Elizabeth Dale Gilley
April 22, 2013
In consideration of biological, psychological, and environmental factors, and their affect upon individual addictive tendencies, let us use our imagination to take a brief tour of human evolution and society through time, and various changing cultural and environmental conditions. “Human beings are indeed descended from apes, and our nearest living relatives are the apes of Africa, the two species of chimpanzees in the genus Pan, and the gorillas, Gorilla. Chimpanzees and gorillas are conventionally classed together with the orangutans, Ponga, in the family Pongidae. Humans and their extinct relatives are placed in a separate family, the Hominidae.” (1) Of course, this is the human perspective. One day visiting life forms from other civilizations, from beyond our conceptual world, may have a different perspective and reclassify us, as monkeys too, or as hairless apes. The Moscow times recently reported that zookeepers have sent a chimpanzee to rehab in Russia after the chimp named Zhora began begging visitors for booze and cigarettes. Of course, just because an article appeared in print does not necessarily mean that it is either factual or accurate.
“If things had gone differently at any stage of our evolution, if climate had not changed as it did; if particular gene pools in particular places had not been exposed to particular pressures, then our own particular species or even our entire lineage would not have appeared.” (2) Imagine you are a time traveler, from the future going back in time as an observer, standing unnoticed, in the midst of human beings going about their natural activities in the time before history. As we look back over the last 5 million years of developmental history, of our evolving species, why is it hard to imagine addiction in the beginning of our species? Australopithicus afarenis Lucy, who left her footprints in volcanic ash 3.2 million years ago while crossing the African savannah, most likely was not on her way to pick up a dime bag. I dare say, addiction did not exist, then.
Can you imagine Homo erectus or Homo habilis fitting into our world today? They were walking upright, developing functional tools, initiating language, and mastering fire. Life was hard. It was survival of the fittest. There was no vast abundance of any resource other than nature and time. Sitting around the campfire at night for warmth, before retiring for a night’s rest, one could look up at the Milky Way and only wonder about the future of mankind. I don’t imagine they were engaging in repetitive self-destructive behaviors, like love addiction or gambling for the last scrap of meat. I dare say, addiction did not, yet, exist. What has changed to make some in modern society, self-destruct, and not act in their own best interest?
We have traces of evidence that allude to Atlantis and Lemuria, civilizations, lost lands, in the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, that met with catastrophic end, that we can neither prove, nor disprove, yet are possible. Yet, since they have been discussed and written about, they are within the scope of our conceptual awareness, and alter our frame of reference. We can only speculate about these cultures, their impact upon humanity and cultural evolution, and allude to advanced technological developments and perversions that might have brought about their demise. History may be repeating itself, as it appears to do from time to time, in human populations, with our self-destructive tendency to implode, after we have wrecked enough havoc on everything and everyone around us. What is apparent and evident, is that Homo sapiens, known to exist from the fossil record as early as 120,000 BC, were not evolving alone, but with other Hominoids, in response to developing human culture, society, changing life and environmental conditions.
Wear and tear around the pyramids, and the Sphinx, in Egypt was caused by water erosion, in times past, while today, it is surrounded by desert sand. As tribal groups migrated in search of food, some settled where natural resources where most plentiful. Multi-cultural cities were established at the juncture of continental connection in Africa and the Middle East, and between Europe and Asia. Life was still hard, but it was becoming a little easier, as skilled tradesmen and merchants were able to barter and trade with others, in the exchange of commodities and resources. Trade routes from the orient brought silk, medicinal and flavorful herbs from foreign lands, and evidently, cocaine from South America. We don’t know how it crossed the Atlantic. We presume by boat, but we cannot prove it. It is just a theory. The best we can do is disprove it. We do know with certainty that cocaine has been found in the mummified remains of Egyptian Royalty. Drug use had begun as medicinal, but drug abuse most likely had not, yet, gotten underway.
Agricultural societies began farming and with surplus of foods, fermentation set in, as microbial yeast fed on honey, potatoes, fruits and berries, and dispelled their waste product ethyl alcohol. As early as 9000 years ago, or 7000 BC, in what is today modern China, people were creating an alcoholic rice beverage. In the Sumerian and Egyptian cultures, which predate the Hebrew Bible, alcohol was used for medicinal purposes. (3) T As the novel fermentation concept spread, various cultures practiced the art of wine and beer making. Since supply was more abundant for the maker, he or she may have enjoyed the revelry and luxury of inebriation, thus creating along with the beer and wine, the potential for misuse.
