An old man lived alone on a vast sheet of ice. It was bitter where he lived, unforgiving and lifeless. The sun shone only a small portion of the day. The rest of the time the man was cloaked in darkness, with only the light of glittering stars, light he never took time to question.
Save for the black-striped gulls that shook in the wind, there was no variation except in the early morning when he was balled up in a hole he dug in a snow bank sleeping off his indulgence in that which he most craved. The sun made prisms in the ice: Reds, greens, yellows, and blues connected even in this unconscious place, promising more. Not bothering to consider what he was being shown, the man found himself grumbling inside the hole while his head throbbed and banged.
After many attempts by family and friends to coerce him to leave this empty place, the man found himself with only one acquaintance. Its name was Dependence. It lived about half a mile away on a massive iceberg. It rarely moved. Dependence also lived alone, speaking only to those who would listen.
Dependence, however, had what the old fellow wanted, and each day the man would pull on his shabby snow boots and damp winter coat and grab an oar before making his way over hundreds of ice floes to reach the other side, craving the entire time. It was always a precarious journey, one leg flying this way, the other floating that way. There was never any balance when he went to visit Dependence. He would jump and wait, jump and wait, holding his arms out to save himself from a sure death should he fall into the icy black water.
Sometimes the old man would stand shaking for an hour until another ice chunk would happen by. He would use the oar to pull it near, then pounce, leaving his feet to fall in the water, cold heat surrounding his ankles as he scurried to get back onto something solid, bitter wind pummeling his face as if to warn him to go back. He’d pull himself up and catch his breath, always keeping an eye on Dependence, who waited patiently on the other side with what he needed, laughing and calling to the man not to fall in.
Sometimes the old man would paddle, using the oar to get closer to another floe before making the jump. “That’s quite innovative,” he thought. “Brilliant even.” The strategy, after all, was surely sound, and his courage unquestionable. Not everyone would take this expedition to visit Dependence even once, but the old man did it daily! It had become a game even as he shuddered uncontrollably in his damp coat, ice falling down his back, his cheeks numb and eyes watering.
Dependence always met the man with a wry smile, giving him what he needed before sending him back. The trip back to his hole was wrought with even more danger, but the man met it with fervor and passion, emboldened by their meeting, singing as he hopped from floe to floe, then stumbling, not feeling his hands or feet, not feeling anything really. He called out to the seals and gulls, shaking his oar to the sky. The old man was unshakeable, until he fell in.
Halfway home, he called out for Dependence to save him, but Dependence couldn’t do a thing. It is the nature of Dependence to have no control or motivation to help, to be compulsively preoccupied with its own needs. Dependence is blind, and will never see the prisms of light, or the promise. Dependence is unable to see the negative consequences of anything.
Thus the old man flailed and struggled, grasping wildly around him before losing his strength and succumbing to the depths.
And So …
There are signs and behaviors that can be attached to alcohol or drug dependence, but they are difficult to see because a person in the throes of addiction tends to withdraw and isolate, and often he or she ends up spending most their time with other addicts.
In dependency’s early stages, cravings usually are the most common characteristic. Other common signs that a person might have an addiction problem are:
• Loss of control – engaging in risky behaviors while under the influence. Foregoing their moral foundation and sense of right and wrong to appease their addiction.
• Compulsive preoccupation – spending an inordinate amount of time thinking about the next time they might be able to use, how they will use, where, and with whom.
• Continued use of the drug of choice despite negative consequences – The onset of negative effects of the addiction in their personal life, but rationalizing and choosing to continue.
• Loss of motivation – The user loses focus on his or her daily life at work and in their personal lives. Hobbies or activities that were once seen as enjoyable lose their luster and fulfillment in addiction.
*Mr. Enga is the new facilitator of the Dentists Concerned for Dentists group.