Faces of Addiction

Faces of Addiction - Photo Essay by Chris Amade

Faces of Addiction - Photo Essay by Chris Amade

Have you seen the amazing series of photographs, “Faces of Addiction” by Chris Amade? Taken by Chris Arnade, a Citigroup foreign exchange trader who shares his photos on Flickr, the series has been picked up by newspapers and magazines.

The way he does his work and how he has added these people’s own words and stories to the photos seems to bring us all more in to connection as a human family. You can read the stories and see the photos here:

Seeing this photo essay in the midst of a recent food addiction bout was one of many converging factors that helped me through it.

Seeing in to the souls of these people who suffer from addiction I saw myself. The substances they use are more immediately damaging sometimes than food, both in terms of physical damage and also psychological damage. But the journeys of a drug addict, an alcoholic, or a food addict share many similarities.

There is shame in these faces. There is disappointment with self. There is blaming others. Or there is sometimes the pain of being in an abusive situation and not confronting, but enabling the abuser. There is shame then that one is too weak to do what is right. Guilt. Self-loathing. Defeat.

There is the part of the addiction-recovery-relapse process that is like a dance with God. For some of us, addiction becomes our way of interacting with God. We reach rock bottom, we pray, He lifts us up. We are somehow able to get on the wagon. And then we “forget” and relapse. But maybe we just want to feel the hand of God again. And each time it takes a little longer for us to feel God’s hand reaching out to us, because we are a little more ashamed of having this dire need of Him again, by our own doing.

How many times do we get to turn away from Him and then ask for His help and receive His mercy? Will His mercy run out? This is us testing the limits of parental love. Is this a journey that is particularly valuable for those who did not experience sufficient parental love from their earthly parents? Does our Creator, at least, love us then? Are we lovable? Ah, in the dance of addiction we discover that God actually loves us. But just how lovable are we? We might require additional proof.

We test and test and maybe something in us hopes that God will throw us away as our parents did. If God throws us away too, maybe we can at last forgive our earthly parents for throwing us away. Maybe if we keep going back to our addiction we will feel like we really are bad people, and that might help us to let go of the anger towards our parents by allowing us to feel that maybe they had good reason to abandon and abuse us. You know, since God agrees with them.

Although I was blessed with loving parents, what I’m saying is, maybe this concept above could be just one of many ways addiction might actually serve a purpose. Maybe it can be part of a healing process. We do learn about God’s love, and also the limits of His mercy. We learn that we have to be accountable, that we have to do our part. We also learn about our own strength and what we can survive. We learn humility. Oh, the ultimate humiliation. That’s what I see in these faces. Strength. Depth. Love. Acceptance. Humility. Honesty. Rawness. Naked souls.

Are they the face of something within all of us, and within the collective consciousness? Is this something that had to be expressed. The pain of humanity. The animal / spiritual. The results of our greed. The proof that there is something wrong with our society.

And another thing. Why does this place exist where these things are allowed to happen? Maybe there needs to be a place on the planet where people can go, who need to work out the worst kind of pain, to express that worst kind of pain through being in a place where one is allowed to give up. Being amongst others who have given up on humanity and themselves. Where you can still be accepted to a degree for who you are, a person who has given up, who has been broken, – accepted by others who have gone through the same.

I spent some time in Amsterdam as a traveling youth, playing my flute on the streets, and got to see some of this life. There is the temptation, the lure of a life in which normal rules don’t apply, in which you can get out of living according to societal expectations. It can feel like an easy escape from drudgery. And for a while it can be. A wild whirlwind fantasy wonderland. But then as you start to struggle with addiction – with health and sanity, and personal safety, it becomes as hard a path as any, and harder still.

The psychological and physical toll go together. As you realize you are hurting yourself physically, and that you can’t stop, you start to question your sanity. As the toxins can make one a little – or a lot – emotionally unbalanced, you start to further question your sanity. And you try to hold on to shreds of your sanity. And if you decide to fight your way out of the addiction, you have to admit that you are insane, and then you are locking yourself in to this insanity on a quantum level. But if you insist for quantum’s sake that you are sane, and you allow yourself to continue in your addiction, then you are more likely to start to go actually insane.

And these things are so complex, and you are not feeling very smart, and so it is hard to figure out how to get out of the addiction – which way do you go? Do you stay in it and not admit you are insane? Or do you admit you are insane and ask God to help you out of it? Are your thoughts about how it all works even valid at all? Or are you just a confused mess?

And how different is this from the food addict’s journey? We are using substances that numb us, or that give us temporary energy, by turns. Uppers and downers. We develop a physical need for them. We start to feel physical ailments from them. We can’t stop. We become psychologically depressed. We feel crazy. We are living in secret, we don’t know where to turn for help, we are ashamed. We do the addiction-recovery-relapse dance. And we die early, painful deaths.

And I think this photo essay can birth in us a kind of deeper understanding of who we are and why we are in this mess. Many of these people suffered abuse or other trauma. What traumas are you escaping with your addiction? What can you do about the trauma now? How can you move through it or let it go? How can you work on your life so it starts to make sense, add up, so you can gain some self-esteem, and have a good life?

