I’ve been thinking a lot about addiction these days.

It’s all over the news, the opioid epidemic and it’s starting to hit Toronto, where I live.

Two eighteen year old girls recently went into a building downtown and overdosed in a stairwell.

There was a fascinating study done about cocaine addiction.

They had this rat in a metal cage and offered it a choice between water and water laced with cocaine.

It’s not surprising that the rat chose the water laced with cocaine and kept drinking till it overdosed on it.

But one scientist observing the data made an interesting observation.

What else did the rat have to live for?

Maybe it was the cage.

So he developed a new experiment, one where the cage was much larger, had a number of interesting activities and stimuli and you know what happened? The rat didn’t get addicted to the cocaine water.

And he deduced that it was the cage.

It’s fascinating that in the most advanced culture and civilization in the world, opioid addiction should be such a problem.

What is it about our lifestyles here in the West that is causing so many people to turn to narcotic addiction?

It’s devastating.

Personally I think it’s because we are primarily dissatisfied.

We have been sold a bill of goods, that anyone can accomplish anything if they try hard enough, and although there is truth in that statement, it’s not as simple as all that.

I have a friend, an ex-lawyer who has developed a nice career in the children’s literature field.

Oprah’s minions approached her at one point to be interviewed for some show they were doing on career success but ultimately they rejected profiling her, you know why?

Because she’d spent too long studying and developing her talent to be considered a miraculous success story!

They were interested in the ‘over night’ sensation story, but most people are not over night sensations. They work hard towards goals, and they do it even when they might want to give up.

So when we’re in the midst of the grind, the doldrums, the mucking through to get the project done, that seems to be when people need to ‘escape’ their reality.

But really, if you are living a healthy stimulating life, if  you are doing and working towards something you really believe in, why would you ever need alcohol or drugs to escape?

Maybe the people who are in the midst of addiction need to re-evaluate their lives.

What is so wrong with living a life nurturing the children in your care? Earning enough to keep a roof over their heads and food in their bellies and working towards the future?

Someone said that comparison is the thief of happiness, and that is very true.

We need to change our cages.

Life isn’t only composed of the ‘successful’ moments.

The other evening I was talking to a voracious reader who’d picked up a copy of Bud, Not Buddy by Christopher Paul Curtis. And she said to me, “It must be so hard when the father drinks and runs away and he’s trying to find him. Why do they do that?”

And I answered quite honestly (and forgive me if this sounds a bit smug) that it is very hard and alhamdu lillah the fact that alcohol and drugs are forbidden in Islam saves us from a lot of that.

I wonder if we can make our cages interesting enough for everyone to not ever need narcotics.

I wonder if the allure of them can be completely resisted for all.

It seems to be mainstream.

The way comedians joke about getting wasted, the way singers sing about getting wasted, the way they joke about how much fun they must have had because they can’t remember a thing…

It’s just something I’ve never been able to tap into because it’s forbidden.

And what’s wrong with that?

Maybe we just do need to forbid these things to ourselves.

All I know is that I have no qualms that I would behave in any more superior a manner if I’d indulged in those things. The reason why I stayed away is simple, my religion forbids them and I obeyed, and by the grace of God, that saved me.

And as religion loses even more authority, and society decays more and more, I can’t see things getting much better.

We’ll see.