“We adapt to the misery of an unloving home, of unfulfilling work. Of empty friendships and acquired alienation. The 12 Step program, which has saved my life, will change the life of anyone who embraces it. I have seen it work many times with people with addiction issues of every hue: drugs, sex, relationships, food, work, smoking, alcohol, technology, pornography, hoarding, gambling, everything. Because the instinct that drives the compulsion is universal. It is an attempt to solve the problem of disconnection, alienation and tepid despair, because the problem is ultimately ‘being human’ in an environment that is curiously ill-equipped to deal with the challenges that entails. We are all on the addiction scale. ”

Russell Brand

I am an addict.

I am a member of a 12 Step fellowship and am working my way through the 12 steps, which is kind of like painting the Sydney Harbour Bridge: it’s a never-ending job, the day after you complete it, you start back at the start again.

I am always surprised by the number of young people (the Snowflakes) I sit in a room with at 12 step meetings. For a person half my age to have not only realised they have a problem with addiction, but to have surrendered enough to put their bum in a chair at Narcotics Anonymous or Alcoholics Anonymous or Gamblers Anonymous or Whatever Anonymous, is always amazing, and humbling, to me.

I only found my way in at 44 years old, and I’m still not 100% sure I belong there.

I have been in rehab twice (I’m a slow learner), and both times I’ve been surprised at how many millennial people have also been in treatment there with me.

Both times, I would say more than 50% of the addict population were under 30 years old.

This has two effects: firstly for those addicts seeking treatment (and admitting their powerlessness over whatever substance or life process they were addicted to), their progress is much better. Sure, they may have done a lot of damage to themselves and others, but they haven’t been inflicting that damage for decades.

But secondly, it shows them, as well as their like-minded and similar-aged Snowflake friends, that addiction is real, can happen to anyone at any age, is treatable (if not curable), and is not something to be ashamed of and hide away from.

The other thing about addiction in younger people, as opposed to old boilers like me, is that the world keeps throwing up more and more things for young people to become addicted to.

When I was a teenager, and certainly when my Dad was a teenager, there was no such thing as technology addiction, or screen addiction, or addiction to Facebook or Instagram or Twitter. Pornography wasn’t readily accessible and free, you couldn’t gamble on your phone, you couldn’t visit a website and buy anything you wanted, whenever you wanted it, and Crystal Methamphetamine wasn’t cheap and easy to get your hands on.

The world these Snowflakes are treading their awkward and challenging teenage years through now, is fraught with addicting agents that hadn’t even been thought of over 10 years ago.

Joel is 20 years old. I met him in my second stint of rehab where he was just about to have his 21st birthday as a resident there. He was from a wealthy family, lived in a posh well-to-do suburb of Sydney, and was charming and good looking. Once you chipped away the veneer though, Joel was in serious trouble.

Joel is an alcoholic and a drug addict. He told me he wasn’t addicted to gambling, although he also told me that often lost thousands of dollars in one night at the casino, and sometimes that was money he borrowed from his mother to pay his rent with. He told me the hardest thing about being in rehab was being without his phone (they confiscated our phones on admission to remove one big distraction from our recovery and treatment). He had been in trouble with the nurses and therapists at the rehab a couple of times for rage because he told them he had to get his phone to ‘check his Instagram’ and they didn’t give it to him. He was on a written contract for rage with the nursing staff which meant is he did it again, he would be kicked out of the facility. He had grown up in a seemingly loving and well-off family, but he told me he had never heard his parents say ‘I love you’ either to him or to each other. He had been neglected and abandoned, and had self-soothed with drugs, alcohol, sex, porn, gambling, and seeking approval and love via social media.

He was lost. And, again, he was just 20 years old.

The interesting part of Joel’s story (and all of the other younger addicts I’ve met), isn’t that he lives with an addiction so young, it’s that he identifies it, is wholly aware of it, and is doing something about it.

These Snowflakes have a lot of self-awareness, a lot more than my generation does, that’s for sure.

That awareness has been supported by medical authorities’ — and society’s — new understanding of addiction being a brain disease that is characterised by major and lasting changes to the brain. This is a stark difference to how addiction was considered, even when I was a child only thirty years ago, when it was thought to be a moral decision and basically a character defect.

In fact, in the last few years, several long-held views of addiction have changed dramatically.

Addiction is now recognised as a disease, as opposed to a moral choice or an inherent weakness in the personality of an addict. The point is often made, now, that if you were diagnosed with chronic arthritis or asthma or diabetes or cancer, you wouldn’t feel like you were a bad person, and nobody would project their feelings of you being a bad or weak person on to you.

Instead, you would devote your energy into getting better, and doing what you can to alleviate — or eradicate — that disease from your body and your life.

We need to think about addiction more in this way too.

