On Pain, addiction, and powerlessness

I find this one excellent and to the point -- it is part II of a posting, the first part of which is the narrative of a woman named Lorraine and her struggle with chronic pain. Use the link on the headline to read it all.

The politics of addiction.

Hello. My name is America, and I am sitting in this meeting because my friend Lorraine suggested I should come.

I'm not sure really when my addiction began. I look back over the past two-hundred odd years of my history and I see all sorts of psychic wounds. I had a tyrannical father, and I rebelled against him. Took up arms against him, and drove him out. I thought that would take care of my problems, but I wasn't done hurting myself. Even when I had the chance, I chose to cut myself off from parts of my body--Africans, women, those without property--told myself that those parts of me were less important, and that I didn't need to pay attention to the discomfort those parts of me caused.

Since then, those parts of me keep getting hurt, but I don't want to go back to that original wound and deal with it. That would require feeling some things that I'd prefer not to feel. I'm in pain now, but I've developed a whole host of ways of dealing with my pain. I know some of you think that qualifies as addiction. But I'm not ready to admit I have a problem yet.

I've got ways of dealing with my pain, however. They're called distractions. There's war, which is always good for taking my mind off whatever's bothering me. If I focus my attention on getting control over other people's lands and cultures, I don't have to think about the unmanageablility of my own culture. I've got plenty of women and poor people and racism, but I don't to focus on that right now. That would hurt.

If I can't shoot someone, maybe I can buy something. I like to spend money. Buying things makes me think I can be happy. I'll go out and buy a new gas-guzzling car that lets me sit high up on the road, or I'll buy the newest gadget or the newest pair of shoes from Nike. I know people suffer who make those products, but I don't want to think about those things. That would make me uncomfortable.

I'm not very comfortable with my sexuality, either. Too many feelings attached to that, too. But if I tell homosexuals and women how to conduct their private lives, then maybe I can exert some control over this stuff that makes me feel bad. I think about my body and it makes me feel icky. But if I make someone else feel icky about their body, perhaps they'll shut up. And I won't have to deal.

I'm really not comfortable with what's happening to the color of my skin, either. It used to be pale white, but now, it's starting to darken up; parts of me are speaking a language I can't understand. Makes me feel out of control. I think I'll tell everyone they have to keep to their own kind. Speak English, damnit. I can't stand feeling uncomfortable.

The hallmark of addiction is an inability to deal with one's feelings. I could go on and on about why I think we're a nation of addicts. I think we need a major intervention, but I'm not sure we've hit bottom yet. The only problem I have is that until we collectively hit bottom, some of us are going to wind up falling a hell of a lot farther than others.


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