This morning was a free morning so Kristen, Laura, Sky, and I went down to the waterfront to do some last minutes shopping. After we returned we went to another township to assist in the after school feeding of the children and then played with them. We had a pretty scary encounter as one girl walked up with a knife behind her back and by the time the professor found out, the children were handing off the knife discretely across the playground. When we got back to the house we had a short academic session on the effect of connection on different addictions, and most of the group is going out to karaoke tonight.
What I really want to talk about is the academic session we had today. We watched a TED talk on how we are getting addiction all wrong. There was a study done with rats in which they were given one bottle with only water and one bottle with water laced with drugs. They found the the rats went to the one with drugs over and over until they finally died. Thankfully, scientists realized this isn’t a realistic set-up. This time, they put the same two bottles on the cage, but also put other rats in the cage, tunnels, houses, or in other words, plenty of room for connection. What they found was that the rats almost never used the bottle with drugs in it, and that the overdose rates were at almost 0%. This idea that addiction, to anything, not just drugs, is more complex than a chemical problem is shifting the way that people are, and should, handle addiction and life. What people are discovering is that addiction isn’t just a chemical process, but more an inability to bare with one’s life, or lack of connection sometimes.
I know that this is going to open up a lot of room for argument; however, I want you to do your own research on Portugal’s drug policy before raising a fist. Portugal decriminalized ALL drugs, from marijuana to crack, and put an emphasis on rehabilitation and connection instead of punishment and now their addiction and overdose rates are among the lowest in the world. Essentially what their government does is takes the money that they would have spend on punishing said addict and puts it into making that person’s life meaningful and making connections for them. Instead of funneling money into a criminal justice system, they may offer to pay half of a person’s wages at an employer for a year. This support and kindness not only motivates the addict to become well, but doesn’t demoralize them in the process.
So where does this come full circle for me today? Dr. Rush discussed with us how some of the students we played with today could have been raped last night. For some, the kindness we showed today and the act of just playing with them may have been the first little bit of light they’ve seen in months, or even years. It’s never the demoralizing, blaming, or shaming that gets a person to change, but usually the kindness, and for some of those kids, the kindness they felt today may be what gets them through the next few days or even months.
With this being said, I want to bring this back to America with me where the circumstances may not be as dramatic. When I’m home, I won’t be faced with people who are in poverty and violent situations; however, that doesn’t mean that they deserve less kindness.
I also encourage anyone who is still reading this to consider how your actions effect people. You never know what your words could do for someone, both good and bad. Something as small as asking someone how their day was, or just giving them a chance to be heard, could be that glimpse of hope and kindness that could prevent so many adverse health outcomes and addictions whether they be to substances, relationships, technology, etc. Opposite to this, what you may think is “tough love” towards someone could be breaking what feels like the last bond that person has, and could send them searching for any other connection they can find.
In the end we are all human and we all want a bond/connection to something, and we will find it one way or another. Whether it be drugs, alcohol, our phones, our followers, our Facebook friends, or our toxic relationships, we will hold onto whatever makes us “feel” something in life, because it’s better than feeling nothing at all. If all of us could put our phones down and open our ears for a few minutes maybe, just maybe, we could become addicted to conversations and each others’ stories again instead.
P.S. if everyone could just keep me in your thoughts, I’ve got a nasty respiratory bug and I’m not feeling the best. Thanks in advance <3.