At the beginning of my first post on addiction which you can read here, I posed some questions about addiction that I want to start to answer, tentatively. Why tentatively? Because addiction, it seems to me, is a complex and subtle beast about which there are many conflicting theories and opinions.
I am also aware that, when one writes about something based on one’s own experience, it is incredibly easy to be too categorical, to say “that’s the way things are”, rather than, “that’s how it seemed to me”. I’ll try to avoid that, first by clearly indicating when I’m writing about my own experiences and what they mean to me and also, without I hope making the whole thing too ‘heavy’ (there’s an early 70s word), mention some of the various theories about addiction which either support or contradict my views. I’ll put links to these as I go on so you can, if you wish, read them in more detail.
So, now to the first question.
Was I born an addict?
If I was born an addict then there must be something different about me, something that sets me apart from ‘normal’ people. When I look at photos of myself as a child I see what looks like a normal child, with the right number of eyes, ears, fingers etc. So possibly it’s something on the inside, a difference in my brain perhaps.
I know that I felt different. No, that’s not true. I started to feel different when I entered adolescence but then, so do lots of children who don’t grow up to be addicts. I was bright, always top of the class in primary school without, typically of me, putting in any particular effort. I was quite often ill with asthma so missed quite a lot of school. I played out a lot with friends – cowboys and indians, soldiers, the usual games. But none of this seems in any way unusual.
I was, as I mentioned in my earlier post, overprotected and I think this had a big effect on my personality and ability to cope. According to Dr. Gabot Maté, my very favourite writer on addiction, the main factors influencing whether someone is likely to end up as an addict is brain development, both in the uterus and in early childhood. As he states in his book In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts, which you can read about here , he writes,
‘To state that childhood brain development has the greatest impact on addiction is not to rule out genetic factors. However, the emphasis placed on genetic influences in addiction medicine—and in many other areas of medicine—is an impediment to our understanding.’
So, according to Dr. Maté, genetics plays its part, but the main factor is the development of the brain in early childhood, and in particular around attachment between the child and the parent. Here’s video of Dr.Maté talking about all of these factors
I think there’s enough here to be going on with. I’ll come back to this subject in my next post.
If you want to find my previous posts on addiction you can find them here
Remember, I don’t expect everyone to agree with me. If you do, or if you have different views, let me know. Addiction is a topic I’m always happy to discuss.