Using Connection to Transform Addiction

By Jonathan Davis on Thursday April 11th, 2019

Image: Toa Heftiba

The Key to Our Mental and Emotional Wellbeing

Right now an exciting new perspective on addiction is emerging. Johann Harri, author of Chasing The Scream, recently captured widespread public interest with his Ted talk Everything You Know About Addiction Is Wrong, where he concluded with this powerful statement:

The opposite of addiction is not sobriety. The opposite of addiction is connection. – Johann Harri

These sentiments are augmented by a growing number of experts, including addiction specialist Dr. Gabor Maté, who cites ’emotional loss and trauma’ as the core of addiction. Compare this ’emotional loss’ to Johan Harri’s idea about lack of connection and it is clear they’re talking about a similar emotional condition.

Limbic Resonance

If connection is the opposite of addiction, then an examination of the neuroscience of human connection is in order. Published in 2000, A General Theory Of Love is a collaboration between three professors of psychiatry at the University of California in San Francisco. A General Theory Of Love reveals that humans require social connection for optimal brain development and that babies cared for in a loving environment are psychological and neurologically ‘immunised’ by love. When things get difficult in adult life, the neural wiring developed from a love-filled childhood leads to increased emotional resilience in adult life. Conversely, those who grow up in an environment where loving care is unstable or absent are less likely to be resilient in the face of emotional distress.

How does this relate to addiction? Gabor Maté observes an extremely high rate of childhood trauma in the addicts he works with and trauma is the extreme opposite of growing up in a consistently safe and loving environment. He asserts that it is extremely common for people with addictions to have a reduced capacity for dealing with emotional distress, hence an increased risk of drug dependence.

Humans require social connectionHumans require social connection. Image: Timur Repin

How Our Ability to Connect is Impaired by Trauma

Trauma is well-known to cause interruption to healthy neural wiring, in both the developing and mature brain. A deeper issue here is that people who have suffered trauma, particularly children, can be left with an underlying sense that the world is no longer safe, or that people can no longer be trusted. This erosion (or complete destruction) of a sense of trust, that our family, community, and society will keep us safe, results in isolation – leading to the very lack of connection Johann Harri suggests is the opposite of addiction. People who use drugs compulsively do so to avoid the pain of past trauma and to replace the absence of connection in their life.

Social Solutions to Addiction

The solution to the problem of addiction on a societal level is both simple and fairly easy to implement. If a person is born into a life that is lacking in love and support on a family level, or if due to some other trauma they have become isolated and suffer from addiction, there must be a cultural response to make sure that person knows that they are valued by their society (even if they don’t feel valued by their family). Portugal has demonstrated this with a 50% drop in addiction thanks to programs that are specifically designed to re-create connections between the addict and their community.

Personal Solutions to Addiction

Ask not why the addiction, but why the pain. – Gabor Maté

Recreating bonds is essential in the long term, but human connection is crucial in the immediate task of clearing trauma. When a person decides to finally face and feel the pain that they may have been avoiding for years or decades, the first steps cannot be done alone.

You have to be with that pain, but you have to have support. – Gabor Maté

Johann Hari: Everything you think you know about addiction is wrong.

This support is essentially the reintroduction of the care and support which is so important in creating the neural structure of emotional-resilience in early life. By doing so, we begin to replace what was missing, and thanks to the revelations of neuroplasticity we now know that you can, in fact, teach an old dog new tricks; neural rewiring is possible in adult life. Though it is essential for addicts to feel supported in order to finally face and feel the pain they have been trying to avoid, this is ultimately an inner journey that must be taken by the individual.

Whatever you do, don’t try and escape from your pain, but be with it. Because the attempt to escape from pain creates more pain. – The Tibetan Book Of Living And Dying

The Roots of Healing

When we are young, our parents care for us until we are able to do it for ourselves, after all, they won’t be there to do it for us forever. Perhaps on an emotional level, this is also true: our parents love us so that we may learn to do it for ourselves. The programs in Portugal have demonstrated that addicts do remarkably well when they feel valued by their community. Whether they realise it or not, the Portuguese are creating positive limbic modeling by valuing the addicts so they can learn to value themselves. When people are there to provide loving support for an addict wishing to face the emotional pain they carry, they are loving them and caring for them until they can learn to love themselves. With this in mind, perhaps the neural-wiring of emotional resilience developed through the loving reflection of another, once fully developed, could simply be called self-love.

How do you feel about this article? Join the conversation.

Jonathan Davis

Amplifying personal healing and growth for collective evolution.




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89 Responses to Using Connection to Transform Addiction

  1. I am having a really hard time understanding why I don’t hear more about addiction increases being related to the resource stress of the natural environment. In my view, the natural environment being “abused” through over consumption and increased population is a big part of creating the despair “hole” addicts feel. If we exceed the carrying capacity of the earth, does our brain turn to self destruction by nature? Is hard core addiction really just pleasurable suicide? It is the same in my view to watching someone abuse your birth mother. It’s gonna create despair, and the brain appears to crave self destruction. I wonder if addiction is the precursor to population collapse. I wonder if there are historical accounts of the increase in addiction in cultures facing collapse. I wonder if one day the scholars will look back at us and write “The culture looked to the individual or the family for the cause, when the degradation of the entire living ecosystem was the root cause in destroying mental health across the planet. They missed the connection.” Is addiction and self destruction an unconscious instinct?

