Why We Like Substances

Why We Like Substances

People always say, “Alcoholism runs in my family.” Usually this is met with, “Mine too.” Everyone has an alcoholic sibling, uncle, grandpa, whoever. It might not be because your genes wire everyone that shares them to love the sauce – it’s more likely that alcoholism is just a human thing.

As humans, we are prone to get addicted to substances.

Now your teachers would probably say that’s because our brains stop making blank and blank chemical, so we need more and more of [substance] or we get bummed out, sick or just plain die. And while that is true, I feel like our era of knowledge makes everyone lean blandly on this chemical reasoning without thinking about motivation.

It’s the same with depression. So many people I know have resigned themselves to being depressed because “their brain is missing chemicals,” instead of considering that possibly their life sucks and they need to make some changes.

I think substance abuse is a matter of control.

Basically, we can choose to let our bodies run on manual autopilot. They come wanting to be as they are – ready to start reducing these chemicals if we pump them in from an outside source so they can retain something like homeostasis.

We can go on autopilot and just let them be, spending our lives turning down anything mood altering and letting our moods just float in and out as they see fit.

But sometimes this gets too hard. We want to be awake when we’re tired. Coffee. We want to be social when we’re feeling anxious. Alcohol. We want to be happy when we’re sad. All kindsa pills and injections.

So we put our bodies on manual, and give ourselves the strings. We can get distracted from regular life by pulling all these strings and trying our best to feel exactly the way we want to feel, at any time.

I think that’s why I started smoking. It was any easy way to give myself something to need that I could easily fulfill.

Ironically, these things we do to start feeling in control of inevitably start controlling us. That’s when you start growing up and giving yourself other, healthier things to get addicted to, like obsessive cycling, or green tea. Or at least you might consider it while smoking.

Becky Lang

Photo by Pranjal Mahna