Mittwoch, 23. März 2016

On Addiction & Philosophy

This is how Life on the Rocks. Finding Meaning in Addiction and Recovery is introduced: "My name is Peg O'Connnor. I am an alcoholic and I am a philosopher. I think many addicts are philosophically inclined and are searching for a or the meanimg of life. We just tend to look in the wrong places for a long time."

That's me, too. No, I'm not a trained philosopher, but definitely philosophically inclined. Like Peg O'Connor, I have no doubt that "questions about addictions are, at rock bottom, questions about the meaning of life."

But isn't addiction basically a medical problem and thus, like every other disease, beyond our control? Well not everyone subscribes to this concept, quite some argue that addictive behaviour is a choice. Such an either/or approach isn't helpful, argues Peg O'Connor. "A classic binge drinker is a prime example: his choices are constrained with the first drink. He both has and does not have a choice (The moment before the first drink or drug is what the philosopher Owen Flanagan describes as a 'zone of control.') But he still bears some degree of responsibility to others and to himself."

"Forms of life: Addicts are from Mars and nonaddicts from Pluto", as one chapter of Life on the Rocks is entitled, doesn't want to stress how different we all are but, rather, that the various "forms of life are not discrete and disconnected from one another. Rather, they overlap and crisscross and, importantly, share the same background of the human form of life."

Addicts live in the "land of NUM (Nobody Understands Me)" and spend much of their time comparing their insides to the outsides of others. Or, differently put, they judge others by their actions and themselves by their intentions. This, however, can be changed by becoming "awake and alert – physically, intellectually, and emotionally" to the fact that others suffer too.

One of the most inspiring chapters (for me) asks "Why is it so hard to trust yourself?" Self-knowledge, Peg O'Connor argues, "is deeply social." This had never occurred to me for I had always thought that self-knowledge was entirely about introspection. But: "How I see myself is certainly important, but I need to concede that others can see me and know me in ways that I cannot. I can learn about myself from others."

True words indeed! They made me think of a friend who's into astrology (I'm not) and once told me  that I was actually a very lucky person. This was new to me, I had never thought of myself as being lucky. But, after looking into it (although I'm still not a believer in astrology) I had to concede that she was right!

I do love this book for insights such as "What worked five, ten, and twenty years ago may not work so well today. I am a different person now, so I need different things in my recovery." And, "Living in recovery is living with passionate commitment. It is an ongoing commitment to caring for your person and character."

And, I thought most helpful to have the term "surrender" explained in such an illuminating way: "To surrender is to stop clutching core beliefs or parts of one's identity so tightly. When a person loosens her grip, she makes it possible to hold something new – perhaps very tentatively – in her hands. In the case of a person whose self-worth or humanity has been decimated, it is a matter of being open to the possibility that just maybe she is worthy of a little dignity and respect. Surrendering can be simultaneously liberating and terrifying."

Last but not least, Life on the Rocks has made me want to reread William James' The Varieties of Religious Experience, and to know more about Ludwig Wittgenstein. In sum: helpful and inspiring.

Peg O'Connor
Life on the Rocks
Finding Meaning in Addiction and Recovery
Central Recovery Press, Las Vegas 2016

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