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  4. Yes, and this is not new to me. What I would like to call attention to is the limited “forms of addiction ” that we consider addiction. Do we consider losers addicts? Under and over achievers? Do we consider jokers addicts? Do we consider roller coasters addicts? Or people prone to accidents? Attention deficit? Hiders? The quiet ones? Self sabotagers? Chronic empaths?
    Addicts ot not?? Or will addiction remain alcoholism and drug abuse?

    • Gabor Mate certainly speaks of his personal addiction to shopping for classical music CD’s. His definition of addiction is broad. Dr Maté defines addiction as any behaviour or substance that a person uses or takes part in that has negative consequences.

  5. The real connection that is missing is the connection to God. People come in and out of each other’s lives. There must be spirtual inner work done to truly heal. The only sober/clean people who have the longest success rate are the ones who allowed God to work through them.

    • Prof. Stan Grof speaks about addiction as one of the forms of spiritual crisis or emergency as discussed in transpersonal psychotherapy. He suggests that the core disconnection is our sense of separation from the underlying unity or oneness of the universe that so many people have described from mystical experiences. Those who are religiously inclined describe this as god.

  6. That will create a different addiction… to connection… again dependency to others… Meditation as the discovery of the deep human nature/mind and existence does get rid of any addiction, cutting them from the roots…

    • I been using Heroine since i was 17 and i’m now 35 got clean and stayed clean for 7 years then relapsed 3 years ago and i have now just gone 15 days but to be honest I’ll struggle for the rest of my life its such a horrible drug but it fills a hole..

        • dont be sorry. I dealt with it enough times i know theres light at the end of the tunnel and u can be the person u were before i just have to leave everything and everyone behind which i done many times but when u have family in that unhealthy place u left behind and u go back it always ends the same.. anyway onwards n upwards thanks 🙂

  7. Most addicts have known this for years. I was a mistake, although there is not one person in my family circle who openly & honestly wants to admit to this. Being the youngest of three boys. Eight years between me &my eldest brother, seven years between me & the next. Obviously my mum & dad where only planning on having two children. So I was unwanted. Dad left my mum when she was seven months pregnant. My mother was convinced by family & friends she was carrying a baby girl, which my mum desperately wanted. She already had two boys. So on her own she gave birth to me. When she was informed of my gender she rejected me. I love my mum & she did her best to hold it together. Mum went home & left me at the hospital for 7 days. Not one person other then my grandfather, my dad’s dad came to see me in that week. On the eighth day mum returned to get me. Thankfully! Mum, I believe suffered a severe case of post natal depression. Thirty five kilometres from town, no licence no car no support. I think she had very valid reasons for leaving me there. This though I think had a significant effect on the rest of my life. Growing up I can’t ever recall anyone giving me any effect on. I was never told I was loved. Was never cuddled. I really felt like I was an unwanted child, but I continued on in silence about my thoughts on how all this was affecting me. Having dramatic impacts on my entire life. Age 4 I was severely burnt by boiling hot water. From the belly button to the knees. From the age of 6 I was being groomed by a child rapist. Age 10 I was dragged into a shed and violently rapped kicked & punched, spat on & told that nobody wanted me. And that I would die whilst I slept if anyone ever found out. To this day I still hate falling asleep. My eldest brother & my dad would use me for a punching bag. Even when I’d done nothing to warrant any punishment I would still be punched & kicked by my own brother & father. By age 15 I’d become an intravenous drug user. Heroin, amphetamines, cocaine, cannabis. Alcohol, nicotine, caffeine.
    Anything that increased my heart rate would make me feel better then I did.
    Today I have no connections. I am still an addict. I am now 42 & feel as though I will live with my addictions for life. I have six beautiful children whom I love & adore. Two failed relationships. My three eldest were taken away an alienated from me by there vindictive hurtful mother. The next three being boys who have now been stolen from me as I was there primary carer. My youngest was stolen from he’s mother at three hours old & FACS the NSW Government department has not once let me meet or have any contact with him since they stole him. My other two boys where stolen in the middle of school, no goodbye no nothing. It’s like they were kidnapped. Not knowing there whereabouts or where they are is devastating to a recovering addict. Seeking help for my addictions from those who offered assistance has been used against me to suggest I’m a danger to my children. They were those connections I was missing. I’ve now spiraled down to where I was before my two older boys came into my care. Not one person wants to admit the part they played in shaping myself into a full blown drug addict. Consistently I’m made feel like a dirty junkie when in actual fact I’m the total opposite. I am employed and somehow maintain the ability to strive towards the personal goals I have. Even in the face of so much adversity I struggle forward. No support from anywhere, so I continue on this socially unexcepted path of an addict. When your entire life is full of so much sadness & misery, anything that makes you feel good about who & what you are is worth while. This up hill battle I’ve been fighting for 42
    years is taking its toll on me. Fear of falling fast asleep doesn’t help the situation either. Why is it, if there’s anyone out there that can explain this mess in my head, that there was so much influence by others, the way it moulded me & what it shaped me into was not entirely by choice. Yet I’m ridiculed to the full extent by those who hurt me. I’m so alone & have no support or help from anywhere. With a strength I didn’t know I had I’m somehow still holding down a job whilst dealing with these emotions that sometimes cripple me & stop me in my tracks. My habits are overwhelming me in my endeavour to deal with these feelings I’m suffering from. I need those much needed connections back to reverse my addictions again. Surprisingly the intellects have got it right. When your appreciated genuinely loved unconditionally your cravings for your addictions decrease. I’m scared cause with the loss & alienation from my children is making those addictions worse then ever. What do I do???

  8. This is so important to hear! “I love you. You’re not alone. I’m here for you.” Instead of sobriety, focus on connection. I’m sharing this with everyone I know! Thank you for following your heart and discovering what our hearts really want!

