A cowboy riding off into the distance. Independent, strong, capable. He doesn’t need anything or anyone. He can come against any terrain. Face any challenge that comes his way. He’s fearless. He’s the Marlboro Man.
In American society, we are fed images of people like the Marlboro man and uphold people who seem able to “pick themselves up by their bootstraps.” Health in America seems to equal independence, success, strength. But is this really healthy? Are we made to traverse this life on our own? Does it mean we are weak and “less than” if we request the help of others? And how does detachment from others relate to those who have an addiction?
Philip Flores states the following in his book called Addiction as an Attachment Disorder: “People strive for independence, autonomy, and self-sufficiency, but all too often at the cost of alienation from self and others.” He continues that alcoholics and addicts are “notoriously counterdependent individuals, living their lives in the extreme ends of the attachment-individuation continuum.” Instead of experiencing autonomy in a healthy way, alcoholics and addicts instead experience the extremes of both alienation and relationships where there is an absence of mutuality.
Research on the field of addiction reinforces that a critical component for Alcoholics and Addicts is their lack of intimacy and connection with others. They have easily fallen into the belief of, “I can do life on my own,” or even “others will only hinder me.”
So are there alternative ways to live? What’s the solution to this disconnection from others? Come back next Monday for Part 2.
Mary Overstreet, LAMFT, LAPC