Recently I have started seeing the quote “Trauma is the original gateway drug” on the post of some friends of mine with interests in mental health. Whether or not this statement can be taken at face value, it brings up a valuable point that is often overlooked when we deal with problems of drug and alcohol addiction. When we see people who are trapped in the grip of addiction to some cruel drug or to alcohol abuse, it is usually our priority to help these people get out from the grips of that addiction. It is worthwhile to ask though, because it is not always asked, what is the person running from? When people are in the grasp of drug or alcohol use, and the substance they are abusing is not one whose addictiveness is extreme, it is fair to ask what it is that these people want to consign to oblivion by partaking in their use of such substances. And as the statement fairly indicates, trauma is frequently one of the things that people are running from when they run to drugs and alcohol.
This presents us with serious difficulties when it comes to encouraging the sobriety of our friends and relatives and those around us. When someone is running from something that intense, it is a very difficult task to get them to want to face something that dark and evil without the aid of something to dull the mind and the horror of it. I think most of us, whether or not we can empathize with that horror, can at least sympathize with someone in the grips of that sort of difficulty. We can recognize that there are things we may not want to face, some nightmares, some anxieties, some tendencies of hypervigilance and always feeling on edge, and may understand that others would be highly motivated to want to take the edge off. We might readily understand that it takes a moral courage to face such matters that cannot be taken for granted in order to face such things soberly through dark days and troubled nights.
But at the same time, it is not as if this is the only thing people are running from. If you are of age and you are so inclined, it can be an interesting task to spend time in a bar, even if (especially if) you are not the sort of person who is inclined to do a lot of drinking. If you are fond of people watching, you can see all kinds of people enjoy perhaps a bit too much to drink over the course of hours while you eat, read, and observe. I speak from my own personal experience here that there are a great many of things less serious than trauma that people tend to run from. Among them include such things as boredom and loneliness, as well as the pervasive anxiety of depending on one’s skills at persuasion to make a living, as is the case for many in sales. Anything that puts an edge in our lives, that provides with a sense of unease or anxiety, is likely to motivate us to get rid of that anxiety, and chemicals like alcohol (but not only alcohol) are an easy way to dull the edge from life for a while.
It is of little surprise that our contemporary era is full of problems of this nature. One can go many places to find discussions of the supposed crisis of addiction to painkillers in our society, and this can be readily understood by the fact that people do not like dealing with chronic pain. When one has a condition that makes one hurt all the time, and there are certainly many that could be present, it is entirely natural to want that pain to go away, and contemporary medicine is not very skilled at making the suffering of existence go away. Similarly, it is well worth pondering what is it that people run to when they drink too much at the bar or when they find themselves regular visitors to their local dispensary or find themselves using other drugs that dull the edges of a difficult life. When we see the unattractiveness of what people are running to, it is well worth considering what they are running from. And if we want people to face the pain and suffering of their lives instead of running away from it, we must do a far better job of cultivating and encouraging the heroic rather than the cowardly tendencies of our generation of humanity. In an age that mocks morals and has no stomach for endurance or longsuffering, how do we expect courage to be common, after all?