  9. I read this today and it is important: Nothing is so insufferable to man as to be completely at rest without passions, without business, without diversion, without study. He then feels his nothingness, his forlornness, his insufficiency, his dependence, his weakness, his emptiness. There will immediately arise from the depth of his heart weariness, gloom, sadness, fretfulness, vexation, despair.

  10. Always fascinated by the way that some professionals in this field will appropriate outcomes from AA, repackage and rebrand them as if they were new – and will then criticise AA as part of their product differentiation! A la Peele, Dodes, Trimpey, Mates (although I thought that Ellis’ materials in this field actually added to the body of knowledge and practice, despite being in part built upon observation of AA outcomes).

    Hari doesn’t count. He just seems like a shameless opportunist.

  11. I tend to agree with this but what about those addicts that come from “normal, loving families”? Or is it just there are always exceptions to the rule, so to speak?

    • I am not sure I know what a “normal” family is… we all grow up negotiating a complex web of risk and protective factors. In my experience those with addiction who say early family life was great often have spent so much time living in their head – disconnected from their body and emotions – that painful early family experiences don’t register – that is, until the therapeutic work I mention below is done.

  12. Everything we think we know about addiction is NOT wrong… in truth science has been uncovering and publishing on this stuff for decades. What IS wrong with how we approach addiction is the idea that it can be simplified into just one thing like connection. Or that addiction is just a brain disease. Or that it is really about underlying adverse childhood experiences. In truth, addiction is all these things. And what makes treating addiction not so simple is that to experience rewarding connections with people, developmental capacities most often constricted in childhood must be developed. The therapy is relational, often slow, and emotionally attuned to the client. There is no one approach that works better than all others, but there are approaches that get the job done better than other approaches. For example, AEDP, Sensorimotor Psychotherapy, attachment psychotherapy and others all help close the gap between clients chronological age and their emotional (IQ) age by being attuned to the body and emotion. Talk therapy, CBT and others have there place, but often don’t help clients learn to “connect” with others in emotionally mature ways. For more check out my blog: http://www.addictionhelp.org (all free content!)

  13. I am new here, but does anyone at “Disqus’ or “UpLift” review these posts and what is on them? Very curious. Thank you in advance…………

  14. I think he nailed it.We never think about the ‘roots’ of why someone overeats/drinks and sadly, many do not know ‘why’ they overeat/drink, etc. IT is hard to make someone ‘unaware of their feelings and emotions’ to be aware. First there is the thought, coupled with the emotion, then action. So, ” i feel lonely’, and thus ‘am lonely’, and feel: lonely, fearful, frustrated, angry, sad, etc. and action: eat/drink/sex/gamble anything to not feel. So, if we can work on FEELING our feelings from a young age, and its okay to be afraid, fearful, sad, and this too shall pass, that all feelings are ours. own it, but we dont. Took 50 yrs to be aware and ‘feel’ my feelings. But still turn to food (and as clinician, know full well i am doing it, yet still do it). Am on a path, but stories like this that are helpful. Funny thing: a Theory to Love is on my bedstand. IT is THE hardest read on the planet. I have heavy science background and boy, oh boy, very hard read. Choppy and words I have never seen ever. Thus, its like mud to read each page. But, this talk was delightful. But meditation, connecting daily with humans, being outside in nature regardless of weather, and not using FB , twitter, cell phone (except when needed ) is key. And…… helping our teens not to be on cell 24/7. They do not talk ‘to ‘ each other anymore. Scary………. Thanks for being here.

  15. Facing the pain, not denying the hurt and the loss and NOT trying to escape it or dull it or cover it with behaviors or substances…that is to me what makes the difference between health and addiction. There is so much of the….change=loss=feelings of pain…at the HEART of addiction! And learning about grief and having the tools to grieve in healthy ways is at the heart of BOTH preventing AND of treating addiction! Healthy grieving is about accepting the reality of the happening and the pain! Telling the story. Making it real. Feeling the feelings! Only by doing this can we begin to build a new realty which includes the loss and allows the pain. And allows us also to work through it all! Then with support and practice, we can find a way to let go and to reinvest ourselves in life, in community…in CONNECTIONS!!. The issue isn’t whether or not to grieve…this just happens regardless! The issue is whether to grieve in healthy ways or unhealthy ways…which side of the mountain to head down! And denying the loss and the painful feelings is s slippery slope. You need something to dull the pain, a behavior or a substance. But it wears off, the pain surfaces, and you have to use more…repeating this over and over until addiction takes over your life, and possesses you! Life is full of change, and each change creates loss…even the chosen changes!! With loss comes feelings of pain, deep spiritual pain when we talk about the loss of loved ones, or about the loss of betrayal in abuse! Yet we don’t teach grief! We don’t teach about change, and we could! Starting with our children, who go through many changes even in their early years. Until we start looking at this and realize it’s at the core of so many issues and so easily stacks up in life so cause complicated grief issues, we will continue to have those who seek to deny their feeling, their mental and emotional pain from life happenings! And no amount of drug therapy or counseling and rehab will help in the long run. Rehab is proven ineffective for many! It’s now mostly about cloistering people away from the substance, not dealing with the why’s of choosing to use. How does addiction stop…when the pain of USING becomes higher than the pain of facing our losses and feelings! And community is needed to support those who choose to stop this destructive cycle.

