A Compassionate Society must precede A Just Society

Do I have a subtle or an overt addiction?

Addiction comes in all shapes and sizes. It is like my shadow that I do not notice until it is no longer behind me, but inside me.

It is so illusive as it pervades my thoughts and emotions. No human being (regardless of nationality, gender, religious beliefs, education or status) is exempt from addiction.

Some addictions are so subtle they are not recognized as an addiction. Subtle addictions are hidden in sports, theatre, music, art, electronic devices, food and work, to name but a few addiction disguises.

My subtle addiction often allows me to be described as talented, ambitious, charming, generous, reliable and the positive adjective list goes on. These subtle addictions continue mainly because I receive praise and affirmation for my addiction. I only know inside myself that I have an addiction when I deeply realize that whatever I am doing is consuming me. It is my identity.

I cannot imagine myself without sharing my talent, gift, creativity. I tell myself as long as I am sharing I am not selfish and my talent, gift and creativity is needed. I hear myself justifying my addictive behavior by saying, “Hell, it is my only outlet” “So what, if I have one bad vice” and “I love what I do: it helps me”. Subtle addictions allow the addict to bask in a sense of achievement, accomplishment and even heroism.

Most recently, the United Church in Chemainus held an educational evening on Overt Addictions. An Overt Addiction is obvious, there is nothing subtle about it or its ramifications.

Overt Addictions, such as alcoholism, gambling, smoking, sex, overeating, opioids, excessive shopping, hording generally cannot be hidden for long. The addicts in these forms of addiction are not praised but often rejected, scorned and seen as an embarrassment to families and to society.

The documentary film and panel on A Just Society emphasized that every human being wants to live in a Just Society. However, they also shared that a Just Society can only happen when individuals learn to be compassionate. Compassion is the key, not safe drug centres. The latter may be helpful but unless we learn to be compassionate there truly is no hope of having A Just Society.

The panel emphasized that the healing of emotional pain (which is the underlining cause of the addiction) is the only way to overcome any addiction. A participant in the audience asked the question of the panel: “How can I help my son/daughter to even want to go to a rehab or get help?” The answer was honest and direct: “You can’t help, the desire has to come from inside the person”.

As a retired psychologist, I most certainly know this to be true. The individual has to be motivated from within himself/herself to deal with an addiction. I had clients who had been to four rehab programs unsuccessfully because they were either mandated to be in the program or they did it halfheartedly. There are no shortcuts.

I must be wholeheartedly convinced that the power is within me to deal with my addiction. The program can only support my own desire to live as I say I want to live my life.

The panel expressed its frustration with the Canadian government that does not financially support long-term rehabilitation facilities. This was also my frustration when a client was seeking help and the only government programs were short term programs which only serve as a revolving door.

Any worthwhile program is six months with another six months as an outpatient. A private facility can put a family in debt as was recently shown on Global News. Programs cost more than $10,000. This was also confirmed at the presentation by a panel member who as a physician could afford the private program.

Perhaps, we need to shame our government into providing long term programs so that Canada may be A Just Society for all of us.

(Kathleen Kelly is a Chemainus resident and author of the book ‘The Tornadoes We Create’).

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