I was homeless for ten years in
What I would like to discuss now is a revelation which was triggered by a comment a friend of mine made when we met accidentally last week.
I was downtown, walking on
After hugging and clapping each other on the back, the way people do, who love each other and have been separated for some time, I began telling them about my new life without drugs and alcohol.
At the point in my rendition when I was proudly proclaiming that next week I would be clean and sober for a whole year, Peter said, “We’ll have to have a party to celebrate; no, wait a minute, that’s how it all started wasn’t it?” We all laughed and Davy said with mock sadness, “Relapsed eh?” (meaning relapsed into a state of not using drugs and alcohol) We all laughed again.
Now those two words really shook me. Webster’s New Dictionary of the English Language defines relapse as follows: ‘to fall back or revert to a former state, especially to regress after partial recovery from an illness.’ Its’ most common usage when speaking of addiction is to describe a return to the use of drugs or alcohol after a period of abstinence.
What Davy meant as a very clever joke, got me thinking about lifestyles. I can truthfully say that I did not relapse into an old lifestyle. I am in the process of creating a whole new way of life for myself. One I’ve never tried before, but there is a very real danger to any recovering addict, and that is to relapse into the addiction which plagues most of our society’s so called normal population. It is this addiction which I believe has been unrecognised or undefined up until now which is a major cause of people like my two friends and I rejecting the values of that society and turning to drugs and alcohol.
Up until Davy’s joking comment, I had absolutely no intimation that one of the leading factors which led me, and probably a great many others, to a life on the streets was a rejection of an addiction which nobody officially recognises as one.
I say “Officially,” because the condition is so widespread that several phrases have been coined into our language to describe it, but no-one speaks “Officially,” of its’ threat to our society. “Conspicuous Consumption,” “Galloping Consumerism,” “Keeping Up With the Joneses,” “Shop Till You Drop,” all describe symptoms of this addiction.
Stress, nervous breakdowns, heart attacks, family disintegrations, drug and alcohol consumption, ever increasing debt and bankruptcy are many of the results of this unhealthy urge to spend money one can not afford on products which one does not need and often never uses. People go into unending debt to purchase products which wear out, break down or otherwise become useless long before they are paid for. Products which are perfectly useful are discarded to make way for purchases of more sexy although no more functional newer ones.
The whole value structure of society has collapsed into an evaluation of what you own and what you’ve got. If you have lots of money or lots of things you are a successful member of society. If you don’t, you’re a loser. What you’ve accomplished no longer has merit; it’s all what you’ve got.
If this trend towards materialism is not recognised for the dangerous threat to our civilisation that it is, I fear we will have no power to prevent the ultimate emulation of the