Rob Ford: Mayor of Addiction

Toronto mayor Rob Ford has been a fun headline joke:

-        A full-time job for Rob: Minister of Denial!

-       Rehabing #peakbatshit!

-       Ford’s follies: The mini-series!

 Yep, it’s tempting. Everybody’s doing it. Ford’s buffoonery invites us. But really, addiction is no laughing matter.

 Addiction can be a full-time job. It can call you to infraction-action when you’d best be staying attentive to what should be more pressing matters, while at the same time fooling you into thinking you’ve got things all handled – that you’re right as rain.

 Indeed, addiction has claws and talons. It’s capable of buckling your knees right before the goal line; slapping your face red right before love walks out the door; stunning your bank account into submission; and most of all, securing you a rock-bottom position in your race for self-esteem.

 And this vile little creepy, crawly is everywhere. Yep - you name it, we crave it!

 For “modern” addicts there’s texting, sexting and video-gaming. Then there are the old standards like drugs, alcohol, gambling and sex. Don’t forget workaholism and even addictive TV watching.

 But that’s just for starters. Naturally also, there’s the common compulsion called food. First, we get hooked on shoving it in; then we get infatuated with scraping it off. We diet endlessly, drug ourselves into foodless submission, and exercise within an inch of our lives. Although in general addiction is a gender-neutral, full-service preoccupation, when it comes to the body piece women are the prime suspects. We pore over magazines for emaciated role-models; shoot our faces with poison; complain endlessly about saddlebags, eye bags, thigh bags and all manner of other ugliness while beating ourselves silly with constant berating groans.

 What in-the-name-of-golly is happening, we might wonder? Why are we such a full-force addicted society?

 Let’s start at the start by understanding that addiction is a symptom not a problem.

 What??!!?? Uh huh. What gets us snagged and snarled is mostly folks attempt to address those addictive symptoms – the drunken episodes, fat stomachs, thin bank accounts, death by text etcetera, rather than pulling the weed up by the root.

 Well, saying addiction is merely a symptom begs the question: what is the problem? Okay, turn off all phones for a sec and hold on: the real issue is Love.

Uh huh. Love.

 To be more specific – the problem begins with an insistent, dreadful fear that we’re simply broken and can’t be fixed. It’s called shame. This is the idea that there’s a ginormous, gaping hole inside us and that though this horrendous hole most certainly can’t actually be filled with any form of immediate gratification, we’re gonna damn well try.

 It doesn’t take long for this fill-the-hole, ease the terror effort to become addictive. We’re desperate to putty over the cracks and fissures – after all, we gotta stop everyone from seeing how disgustingly inadequate we are to the task of…well, living. Cause if they can’t see the awful of us maybe they’ll really finally love us, which we’re hoping will convince us we deserve it.

 Of course, addiction doesn’t ever really work – doesn’t ease the pain of the profound love-longing.

 Ask Mr. Ford. Or maybe he hasn’t noticed. Hard to tell. The demon known as denial seems to still have its pesky grip on him. Nothing unusual in that. Denial is the quicksand at the bottom of addiction’s swamp.  

 The problem for Rob and for us all is that we’re looking for love in all the wrong places. Love can’t happen through a pill, or bottle, or winning bet, or enough sex, or enough successful work deals, or enough food or enough “stuff”. Love is an inside job. 

 Are you glazing over? Seem too new-age babbly?! Well, the truth is the truth. And if we don’t start addressing the bottom line, the bottom will continue to fall out.

 There are solutions for this pandemic addiction issue though. It’s called re-channeling. Here’s the recipe: take the tasty intensity and haunting hunger driving you to distraction, sacrifice your want for immediate gratification, and instead apply yourself to creative outflow, generous intimacy and sincere community contribution. In other words, shift your preoccupation. It can’t be done in a second or with no effort, but it can happen!   

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