Introduction by Gabrielle Grace Abbott
Throughout my own struggles with substance use disorder and mental illness, Hungarian-Canadian physician Gabor Maté's experience and insight have proven invaluable in changing how I view myself and my addictions. From him I learned that my diagnoses stem from childhood trauma and loss. I used to blame myself for my diagnosis, but I now realize there were underlying causes over which I had no control. I know I am responsible for what I do with this knowledge and wisdom, but not for the diagnosis.
Dr. Maté practices family medicine with a special interest in childhood development and trauma. He is interested in how trauma potentially effects physical and mental health in the long term, specifically focusing in on ADHD, substance use disorder and a variety of other conditions.
He addresses the fact that “substance use disorder is complex, but it’s manifested in any behavior that a person finds temporary pleasure or relief in and therefore craves, but suffers negative consequences in the long term, and can’t give up.” Any behaviour such as shopping, sex, gambling, Instagram or food could qualify as addictive behaviour if it meets the above criteria. By this description, most human beings have been addicted at one time or another.
So, we are not alone. In his book, In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts, which I recommend to anyone struggling with substance use disorder and their families, he asks, “Not why the addiction, but why the pain?” I hope you find comfort and empowerment in Dr. Maté’s wise words.