Everything You Think You Know About Addiction Is Wrong: TED Talk by Johann Hari

If you haven’t watched this TED talk by Johann Hari it is well worth it. Hari is also the author of an excellent book: Chasing The Scream.

Everything You Think You Know About Addiction is Wrong

Hari says addiction has more to do with a lack of strong human connections and happiness than with the substances themselves. When we or rats (he reflects on a rat-based experiment) are well connected with friends and well-grounded in society we are not tempted by addictions. For example, US Vietnam vets picked up a heroin addiction when they were isolated while in war. Yet they were able to stop using heroin easily (95% quit cold-turkey after months of heavy use) when the war was over. They went back to the states and re-entered their well-connected lives and simply quit. No withdrawals, no cravings.

Watch The Ted Talk By Johann Hari

Research From The Ted Talk By Johann Hari

In the rat experiment, rats were left alone in a cage and given access to drugged water. They would drink the drugs until they overdosed almost 100% of the time. Then there were rats who were also given access to drugged water yet were put in cages with other rats, good food, and lots of fun activities. In this case, the rats left the drugged water completely alone almost 100% of the time.

The Opposite of Addiction

Hari’s main point is that the opposite of addiction is connection. And instead of stigmatizing and ostracizing addicts we should love them and re-connect them into society.

I will add that instead of stigmatizing ourselves and beating ourselves up, we need to love and be gentle with ourselves. Addiction, with its cycle of self-loathing, robs us of the ability to love ourselves.

The question then is how do you love yourself when you also hate yourself because you can’t control your addiction? It’s a toughie. And scare tactics, beating yourself up, and making yourself feel guilty just don’t work. I believe all of those things make you want to change but don’t give you the tools to change.

We Need Connection

If we look at this TED talk by Johann Hari and agree with his idea that we actually form a bond with our alcohol in order to get relief from loneliness and we make it a substitute for actual connection than what happens when we decide we want to ‘break up’ with booze? Why isn’t it easy? Why can it seem practically impossible? It may sound weird but I think of the problem a little bit like a bad relationship. Everyone around you can see the situation objectively, they can plainly see that the relationship isn’t doing you any favors but you are too attached. Mostly you are too afraid of life alone or without this person. You are afraid of change and afraid of the unknown.

I felt very similar about my alcohol, afraid to live without it. Surely I can make this work? I have to be strong enough to moderate because I can’t imagine a life without drinking. How will I relax? How will I socialize? Will I enjoy sex? What will I do if I don’t drink/ smoke? How will I dull my anxiety? My pain? How will I be creative? How will I deal with life? (etc.) With both the boyfriend and the booze I believe you have to re-train the brain and learn to see them again objectively. In their true light. You must strip away all the false things I believed in order to realize that the reasons you think you desire them are false and that you will truly be better off without. That’s not easy. It can be nearly impossible to do alone.

This Naked Mind

That is in a big part why I wrote a book. It, through the process of reading it, does exactly that. Reveals the true nature of alcohol and therefore removes your desire for it. Similar to how emotionally attached you are to a stranger you return to the state of a non-drinker. No emotional attachment to alcohol. Then, and only then, can you make a logical, rational, fact-based decision about its role in your life.

Now I see that all my fears about leaving my drinking behind were completely unfounded and my life is indeed much better (to my immense surprise!) without the booze.

Find Connection beyond a Ted Talk

If you’re interested in finding connections like this Ted talk by Johann Hari suggests – join us in the forever free Alcohol Experiment.