Most people who use pain medicine after surgery recover and no longer take pills, but some do.
Personally, I find Hari’s observations and writing to be very logical, but I also know that health is not just a matter of balance on the outside, but the inside too. From Hen Sen Herbs, I have learned that our bodies are unique. What might cause one person to suffer from allergies, might not affect me. The key is to pay attention to our bodies and try to maintain balance. As I think about my father, I realize that he grew up in a culture and family where you are expected to keep up with your neighbors. That means working hard, partying hard and being happy with material possessions. But, I think we are more than that. We have a spiritual side, and are affected by our environment. That is why I will pay attention to my community, my internal as well as emotional healthy so that I don’t fall into the same pattern of addiction as my father.
I know this topic is a bit heavy, especially during the month of love, chocolates and decadent treats, but it’s really vital to keep loving ourselves and our community – we all matter!