I recently read an article and viewed a TED talk called Everything You Know about Addiction is Wrong” by Johann Harri, in which he states, “The opposite of addiction is not sobriety. The opposite of addiction is connection.” I found this statement so profound and interesting. There are numerous studies into why addiction happens; some say it comes from depression, others say a traumatic event is the cause and some say addiction is a disease and those who find themselves caught in the never ending cycle cannot help themselves. In fact, when we find someone who his caught up in addiction often the treatment involves isolation and detox, very contradictory to Mr. Harri’s statement.
Evidence has shown how essential healthy relationships and love are for brain development. A General Theory of Love, by Thomas Lewis, Fari Amini and Richard Lannon, psychiatry professors at the University of California, San Francisco examines this idea more. Their findings indicated the limbic systems of our brain are deeply affected by those closest to us. Our brain development (the way we use our pre-frontal cortex in decision making) is impacted deeply by the way connections are made from relationships at a very young age and continue to be developed into our adult life. Thinking about these findings, the statement,” the opposite of addiction is connection” makes more sense. Community is essential for anyone to thrive in this world. We were designed to connect with people and to rely on people. From the moment a baby is born their survival brain kicks in and they know to cry when they are hungry, tired, or need to be held, etc. What happens to infants when those needs aren’t met? The infant learns not to cry anymore because they realize it isn’t doing anything anyways, but they also, in most cases, stop interacting all together. What happens when an infant’s cries are met? They begin to feel secure that their needs will be met and begin to cry less and begin to develop other ways of interacting with people. See, from the beginning of our lives we require connections from people to truly begin to thrive.
Although it should be that everyone gets to begin life in an environment with healthy relationships, the reality is that isn’t always the case and because of this I think a good question for those who work in a “helping profession” would be “Do our programs provide someone the chance to find and create healthy relationships?” Specifically, for us at Light Up Hope, as we work primarily with individuals who grew up as orphans, we have to be aware of how essential healthy relationships are. The best program in the world cannot have successful graduates if they are required to do it all on their own. The saying often used when someone is raising a child, “it takes a village” that is true, but the reality actually is, we all need a village. We all need people with whom to connect that will allow us to love, grow, make mistakes, fail, succeed and go through life with. As I reflect on my own life, I know this is true. Many of my “successes” in life, would not have happened without those I am connected with, without the healthy relationships I was blessed to develop at a young age, which allowed me to grow and learn and taught me how to continue healthy relationships as an adult.
Building community is an essential component of Light Up Hope’s empowerment programs. The amazing thing about our brains is it’s never too late to begin making healthy connections. Our hope is by providing community based programming we can start a ripple approach to enriching the surrounding community.
by Robbin Brown
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