I recently read a book that had a profound impact on my views regarding addictions. Gabor Mate wrote In The Realm of Hungry Ghosts: Close Encounters With Addiction. It was a #1 National Best Seller.
Gabor Mate is a physician in the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver – arguably, the most famous part of Vancouver. The part that has been set aside for addicts to more freely live their lives, addictions and all.
I can’t write a book review on this right now as I was so enthralled with the book, that once I finished reading it, I loaned it out right away. But what Gabor Mate writes about is how trauma informs addiction. How the level of our predisposition to addiction is related to trauma we have experienced in our past. After having ministered to the addicted, homeless and/or sexually exploited women on the streets of Edmonton, and hearing story after story after story of most, if not all of these women, having been sexually abused as children, Mate’s book hit home for me. It makes sense. The ghosts of past trauma are hungry for us, however many years have passed.
Mate writes various stories of his patients with a great deal of candour, compassion and even humour. I got the sense that even though he is able to sort of clinically observe his patients, he still carries their stories with reverence and care.
Perhaps the most surprising result for me of having read this book is moving from an ambivalent stance on harm reduction to fully supporting that model of care.
The first chapter of the book can be found in the following link – be prepared to hear the language of the streets within the book – it is raw, often crude, and sometimes difficult to hear. But for anyone wanting a true picture of what addiction is really like, I highly recommend this book.