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Egypt’s Emotionally Starved Youth Turn to Addiction in the Absence of Spirituality

December 23, 2015
Heroin addiction. Credit: Goran Tomasevic/ Reuters
Heroin addiction. Credit: Goran Tomasevic/ Reuters

Each day around the gloomy streets of Egypt, our eyes identify the hunger of those in need. We willingly approach them with excess money that we understand they direly need. Triggered by desperation, they submissively accept. Their hunger is visible. We relate to it because we know that it truly aches to have a stomach deprived of any nutrition.

We also know that sometimes, we are similarly desperate to satisfy our hungers as well – maybe not a visually conspicuous hunger, but a more subtle spiritual and emotional one that pushes us to pursue truly damaging behaviors which stab our conscious-self in the heart.

I know that because I have suffered myself from that desperate pursuit, suffering in silence, all the while hoping to find someone who can relate to the same experience with hunger.

We are designed to pursue what we don’t have. From experience with the hundreds of addicts I have dealt with firsthand, it is always an internal emptiness that spurs the desperation for a replacement to the spiritual and emotional meaningfulness we are missing, a dependency that could help us stay alive. Addictive behaviors provide powerfully rewarding experiences that give us a temporary taste of the state we want to live in permanently.

It is not the need for moral deviance, as many perceive it. Rather, it is the need for the drug that can make any problem just go away; it is more of a means with which we can control everything outside of us. Spiritual and emotional hunger ignites that desperate need.

We see people sacrificing all of the good things they have in life in the mad pursuit of a drug. They lose relationships, work, their self-respect and other far more worthy things for a much-wanted high. It does not make sense because it is not sense that drives them but a more primitive wanting for spiritual and emotional fulfillment.

You can’t talk someone into buying a new watch as an answer to his need for eating. That sounds stupid even writing it. But you can talk someone into buying an elegant new car as an answer to his hunger for love and acceptance. That’s equally stupid but we have grown to think it is not. That’s the root issue.

At a young age, we are taught to eat when we are hungry for food but we are never taught to ask for support when we are lonely and down without feeling shame. We grow up bombarded with businesses telling us they’ve got the answer. We never know the right answer so we trusted theirs is – despite the truth being that they don’t have the right answer either.

The belief that the answer lies in buying more material things kills us slowly. It incurs heavy disappointments. You become infected with an ever-growing hole inside of you that can never stop squealing in raging hunger.

It’s a universal human tendency to focus on our external environment when looking inside hurts too much. To vote for those who promise what we are failing to do for ourselves, to get in relationships with those who promise to make us feel what we cannot feel for ourselves or to buy from those who position their provisions as the remedy to all pains.

Even though we fall for the same pathological pattern and relapse to the same damaging behaviors, we feel the same amount of disappointment each time when we don’t get the result we hoped for. It’s a form of mental insanity that many of us are infected with – spending an entire life in a closed loop as our denial blindfolds us from seeing the true solution.

After growing fond of playing the victim, accepting that the solution lies within a sincere decision to seek help represents an accusation of a lifetime failure to act and that definitely feels ugly.

When we start young to find a drug to satisfy our hungers our dependence on it for survival progressively grows to an unmanageable extent. It becomes the answer to every little discomfort, whether sadness, loneliness, disappointment, nervousness, stress or anger. The answer is the same: That powerful drug that lulls the pain into a sound sleep.

We lose the ability to handle life on our own, to experience a down and move on. We lose the ability to play the game of life on its terms. We always want it our way and because that rarely happens, we are always enraged. We are never peaceful and kind to ourselves. The hunger is insatiable. The more we try to satisfy it, the more it grows. It turns into a soul-damaging journey that drives many to the abyss.

My very personal experience with hunger drove me to try a thousand ways to stop, from psychologists, promising self-help books, scientific techniques, changing relationships and jobs, to going on vacations and changing friends in an attempt to start over.

Funnily enough, it was always about changing something on the outside rather than on the inside. I was trying to recover with an addict’s mentality until I came across the fellowship of Addicts Anonymous and the 12-step program it requires recovering addicts to follow. It is a program focused on internal rehabilitation through progressive steps that address core spiritual, emotional and psychological dysfunctions.

I learned valuable insights that helped me stay sober for a lengthy amount of time – and maintain that sobriety until today. Through my experience with hunger and correctly satisfying it, I’ve come to learn a lot.

I’ve learned that we are powerless in the face of our addiction and that our life has become unmanageable, that we are responsible for our recovery not our addiction and that we are no longer able to blame people, places or circumstances for our own problems and feelings. There is no perfect way for recovering but there is a way that works better than others.

Many spend their entire lives floundering about in bleak darkness, searching for a way out of rock bottom. They want to stop yet they cannot imagine their life without the drug that quenches the hunger temporarily.

Many of us have experienced trauma like abuse, mistreatment, neglect, rape or bullying. There is always an event that sparks the desperate pursuit. As tragic and sad what we go through might feel, it remains clear that we cannot change what happens but only how we react and feel about it.

Through the hundreds of recovery meetings I have persistently attended, I’ve witnessed people who immediately move on and heal and people who spend a lifetime struggling to take the decision to heal.

Our hungers are innate. We are not accountable for what it might lead us to do or the wreckage it casts. Yet, we are entirely accountable for the decisions we take today to shape a less soul-depleting future.

Take it one day at a time. That is how it worked for the thousands of recovering addicts who have are enjoying a worthy and meaningful life.

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