“You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love. The entire law is summed up in a single command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” If you keep on biting and devouring each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.- Galatians 5:13-17
I have taken the time to engage in various discussions with different people in the last couple of years and I have learnt a tremendous amount about the very things I spent years and years wondering about. In the last post, I talked about addictions. I know I did not go into the depths of them, what causes them, why they become addictions and how many addictions there can be. But something that was mentioned in the comment section made me light up with a renewed passion to share with whoever is willing to read what I know, what I have learnt and what I am convinced is true of some of these addictions.
I will start with what addictions are and the kinds of addictions that I believe exist in our society today. I will speak in the simplest of terms so that the core truth is understood. I find that when too many complexities are involved, the truth is bogged down with fancy words.
What is an addiction?
I am a psych major so my inclination is to immediately refer to the definition offered by the DSM Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. This all-encompassing manual that is the reference point for many psychologists and psychiatrists does not mention the word addiction. It instead offers information about Substance dependency.
“Substance dependence When an individual persists in use of alcohol or other drugs despite problems related to use of the substance, substance dependence may be diagnosed. Compulsive and repetitive use may result in tolerance to the effect of the drug and withdrawal symptoms when use is reduced or stopped. This, along with Substance Abuse are considered Substance Use Disorders…”
For the purposes of this piece, we will treat addiction as “a persistent behavioral pattern marked by physical and/or psychological dependency that causes significant disruption and negatively impacts the quality of life of an organism.” In this definition we already prove that there are so many things that can qualify as ‘persistent behavioral patterns’. The most outstanding ones are usually related with substances such as drugs including but not limited to cocaine, marijuana, heroine, and alcohol. There are other forms of dependencies, such as the internet, gambling, pornography and so on.
Which addictions do we suffer with in our society today?
This is a tough question but I know that the issue is much worse than we realize. In an earlier post, a reader commented that the people who suffer with substance related addictions are generally of a lower social standing. I do not agree. I actually think that to a very large extent, all of society has been infiltrated with substance related addictions and addictions at large. These addictions have for some resulted in full dependence on the substance.
Largely, we have not recognized these behavioral changes as their conventional forms substance abuse and or dependence and this creates a serious problem with denial in many circles of our society. Take for example the average working young man who works hard all week and then come the weekend blows all his money on an entire weekend of irresponsible drinking and reckless driving, not eating and all the while insists that he is having a wonderful time. When he does have to stop (because monday has come too soon) he experiences withdrawal symptoms similar to those of a full-blown alcoholic depending on how much has been consumed that weekend and how long he has done it in the past. These are drinking binges that have become common place in Kampala. It is unheard of to stay in on a Friday night let alone not get absolutely ‘smashed’ while with encouraging friends. What is more worrisome is that I know for a fact that many people who are considered to be of good social standing are involved in not one but two or more forms of substance abuse. This may not be seen as addiction but it is a behavioral pattern that is repetitive and therefore affects the fabric of our society in more ways than we care to admit.
Of course the youths in slum areas spend a large percentage of their days smoking nicotine, marijuana, and drinking some form of local brew as well. This is not to say that the problems they face are similar to the problems the working class fellows on binge drinking faces but the behavior remains the same. The damage done to the body is the same. What may differ are the reasons for such dependencies. This goes to show, that whether it is on a daily basis, or on what many say is ‘occasional’ meaning the weekend, it is still a problem. The fact that every time these activities are engaged in, greater tolerance is formed against the substance so a larger intake is required causing great and in some cases irreparable damage to the body and its organs.
The cycle is rather vicious and all the while, all spiritual aspects of that poor soul have by now been crushed so low that they cannot muster an ounce of guilt within them. For whatever reason, we are able to continue with our lives in denial stating that these are not real problems and that there are other things to worry about. But let me ask you this, who is going to worry about those things when we cannot turn to our very best friend and speak a word of truth to them? I know that it is no secret that alcohol has been a nuisance in many households, it has in some cases been the main encourager to domestic violence in homes, infidelity, sexual immorality and so much more. One thing about substance abuse is that one substance gets you on a spiral to many other things. Take the case of the husband who loves his wife but one night finds himself inebriated, corrupted by peers and his own carnal pleasures waking up in a bed next to a strange woman whom he had unprotected sex with. Surprisingly, many of these incidents instead of serving as warnings, become habitual simply because the peer group this man belongs to makes it cool to ‘dog’ on your wife and treat her like a servant and not a companion. It is not any different for the wives who believe that the only way to get their husbands to notice them is to behave flirtatiously with other men.
My point here before I lose it is that there is no way we can continue like this and expect good leadership, bright futures, and great achievements comparable to those of great men and women and great nations. We will not get there until we open our eyes and see that unless we are okay on a personal level, the family cannot be okay and neither can the nation. Why then are we so quick to point fingers at men and women who are doing what they can in the positions that they have been placed. And why are we so adamant on encouraging what we know is clearly wrong? It baffles me the stories I hear.
If you know people who need to change, that are not on the right path. Even if it has nothing to do with God. If whatever those people are doing is hurting them, if they spend all their time doing and talking about those things, then why have you not taken any serious measures to let them know that those are things that you do not want to be associated with? The scenario that comes to mind is the cheating one. A group of guy or girl friends hurdled over their drinks or at a hang out spot or even at one of their houses chat and laugh about the recent escapades of one of their members with a married woman or maybe the party telling the story is the married one in this case. The friends laugh and ask questions about how good it was, what the solicitor had to do to reel in the ‘catch’. Just writing those few sentences makes me feel a different way. Why then don’t we form our principles and stand by them in speech, deed, and belief?
The verse above got me thinking. If there is anything that we are doing today that is not in line with that commandment, it is not the right way. I always wonder what our world would be like if for every action or word spoken that we did not find acceptable we spoke against it in truth. There is a difference between speaking truth and forcing ideals on someone. If I were in a circle of gossips and mentioned that I did not want to hear what they had to say, would that not plant the seed in their minds that perhaps they ought to spend their time doing something else? If I were with a friend that started drinking too much alcohol to the point where it affected their day-to-day life and mentioned to him that he might need help with the developing problem and actually offered to go get that help with him, would it not be easier to get him or her out of that dump?
Why do we put on facades all day long only to go back to our beds at night and have to deal with our true selves? Why settle for a ‘faux’ you when a real, uncomplicated you has a place in this great nation of ours? Who are you trying to be and why won’t you just work on being content with who you truly are?
My point here is this; many of the addictions that we have today are a result of personality disorders, distortions of reality, and pride that has blinded us to the truth. The truth that no one really cares how much you have, what you do, where you spend friday nights and who your crew is and how you roll. The question is, are you doing you? Or have you allowed yourself to get lost in the crowd that is walking in the wrong direction?