In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts by Gabor Mate
When it comes to addiction, most people don’t talk sense, it’s mostly about the blame game and treatment. So when I discovered Gabor Mate’s talks on TED and youtube, I was intrigued to hear someone talking about how addiction was a social disease and compassionately talking about the ‘victims’. I bought his book on kindle and read it, savouring every word. Gabor’s book is based on his experiences with hard drug users in Vancouver. He shares many stories with us. Yet from the begining he looks further than the troubling behaviour on the surface and examines the reasons why the addiction occurred in the first place and why it is sustained. What makes this book a book I believe should be on school curriculums, is Gabor’s willingness to investigate the term addiction so that we can see, by degrees, that we are all addicts. Most of us use work, alcohol, smoking, TV, the internet, our smartphones, collections etc. as pacifiers in our lives. Gabor courageously exposes his own addictions and looks at where they stem from enabling the reader to examine his/her own behaviour and determine that we are all just a few steps away from the hard core addicts on the street. Only we’ve been luckier. None of us are perfect and this book reminds us that in view of this, compassion, understanding and awareness are key to recovery. As Gabor himself says “Given that addiction is all about running from dificult emotions or hanging on to enticing ones, bare attention has the potential to dissolve the very motivations that drive the addicted mind.” This book looks at how society as a whole can fail and let people fall through the cracks and reminds us that we should never blame the individual. It asks us to be mindful of our own actions. It asks us to be courageous. It goes a long way to explain other people’s behaviours. And if you want to kick that habit, Gabor also includes his own comprehensive treatment for addiction. This book will not only help you understand addicts, it will help you understand humanity and, if you put in the hard work, yourself.