Molly had a cylindrical frame, a pearl white complexion, and always seemed to be on edge whenever she entered a room. She was brought to the clinic by her friend, who informed me that Molly had been showing signs of sleeping difficulties and appetite disturbances. At first sight, Molly seemed distracted by the floor, window, walls and all the items on my desk. She spent so much time looking at different things during our initial five sessions, that I had started to believe the floor was more therapeutic than I.
Molly had seen some difficult times with her friend yet always managed to make him feel relaxed, happy and safe. Molly was her friend’s sole companion and best friend. You see, Molly’s friend had been diagnosed with depression at the age of 15 and he had struggled with deliberate self-harm for 8 years. Molly was sincere and often snuck in with her friend to see me. Her friend always spoke about how helpful Molly was and how she had helped him sail through difficult times. However, recently he had started to feel that his dependence on her was maybe a cause for concern. Molly’s friend was Abdul*.
Abdul* was a 27-year-old man who had previously been employed in a call center. Abdul* first met Molly during a late night shift through common friends. He was initially hesitant to be with her, however, soon he started to enjoy her company more than anyone else’s. Shortly after, Abdul* and Molly were inseparable and often met in secrecy avoiding the public eye. Abdul* spent sessions talking extensively about her and the ways in which she had helped him. To Abdul* it seemed unfair that everyone blamed molly for any mistakes that he made. He was repeatedly suggested, asked as well as forced to avoid Molly and all places associated with her by his well-wishers.
This wasn’t the first time Abdul* was coming to see a therapist because of molly. In the past, Molly had caused Abdul* to lose his job as well as all his close friends. After his previously failed attempt to leave molly, this time he was determined to part ways with her for good. As our sessions started to progress, I saw less and less of Molly and so did Abdul*. And to be true, he was definitely doing much better without her. He had a new job, had various new hobbies as well as started meeting his friends more frequently. His health improved and so did his mood.
Molly was no longer a part of Abdul’s* existence.
Molly is a known friend to thousands around the world. She has various other names but officially goes by MDMA. Working with a client with an addiction can be extremely difficult. While the field of mental health itself is stigmatised, addiction seems to earn a worse name than any other form of “insanity”. Addiction is a disease which slowly eats away both the user as well as anyone who dares to be around the user. An essential part of helping someone deal with their addiction is to be able to distinguish them from their disease.
I have met numerous people who call themselves ‘addicts’ or others who refer to them as that. I’m baffled at how easily this disease has been converted into a noun for those who are unfortunate enough to struggle with it. Its absurd to me. Let me help you understand why! If tomorrow someone informs you that they have been diagnosed with cancer, would you start calling them canceric? Of course not! Even the thought is senseless. A person with cancer remains a person exclusive of the ailment, then why doesn’t a person with an addiction?
Having said that, you may ask how is labelling going to change anything? How is calling someone an addict different from saying that they suffer from an addiction? A simple change in the way we address people with an ailment, can either give or take away a sense of control from them. Someone with an addiction will often struggle with the overwhelming power of the drug they abuse. They often feel powerless in the face of their addiction and to get better they need to genuinely believe that they control the drug and not the other way round. A simple change in the way we address this issue goes a long way.
One of the hardest things about working with most cases of addiction is the absence of social support from their immediate family members, which indubitably is essential for their recovery. While substance abuse often leaves other people around the user hurt in various ways, it is equipped with a stronger power to completely destroy lives. As the routine functioning of the abuser goes down, other people around start to pick up their slack. Most people, even those who don’t understand specifics of addiction, still understand the negative consequences associated with it. When this becomes a daily activity for the caregivers, it is only human to experience frustration, and anger towards the person abusing substances. This relationship dynamic exists with almost all mental health concerns, however, one thing that distinguishes addiction from other mental health concerns is that the responsibility and blame of the ailment remains on the user. Use of substances changes the brain chemistry which more often than not is irreversible, which essentially means that addiction is like being on autopilot! To fight and overcome this, they need all the support and empathy they can receive and that’s where viewing ‘addiction as being on autopilot’ helps.
In times where ‘molly’ and ‘meow-meow’ are available at every street along with various other menacing chemical friends waiting for their next bait, we need to wage a war against them and not their victims.
*Name has been changed to maintain confidentiality