I find it incredible that addiction is still such a taboo subject in our society. We’ve sent human beings to the moon and mapped the human genome, but when it comes to the struggle with the bottom of the bottle, things are apparently not as easy.
In our mixed-up world, someone who struggles with headaches needs -- and gets -- some aspirin, while someone who struggles with pain of a deeper nature often reaches for the bottle of booze or pills in order to heal less obvious wounds. Our culture doesn’t understand that kind of pain. Our culture takes that pain and makes it a moral failing, keeping the addict from feeling like they can reach out for help without being shamed.
That means that addicts can go around and around a bruising Moebius strip full of shame and loneliness for years before something convinces them they need help: you’re afraid of the pain, so you numb the pain, but the high keeps slipping further and further from your fingers, and the pain never really goes away. An addict’s pain is like a snowball falling down a mountain: by rock bottom, it envelops everything around it -- friends, family members, and sometimes the addict’s own life.
Recovering addicts will often tell you that if haven’t been down that hill yourself, you just can’t understand what it means to want that high so completely that you are willing to hurt yourself for it -- or the feelings that come afterwards when you choose to face your problems head-on.
Writing and reading fantasy can be addicting, too, in its own special way. By cracking open a book or writing our own stories, engaging with a fandom or putting in a DVD, we can escape the world around us and our own very real physical and psychological pain. We can be heroes. We can win the battle. We can save the world. We can be the secret princess or the knight that saves the land or the very center of the narrative. A good story can be a heady, wonderful high, can’t it? Hasn’t everyone who spends their days on the factory floor or whipping spreadsheets into shape wondered, at least once, what it was like to be the Chosen One? "But, Karen," you might say, "that kind of escapism is mostly harmless."
What if it wasn't?
Be careful where you stand when you’re on the top of that hill...
Provocative and very thoughtful, Karen! Thanks!