The other day I was watching a fascinating TED talk by Johann Hari on possible causes and treatment of addiction. He raises some interesting questions and quotes several studies along with anecdotal data to explain why he believes that our knowledge of addiction is all wrong. Hari believes that addiction is largely not about chemical dependence, but more about the disconnection in our society. We are less connected today than we were in the past in spite of our newest technology. The depth of our connection is limited and more people today are isolated and lonely. His belief is that connections enable people to recover from addictions and possibly prevent the problem from occurring. This mindset fits with the notion that belonging to a support group like AA and having a sponsor to connect, guide, and encourage provides the necessary connection for abstinence.
Addictions are not my area of expertise, but I do work with patients struggling to manage their addictions on a regular basis. While I believe the above premise has validity, I don’t want to discount the chemical dependence component of addiction. I’ve always felt that addictions were the result of misguided solutions to problems, but not the sole problem in and of itself. The notion of disconnectedness being tied to addiction is intriguing and thought-provoking. Being that my area of expertise is relationships, I’m constantly trying to understand why people disconnect and how to get them connected. In fact, when couples deal with conflict in their relationship, disconnection is a common byproduct, often followed by destructive behaviors. Do people today have a more difficult time with connection?
Connection begins with desire, commitment, and skills. We connect through conversations and activities, but we first have to recognize the value in relationships and connection. I believe most people have a desire to connect and belong, but don’t want to put in the time, energy, and effort to be connected. Today’s society has made it easier to stay disconnected and avoid human interaction. Although relationships require compromise, forgiveness, and trust, the rewards of being connected are innumerable. Consider inviting someone to join you in watching a good movie, appreciating a beautiful sunset, listening to a live band, or attending a sporting event with you. Life is richer when we are connected.