Written by Kirk Markey
As you can probably see from the title somewhere up above, my assignment this week is to write a blog that discusses the “truth about drug addiction.” And because I take my job and drug addiction both quite seriously, I gave a lot of time and pained thought to the topic before I sat down and started to write. I figured it’d be easy enough to get started, considering I’m in recovery from drug addiction myself and spend much of my time dealing with it in one way or another. How hard could it be?
But truth be told, the more I thought about drug addiction, the further away my mind got from anything like a “truth” about it, especially when I did what any thinker worth the name does and considered the phenomenon from several perspectives. The minute I’d come up with some type of encompassing theory or approach, I’d come up with another one that revealed the first to be flawed, limited, or just plain false. Finally, when I was about to lose my mind and go back to restaurant management, I realized what I was doing wrong and why I kept getting snagged on irrelevant things like contradictions, poor logic, and bias.
My mistake was actually so typical that it almost embarrasses me to admit it. I was doing what everyone does when they think about drug addiction. I wanted to find a simplistic and univocal truth about drug addiction, one that captured and described its essence perfectly, in some kind of magic and universal shorthand that would apply to everyone. I was caught in the all too human trap of mental laziness, trying to make generalities about something that is always case specific and viciously particular. So now my thesis is this, that there is no truth about drug addiction, that it doesn’t have a single essence that we can think away easily and be done with for good.
But that’s a falsehood too, isn’t it? There’s surely one piece of truth we can rely on when it comes to drug addiction, one absolute certainty we can hang our hats on when we don’t know what else to say. This truth is that drug addiction is horrible, that it rips people and families apart, that it kills the sufferer from the inside out, but not before it eats away at their core and drains life of everything beautiful and valuable in it. So that’s the only truth we can start with, right? But saying drug addiction is horrible doesn’t get us very far, and it’s more like an endpoint than a beginning.
My idea is this. We negate the original premise in order to avoid the terrible endpoint of destroyed lives it leads to in the end. We admit up front that there is no single truth about drug addiction. We admit that drug addiction is sneaky and clever and that by the very act of postulating a single truth about it, we help it destroy more people. Drug addiction understands very well what we can’t always admit, at least in practice. It knows that people are different, that all addicts are different. And this fact demands that we acknowledge and honor the different circumstances and types of brain chemistry that lead to addiction in the first place. Only when we do this can we discover in our hearts the necessary resources of compassion and diligence necessary to preserve lives.