You work on every front. I’ve found that for me, It has to start with prayer. Daily. Even if it is only “God, Your Will be done”. But I try to have a conversation with Him. “Let your needs be spread out before you”. If you believe in prayer, speak to Him from your heart about what is really going on with you. Don’t worry if you lose your train of thought or become distracted and disjointed. He can follow you. If even a snippet of your real feeling goes in to your prayer, He’ll hear you. Don’t be embarrassed to cry, cry out in anger or desperation, to beg, express your innermost emotional states, to just chatter about whatever, or anything else. You’ll be heard.

Through prayer a unique magical door will be opened to you and you’ll find a strange roundabout way out of the maze that your mind has become, twisting in on itself as it has been striving for two opposite goals simultaneously — to get out of the addiction and to stay in it.

I have struggled with food addictions both before and after first becoming a raw vegan. Being 100% raw has helped me to “Stay on the wagon” and away from addictive foods. But I have struggled to stay 100% raw. I have also experimented with embracing a high raw diet but found I was not able to stay addiction-free for long. I have a new post coming soon about my most recent experience with food addiction and how it compelled me to get back to 100% raw.

Meanwhile, I hope you will be moved by this incredible photo essay: “Faces of Addiction” http://www.flickr.com/photos/arnade/sets/72157627894114489/

In Joy!

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8 Responses to Faces of Addiction

  1. Anna Dance says:

    You are amazing. I too love your brutal honesty. The choice of words hit home and felt real. I loved the photo essay. Thanks for being such a powerful truthful source for me!

  2. Debbie Segreti says:

    You are right-on, Jinjee! I too, have been battling food addictions for as long as I can remember earning my own money to splurge on junk-food. Agave nectar was also very addicting these past 13 years, and learning the downsides of this product took me by surprise since I thought anything in the health food store, and labeled ‘organic’ and ‘raw’ was perfectly fine to consume as much as I wanted. I should’ve been smarter and stuck with whole raw fruits, veggies, nuts & seeds. Instead, I replaced my junk-food snacks with several cups of tea daily, each with a whopping tablespoon of agave nectar (no better!). So now I’m hoping to reverse the damage, especially the high-blood triglycerides it causes the liver to produce from its unnatural high-fructose. This past winter, I’m confident that it was my last ‘slip’ back to bingeing on cooked foods with a monster appetite like no one would believe (lol). Because I now find that the more smoother my life is, as stress-free as possible, doing what I enjoy with my time, it’s much easier to stay on this 100% raw diet and replace all my food addictions with ‘taking in’ non-food addictions like: doing artwork, writing & typing, riding my bike, hiking in nature, reading, and of course, sleeping-it-off when I can. ;)

  3. maryann says:

    Jin jee inspiring article Recently I started on raw food and initially I was scared to eat so much fruit ( i usually only had 1 piece a day) I started seeing less bloating but now I am getting frustrated I feel bloated ( I am perimenopausal) I am losing hope sometimes I think it is my job my cortisol levels are very high

    I see how others transformed with plant based eating program but I am not seeing results like I wanted ( to be honest I do not crave cooked food very much) I am enjoying the new recipies but maybe I should limit the fruit or I may have to check into bioidentical hormones Thanks for your words of inspiration

  4. Nicola says:

    This post definitely shed light to me, being addicted to sugary processed foods is one of the hardest things I have dealt with and have tried most of my life to move away from. My journey to becoming 100% raw will be a hard and long one, but everyday I will persevere, my plan is to take it one day at a time. I know God is with me on this one.

  5. Bree says:

    Thank you so much for this article! To know that others go through the EXACT same thing I have struggled with. I too often find myself asking “when will I hit the bottom for the last time? when will I learn from the same mistakes?”
    We have to believe in our own strength and what we can become when summoning the strength of God our father. We can overcome addiction and live life in a pure and joyful FREEDOM. We deserve to be free and we must fight for it.

  6. Trishonna says:

    Thank you so much for your blog. I am excited about in barking on this new journey. I am most grateful to God for blessing you and Storm with a knowledge of raw food and eating for life and the willingness to share this understanding with us. Blessings to you today. Keep up the good work!

  7. Kim says:

    Jinjee! All I can say/think is how you hit the gut. You are speaking about me and my eating disorder. I love when you are brutally and sometimes painfully honest with your readers. It lifts my soul. This really reminds me of Who is really in charge. God. With Him all things are possible. Sometimes the web can be an escape reading and ‘hanging’ out with people like you! My heart and thoughts are with you in a deep way and I really wished I lived near you guys so we could hang out and support each other. Have a most peacful and glorious day.

  8. I have been experiencing you through your writings for years now. I never fail to be touched by your sincere, honest, brilliant and loving sharings. There’s something so resonant and heartful and soulful and real about what and how you share. Thank You for all you are and share with your family and all of us. May you and your loved ones be blessed and loved always. soldann

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