Addiction: A Systemic Perspective

Sometimes, a piece of writing presents a view that is both so obvious yet so refreshing that it changes the way you think about an entire phenomena.  Johann Hari’s recent article, The Likely Cause of Addiction, and It is Not What You Think, had that effect on me. Connection is a theme that has longstanding meaning in my life, yet I never considered addiction to be a disease of disconnection.

Rather than explain his thesis, which he does very well on his own, I’d like to reflect on the way this article takes a systemic view of what is often considered a personal problem. By doing so, it opens up possibilities for fundamental transformation in the way we view addiction and recovery: From individual to collective, from blame to compassion, from isolation to connection, from quick fix to fundamental solution. 

Hari writes, “The opposite of addiction is not sobriety. It is human connection.”

Here’s perhaps the most powerful statement in the article. It points toward a solution that is so simple in concept yet so incredibly hard in practice: “We need now to talk about social recovery—how we all recover, together, from the sickness of isolation that is sinking on us like a thick fog.”

If you have anyone in your life who struggles with addiction, and most of us do, please read this article and think carefully about its implications.