It’s coming up to Easter, and you’ve decided to get away for a week of winter sunshine after a grey, cold, wet few months. You’ve just landed. It’s sunny and wonderful. You get your hire car, and you head for where you are staying – but first, you need to make an unexpected stop because your man has a meeting.
He parks the car and tells you to lock the doors and wait a few minutes. Locking the doors seems odd until you look up to see a woman sitting on a pile of rubble 20 yards away, shooting up heroin.
This happened to me.
Flashback to Lisbon in 2000: I’m sitting in our hire car, in the sweltering heat, all the windows closed with all the doors locked, watching a wasteland of rubble with a single woman, barely clothed, shooting up with a dirty needle.
I have a cigarette to calm my nerves (that was how I ‘managed’ my emotions then), and I open the window only enough to let the smoke out. Then I listen to a meditation tape, whilst I try to ‘clear my mind’ and trust that the car will be safe, that I will be safe.
I am naively waiting for my man, who I believe has gone to ‘visit a friend’ – I can now tell you these ‘visits’ are anything but friendly. Many times he returns with a knife in hand and out of breath, and, of course, unknown to me at the time, packets of various narcotics.
In that kind of situation, it’s easy to ask yourself – why is this ‘happening’ to me?
I actually believe I was there so I could sit here, now, and write this to you.
What it has taught me is –
But why am I sharing this story with you? I want to share with you one of my driving passions in life – meaningful connection.
Flash forward to today:
Last week, I read an article in the Huffington Post about Lisbon’s drug issue in 2000 and the social experiment that took place there. It said:
Nearly fifteen years ago, Portugal had one of the worst drug problems in Europe, with 1 per cent of the population addicted to heroin. They had tried a ‘war on drugs’ and the problem just kept getting worse. So they decided to do something radically different.
They decriminalised all drugs and transferred all the money they used to spend on arresting and jailing drug addicts and spend it instead on reconnecting them — to their feelings, and to wider society. So things like new clean housing, jobs and social interaction and connection with others took place.
Following this social experiment, the British Journal of Criminology did an independent study and found that since total decriminalisation, addiction had fallen, and injecting drug use was down by 50 per cent.
So what on earth does it have to do with meaningful connection for you and me?
More than you might imagine.
What if I told you that further studies have shown that drug addicts are seeking meaningful connection, and they will form a strong connection or bond to a substance or a ritual that will give them some comfort. It could be anything from playing video games to taking cocaine.
But if you give them meaningful human connection with purpose, that addiction falls away.
This idea was tested before Portugal tried their radical approach. A series of experiments were done on rats a number of years earlier by Professor Peter Cohen. Despite the objections to animal testing, this study yielded undeniably interesting results.
Professor Cohen had two groups of rats. In the first cages, he isolated the rats with only one source of comfort to turn to – drugged water or plain water. The rat picked the drugged water every time and eventually overdosed and died. These rats represented the street addict, like the woman from my story at the beginning.
In the second cage, the rats had the same, one drugged water bottle and one with plain water, but they stayed in a group and interacted with each other. The drug was the same, but the environment was different, and there was meaningful connection with other like-minded beings.
The rats in the second cage could take or leave the drugged water and eventually ignored the drugged water altogether.
Taking the studies deeper, Professor Peter Cohen concluded that human beings are the same in their primal need to form deep and meaningful connections. It’s how we get our satisfaction.
Do you have to be an addict to want more meaningful connection?
No, all you have to be is a human being – alive and breathing!
Connection is vital to us as human beings. If we fail to connect with each other, we will connect with ANYTHING we can find — the whirr of a roulette wheel, a film, our phones, the thrill of a one-night stand, junk food, or the prick of a syringe. But some connections harm, and some connections heal. I’m sure you can start to see where I am going with this – the huge social experiment in Lisbon highlights the power of meaningful connection with other human beings over pretty much everything else.
What’s one thing in our normal modern-day lives that stops us from meaningfully connecting?
Most people would probably answer their phones. I know I have definitely been guilty of that one.
I want to encourage you by introducing you to today’s sparkling* habit, which is to take one weekly digital day off.
Today’s Picture Pin is Sparkling Habit #1 – take a weekly digital day off CLICK TO TWEET.
I suggest you take it in sync with your significant other and/or family, so you can really focus on connecting with each other. It will feel odd at first. But ultimately, you will feel liberated, and most importantly, you are going to feel a sense of meaningful connection, which will go on to serve you for the rest of the week.
Although our connection/addiction to our phones seems to be very high, there is a gift to this digital age that you and I are living in.
What is the gift of the digital age that you and I live in?
One of the best-known geniuses of our time, Albert Einstein, was asked, ‘What is the most important question?’
The most important question: Is the world a friendly place? If we believe not we will build walls, and guns and wars. If our answer is yes…then we are living in a very different and wonderful place. – Einstein
This is the gift of the digital age. We can use it. We can use social media to make connections and new friends. To uplift each other. That is what we here at Team Alalia are here to do. To use these tools in such a way as to create meaningful conversations with you that lift you up so that you can be your best self.
Here you will connect with people from all backgrounds and races and from many many different countries. There are no longer any boundaries. Maybe this sounds idealistic. But I believe the more you and I create and cultivate meaningful connection by speaking with people from all walks of life and backgrounds, who are inspired by a caring approach, the more you and I can offer the world.
We will know that the world is a friendly place. Because that is what we are creating.
You and I are lucky to already have some meaningful connection.
How can we deepen that? I would like to invite you to share with me now.
What do you do to cultivate your meaningful connection?
How can we, Team Alalia and myself, better serve you to connect on a deeper level?
What would you like to discuss here?
What topics or questions are the most important thing for you?
I invite you to share what inspires you. I invite you to ask questions. I invite you to connect.
Share with us in the comments below – I look forward to chatting.