Have you seen this TED Talk about Addiction?

When I heard this TED Talk, “Everything You Think You Know About Addiction is Wrong,” Johann Hari’s approach to this sensitive topic brought tears to my eyes.

Johann mixes research with personal experience to shed light on the misinformation that almost monopolizes popular opinion on addiction.

His insights rang true to the addict in my life whom I love.


Here are some of my favorite quotes:

“…maybe we shouldn’t call it addiction.  Maybe we should call it bonding. Human beings have a natural and innate need to bond, and when we’re happy and healthy, we’ll bond and connect with each other, but if you can’t do that, because you’re traumatized or isolated or beaten down by life, you will bond with something that will give you some sense of relief. Now that might be gambling, that might be pornography, that might be cocaine, that might be cannabis, but you will bond and connect with something because that’s our nature.”

“A core part of addiction, I came to think, and I believe the evidence suggests, is about not being able to bear to be present in your life.”

“For 100 years now, we’ve been singing war songs about addicts.  I think all along we should have been singing love songs to them, because the opposite of addiction is not sobriety.  The opposite of addiction is connection.”

Just like addiction, trauma puts us in a cage of isolation.  This blog, in addition to SAL 12 Step Meetings, is one way to step out of the dark and into Rat Park.

The Invitation

I hope you will step out of your comfort zone and leave a comment on this post, because we need each other.  We need to know we are not alone.

I look forward to hearing your thoughts on “Everything You Know About Addiction is Wrong.”

10 thoughts on “Have you seen this TED Talk about Addiction?”

  1. I like the idea that it is not just individual recovery, but social recovery. These connections we have and make give us reason to leave behind the addiction. Connection provides interactive support through kindness, time, love, true friendship.

  2. I notice in my own life and recovery healthy connections is vital for me to not isolate and numb out. I really enjoyed this Ted talk. It’s been amazing for me to see how people have been so loving and accepting toward my husband as he has opened up about his addition to people. It has helped us both feel more connected, honest and vulnerable to those in our lives. I know because of that it has played a huge roll in our own recoveries. Thanks for sharing this this week!

    1. It is interesting to me that although our addicts may have been interacting with lots of people (which is often part of the problem)…they were never truly connecting with us or anyone else because they were living a double life…full of hiding, deceit, and ultimately shame. The humility and honesty required by Step 1 seemed to be the doorway to invite true connection, and eventually healing,into my addict’s life. No more hiding.

  3. I have to tell you that this video is very triggering to me.

    The argument that legalizing a product reduces addiction does not apply to SA because SA always involves other human beings. This obviously is a human rights issue.

    The argument that if an addict is in “Rat Park” with plenty of sex, food, and socializing, then he won’t choose addiction is also triggering to me. By many arguments, you could say my husband was in Rat Park. He still chose the heroin.

    I think this video is dangerous to share with the loved ones of sex addicts.

    1. I am so glad you reached out and shared your feelings about this video. It makes me feel sick to my stomach to realize how specific parts of this video could be very triggering for those recovering from betrayal trauma.

      Certainly, this video was not shared to apply its social perspective on substance abuse to sexual addiction. Rather, the article was shared because it communicated so effectively the role of shame and isolation in all addiction. This is very true of sexual addiction, and is one of the reasons why active involvement in 12 Step groups is so vital to recovery. As I have watched my husband begin to heal, it has become glaringly obvious that a Full Step One Disclosure, though painful for both of us, was absolutely the door that opened the possibility for true connection. No matter how “connected” he seemed before that, he was still in isolation under layers of lies, hiding, deceit, and shame that kept him from ever feeling a true, deep connection.

      Neither was this message intended to imply that you or I had any control over our addict “not being able to bear to be present in his own life.” This “escaping reality” coping mechanism was a learned behavior in my husband a decade before he ever knew I existed. He was already incapable of staying consistently connected in his life, although neither he nor I had the tools or education to be able to recognize this then. However, our marriage continues to heal as we both work our Steps to find true connection with God first, and then with each other. One of the keys to my recovery is accepting that “the actions of the sexaholic are not a result of something I did or did not do, and I do not have the power to control their behavior.” No wife can be expected to create a “Rat Park” perfect enough to keep an already-addicted individual sober.

      Finally, I also wanted to comment on these closing lines from the video. Johann shares these heartfelt thoughts: “…to say to the addicts in my life that I want to deepen the connection with them, to say to them, I love you whether you’re using or you’re not. I love you, whatever state you’re in, and if you need me, I’ll come and sit with you because I love you and I don’t want you to be alone or to feel alone.”

      While these are beautiful words with a beautiful sentiment that might be appropriate for a brother, a son, a nephew, or a friend, these words may not be appropriate for the spouse of an addict. We are not advocating co-dependency. So, just to be clear, let me state that SA Lifeline encourages spouses and loved ones of sex and pornography addicts to begin working their own 12 Steps of healing with a Sponsor as soon as possible. We also encourage the spouse to establish specific and solid boundaries to create a place of safety for herself with the guidance of a sponsor as soon as possible. Once boundaries are in place and you begin to work your Steps, you will work with your Higher Power to know what the next right steps are to take in your relationship.

      Thank you again for bringing these issues to our attention. We hope that this TEDTalk message can be helpful to educate a worldwide audience about the true nature of addiction. But, we recognize that not all of its points are applicable to sexual addiction. We sincerely apologize if this message contributed to your trauma, and we hope you can see the merits of the information in the spirit it was intended.

  4. I actually really dislike most of this talk (and his article). The video made it seem like connection was a new concept. This is why 12 step meetings were created for addicts in the first place. It also made it seem like the driver of addiction can only be one or the other: Addictive Substance OR disconnection. As if an addictive substance can’t cause addiction all by itself.

    But the driver is both. Addictive Substance and disconnection go hand in hand. Its both.

    Unconditional Love and connection alone will not help an addict get into Sober Recovery. Recovery from addiction is more like a recipe. You take out one of the necessity ingredients and it just won’t turn out the same. But If an addict is not willing to be honest and is not willing do whatever it takes to get better, they will never get into Sober Recovery.

    Also I think the video could be harmful for some newly betrayed wives to watch because the message they might receive is “if i connect more with my husband he won’t want to look at porn”.

  5. This was a very interesting video to me. My addicts choice is porn which he prefers to me. Our minister asked if I thought he was involved in affairs. I said no, he is too afraid to connect to another person and an affair would take his connecting with another person. I can see the lack of connection and the lack of engagement with productive activities being a significant part of the problem. I am hoping as he works through the 12 step lite program he is doing and I work through SA lifeline’s program including learning to set boundaries of what is acceptable maybe he will choose connection with me. I am certainly choosing to learn to connect with others as part of my recovery. I will be with him if he is in a circle that includes treating me like the daughter of God I am. I am also doing my best to treat him like a son of God. Connection takes effort, sometimes a lot of effort. It is messy and frequently involves disappointments and hurt. But it also brings the possibility of more joy than anything else I have ever experienced.
    In the end, it is about balance. How much do I connect when I don’t trust? How many steps do I take and where are my boundaries? Certainly many more concepts to balance and many thoughts to consider.

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