Addiction is a strange thing.
I used to say, getting high, getting drunk – that I can understand, but gambling? Spending all your money to feel the high from heroin, or from weed, you’re getting something, at least some relief from all those pesky feelings, and with alcohol . . . well, I think with drink what you get is different. I think what alcohol gives you is a chance to vent, a chance to give voice to your worst feelings with no worry that you might remember doing it.
But gambling? That seemed like only half an addiction to me. You lose all your money and . . . nothing. Talk about cutting out the middleman. That is some pure, un-cut self harm right there.
And that is the clue to what’s really going on with addiction.
The addict tends to think that the very thing that is ruining him is the thing that’s saving him – that’s another clue. The addict sees good in the harm, perhaps it’s possible to say that the addict can’t tell good from bad, but probably more accurate to say that for him, the harm looks like good, or feels like good.
Harm from which good is said to come, or good that is derived from harm?
That is what punishment is supposed to be, that is the theory of punishing, good from harm, harm to create good. And this is where the addict learned it. Where we all learned it, at home, from our caregivers.
When a parent punishes, either hits, spanks, grounds or puts us in time-out, confiscates a desired object or simply withdraws his love in order to hurt us and induce us to avoid that hurt by doing what he wants, this is what is shown: good from harm. Worse, the parent explains it, spells it out: this harm is good for you. For many of us, for so many of us, this lesson is applied for nearly every possible hard lesson we get.
It’s no wonder so many of us think harm is good, at least that harm brings good.
I’m not saying this logical thing is all of it, it’s not just that we are TOLD that the harm of punishing is good for us, but of course it’s the harm itself.
This part is sort of amazing, a thing not restricted to this particular thing, that we begin with an equation – some harm for a (greater) good – AND THEN WE FORGET ABOUT THE FIRST HALF OF THE EQUATION. Then, suddenly, only the second part exists, or only the second part matters. Somehow now, the harm that brings the good never existed.