Intoxication and Withdrawal

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The genius of the narrative paradigm is that by making problems separate from you for a time, creating some distance and seeing them as their own entities instead of part and parcel of your being, you see these problems much more clearly, and your insight usually leads to a path for overcoming them.

In the case of drug use, people often believe that they just couldn’t do without their drug of choice. I started thinking in a narrative framework and saw that they treat their drugs and resulting addictions as if they were intimate friends. Which begs the question, what kind of friends are they?

The conclusion I arrived at is that they are two-faced and extremely selfish, demanding of your time, jealous, and willing to do whatever it takes to make sure that they stay in your life, even if it causes you great harm. When you’re experiencing the effects of intoxication it’s all good, they seem like your best friend in the world, positively reinforcing you to continue using by creating pleasant sensations.

But you quickly discover their real intentions when you try to disengage and do your own thing. These pleasant sensations are replaced with their polar opposites in the form of withdrawal symptoms. All of a sudden your supposed friend has changed his strategy from positive reinforcement to negative reinforcement. You know that the only way to make the intensity of your withdrawal symptoms lessen or disappear is to spend more time with him, making all other interests in your life secondary. Some kind of friend, huh?

If this was a real person you’d probably either tell him he needs help or just tell him to go fuck himself, but since it’s a drug, not a person, you blame yourself for your weakness and you keep using. Drugs aren’t your friends, and if none of the bad consequences in your life can convince you of this fact, then the reality that they rely on negative reinforcements in the form of withdrawal symptoms to get you back in line the moment you try to do something else is all the proof you need.