  16. The personal relationship missing, the love connection , has merits. The value of the individual and how much God loved and sacrificed for them was demonstrated in John 3:16. If this Biblical verse could be competently shared to children, at a tender age, they would grow up with the inner confidence how much they are loved. And God, if asked, could be the only one trusted to supply all their needs, physical and emotional. It is expected of the human race to work hand in hand with God to meet these daily needs, too. God not only speaks to the individual, but to all the nations, too, John 3:17. Unto us a child was born, His name shall be Wonderful and Prince of Peace, KING OF kings, our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. ISIAH 9:6—

    • We should remember though that this is really picking and choosing verses … the basis of Christian religion in the end being that we are all absolutely fundamentally broken first of all, thus requiring God/Christ’s intercession & forgiveness on our behalf … and from there, there is boundless judgement and argument over what is or is not acceptable to God … a single verse (John 3:16) is not the whole picture, and the religion is as likely to create negative emotional dynamics as positive.

  17. completely awesome stuff. so glad things are evolving and people arent taking this as a competition between the get high culture or “normal” people and the whatever who cares culture of “addicts”. its about our common humanity. i have seven years or recovery in N.A. right now. i had five years before and went back out for ten then came back. why? i never felt connected, really. i felt as connected to using and users as i did to N.A. back then because I did it do be accepted by N.A. and to get the courts off my back. but did i really feel accepted deep down? no. honestly i didnt really address it. it was all about social acceptability and satisfying others, I never really worked on how I accepted myself and how I dealt with acceptance from others. I grew up in the Detroit of the riots, murder, drugs, divorce, moving all the time, all that shit. i was always trying to fit in, but i dont fit in. i’m me now and i fit in with me, and if i can fit in somewhere, thats great, but it was about fitting in with myself first and then taking that person out and finding people who could accept him. people without drug problems dont understand stuff like that. so what. what matters is that I understand it. again, I am really really glad people are starting to see things different and hopefully we can get even more people to stop poisoning themselves.

  18. The problem for most of us is that we can’t trust addicts. They lie, they steal. For some reason I have had a number of friends who were addicted to heroin. But they maintained basically normal lives and normal connections and they did not lie (beyond the normal level) or steal. On the other hand I grew up across the street form the local heroin dealing center in our white neighborhood (it was protected by the police). Twice my friends and I found dead bodies from overdosing in the big empty lot we played in. Some of my friends had older brothers who were addicted (and very talented) who did steal everything they could from their families (including my friends) and lied (charmingly) all the time. My way of dealing with them was to be kind but very distant. Most of us need to protect ourselves form exploitation even when we recognize teh pain behind the addiction and the negative behaviors that often accompany addiction.

  19. I agree with the premise of this article. I grew up in a loving home and enjoyed having friends i later realized I loved. But I always had a longing to withdraw into myself, which I often did, and during these withdrawals I always felt a strange bliss and had wonderful dreams (I have never taken drugs, including prescription drugs, except for antibiotics twice for a week each; I am 75; I don’t drink). In my old age I have managed to make some new friendly acquaintances (I am peripheral to their lives and they to mine, but we enjoy each other’s company). These new people in my life are in their 2o’s and 30’s. Our frequent meetings are peasant and meaningful (I am an idea person and love hearing other people,’s ideas as well as expressing my own) and often humorous (I can be very funny, and so can some of them). But right now I haven’t talked with anyone for over three weeks and I feel great. My enduring “friendships” are with the characters in the novel that these characters are pushing me to write. Incidentally I am often told that I should write about the many life stories I tell in conversations. But I am totally unable to write about myself and only can only write about imagined characters who are very different from each other and from me. They do reflect an aspect of me but otherwise they are not me at all.

    My overall point is that “connection” can take many forms and can vary by culture. I come from a culture where “the inner life” is important. It took me years to realize that I suffered two chlldhood traumas (if trauma is measured by emotional pain). Neither was in family. One had to do with a kid who was obsessed with me, and it ended very badly for him. I never told alone about this until recently. The pain I felt for what he did to himself over me has long since been diminished. The other came from reading, on my own in about grade 3, a particularly cruel and demonic treatment of a black slave on a plantation. That pain stays with me, especially when I realize that I only suffered the pain vicariously while others actually suffer this type of treatment or have ancestors who did.

  20. I completely agree with contents of the article. Opposite of addcition is not sobriety but connection. Root cause of addiction is running from pain. I am myself tobacco additct since 35 years and this statement resonates with me. Thanks for your work, Johann harri & Gabor Mate and UPLIFT.

  21. this is the opinion of someone who has never been addicted – so although he is observed it and talked to lots of addicts….he actually can only theorize about it…..most people I have ever met who try to get clean can not learn to just take drugs in moderation….so this means that it is like a disease for many addicts…..and no matter how much counselling and love the person receives they are still allergic to the drugs….. how come loads of Narcotics Anonymous members develop as a person, mature over 10 or 20 years and clean and when they hit the drugs again- they go back to the same old 5 times a day drug habit that they had before the counselling and love?

    • I’m the author of the article and I have personally struggled with addiction. I wrote it because it is a message that I wish to amplify based on my personal experience. Nowhere in the article does it suggest that people who struggle with addiction can engage with drugs in the same way as everyone else, i.e. casual use. To answer your last question: i’m not saying this approach is a magical cure, i’m saying it is a much better approach than what is being used in most of the world, though not perfect.

