Tuesday, October 9, 2018

The Introverted Addict: Why Drugs Are So Appealing For Social Interaction

Since I stopped using alcohol, weed, tobacco and ecstasy around 8 months ago, I've been noticing many new realisations and perceptions about my personality (and others') that until recently I've never had any helpful explanations for. Stopping regularly using substances has stripped away levels of escapism and has left me confronted with the sometimes harsh reality of beginning to truly understand my-self.

We all love getting swept away with the fruits of the world. The problem is that it's really difficult to identify when we are using life's many portals (drugs, shopping, internet etc) to avoid being honest with ourselves, and respecting and understanding what is truly good for us, or not. There's an endless spectrum of things to do, experience or indulge in, which can cunningly and un-consciously become distractions or coping mechanisms to avoid the visceral confrontation of knowing thy-self.

I'm 31 and have only recently discovered that I am an a class A introvert. This is nothing at all to do with shyness, insecurity or snobbery, but is absolutely to do with how we become energised and therefore where our interests lie, which, depending on how we manage that, affects our happiness, health and confidence. 

As an introvert, I get exited by ideas (philosophical and creative), exhausted by groups and social interaction, and energised by solitude and individualised actions or focus. Spending time alone writing, designing, or making music inspires me emotionally, and stabilises me energetically. Whilst spending too much time socialising, especially in groups, and with banter-based, high energy conversation, drains my energy quickly.

Unfortunately for me, the extraverted pathology dominates our culture. It is what we consider normal, and encourage everyone to be. The world of the outer, the material, the novelty, the dopamine-driven "give me this now!" pathology is valued far more than the world of the inner; the contemplation, the sensitivity, the depth, the integrity.

Recognising this has helped me to understand why I am attracted to the sensations that many drugs can bring. Firstly, they give us a focal point for our attention - they give us something to do. They orientate our perspective, and align our thoughts with the rituals of going for a drink or meeting for a spliff. Focusing on one thing as your social narrative reduces existential complexity, which is often a welcome relief for the introvert. 

Secondly, life feels easier when we're not thinking so much; similar to the above, drinking, smoking or taking class A's definitely offers an easy method of temporarily switching off the mind. I once heard this called "Downwards Enlightenment". This is an awesome feeling, especially for an introvert, as we often spend most of our time lost in observation. Many of us introverts have never found successful ways to simplify our tendency towards depth, awareness or consideration, so drugs and other addictions often become the only known method to enable us to escape the responsibility of owning a soul.

Thirdly, they help us to interact, behave and relate as easily as an extrovert. We "innies" often feel misunderstood and uncomfortable in society in general, because the methods we use to communicate are missed, ignored, or are overwhelmed by others. Keeping up with the pace of extroverted communication can be exhausting and very difficult for an introverted brain. This can make us seem unsociable or even snobby, so the idea of using a drug to facilitate interaction can be our default reaction to even the concept of human communication.

I remember the first time I took ecstasy, I thought, "Wow, I feel like this is how most people must feel most of the time." I was able to think quickly and articulately, and felt emotionally energised, with no trouble communicating with others. Whether or not this is a reality or simply the drug making me feel this way, is still up for debate. However, taking drugs does at least appear to help strip away social anxiety and enhance motivation for communication, which in cases like myself, seems to act as an enhancer of human interaction, making the sugar taste all the more sweet!

Now that I have stopped using all drugs (except for caffeine), it has become pretty clear that the reasons that drug-culture has had such an appeal for me, is at least in part due to my introverted temperament. I have recognised that as an introvert, my brain works differently to the majority, which is helping me to understand why I feel like I do. And I'm only just beginning to skim the surface (I think!?) I've noticed that life gets overwhelming quicker when I don't have enough time in solitude, and have come to accept that this is not something that is "wrong with me" but it is the environment and mechanism by which I re-charge. 

Introversion is really difficult to explain to extroverts. And because of this, almost all the introverts I know are faced with similar struggles. But many, like myself until recently, probably don't even realise it. We all long to be heard, understood, and related with, and it turns out that drugs are used by almost everyone to make that process easier. For the introverted pathology, or at least in my case, the main appeal is connection!

On psychedelics, I used to have profound feelings of separation from others,; on ecstasy I felt a clarity of authentic communication.  With weed there was consistent cognitive dissonance, and with booze I just didn't care. Now all of these sensations from drug use make sense. They all showed me aspects of myself, which I am now beginning to not only listen to, but respect and trust. They all seem to point to that, whilst my introversion enables me to think deeply, creatively and considerately, it also keeps me feeling separate, different, and misunderstood. These are my newest insights from cutting free of addictions.

Although never easy, my journey is now guided with a new level of wisdom. I've begun to understand, that for me to thrive as an introverted addict, I need to find healthy new ways to unlock extraversion within myself (for special occasions), balanced symbiotically with the necessity for deep relaxation or isolation. With these elements harmonised, the introverted addict will no longer feel the drive towards substances to stimulate his/her consciousness, because, in a world of individualisation, (s)he will have developed new weapons in the fight for connection. And one day, maybe the war will be over, and we can all finally be at peace with ourselves. 

For more information on introversion, check out these books.


If you can relate to what you've just read, let's continue the conversation! Sharing stories is one of our most powerful tools, so leave a comment below, check out the FREEDOM junkies' facebook page, or join our group. 

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