As we progress along our tour of human addiction evolution, we arrive at the point of written history, which is his story, which is the male perspective. To gain perspective we might want to consider the woman’s perspective of world events concerning cultural evolution, and progression of individual tendency toward addiction. Opulence and luxury had previously been reserved for royalty, because the money was literally the King’s, who coined it. The power base was shifting, slightly, with new merchant wealth from free enterprise. By the Hellenic age of the Greek Empire, men had spare time for fun and games, which they called the Olympics, and for philosophy, enter Plato and Socrates. By 100 BC, alcohol was served by women at the typical Greek breakfast. (4)
Unfortunately with privilege and power, comes the potential for abuse. I dare say this was fertile ground for whatever seeds would be planted, potential for self-empowerment or self-destruction.
We continue our journey across the Adriatic, through time to arrive in classical Rome whose citizens believed that the mineral amethyst held special properties to help an individual find moderation in the use of alcohol. Just kilometers outside of Rome, in Pompeii, an elite men’s club and spa reveals custom and ritual through art. From the frescos and murals that Mount Vesuvius encapsulated in lava, we see beautifully painted representation of hedonistic, insatiable orgy. Pleasure!? Enjoying life, partaking in excess at times, being lavish with the abundant fruits of the good life, is the human dance of celebration. Who does not partake in pleasure that is custom? Excessive drinking and/or orgy on holiday? Nothing wrong here, not yet, at least, until we changed the rules.
Focus shifted from the worship of nature, from the sun god, Apollo or Zeus, with the creation of new religion, to a new son god. Vatican City solidified it’s power base through effort to control the masses, initiated the misnamed “holy” wars, hired assassins, the Knights of the Templar, who were known to enjoy hashish before their murderous rampage. In fact, the word assassin came from the root word hashish, which is made from the pollinated flower of marijuana. Continue through the dark ages of disease, war, starvation, poverty, plague and barbarians at the gate, (who wouldn’t need a drink?) until gentile society once again, reignites, and lifts her pretty, dainty, ornate head, in a rebirth, or renaissance, of old world cultural enlightenment. From the silly costumes of court, to the fabled emperor who wore no clothes, we understand that Homo sapien is subject to the whimsical fads of peer pressure. Socialized drinking standards are no exception.
For those with means, the good times were rolling, until reform was deemed necessary in the minds, and hearts of the puritan, less fortunate, less wealthy, majority of the population who did not have the monetary means to enjoy lavish excess anyway. Revolution was at hand. Happy hedonism was now considered a mortal sin, punishable by a life burning in hell. Society which had been class oriented, had previously been reserved for the elite courtiers, but now was dominated by the sheer force and majority rule of the starving populous. Society changed its collective mind, and its perspective. With French Huguenots, protestors following John Calvin, beginning to whisper in revolt of Catholicism, and the British bankrupt who were released from debtors prisons, with the stipulation that they leave lovely London, and never return, mass migration to the newly discovered Americas began. In fact, both North Carolina and Georgia, were at one time, debtors colonies, before the Revolutionary War. With the influx from Europe, came the same old wounded human spirit and it’s problems. Those that could afford it, drank for enjoyment, while some drank, in desperation, for relief.
A new component to the individual addictive tendency equation has been introduced. Reasons for drinking in past centuries had been: pleasure, custom, boredom, ease of sexual expression, preparation for display of aggression and pain management. Add to this equation desperation for relief from a life of oppression and hopelessness.
As we continue our journey through the centuries, we find ourselves standing in a tavern in Charleston, mid 1700’s. Can you envision the songs of revelry, from tired, hungry, horny drunken sailors who arrived in America’s ports of call, after months, or years at sea? Imagine the hardship of clearing fields from timber to build your house and plant crops. Labor was intensive. Heavy drinking was custom, in the Revolutionary War era when alcohol was consumed in much higher quantities than today, without as many complications. In gentile society, an inebriated gentleman was considered “in his cups,” by choice. Family style taverns and travelers bed and breakfasts are reflected in colonial Williamsburg, as the center of social activity, as America moved from infancy to the toddler stage, taking her first few steps toward establishing her own unique multi-cultural expression, which has become the cradle for future addictive tendency.
