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When I was a young boy, I saw many people fall into all
kinds of addictions in the small town where I grew up. The
pressures of life caused many to revert to alcohol, drugs and
other substances which ultimately destroyed them. One day,
while sitting under a Neem tree with an old neighbor who
was revered greatly in our village for his wisdom and insight
into many things, one of our village men who had gone mad
from smoking the wrong herbs wandered by half naked.
The sight of the mad village man prompted me to ask my old
neighbor what his thoughts were on addiction.
The Oldman retorted, “You ask me about addiction and why
people fall into it? My question to you Yin is, what is
Does it only refer to narcotics, gambling, drinking and the
well-known vices?
I replied, “I would think so.” I have only heard of addiction
associated with such acts.
The old man went on; there lies the error many have made
regarding this matter.
This terrible scourge known as addiction has been so
narrowly defined by many authorities the world over. The
unfortunate perpetuation of this narrow definition of what it
means to be an addict has wreaked great havoc and chaos in
many people. Listen to the words I am about to utter very
carefully so you may achieve good understanding regarding
that which you ask. In so doing I hope you may fully guard
yourself from falling prey to its multitude entrapments.
Addiction, the old man continued, is anything that
makes you willing to trade your dignity and respect in
exchange for much lesser value and for which your mental
judgement has been rendered powerless or weakened
enough to prevent or stop the exchange due to the control
and hold of that thing to which you are have become
Yin, life is a series of exchanges.
You exchange your time and attention in the classroom to
gain knowledge
You exchange your time, effort and expertise at work to gain
a paycheck,
you exchange your money which you give to the beggar at
the street corner for a sense of service and satisfaction of
helping those less fortunate than yourself. An act I refer to
as a labor of love.
Every one of these exchanges should be commensurate when
you compare what you give to what you gain.
Worthwhile, not just in terms of monetary value, but the total
worth of the exchange. If it happens to be an exchange that
does no more than bring you pleasure, be very careful not to
exchange more important things in life in order to achieve
that pleasure.
An incommensurate exchange will breed inevitable chaos.
Three things immediately come to mind.
Do not sacrifice your health, family or wealth in pursuit of
any kind of pleasure. The moment you begin to sacrifice one
of these in pursuit of anything within this world, you have
fallen into addiction, Yin.
Let me tell you the story of Ruga, who was once my best
friend and possibly the most naturally talented and
intellectually gifted person to walk the streets of Aglob.
Ruga had a rare kind of intelligence; he had the ability to
observe the most complicated technical process only once
and be able to not only recreate the process but improve it.
He read very little yet amassed so much knowledge from so
many disciplines he was the envy of all who aspired for
higher scholarly achievements.
Ruga enjoyed the simple life. With his deep knowledge of
many disciplines, he could have easily carved a life of great
wealth and abundance for himself. That did not appear to be
his desire in life. He was content eking out a meagre
existence at the civil service office of the colonial
Ruga from all accounts was a regular man with no substance
abuse issues.
He hardly drank any alcohol, did not smoke and definitely
stayed away from drugs.
Ruga was married to an industrious woman he had known
since he was a young man in elementary school and with
whom he had 3 sons.
By all indications, Ruga loved his three boys and wanted to
see them do well for themselves.
There was a situation regarding Ruga that many would not
ascribe to addiction. He had a weakness for women.
Not just the type of beautiful women that would make the
most disciplined man develop neck pains trying to keep their
heads from turning to take a second look. In Ruga’s case,
about anything that had the double x chromosome was a
candidate for his attention.
Ruga was paid monthly by the civil service office where he
worked as a surveyor. He would take his monthly paycheck
which was barely enough to take care of the basic necessities
of his home when combined with the little money his wife
made from selling produce in the market and literally give
it all to any woman that was lucky to cross his path.
Ruga was so motivated in this life of wealth redistribution
he did not think twice about going hungry and starving
himself in order to have money to give away to the women
he so strongly desired.
His sons on occasion had to beg neighbors for basic
amenities which could have been easily available to them if
Ruga their father, was not on a mission to eradicate the
financial problems of the world’s women.