  22. My experience tells me that addictions and habituations are all diversions from the various types of pain that emanate from the workings of the mind. And they aren’t limited to illegal activity, such as drugs They can be food, sex, rock and roll, the internet, movies and TV, work, exercise, sleep, etc. Of course lack of connection – with one’s self and with others – is one of the RESULTS of the malfunctioning of the mind. But there are many more issues raised in the mind that connections alone cannot solve. And the primary one is the pain of unworthiness that the mind inflicts on itself. So many people cannot connect with others, no matter how open the others are, because they feel unworthy, incompetent, unlovable… NOT ok.
    The outer connections that appear to give worthiness (but can also be taken away!) cannot be a substitute for the inner EXPERIENCE of worthiness. And that is an INSIDE job and an individual one for each of us. And that is where meditation becomes a key to the fading away of addictions.

  23. My Favorite Rant
    Ever since our Sixties open-door ranches brought in people with all the ailments,
    mainly alcoholism. loneliness in various forms, unresolved negative emotions, I
    have searched for what in my exaggerated way I call ‘a universal panacea.’
    I also had personal reasons also for searching, because over my life, from age
    two and beyond. I have experienced that ‘hollow feeling in the pit of the stomach’
    over and over, which seems the main symptom of feelings of guilt, inadequacy, etc.
    — all the basic human ailments. Sometimes I’ve wondered if I didn’t have to
    make all the mistakes I’ve made so that my ‘search’ would become
    desperate enough to trigger a discovery.
    Over the years, I have focused more and more on finding something – an exercise –
    that can work even if you are seated at your job with the boss staring at you or lying
    in the hospital with all four limbs in traction or suffering in solitary confinement. The
    best exercise I’ve found the ‘warms the tummy’ is what nursing babies do – sleep-nursing,’
    or sucking on the soft palate in their sleep. I found many examples of it posted on YouTube by
    adoring parents, and also discussions by alarmed parents of the ecstatic spasm this
    often triggers in infants.
    Purring – tracheal resonance on the inhale – also works very well but cannot be
    done when others are in hearing range unless you learn to do it sub-vocally. Tracheal
    resonance vibrates the bloodstream and helps dissolve the body’s lateral tensions.
    Anyway, that’s my basic paragraph on how anyone can fill the hollowness they feel
    in their solar plexus. Unfortunately I do not have a PhD, so whenI try to share it with
    experts in various related fields, it’s not taken seriously and I rarely receive a reply.
    However just last year I did find one person in the Somatics (body-mind) field that is
    on the same wave length. Her two books, ”The Hum Book” and also “Embodying
    Well-Being,” explore these areas and offer exercises very similar or the same to the
    ones I’ve been using. What a relief that there’s someone out there on the same track!
    Unfortunately, she’s not easy to connect to, and even acquiring copies of her books
    took about four months to arrive because she follows a Tibetan Buddhist master and
    is frequently on retreat when not traveling to other countries giving workshops.
    Here’s her website: http://www.zapchen.com
    End of my favorite rant!

    • Singing bowls provide resonance and vibration that can easily pervade the whole body, including the trachea.
      And you can listen to CD’s of them on earbuds, or have them playing so low that most won’t even know it.

      As I listen to them, I feel the vibration in the floor, coming up thru my feet.
      The longer they play, the more the vibration seems to permeate my cells and move upward thru my body.
      It is pretty amazing how they can alter one’s state of consciousness, when one is too depressed or passive to do anything else.

    • I wouldn’t be surprised if these techniques trigger the vegus nerve, bringing up the parasympathetic nervous system response and bringing down the sympathetic nervous system response.

  24. I enjoyed this article, it has a great message. However, I did see one glaring omission. Did you know that 99.5% of the earth’s biomass is plant life? And of the remaining 0.5% that is animal, only 0.1% of that is human? And that doesn’t even count the mountains, lakes, rivers, oceans, sun, moon, stars and planets. We are literally swimming in a sea of “connection” to all things non-human. In missing that, this video misses out on nearly the total sum of our ability to “connect.” It’s also displaying species hubris. <3

    • agreed. the fundamental problem is the illusion that we are separate when in truth we are one ocean of energy and there is in fact no separation. the optical delusion of consciousness as einstein put it.

  25. Having battled with some of the most severe and varied addictions for the entire 46 years of my own life, I can say that this article and Ted Talk are spot on and identify both the root cause of the problem and indeed the precise remedy to heal both the individual and the societal problem as a whole, empowering the individual to have purpose within their own life, together with the self love and dignity that one gains from being of great benefit to the community in which they live. You’ll find that most addicts are actually incredibly intelligent human beings that are unfortunately (or perhaps ‘fortunately’ if this sensitivity is viewed as a positive rather than a negative trait) extremely sensitive to the currents and energies of life and it’s associated problems, and with the right compassion and support, they would be of immense benefit to society.

    Thank you so much for sharing. With Love

    • Great comment! Thank you! I am trying to help my daughter, but she pushes me away. She does not want to hear suggestions nor I can push her to do anything that require her to work a little harder to overcome her insecurities and some of addictions. I signed her up to the gym, I suggests better and healthier foods……But she does what she wants. She is just how you described your self “extremely sensitive to the currents and energies of life and it’s associated problems…” And to friends…..I am trying and praying the moment will come for her to blossoms in confidence…..

      • Laura; she’s pushing you away because you’re not connecting with her on a level that she needs you to right now. This is not your fault. I thought about this intently after watching all of this, because I have struggled with my own addiction for over a decade and thought the same thing. My parents have tried to connect and my siblings have tried to help me and love me, but we can’t connect in the same ways. If you watch the original short video where the professor says that they will connect in any way they can, whether it be a roulette wheel or the prick of a syringe. (I don’t take this literally that to connect you must understand from first hand experience….) but as hard as it may be, try to listen, try to understand, try to connect.