We know now that some people are more genetically predisposed to become an addict. This explains why some people can enjoy one beer with a meal, and for others, one is too many and a thousand is never enough.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) holds that a person’s predisposition to addiction is caused by a pretty even 50/50 split between environmental and/or emotional triggers, and genetics.

This is further reinforced by the research showing that if you are a child or an addict or addicts, you are up to eight time more likely to become an addict yourself.

The link is now well established between a person who has one addiction being more likely to develop other addictions as well, particularly when they are in recovery from their primary or first addiction.

This is why a drug addict for instance might want to avoid alcohol or gambling or even other drugs that aren’t their drug of choice, when they are recovering from their primary drug addiction. Those other substances might not be a problem for them — and maybe never were up to this point — but it is widely considered they might be a gateway back to a person’s original addiction anyway, because of the brain having been wired for that addiction previously.

This is why many drug rehabilitation facilities and programmes, including 12 Step programs, recommend complete abstinence.

Unfortunately, if you live with a mental illness like I do, surveys conducted by NIDA have consistently shown that people who have a mental disorder are at least two times more likely to also develop a substance addiction.

And gender plays a role too. If you are male you are twice as likely to develop an addiction, however females escalate from substance use into addiction much faster, and are also at a higher chance of relapsing once in recovery from their addiction.

But the most heartening revelation about addiction from recent times is that it is not a weakness, nor are addicts just weak people.

How can that ever have been true? The very fact that addicts come from all walks of life, all socio-economic and developmental backgrounds, race and gender, shows that addiction is a disease, and not a choice or character flaw. If it was easy to stop being an addict, just by developing some fortitude or ‘trying harder’, the population of addicts would only be made up of unsuccessful, unmotivated, racially or socially-disadvantaged people.

But that’s not true. A great number of high-functioning business executives, as well as those who are very wealthy and seemingly have it all, also have an addiction.

But the biggest difference in how addiction is treated in 2018 as opposed to 1951 when my dad was a child, is that there are now medically-based treatment programs, whether as an inpatient or conducted in the community, that are run by medical professionals, backed by published research, and monitored by psychological and psychiatric practitioners.

For a long time, recovery treatments were conducted and overseen by people who weren’t formally trained, largely because addicts were shunned — and shamed — by the medical community, and therefore they sought out help from each other. This is basically how 12 Step programmes were born.

It is now widely understood — and the Snowflakes are getting the benefit of this now — that addiction is a disease, it’s not a weakness, and as a disease it should be treated medically and out in the open, just as other chronic diseases are treated.

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“We adapt to the misery of an unloving home, of unfulfilling work. Of empty friendships and acquired alienation. The 12 Step program, which has saved my life, will change the life of anyone who embraces it. I have seen it work many times with people with addiction issues of every hue: drugs, sex, relationships, food, work, smoking, alcohol, technology, pornography, hoarding, gambling, everything. Because the instinct that drives the compulsion is universal. It is an attempt to solve the problem of disconnection, alienation and tepid despair, because the problem is ultimately ‘being human’ in an environment that is curiously ill-equipped to deal with the challenges that entails. We are all on the addiction scale. ”

Russell Brand

I am an addict.

I am a member of a 12 Step fellowship and am working my way through the 12 steps, which is kind of like painting the Sydney Harbour Bridge: it’s a never-ending job, the day after you complete it, you start back at the start again.

I am always surprised by the number of young people (the Snowflakes) I sit in a room with at 12 step meetings. For a person half my age to have not only realised they have a problem with addiction, but to have surrendered enough to put their bum in a chair at Narcotics Anonymous or Alcoholics Anonymous or Gamblers Anonymous or Whatever Anonymous, is always amazing, and humbling, to me.

I only found my way in at 44 years old, and I’m still not 100% sure I belong there.

I have been in rehab twice (I’m a slow learner), and both times I’ve been surprised at how many millennial people have also been in treatment there with me.

Both times, I would say more than 50% of the addict population were under 30 years old.

This has two effects: firstly for those addicts seeking treatment (and admitting their powerlessness over whatever substance or life process they were addicted to), their progress is much better. Sure, they may have done a lot of damage to themselves and others, but they haven’t been inflicting that damage for decades.

But secondly, it shows them, as well as their like-minded and similar-aged Snowflake friends, that addiction is real, can happen to anyone at any age, is treatable (if not curable), and is not something to be ashamed of and hide away from.

The other thing about addiction in younger people, as opposed to old boilers like me, is that the world keeps throwing up more and more things for young people to become addicted to.

When I was a teenager, and certainly when my Dad was a teenager, there was no such thing as technology addiction, or screen addiction, or addiction to Facebook or Instagram or Twitter. Pornography wasn’t readily accessible and free, you couldn’t gamble on your phone, you couldn’t visit a website and buy anything you wanted, whenever you wanted it, and Crystal Methamphetamine wasn’t cheap and easy to get your hands on.

