How Connection Helps Overcome Addiction

As humans, we crave connection. Our hearts have a natural desire to unite with other beings through conversation, physical touch, romantic affection, eye contact, acts of kindness and friendly support. We enjoy bonding and belonging; we prefer community over isolation.

When two people hit it off, we say they have good chemistry. Most of us have discovered ways to mimic that feeling without actually connecting with another, or even with ourselves. We’ve created synthetic fillers to ignore a sense of disconnection deep within. We stay glued to our phones, which feels good, but not quite good enough. We become attached to numbers of likes, a constant stream of emails, binging TV shows… virtual profiles and fictional characters become part of our own lives. Yet these synthetic substitutes don’t work nearly as well as natural ones.

When it comes to human connection, when we don’t get what we need, we become compulsive in our consumption of nearly everything else. There is a great saying in addiction medicine: you can never get enough of something that almost works.

Today, many of us tend to experience disconnection more often than we do connection. This dissatisfaction and lack of authentic connection fuels the engine of addiction – which is not always substance related. For example, most of us are already waist-deep in our addiction to our devices. As Dr. Julie Holland M.D. writes in her book, Good Chemistry, time spent looking at a screen can generate brain chemistry similar to infatuation and attachment, the two stages of falling and staying in love.

We are addicted to food, to social media, to shopping, to chemicals in our own bodies, to work, to sex. This addiction is fueled by loneliness: disconnection from oneself or isolation from other people, whether physical or emotional.

Casualties of loneliness (Good Chemistry, Dr. Julie Holland M.D.):

  • Prescriptions for antidepressants have risen by more than 400 percent over the past twenty years

  • Suicide rates are at a thirty year high

  • Drug overdose, suicides and deaths from alcohol are labeled “diseases of despair,” because lognliness is a silent killer

  • There are more veteran suicides each year than the total number of American military deaths over the entire twenty years we spent at war in Afghanistan and Iraq

The vicious cycle of masking or assuaging loneliness by being glued to our screens or relying on a substance is the elephant in the room. We don’t want to talk about it because then we will have to do something about it. Collectively, we are suffering a spiritual crisis. And it’s time to face it.

So, what can help us fix the loneliness epidemic?

Connection.

The opposite of addiction is not recovery, but connection: with people and with yourself. The path to connection starts deep within, it starts with self awareness and crucial honesty with oneself. Eventually, this expands to your external environment and connection with others and the world around us.

People need people to heal. When we discover the connection within, in our heart, it’s from that place we connect with others, we can begin to create a positive change in the world.

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