        In my experience, when I can be more honest with my mother about my experiences, however horrifying they may seem to her, the less I feel so inclined to hold those feelings and experiences in and suffer because of them. If this makes sense. Sometimes she shuts me down and sometimes she genuinely listens, like he said in the end about implementing this and it not being easy for the person who is loving the addict… But it is so crucial. It is so freeing when I can tell my mother things that I have kept to myself for so long, whether it be something seemingly unimportant or something monumental.

  26. I’ve been a clinician treating addictions for more than 40 years. I’ve written extensively and have a practice where I’ve treated thousands. The approach used by Gabor Mate and others and the work shared by Johann Hari reflect the best of what we now know about addictions, its underlying causes, treatment, and prevention. Thanks for bringing this to a wider audience.

  27. Brilliant. I created the Freedom to BE program 16 years ago which releases this emotional trauma …. it was important for me to create this and other programs because I grew up without that love as a child. I don’t do drugs, alcohol or have addictions because there is something within me that keeps me looking for answers and healing around this core wound. LOVE THIS

  28. Going another onion layer deeper than this on addiction/connection – it’s interesting to read Sam Vaknin’s works on the ‘inverted narcissist’. It outlines how children with a narcissistic parent(s) can sometimes, instead of taking on typical narc traits, instead invert the dynamics/damage inside out. This can bring about an intrinsic need in the ACoN (adult child of a narcissist) to be needed by a person/spouse with narcissistic traits. This may manifest in various ways, underpinned by a propensity to feed their ‘narc’ in all ways, with the outcome to be needed to such a level that they get their own inverted ‘narc’ supply. It can look very much like nurturing love, real love; but is discernible from it by the lack of interest, fascination, or true connection with their spouse. The ‘narc’ spouse can do NO wrong. Every whim is catered to. No wrongdoing is truly accounted for. The ‘narc’ spouse is left feeling like they can’t really fault the relationship as the ‘inverted narc’ spouse is so all-attentive and meek; but there is a pervailing feeling of not being truly validated, truly met, truly SEEN – because the ‘inverted narc’ spouse in uncommunicative, closed off, often emotionally absent from the relationship – whilst being so physically present and doting as to cause confusion in the dynamic. It’s best to read what Sam Vankin has to say on the dysfunction – as his insights are truly deep, insightful, out there and resonant… It may indeed hit the nail on the head for some of you out there experiencing confusion in your perfect-on-paper, yet ultimately hollow and unsatisfactory love connections ❤️

    • Your comment has just hit me like a ton of bricks! My 16 year old son’s Father is a narcissist, according to my 33 years of experience with him, and confirmed by his latest ex girlfriend (of whom I am quite fond). My now husband and I are providing my son with a loving, healthy home but fear the long term affects of his Father’s ways and behaviour; we agree he will never change without intensive therapy. So, that leaves us with trying to raise my son to avoid the above-mentioned situation. Where can we turn to learn more about prevention of this “inverted narcissism” Thank you for sharing, Barb

    • Profoundly true. I have sometimes been idealized by someone and I always felt completely invalidated by this. I saw this idealization as a dictatorial message: you better live up to my expectations of you or you are a worthless traitor. Needless to say I fled. I am very aware of and forgiving of others’ faults and would that realism (no one’s perrfet) and courtesy extended to me.

  29. I find it odd and a little disturbing that all of the people featured in your video appear to be white. It suggests that either you don’t take people of color into consideration in your promotional materials, or what’s worse, that people of color simply aren’t part of your circle of concern. For an organization whose tag line is “we are one,” it’s not a real credibility builder.

    • Could it be that you are overtly conscious of this because of any pain in your own life? Im not judging Im simply asking. I am aware of many groups that have only people of colour as well as those that have only white skin..sometimes its simply because no one of the opposite has joined or been present at the time. Not everything has an ulterior motive or reasoning in the negative.. as I often say ‘sometimes a cup of tea is just a cup of tea’ ! Things are often what they really seem to be 🙂 and are only negative because our own perception is skewed of that thing/person/event etc. As I said just posing the question 🙂

      • I don’t know what “groups” you’re talking about that have “only white skin,” unless it’s either the John Birch Society, or a Greenwich, CT bridge club. The group this organization is concerned with is people with addiction, a group which certainly includes people of color. I’ve spent my entire professional life in human service and education and I can tell you that you don’t cast your outreach materials with whomever happens to be “present at the time.” You cast them very carefully to connect with your client base-–that’s why it’s called outreach. And unless you’re a trained and licensed mental health clinician who has examined me personally, you’re not qualified speculate about the “pain in [my] own life” or my “perceptions.” My comment is based on fundamental principles of outreach and education, not on vague feelings and emotions. I hope that answers your question.

        • Sadly you have replied not only with assumptions but with passive aggressive undertones. I am ‘qualified’ in mental health, psychiatric health and advanced nursing in psychiatric health and mental health.
          As for my original comment, I did not ‘speculate nor did I try to assess you’ in any manner what so ever! I simply ‘asked’ you a question. I also made it clear that, that was what was taking place. The fact that you reply with this level of indignant tone only supports my ‘question’ in the first place. I made it clear my comment was not a judgment in any way and thus for you to imply anything other than what was made clear in text tells me that you do not understand the ‘whole’ picture of the marketing nor the treatment approach. However that is only my humble assertion and opinion and NOT a personal attack on you. If you take it as such , then it is clear you are misinterpreting both. Either way I don’t personally agree with the whole article nor its assertions based on 53 yrs of personal and clinical experience.

          • Opposite??? Seriously? And you are a mental health professional? If you are a good mental health professional, you would:

            A) Not use the word “opposite” to describe two humans

            B) Not respond to someone’s post with a suggestion that is liable to cause defensiveness… which, I might add, did not come out in Michael’s response to you, as you seem to think it did.

