The conference officially finished last night at the end of Day Four which has left me with a sadness as it has been the most amazing week filled with connection, love and the warm blanket that is ‘being with your tribe’. So on this, the very last day of an incredible week, I bring you Gabor Mate, focusing on trauma and addiction. Before we commenced, the scene was well set for us to understand the potential of triggering which I really value and appreciate as I know that people have found him incredibly triggering.
He opens up and asks, from what perspective do we talk about these issues ? Do we look at the human psyche from a broader perspective or from one which is limited by being a single discipline creating a pathology? Each discipline and it’s expertise is useful, but it is inadequate on its own.
He reads a passage from “In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts”; a hungry ghost, forever hungry, the perfect depiction of addiction. Living in this realm in order to escape the Hell Realm. The dominant answer to addiction is that people are making a choice, that is harmful to them and therefore we must control this behaviour. this is invariably done through punishment. This is the model used.
Society has decided that certain substances are legal and some are not. REFLECTION This has always been a huge issue for me. I know plenty people who drink a bottle of red wine every night but it’s ok because it’s ‘with a meal…’ or people who drink a third of a bottle of gin each night but it’s ok because its pink and you can put it in a nice glass and drop a cherry in it. These may well be the same people making a judgement about addiction.
Gabor reminds us that alcohol and smoking is far more of a killer than heroin, as a substance not used in overdosing amounts. Gabor explores the disease notion embraced by 12 step programmes. If you have a relapse, if you have a disease, then why would people be put in prison for that??
If we say something is genetic or they are making a choice, then we can ignore what happened to them.
It is more uncomfortable to move away from disease/making a choice as a reason. But it is more empowering. The illness is a soother, the alternative takes us in to very uncomfortable territory.
Definition – addiction is a psycho-biological process that uses something in any way that a person finds temporary relief and pleasure from but suffers negative consequences from doing so. Then, despite those negative consequences, does not stop. He asks the large audience who has ever experienced an addictive process. All but a handful put their hand up so he asks “why then do we see the ‘drug addict’ in a certain way?”
NOTES Address & validate addict’s need, don’t make them wrong, make them right.
Dopamine calms hyperactive brain. Self medicating is to boost dopamine/ via caffeine, nicotine, cannabis, alcohol, opiates etc Its needed to feel alive.
If ADHD and Autism were from genes, then why have they vastly increased? The gene mutation does not change in this way over 5 or 10 years so that blows the gene theory out of the window. What it has to do with is a response to stress, the infant has few ways to cope and one of them is to tune out, so that coping mechanism becomes wired into the brain. Why is this happening and is a growing phenomenon? Because parents are more and more stressed, isolated, over worked.
The biology of addiction; we have opiate receptors which is why opiates work to relieve physical AND emotional pain. The environment tells the nucleus what to do. The genes are activated by the environment.
Trauma is a constriction and the opposite of trauma is resilience.
What are the conditions for neuro-plasticity…. the same things that brings it about in the first place…. interpersonal. Relationships relationship relationships. Just in case you didn’t know 😉
And that’s me. Back on a plane tomorrow and I will follow up these articles when I’ve had some time to process the week with further reflections regarding (a) resilient and robust systems, (b) the absence of men in the conversation and how this impacts across our services and the people we are seeking to help (c) my thoughts on how we sit in t’he mess’. Because it’s all messy and it seems to me that it is our ability to sit in the mess, in the grey areas, in the uncomfortableness, that will ultimately create a place for healing ourselves, each other and our communities.