We are witnessing a seismic shift in our understanding of addiction and recovery. The oft-repeated meme that “connection, not sobriety, is the opposite of addiction” speaks this change. Recovery and connection are intimately tied. Ever-increasing numbers of Americans want to know how their country became the most addicted in the world. Blame is routinely assigned to big pharma, the criminal cartels, or even Americans’ insatiable appetite for drugs. However, these explanations only tell part of the story. We need a paradigm that can account for all of the data. Bruce Alexander’s “dislocation theory of addiction” does just that.
Recovery and Connection
Dr. Bruce Alexander has shown conclusively that addiction is an adaptive response to the destruction or loss of community. Human beings are social creatures whose ability to flourish is a function of the health of their relationships. We turn to substances to deal with feelings of loneliness and alienation and to soothe our overwrought nervous systems.
Alexander defines addiction as “any overwhelming involvement with a substance or activity” that is harmful to oneself or one’s social relations.” Overwhelming involvement means that the time, energy, and money spent on said substance or activity comes at the expense of one’s marriage, parenting, or community involvement. Notice that he says substance or activity – meaning we are not only addressing heroin or vodka, but also “process addictions” like shopping, gambling, or digital gaming.
Alexander’s work shows that addiction has become the rule in contemporary America, that society itself is the root cause of the addiction pandemic. This means that addiction is not an individual pathology, but that the alcoholic or heroin addict is not so different from the workaholic or parent who cannot get off of his cell phone to attend to the needs of his family. We are all suffering from the same core pathology; we are in this together.
The Implications for Treatment and Recovery
Well, if connection is indeed the opposite of addiction, then we need treatment modalities that foster meaningful connection. The efficacy of the 12 Steps lay in their ability to foster connection with one’s Higher Power, oneself, one’s family and friends, and the larger fellowship. Serving one’s fellows affords a sense of purpose and delivers one from loneliness and alienation.
Unfortunately, things are getting worse. COVID, economic uncertainty, and ineffectual treatment make recovery that much more difficult. People are stressed to the degree that we have never seen before. Hence, we desperately need modalities that alleviate the stress response, which teaches us how to become more responsive and less reactive. It is virtually impossible to connect with others when one is locked into the fight-flight-freeze response. Luckily, there is ample research documenting the many benefits of practices like meditation and yoga. Meditation has been shown to lessen anxiety, stabilize blood pressure, and support immune function. Yoga improves circulation, cardio, and respiratory health, and balances the metabolism.
Addicts and alcoholics also need to understand the sociocultural dynamics that lead to their addiction. Psychoeducation should address the respective role(s) played by things like big pharma, economic globalization, and the prison-industrial complex in the current addiction crisis. Addicts need to be able to contextualize their experience, to understand how they became addicts in the first place. Very few treatment centers offer this type of education.
Rockland Recovery Treatment Center
These will be the three pillars of recovery at Rockland Recovery Treatment Center:
- Top-shelf 12-Step facilitation counseling
- Regular yoga and meditation
- A unique psycho-educational curriculum informed by dislocation theory
Finally, RRTC will go the extra yard to build community understanding the importance of recovery and connection. We will have a robust family program and integrated digital community; we will also make every effort at networking and supporting our alumni. Ultimately, healing the wounds of addiction comes down to rebuilding our communities and mending the social fabric. So reach out to us today at 855.732.4842.