Of Human Bondage and Addiction

Hola mi Gente,

This might sound like a strange thing to express, but I am more interested in responses when we are challenged to move out of our collective zones, than opinions hurled from within our cocoons of social conditioning.

* * *

03-01-16_ The Bounded Man & Addiction

Catherine Deneuve and David Bowie in The Hunger

The Bounded Man and Addiction

Every form of addiction is bad, no matter whether the narcotic be alcohol or morphine or idealism.

— C. G. Jung, Memories, Dreams, Reflections, chapter 12 (1963)

 

The other day I was reading a short story, The Bound Man, by the German author Ilse Aichinger. It is a beautiful piece in the existentialist tradition: A man awakens one morning to find himself inexplicably bound by rope. The story takes a strange turn because instead of removing the rope at his first opportunity, as you would expect him to do, he decides to remain bound and become a circus attraction, turning his strange and accidental bondage into his trademark work.

Strange, huh?

You might ask why would a person happily accept such bondage? It is a question similar to the one posed by Franz Kafka in The Hunger Artist, in which a man who also chooses to become a circus attraction starves himself to death because he cannot find food that interests him.

These two authors are asking a variation of the same question: “Why would people carelessly, inexplicably, and even happily do things that bring them so much harm and suffering”?

Addiction is the same kind of bondage. Addicts cling to their addictions, and nothing you do or say will pry them away from their alcohol, cocaine, tobacco, internet surfing, video-game playing, overeating, shopping, or sexual escapades. It doesn’t matter if you tell them they are dying. It doesn’t matter if you tell them that they’re wasting half their life in front of a computer screen or in the aisles of department stores. Point out to them that they cannot have real love or a real life if they use sex as a drug, it doesn’t matter. Show them that their liver is already not functioning, that their nasal lining is already perforated, or that their lungs are black, and still it won’t matter. What you experience when you talk to an addict is that he or she is unable to understand or is completely indifferent to your reasoning.

I know, because I was an active addict for a substantial part of my adult life. And it is not an issue of will power or lack thereof. At the worst part of my addiction, I used to wake up penniless and at the end of the day manage to spend $300 feeding my addiction. I would submit that took a lot of will.

I operate from the assumption that we live in an addictive society — it is how we are all conditioned. We live in a consumer-based society in which the wanting and getting is the be-all and end-all of our existence. We are all would-be addicts, given the right circumstances of biology, psychology, and social setting. Some of us, because we are more at risk (such as myself), become full-blown addicts, and cross over into that downward spiral of obsession morphing into compulsion and suffering.

Even if we don’t succumb to addiction, we sometimes feel a significant loss of control in some area of our life and experience difficulty maintaining a healthy weight, avoiding hours of internet surfing, quieting our anxious thoughts, or staying on track with our goals. In order to deal with these challenges, we need to recover: that is, we need to embrace a way of being that recognizes and addresses our addictive nature and our potential problems.

If you don’t, you just might wake up one morning bound head to foot with rope and say to yourself, “How interesting! I think I’ll become a circus attraction!”

My name is Eddie and I’m in recovery from civilization…

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