The world these Snowflakes are treading their awkward and challenging teenage years through now, is fraught with addicting agents that hadn’t even been thought of over 10 years ago.

Joel is 20 years old. I met him in my second stint of rehab where he was just about to have his 21st birthday as a resident there. He was from a wealthy family, lived in a posh well-to-do suburb of Sydney, and was charming and good looking. Once you chipped away the veneer though, Joel was in serious trouble.


Joel is an alcoholic and a drug addict. He told me he wasn’t addicted to gambling, although he also told me that often lost thousands of dollars in one night at the casino, and sometimes that was money he borrowed from his mother to pay his rent with. He told me the hardest thing about being in rehab was being without his phone (they confiscated our phones on admission to remove one big distraction from our recovery and treatment). He had been in trouble with the nurses and therapists at the rehab a couple of times for rage because he told them he had to get his phone to ‘check his Instagram’ and they didn’t give it to him. He was on a written contract for rage with the nursing staff which meant is he did it again, he would be kicked out of the facility. He had grown up in a seemingly loving and well-off family, but he told me he had never heard his parents say ‘I love you’ either to him or to each other. He had been neglected and abandoned, and had self-soothed with drugs, alcohol, sex, porn, gambling, and seeking approval and love via social media.

He was lost. And, again, he was just 20 years old.

The interesting part of Joel’s story (and all of the other younger addicts I’ve met), isn’t that he lives with an addiction so young, it’s that he identifies it, is wholly aware of it, and is doing something about it.

These Snowflakes have a lot of self-awareness, a lot more than my generation does, that’s for sure.

That awareness has been supported by medical authorities’ — and society’s — new understanding of addiction being a brain disease that is characterised by major and lasting changes to the brain. This is a stark difference to how addiction was considered, even when I was a child only thirty years ago, when it was thought to be a moral decision and basically a character defect.

In fact, in the last few years, several long-held views of addiction have changed dramatically.

Addiction is now recognised as a disease, as opposed to a moral choice or an inherent weakness in the personality of an addict. The point is often made, now, that if you were diagnosed with chronic arthritis or asthma or diabetes or cancer, you wouldn’t feel like you were a bad person, and nobody would project their feelings of you being a bad or weak person on to you.

Instead, you would devote your energy into getting better, and doing what you can to alleviate — or eradicate — that disease from your body and your life.

We need to think about addiction more in this way too.

We know now that some people are more genetically predisposed to become an addict. This explains why some people can enjoy one beer with a meal, and for others, one is too many and a thousand is never enough.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) holds that a person’s predisposition to addiction is caused by a pretty even 50/50 split between environmental and/or emotional triggers, and genetics.

This is further reinforced by the research showing that if you are a child or an addict or addicts, you are up to eight time more likely to become an addict yourself.

The link is now well established between a person who has one addiction being more likely to develop other addictions as well, particularly when they are in recovery from their primary or first addiction.

This is why a drug addict for instance might want to avoid alcohol or gambling or even other drugs that aren’t their drug of choice, when they are recovering from their primary drug addiction. Those other substances might not be a problem for them — and maybe never were up to this point — but it is widely considered they might be a gateway back to a person’s original addiction anyway, because of the brain having been wired for that addiction previously.

This is why many drug rehabilitation facilities and programmes, including 12 Step programs, recommend complete abstinence.

Unfortunately, if you live with a mental illness like I do, surveys conducted by NIDA have consistently shown that people who have a mental disorder are at least two times more likely to also develop a substance addiction.

And gender plays a role too. If you are male you are twice as likely to develop an addiction, however females escalate from substance use into addiction much faster, and are also at a higher chance of relapsing once in recovery from their addiction.

But the most heartening revelation about addiction from recent times is that it is not a weakness, nor are addicts just weak people.

How can that ever have been true? The very fact that addicts come from all walks of life, all socio-economic and developmental backgrounds, race and gender, shows that addiction is a disease, and not a choice or character flaw. If it was easy to stop being an addict, just by developing some fortitude or ‘trying harder’, the population of addicts would only be made up of unsuccessful, unmotivated, racially or socially-disadvantaged people.

But that’s not true. A great number of high-functioning business executives, as well as those who are very wealthy and seemingly have it all, also have an addiction.

But the biggest difference in how addiction is treated in 2018 as opposed to 1951 when my dad was a child, is that there are now medically-based treatment programs, whether as an inpatient or conducted in the community, that are run by medical professionals, backed by published research, and monitored by psychological and psychiatric practitioners.

For a long time, recovery treatments were conducted and overseen by people who weren’t formally trained, largely because addicts were shunned — and shamed — by the medical community, and therefore they sought out help from each other. This is basically how 12 Step programmes were born.

It is now widely understood — and the Snowflakes are getting the benefit of this now — that addiction is a disease, it’s not a weakness, and as a disease it should be treated medically and out in the open, just as other chronic diseases are treated.

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