Cannabis isn’t a gateway drug.
Alcohol isn’t a gateway drug.
Nicotine isn’t a gateway drug.
Caffeine isn’t a gateway drug.
Trauma is the gateway.
Childhood abuse is the gateway.
Molestation is the gateway.
Neglect is the gateway.
Drug abuse, violent behavior, hypersexuality, and self-harm are often symptoms (not the cause) of much bigger issues.
And it almost always stems from a childhood filled with trauma, absent parents, and an abusive family.
But most people are too busy laughing at the homeless and drug addicts to realize your own children could be in their shoes in 15 years.
Communicate.— unknown, attributed to Russell Brand
This reflects the current understanding of addiction and compulsions and happens to be something I completely agree with. People with interest in the field know it but it has yet to fully filter into mainstream culture.
I’ll add a few words about trauma and addiction.
Trauma can be created from either ongoing situations (often family situations in childhood) or sudden events (accident, fire, war). Trauma can be serious or mild, and all-encompassing (engulfing our whole experience and life) or more isolated (triggered only in very specific situations). And trauma is something we all have. It’s part of the human experience.
When unhealed trauma is triggered, we may respond to the pain in it in a range of ways. We do something try to avoid the pain – or just the unpleasant feelings and thoughts – inherent in the trauma.
Trying to avoid the pain of trauma often becomes a habit. And that’s how compulsions and addictions are created. These compulsions and addictions can be what we conventionally view as serious or mild. And they come in the form of “inner” compulsions (reactivity, anger, depression, etc.) or “outer” compulsions (food, internet, sex, drugs, alcohol, etc.).
As I see it, these dynamics are variously called trauma, emotional wounds and issues, hangups, beliefs (The Work, inquiry), and identifications (spirituality). They are all created by the mind to keep us safe. They all come from the inherent care and love in how our minds function. They all made sense when they were created. And we can find healing for them.
How do we recognize trauma in ourselves or others? As I mentioned, it can take many forms. Generally, it’s a combination of seeking refuge in something and feeling we have to defend it. And it reflects past experiences more than the current situation.
Sometimes, we seek refuge in anger, grief, guilt, overactivity, or hopelessness. Sometimes in blame, judgment, dehumanization of oneself or others, polarized thinking, or finding safety in ideologies, religion, or spirituality. Sometimes, we seeking refuge in food, internet, TV, sex, drugs, or alcohol. And none of these are, in a real sense, a refuge.
Our only refuge is finding healing in how we relate to the trauma and perhaps healing and resolution for the trauma itself.