With civil war and reconstruction came dualistic fracture, that not only separated a nation by economic motivation, and geographic region, it also separated good church going folk from those despicable “low life” who lingered in salons with women of ill repute. Landowners had previously enjoyed the sexual favors of slaves, and mistresses, behavior that was considered common. The opium and cocaine epidemic of the 1890’s (5) brought issues to the forefront. Women began gaining a power base that they had not previously known. They aligned themselves with the church, and gained momentum for their cause by relying upon the power of religion, to challenge the status quo and enforce guidelines for appropriate behavior. Throughout history the Bible has been rewritten many times, as deemed appropriate by those in positions of authority. How nice for them, that they can create the illusion that challenging their authority is both blasphemous, and a direct challenge of God. Wives were attempting to rein in the freedom of male sexual expression that alcohol unleased. We all know the power of forbidden fruit. Men are created to procreate, to spread their seed and fertilize as many eggs as possible. Female imposed rules of monogamy cut against the grain. Society was dictating and attempting to enforce standards that go against our human nature.
The ground was fertile for the women’s movement and prohibition. Some decided they could pretend and placate their wives while at church on Sunday, but began to live a lie Monday through Saturday. In war time, and depression era, there was MONEY to be made from bootlegging, and through alcohol find relief from the pressures of life. Alcohol was carted through the underground sewers in New York City, and an underground mafia was established, in the necessary organization for protection and distribution of illegal alcohol. This movement expanded its product base to include fancy secret alcohol and gambling nightclubs. As the will to cut loose, party, and walk on the wide side increased, high risk behavior became associated with fun, adventure and exhilaration. An underground black market sprung up, cemented by the very legislation that sought to make it illegal. Independent spiritual movements for sobriety and well-being, impacted Bill Wilson and Dr. Robert Smith, in the formation of Alcoholics Anonymous, from which the Hazelden addiction recovery treatment stronghold grew.
Happy hedonism returned, and would expand its menu to gambling, prostitution, and the use of recreational drugs. The terms alcoholism and drug addiction were coined. We spoke them into existence, and with the new perspective, changed everyone’s frame of reference, as a barrage of new reports, books, television specials, and the war on drugs saturated American lives. The more we focused upon the problem the larger it grew, right along with profits.
The drug trade is a profitable business, on both sides of the law. Mafias became rivaled by South American and Asian cartels. BIG PHARMA would eventually out gun and out maneuver them, in a socially acceptable legal version of the drug trade, with their executives held high on a pedestal, instead of being susceptible to incarceration or execution. The American dream of achieving success through hard work, determination and cunning would hold up false gods and heroes, as role models, that were a marketer’s dream. We became a hypnotized lethargic society of worker bees, who after a hard day’s work, just wanted to come home, fall into a chair, in front of the television and become comatose, and on the weekend, push life to the max in seeking exhilaration. Add a desire to placate unpleasant stimuli, the need to be numb, desire for exhilaration, to relieve the mundane and peer pressure, to our expanding equation of individual addictive tendency.
The society and culture we have created, has taken a life of its own, and is now shaping and molding us. The pursuit of the American dream is no longer governed by the law of survival of the fittest, but by the law of cunning, in which the winner is the one with the most toys. Our biology, our miraculous evolving Homo sapien brain has made us susceptible to our own mental chaos, the illogical, mental distortion that allows us to convince ourselves that immediate gratification, one that is certain to cause long term detriment, is not only somehow okay, but imperative and crucial to our very existence.
In The Meaning of Addiction, An Unconventional View, Stanton Peele states “the addictive experience is the totality of effect produced by an involvement; it stems from pharmacological and physiological sources but take its ultimate form from cultural and individual construction of experience.” (6) we have altered our biological and neurological physiology, with the use of drugs, beginning with sugar as a child, adding caffeine, nicotine, others drugs of choice, as we mature, as well as all the chemical additives in our food, and toxins sprayed upon our crops. WE have changed our God given brains. Are we also creating and passing down, acquired genetic mutation? Have we lost our minds? “ Having pain, anxiety, or other negative emotional states relieved through a loss of consciousness or a heightened threshold of sensation is a primary component of addictive experience,” (7) according to Peele, but, in my opinion, this is just a beginning point, made possible by cultural conditioning.
