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  • We operate with some stock images of the addict: a person with a heroin needle in a park, or

  • who nurses a bottle of gin in a paper bag at nine in the morning or who sneaks off at every opportunity

  • to light up another cylinder of marijuana. However dramatic and tragic such cases of addiction might be,

  • they are simultaneously hugely reassuring to most of us

  • because they locate the addict far from ordinary experience, somewhere off-stage,

  • in the land of semi-criminality and outright breakdown. Such examples are dangerously flattering,

  • categorising addiction in a sentimental way that lets most of us off the hookand at the same time,

  • cuts us off from identification with, and therefore sympathy for, the most wretched victims of addiction.

  • There are, in truth, far more addicts than we think. Indeed, if we look at the matter squarely:

  • we are pretty much all addicts. The official statistics on the consumption of hard drugs or alcohol

  • don’t begin to give a fair representation of the issue.

  • We need to define addiction in a new way: addiction is the manic reliance on something, anything,

  • in order to keep our dark or unsettling thoughts at bay. What properly indicates addiction

  • is not what someone is addicted to, for we can get addicted to pretty much anything.

  • It is the motives behind their reliance on itand, in particular, their

  • desire to avoid encountering the contents of their own mind. Being inside our own minds is,

  • for most of us, and very understandably, a deeply anxiety-inducing prospect. We are

  • filled with thoughts we don’t want properly to entertain and feelings we are desperate not to feel.

  • There is an infinite amount we are angry and sad about that it would take an uncommon degree of courage to face up to.

  • We experience a host of fantasies and desires that we have a huge incentive to disavow,

  • because of the extent to which they violate our self-image and our more normative commitments.

  • We shouldn’t pride ourselves because we aren’t injecting something into our veins.

  • Almost certainly, we are doing something with equal commitment.

  • We are checking the news at four minute intervals, to keep the news from ourselves at bay.

  • Were doing sport, exhausting our bodies in the hope of not having to hear from our minds.

  • Were using work to get away from the true internal work were shirking.

  • The most compelling addictions can sound very righteous to the world. To get a measure

  • of our levels of addiction, we need only consider when the last time might have been that we

  • were able to sit alone in a room with our own thoughts, without distraction, free associating,

  • daring to wander into the past and the future, allowing ourselves to feel pain, desire, regret and excitement.

  • We may start to see how much we have in common with the traditional addict.

  • When we come face to face with them, were not meeting anything especially foreign, just

  • a part of ourselves in a less respectable formopening up new opportunities for kindness, towards them, and us.

  • We could start to think, too, of how we might wean ourselves off our chosen addictive pursuit.

  • We need to lose our fear of our minds. We need a collective

  • sense of safety around confronting loss, humiliation, sexual desire and sadness

  • knowing that we will have to keep running away so long as we do not rehabilitate our feelings.

  • On the other side of addiction is, in a sense, philosophyphilosophy understood as the patient,

  • unfrightened, compassionate examination of the contents of our own minds.

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We operate with some stock images of the addict: a person with a heroin needle in a park, or

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