The Necessity of Kindness
By: Anastasia E. Tsouroupakis
It’s Kindness Week in the Greater Toronto Area, and we thought it appropriate to blog about the positive effect of kindness in the recovery process of an addict. Humans in general crave a kind word or act from our family, friends and even from strangers; it reinforces our feeling of self-worth and self-value. Kind acts have positive physiological effects, studies have shown that both being on the giving and receiving end of an act of kindness affects the production and release of oxytocin. In past blogs, we have written about this chemical which the brain produces and have referred to it as the “feel good drug”. (See our blog Get Healthy without Going to the Gym 15/01/28) High levels of oxytocin in one’s system helps to reduce high blood pressure and high glucose levels as well as helps strengthen one’s immune system; in short kindness is healing.
The world of an addict is a dark one, fraught with negativity and harshness. Users are daily judged and condemned by society as a whole. Former drug addicts maintain that this collective, social condemnation is part of the reason addicts delay in seeking treatment since they are “…so afraid of judgement and rejection” (1). This negative behaviour never produces the desired effect, when showing an addict disdain for their life choices we are not pushing them to “clean up their act” but rather driving them to continue their destructive behaviour. In the words of a former user negative comments are “…so overwhelming that when combined with our craving we can’t and often refuse to see that there is a skillful way out.” (2) When we are kind to those who suffer from addiction we are showing them there is another way, a different way from the cruelty to which they are so accustomed. In fact, there exist facilities where addicts can go and no one pressures them to stop using, the only treatment they provide is unconditional understanding, trust and kindness; eventually many of them make the decisions to enter treatment programs. This is why acts of kindness however small, show an addict that they are worthy that the sum total of their being is NOT their addiction.
It is important to note in the case of an addict, enabling is not an act of kindness. Friends and families of users often confuse the two, providing excuses for addictive behaviour is not a kind nor helpful act rather, it leads to an addicts continued abuse of drugs and alcohol since they are never held accountable for their actions. Family and friends must practise a “detached kindness” which allows the addict to account for his or her actions in order to learn and grow. By “loving the addict in a new way… [they are] showing kindness in word and action while at the same [time] stepping back from the role of enabling” (3). Practising detached kindness may even hasten the addict’s decision to get clean.
We should not have to be reminded to be kind, unfortunately such is not the case. We live in a world where we are so self-involved that we forget how to behave toward each other. The truth is we do not live in a vacuum, our words and actions affect everyone we come into contact with and, rather than tearing each other down with harsh words and sarcasm we should be building each other up with kindness. Can you imagine what kind of world that would be?
Castillo, Tessie, www.alter.org/drugs/kindness-not-punishement-helps-drug-users-quit, 2014/08/29.
Szalavitz, Maria,www.healthland.time.com/2013/05/09/why-kindness-can-make-us-happier-healthier/., 2013/05/09.