Our fuzzy thinking is a marketer’s dream, to be exploited by anyone willing to lie, including our beloved and respected authority figure, in a medical money merry-go-round, that is our modern medical, pharmaceutical and addiction treatment industry. When the Meadows, in Wickenburg, Arizona, first began to treat addictive behaviors that were not drug related, they changed the face of modern addiction treatment. (8) Since that time, treatment protocol has been expanded to treat compulsive behaviors beyond sex and love addiction, to include gambling addiction, work addiction, compulsive eating, and spending, etc. The list of addictive behaviors is long, including addiction to negativity, rage, the internet, pornography, stealing, lying, etc. and it is getting longer. Twelve step groups have sprung up worldwide for the treatment of almost, every imaginable, condition that can become a compulsion. The public saturation by Big Pharma and Addiction Treatment industry marketing campaigns are creating the platform, as they await the lucrative increase in product sales. They are creating the market.
Why is it that some women will risk their safety by having sex with strangers? Are they delusional, seeking the illusion of love at all cost? Why is it that a man, who cannot pay his bills, nor support his family, will gamble the grocery money, again? Most individuals do not have a tendency toward addictive experience. But those of us who do, have similar experience in a broad range of activity. We are addicted to more. Have we gone mad? We are not lacking in positive alternatives. What makes a person self-destruct? The use of some drugs exasperate the problem and intensify the symptoms that they are initially sought to ease. Peele states “This is the paradoxical component to addictive drinking – that it intensifies negative sensation that rinking is sought to relieve – is a crucial component in addiction.” (9) I would change the word drinking, in that sentence, to thinking. This is the paradoxical component, to addictive THINKING. Thought precedes action. Our thinking is sometimes irrational. This is a problem of logic, or a lack there of.
There is not only money to be made in creating addiction, there is money to be made in the treatment of addiction, especially if we just treat the symptoms, and not the cause. We have come a long way in understanding how we have created addiction with our focus, as an evolving, changing human adaptation to the experience of life beyond one’s control. But where do we go from here? How do we empower an individual to take back their power, when the very treatment available, disempowers them?
When it became clear that drugs themselves were not the problem, movements for the decriminalization of marijuana, and its eventual legalization with medical prescription have passed in a few states. Most recently Colorado passed a bill that would allow for possession for recreational use without medical prescription. We have the power to vote. Some are utilizing that power. We have the power to stop incessant brainwashing that tempts us to act in disregard of our own best interest. We have alternative choices for pain, and a banquet of rewarding activity, from which to choose, that does not cause our demise. But we need to spread the news, because the very system that has been established to cure us, is killing us and taking away our options.
Our modern society has witnessed drugs that were initially used for medicinal purposes becoming recreational drugs. There is no reason that this should not be, when used responsibly. “Having pain, anxiety, or other negative emotional states relieved through a loss of consciousness or a heightened threshold of sensation is a primary component of addictive experience; for this reason, all effective pain relievers will inevitably be addicting for some people,” according to Stanton Peele (10). Not for everyone, not for the majority of individuals who behave rationally and act responsibly. There are many reasons that some individuals experience an out of control abuse problem and engage in addictive behaviors. I believe these tendencies are socially acquired, learned, and habituated by our culture until they become a conditioned, adaptation of personality in coping response. They can be unlearned.
We are experiencing the bitter fruit of our own creation. Some of us are paying for poison, with our very lives. Through our lack of action, in addressing an out of control corporate controlled cultural climate that sells us lies, by allowing our own culture and society to go unchecked and unrestrained, we are the problem. The more we focus upon disease, and addictive tendency, the larger the problem becomes, as our children, the next generation become susceptible to the diseased soul cancer we have created. Addiction has become like the tiny hungry plant in the Little Shop of Horrors that grew to consume our lives with its insatiable appetite.
I say we should face our fears, stare the enemy in the eye and call him a liar, whether that be the addicted voice inside our heads, or the manipulative half-truths of the addiction treatment status quo. I say we take back our power and stand in our truth. I say we check ourselves, our words, and proclaim our POWERFULNESS, rather than powerlessness. Even if we did not create the problem ourselves, even if it seems too big to tackle, we can be the solution. However, the same low vibrational frequency that created the problem, is not the vibrational frequency that will cure the problem. Let us focus on wellness and prevention, rather than disease. There are infinite possibilities within our reach. WE ARE CO-CREATORS. LET US BE MORE RESPONSIBLE IN WHAT WE MANIFEST.