Oasis-metaphor of Addiction

by Philip Jonkers

Addiction as a phenomenon may be imagined by the following scenario. Picture some poor and thirsty itinerant soul wandering on barefoot through some scorching hot desert. Every now and then he rejoices when he comes across an oasis at which he may rest for a while and stock up on water. After he has regained his strength, he once again sets off into the desolate heat and will once again endure the same agonizing and challenging conditions that he has grown familiar to.

With justification one may conclude that this person is not at all free by any meaningful sense of the word. Indeed, the drifter is forced to devote virtually all of his resources into staying alive, i.e. he must spend nearly all of his time and energy in locating a new life-saving oasis.

This is pretty much the fate of the addict, although of course addiction comes in many different kinds and degrees of severity. Concerning the most severe forms of addictions, the addict is completely absorbed (or enslaved) by the accompanying maintenance obligations. That is, like the drifter wandering in the desert by necessity devoting most of his attention and energy into the objective of finding the next oasis, the addict too devotes most of his resources to efforts aimed at securing his next fix. And, like the drifter suffering from the anxiety and feelings of insecurity relating to his survival when he is in between two oases, the addict too suffers from anxiety (withdrawal symptoms) when he is in between two fixes.

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