Labyrinth: Addictions and the Search for Healing traces its origin to my experience as a substance abuse counselor, as a clinical supervisor to addictions agencies, and to my own family background in which substance abuse has claimed many lives. This is not an unusual situation: substance abuse impacts almost every family. And families become overwhelmed and panicked when they confront addiction within their circle. Parents are generally unaware of how to deal with a child who uses substances. Family members cannot understand how it has come to be that love and support and care are insufficient to the task of rescuing the child or the sibling who wanders in the fugue of alcohol, the flurry of cocaine, or the paranoia of crystal meth. Typically, families are paralyzed by the dawning awareness that the primary allegiance of any addicted person is to the substance itself. This is just unbelievable: that someone would choose illness and lies and the furtive ingestion of toxins over the readily available assistance of friends, family, and the many community services designed specifically for the purpose of helping people through addiction.
But the addicted are not subject to such inducements. They’re looking for something else: a destination, a secret, a bright, still center at which all the contradictions will make sense. Most don’t know they’re searching for it. They just try to get away from the intrusions, the futile interventions, the hassles from people who want to divert them from the inescapable quest for getting high. I have known thousands of such people: on the streets, in my clinical practice, in the educational setting, and in my own childhood home. I have entered into the lives and communities of the addicted, have earned their trust, have undertaken the long initiation required for authentic intimacy and knowledge.
Labyrinth presents my perspective on addictions, gleaned from a lifetime of dealing with alcoholism and drug abuse. I bring to the subject my typical blend of psychology, spirituality, and mythology: mixing, distilling, rendering. Addiction, after all, is an alchemical quest, and to follow its meandering track requires an approach that is broad and diverse and integrative all at once.
As in my previous books, both of which have taken a multidisciplinary approach to their subjects, Labyrinth is a book of mysteries, of shadows, of hard-won illuminations. It is both a map and a journey.
Moreover, Labyrinth presents a framework for understanding the emergence of adult addictions through childhood imprinting. Addiction begins long before people discover the magic properties of drugs and alcohol, before they are led into the labyrinth of adolescence, before they confront the challenges and stresses of shaping an adult life. Addiction, as every substance abuse counsellor knows, is a legacy of childhood. Yet the contemporary addictions literature has failed, for many reasons, to explore this link, with the result that current trends in addictions research focus almost exclusively on genetic, behavioral and biochemical factors. Meanwhile, addiction rates rise, the addicted are drawn ever further into the lethargic gravity of substance use, and we now face a colossal social problem. Look for the source of many pressing social issues (crime, diseases of self-neglect, motor vehicle fatalities) and everywhere you find the infusion of drugs and alcohol. They are inimitable, relentless fuels.
Throughout Labyrinth, addiction is considered as a healthy impulse — a longing for connection, wonder, vitality — but an impulse thwarted and redirected, a twist in the bone that prevents the hand from opening. And yet the hand may learn to open, the heart to heal, the mind to find its resonance with others. The process of addiction is itself a teacher, a healer. The wounds are guides in healing. Inside those wounds lies deep wisdom.
Labyrinth is scheduled for publication in 2013.
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