            C) Recognize passive aggressive behavior. I am not a mental health professional, but I do recognize passive aggressive behavior. If you want a good example of it, so you can recognize it too, read your first two sentences. Then reread Michael’s response to you. It is not present there, as you seem to think it is.

            BTW, I’m also curious about these exclusive clubs… besides the Black Panthers and the KKK, nothing springs to mind!

            Michael had a good point, whether or not you agree with it, and he seems to understand effective marketing better than you too.

            I hope you will have a serious look at your motive for posting your initial response, and an honest examination of your values. Your profession puts you in a place of great influence. Please use it wisely.

            Have a nice day 🙂

          • Becky thanks for your opinion but I always ‘qualify’ my thoughts and comments 🙂 You are entitled to your opinion. I will not debate the issue further & I do not need to justify them to you or to the person I had replied to directly. I am retired now Becky after 35 yrs of service.
            I think 35 yrs of ‘professional’ experience coupled with extensive learning allows me to ‘offer’ an opinion or to ponder /put a question forward. The question was not put to you therefore does not require your justification ..in fact does not require Michael’s answer or justification as he has stated but is on a public forum therefore allowing others to comment and have their say 🙂
            I don’t judge he or you Becky and we are all ‘equally’ entitled to put forth any given opinion. That said I am happy with my thoughts, my experience and its outcomes along the way ..all of which have been proof positive. If Michael or you or I don’t want others to put forth their opinions then may I suggest you or Michael don’t comment on a public forum. I can easily accept Michael in both his opinion and his ability to disagree as I do yours..lol We are all equally entitled to think, put forth an opinion and agree or disagree. I therefore disagree with your comment and am happy for that to be so.
            take care

          • My bs detector is going off, Tracy. Check yourself, honey. Sounds like a defensive and privileged point of view is influencing your actions and judgments. Think of this as a wake up call.

          • Nothing ‘privileged’ about my point of view or my actions …but then if you ‘knew’ me or what you were on about you would know that …oh wait…you don’t…lol
            Sorry but your ‘bs’ detector needs fine tuning ‘honey’…

          • Wow, i am not sure if I can stay on this thread. I am a newbie (and clinician, seems we all are) but i thought this was a professional site. And i see all these comments, angry, attacking you, and i am saying ‘wow, you made a simple observation ‘cup of tea, may just be a cup of tea’. and you are getting slammed. Sorry to see that. I appreciate your authenticity and amazing how ‘angry’ folks get on this, so quickly and it is a poster for passive-aggressiveness. Wow, its like you said ‘its snowing’ and then everyone is ” no, its flakes, no, its raining, no , its sleeting, I am a meterologist, so it must be snow’…… funny, yet, not. Good luck! new kid on the block.

        • Lot of anger in your voice….whether you realize it or not. From an observer reading this (new). You dont need to do anything with that comment, but digest it.

          • What? My initial comment was about the appalling and inexcusable lack of diversity in this organization’s video. This is an evident fact and a professional concern. Yours and Tracey’s amateurish attempts to read my beads based on two blog comments, and to make this about my tone of voice rather than the substance of this article, are unprofessional really sort of silly.

          • just breathe………………that’s all…………… wow. this is indeed a interesting forum. Have a awesome day!

      • exactly, my thoughts. The reader has NO idea what is in his own head, except HIS own thoughts. Amazing. Your answer to him, is exactly what i was thinking.

    • I’ll certainly pass that on to the video team as I always want to be supporting diversity.

  30. Loved the article. Coupled with my studies and experience, not only is this progressive approach to treatment and healing sound, it works. Treat the core problem, not the symptom. Very, very exciting. Funny, was reading about Portugal and the Euro yesterday and the Wikipedia post made mention of their groundbreaking work as a country with respect to addiction. The U.S. needs to do the same, put the rehabilitation into its programs and DOC’s and perhaps those newly “re-connected” will help make America whole again.

  31. This article is only partially right when it comes to overcoming an addiction. Yes support of caring people and all that is important. But in most cases, or maybe all cases of drug addiction, the body becomes dependent on said drug. I currently know a woman who is addicted to morphine and use to date a woman who was a crack head, so I know what these people can go through.
    I completely agree, however, that how you were raised is probably the single biggest factor in whether or not you become an addict. And neither of the two women I mentioned had a very good upbringing. Both were beaten and raped from a fairly young age.

  32. in support to this, identify your addiction. drugs vagina, penis, gold, instructing, laughing, know your inclination. mothers are addicted to positive expectation ergo they land in casinos when daughters get pregnant prematurely. a simple positve resulting to negative because the source of their positivity is now the source of her negativity. drugs normal or excessive are completely harmless in the minds of very few. positive negative tentative. when lost give them your personal codes or names like pain for positive, numb for negative or thomas for tentative. amongst all the addictions , we dont have a problem with laughing since we all are addicted to the sound of our close ones laughing. the strongest energy of them all. if you are parallel with this, heal with my private style, 2 years out of methampethamine hydro chloride, tommy in thailand cthomasveloso at gee. write to me your addiction, not your pain. identify what floats your boat, money sex, being alone, admiration and truthfully we are halfway to your cure. if your laughter or giigling of other people offends you offend, identify the sounds that make u want to break the rules to get it. rest sleep tons of fluids and cool showers and your genuine self. piece of cake. 48

  33. Ibogaine and some other psychedelics will help with certain kinds of addiction (one time use only). These entheogen restore connection to the universe around you. I do think there’s a causal connection (which needs to be verified properly with controlled studies) between trauma/loss/pain and addiction. Or it’s a really convenient excuse. 🙂

    • as in West Side Story: “I’m depraved on account of I’m deprived!”. It’s true and it’s not a cheap excuse, but it is only the beginning of being whole to recognize we are wounded.