The situation with Ruga, his money, and women reached
levels that made him a laughingstock amongst those who
knew him in Aglob.
He lost dignity even though he was not on substance abuse.
His sons lost a great deal of respect for him due to his
readiness to give away to strange women, bread he did not
have to provide his own family.
His long-suffering wife could not bear to look him in the eye
due to anger and aguish culminating from deep
disappointment from a man she erroneously thought many
years ago was so intelligent and was going to be her bedrock
when she married him.
Ruga not only gave away his own money, but he would try
to get money from his wife to give away as well.
In the same city of Aglob lived a man by the name of Tebo.
Tebo consumed more local wine than anyone you ever met
or might ever meet.
Good luck ever finding Tebo without a cup of local wine
sitting comfortably next to him. At first glance, it appears
Tebo is a hopeless drunk in need of immediate help.
What if I told you Tebo was the most respected man in
What if I told you Tebo was the healthiest, strongest and
oldest man living in Aglob?
What if I told you no one has ever seen Tebo drunk and out
of control?
Tebo was so much in control of his affairs from a financial
and social responsibility consideration standpoint that
people all over Aglob thronged to him for advice and to learn
from him things no one else in Aglob could teach them.
Yes, everyone in Aglob was familiar with his insatiable love
for local wine but that was not the narrative regarding Tebo.
His extreme love for alcohol was a footnote in any
discussions of which he was the subject. His substantial
achievements in Aglob and the great deal of respect
everyone in the city had for him was the narrative
surrounding Tebo. Anyone else living the way Tebo did
might have died of liver cirrhosis decades ago or they may
have become so consumed by alcohol they might not be in
the position to function in a capacity that would earn them
a modicum of respect from those they knew and associated
with regularly.
Yet Tebo lived the way he did and still was the healthiest old
man in Aglob; fit and fully in control of all his affairs. There
was not a single negative aspect or attribute of Tebo that
anyone could point to and ascribe to his consumption of
alcohol. None that I am aware of. Absolutely nothing.
Was he an alien who metabolized alcohol differently from
us earthlings? Some people in Aglob began to speculate
that was the case. How could he live like this for over sixty
years and still bear no scars or signs of what, by all accounts,
could easily be looked at as an unhealthy, dangerous
So, my question to you Yin is, which of the two men of
Aglob; Tebo or Ruga would you refer to as having an
“Definitely Ruga,I answered. “Ruga was willing to lose his
dignity and was at risk of even losing his family over his
impulsive pursuit of women with no regard to how it affected
the things of substance around him. He lost his mind running
after all the women in Aglob so much so that he lost
complete respect not only from the women who only wanted
the money he gave them, but also the people who got to
know him closely and observed how he had no sense of
what constituted a fair exchange.
Tebo on the other hand had what I would call an excessive
habit or vice but which in no way got in his way of
accomplishing that which he needed to achieve as a man.”
Well thought out analysis, the old man replied to me.
There are many souls who walk this earth who are
deeply addicted to one thing or another without even
knowing it. On the surface, they look normal like everyone
else; they are not hooked on any kind of substance that
would readily expose them as addicts, but beneath the
veneer, they have an insatiable desire for something which
others may not be aware of. That something might become
so strong that it pulls these people to the point of making
decisions that adversely impact the most important things in
their lives. Things which must and should never be
Yin, If you ever find yourself so drawn to something; if you
find yourself itching to do something stupid to the point
where you lose one or two or three of the things I am about
to tell you, you are an addict.
The three things are:
1. Money
2. Family and loved ones.
3. Dignity and sense of pride
In short, if you are willing or powerless to stop the loss of
money, family and or dignity for anything in this universe,
you are addicted to that which is causing you to lose these
When the old man finished talking to me, my perspective on
addiction changed forever.
I hope the simple three step measure of addiction my old
neighbor gave me will be applied to examine our own lives
and help identify any hidden addictions which need to be
broken in order for to more fully live a life of dignity and