A little addict in all of us

My engine feels like it is running on fumes today and I took a muscle relaxant in the morning in the hope it will loosen my shoulders and neck a little. I can stretch it a bit, but not overstretch and I am not allowed to get a massage pretty much anywhere near my neck, so there is only so much I can do. Last night I was using some rubber strength bands to get some blood flowing through my body and I am going to have to ramp it up over the coming week and a half before I head into the office - though I think I will work mostly remotely to begin with.


When I left the hospital around six weeks ago, it was the day before midsummer and as it is a traditional "drinking day" (apparently most days are in Finland) the doctor said I can drink a bit, but not too much. And then he added, "Don't drink if depressed though."

Drinking is a problem in Finland and after going to the corner store at around eight in the evening, I mentioned to my wife how many drunk people I saw. We live in the suburbs and these men were not homeless, they looked like they were coming from a day at work. I suspect that they have been drinking most of their four-week summer holiday and now that they have to be sober during the day, they are struggling to break their routine. This is common and they talk about being in a "drinking pipe" with many keeping on drinking because they fear the inevitable hangover to come.

Depression is also a problem in Finland that dates back well into history and I get the sense that it is getting worse as the already often socially narrow individuals disconnect even further through changes in technology. I believe this has been propelled even further due to the last year and a half of enforced social disruption and isolation and the ramifications are not going to be fully seen for years to come, but the cracks are appearing.

Even toward the end of last year, I noted in the office various changes in people and in my friends, some shifts in the discussions. People "unexpectedly" taking time for mental health leave has been increasing and I think that the trend has even been seen in the sporting world, with an increasing number of competitors from various sports publicly taking time off, citing mental health issues. this is going to normalize even further and while in many ways it is a good thing, it can also become quite a challenge, as services get overloaded, if there are services at all.

A lot of people need help, but help might not be available and what gets normalized is the prevalence of the problem in society, which is pretty much what has happened with suicide over the years in Finland, where pretty much everyone I know has people in their family or close circle who have suicided. Rather than being openly discussed as to the reasons and the possible ways to change conditions, it is just kind of accepted as the way it is.

It is strange, as when I see people stumbling along the suburban streets drunk at 8pm on a Tuesday night, I get the feeling that there is a problem that needs to be dealt with, but the locals are so accustomed to it that they do not even see that the situation has worsened in the last decade or so. When I first came to Finland, I was surprised at how many old alcoholics were in the city center and how they were treated by society, which is pretty much ignored by the average person. However, now I am surprised at how young the people are, with late teens and early twenties looking like they have been living rough for the last twenty years.

I think that part of the problem is that we are fragmenting as a society and disconnecting from each other in so many ways, that we have lost a lot of the sense of local community. We are connecting more digitally, but a lot of it is largely faceless and consumption driven, without real connection. At the local level in Finland, a lot of "friend groups" are small and made up of people who have known each other since primary school and those relationships stay throughout life, which means as people get older and drift away, many are unable to add new friends into their circle and end up alone. Then, they might look for something to fill the time and the emptiness of the void they feel.

When we feel pain we will look to find a way to release or manage it. When we have a headache, we might take an aspirin or if we have sore muscles, we may try to stretch. But we are social animals when we are in emotional pain, we have to look for alternatives to manage it, but devoid of human connection, are there appropriate alternatives that can replace connection?

I think it is no wonder that substance abuse is a problem in so many places and I think that while we see the problem with drug addiction, we don't necessarily see the other addictive behaviors in play. Rather than immersing ourselves into drink, we might immerse ourselves into other consumptive activities to take our mind off the psychological pains we experience.

But, do these things replace a good relationship?

A healthy community is made from a network of strong relationships that overlap and interact with each other. The more numerous and disconnected individuals within become, the less beneficial and less worth, as there is a reduction in valuable compounding effects. Not only this, "social problems" inevitably arise as society itself is failing.

In the short-term, we can all deal with various levels of adversity and disruption, but when that becomes ingrained into society, it doesn't mean we can adjust to a new normal, as we are hardwired and some needs and some pains, just can't be ignored. We can't distract ourselves forever.

[ Gen1: Hive ]

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