    • you bring up an excellent point.

      there are studies showing that substances such as psilocybin LSD and Mescaline have seen sucess with substances such as alcohol and tobacco. I am aware of people working with Kratom as a stepping stone to quite easily get off heroin and ice, and then there is only an addiction to the kratom which is about as addictive as coffee. I am also aware of people working with 5-MeO-DMT and Bufotonine from the Sonoran Desert Toad to clear ice (methamphetamine) and cocaine addiction. Then there are also retreat centres like Takiwasi in Peru with Dr Jaques Mabit taking people for 9 months at time working with Ayahuasca. There is also a frog medicine called Sapo or Kambo from the amazon that is extremely effective.

      If anyone is interested in exploring these options I recommend engaging with them in a ceremonial environment with practitioners who can provide phone references of people they have already healed with the same type of addiction.

    • Who cares? So called professionals don’t have a clue as to what they are doing. I know this first hand. And….every single innovation or real change Has NOT begun through established paradigm “professionals” but with real humans and with intuition, insight, and compassion. I would recommend that people stay away from professionals, doctors, institutions and the so-called “recovery industry” as it is all Arrogance & Ignorance compounded by greed. IM not so humble opinion. Been there done that!!
      And as far as AA is concerned, most AA members do not know how to truly connect or they would not need AA. They can try to go through the motions of loving someone and trying to give them something of which they themselves do not have…yet…self love….(usually not to healthy for the newbie) and from my experience, knowledge and also education, I think this guy, whether he plagiarised the idea/concept or not, he, and it is still spot on in my opinion. (I agree with Philip below)

    • -And its about one person talking – connecting – to another. Not judging. It’s about providing a family of people who have been there -done that. And providing a methodology – the 12 steps as a way of healing that ultimately results in making connections, healing relationships and being of service to others.

  34. Not sure it is this simple. I spent 13 years in a (what could have in retrospect been called “codependent”) relationship with someone I hoped would heal if I just gave them a safe nurturing space to do so. However she was never truly happy and in the end I had to accept that she might never be, and it was not mine to fix. With layers on layers of issues and diagnoses, childhood trauma being just one of them. Depression, hormonal imbalances, sleep disorder, anxiety, alcoholism… Unfortunately not mine to manage or fix. I’m better off being with someone who is happy as they are, now. And who wants to be with me on the same terms. Can’t put healing on a timeline because it may never happen until or unless the self work really happens.

    • She’s suffered under the demand to heal “on her own” all of this time. And where did it get her? More of the same isn’t going to work. And don’t worry about bailing. As you can see from this article and comments page, there are MANY people in the world who are stronger people than you are. Your discard is bound to meet at least one of them.

      • The ego thinks it controls more than it does. Letting go was part of the healing process. Respect for her path allowing it to diverge was part of the mutual growth that needed to occur. Connections can’t be unilaterally forced, no matter how “strong” one thinks one is. I’m okay with that

  35. Brilliant what type of assistance can you give to someone that is not addicted to any drug although you know that they suffer similar pain just tucking it away which in turn I feel creates illness within the body I would be very interested as I know this particular person quite well and am at a loss as how to help ?

    • Well they gave you the answer, “love”. Personally I feel unloved and unwanted, a failure, something must be wrong with me to have this all happen to me, or I did something and deserve this even if I can’t understand what. Friends give up easy if I turn them down on meeting up and natural stop bothering to ask. Deep down I know I need the time with ppl and distraction from the pain but feel broken and forgetting how to be social and comfortable at the same time.
      Do the opposite, don’t give up easy if they turn you down, don’t stop trying to get them to spend time with you, complement them, make them feel appreciated. If they don’t want to talk about it don’t pry but make them feel comfortable to come to you when they’re ready. It is when they give up on the world and withdraw from society that things get worse, boredom gives rise to memories and you can get stuck living in the pain. Once it becomes too much we all turn to something, drugs, alcohol, though we may keep it a secret 😉
      Good luck with your friend

    • read the essence of my comment above with a clear mind, no alcohol etc because i can see a clear conscience which is pure. Stop the worry since your friend with the repetitious condition can see negativity easily in worry. Positive people see worry as love. Negative people see worry as a stimuli to back to their past time. Check your image in the mirror first then go out there and save more lives. You already saved yours with the attempt. Save your friend by laughing at it all in a private setting. rest sleep h20 inside and out and sweat them all out if they are drugs if they activities or other objects believe that addiction stops today with you. focus on your clarity before you save a lost soul. ergo connection was a good word. positve energy complements negative energy. peace magically. i remain to serve, tommy veloso

    • Personally i suggest something like conscious connected breathing, holotropic breathwork or shamanic breathwork.

      In essence the idea is to consciously and intentionally go to the painful memories, or create a space where the buried memories are allowed to come up and basically dilute and flush through the pain with the breath. It goes a lot deeper than that, often enducing visionary experiences and deeply transformative experiences not unlike psychedelic therapy, with the advantage of being able to stop at any time.

  36. Very interesting, wish our society in America would take turn in this direction. Maybe then we wouldn’t have overpopulated prisons, jails and so many children in foster care there is a shortage of homes for them….

  37. The neural circuitry can be rewired. Healing can occur at any age, in connection.