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Mar-22-2010 14:20printcomments

Do Today's Addicts Attempt To Mask Their Masochism?

Clarity--like charity--truly begins at home!

Drug addict

(SALEM, Ore.) - During my 30-plus years as a medical social worker, I've had many clients whose diagnosis included a history of drug abuse. While no two cases are exactly the same, some parallels are often uncovered. This article reflects my observations but is by no means formal research.

I do believe that many addicts had childhoods with weak foundations and viewed themselves as "victims" of disruptive families. This in turn bred all sorts of fear and trepidation.

The future for them was rarely predictable. Survival was difficult. Life had a pattern of constantly feeling beleaguered. None of us wish to become a pawn of circumstance controlled by outside forces. One's self-image goes rapidly down the drain.

While parents and perhaps siblings did not set out to inflict harm upon the child, it happened nevertheless. Those emotional scars were no less traumatic than a newly-purchased car marked by a fender-bender, although not always entirely visible.

The vulnerable child then took this external damage and adopted it as a given to be retained. We in the helping profession call this process an "internalization". It means swallowing feelings just like you would food.

What happens then? Self-harm becomes the new norm. The person who was witness to out-of-control adults feels that pain is omni-present and so turns to self-abuse to deaden that pain. He is oblivious to the very heavy price for that masochism: being shackled to the world of addiction.

The scenario described is a generality and has variations, of course. But it has been a rather reliable "working model" for those addicted to alcohol or to illegal drugs or sometimes even to sex and/or pornography. All of these are merely escape hatches from a demon-laden existence.

Some out there may have other explanations of the contributing causes of addiction. Is it primarily a mask for masochism? Is it being relegated to a yearlong series of Halloweens without end? I welcome word on what you may have heard and seen, in the name of demystifying this subject.

Just remember: Clarity--like charity--truly begins at home!

NOTE: Lee served as a counselor from 1975-2008, covering states from NY to Virginia to Oregon. His late father ran a wine store and he saw first-hand the ravages of alcohol on customers and their families.

=========================================== Community Writer Barry Lee Coyne brings to our readers stories from his combined career of journalism and gerontology, and explains that these paths shaped his values. This writer-therapist often views the world as the masks of comedy and tragedy placed upon the scales of justice. For him, optimism inevitably wins. "Lyrical Lee" has traveled to 30 nations aboard and was once a press intern at the UN. His first published article was in The NY Daily News in '59, dealing with the need for integrity in public office.

He also launched the nation's first tele-conference on health education for shut-ins, created the Eldermentors project in VA to pair retirees with immigrant students needing role models, and was the main catalyst behind CCTV's "Public Public" panel show here in Salem. Lee received his BA in International Relations and an MSW in community organization. He currently serves as a member of Salem's Library Advisory Board. To send Lee an email, please write to this address:

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