Every superhero needs a superpower.
And if superhero lore has taught us anything it is that superheroes often come across their superpower through adversity. For much of their lives young heroes often suffer from being misunderstood. They struggle while they are learning to harness their uncommon abilities and discover the potential of who they truly are.
I am here to suggest to you that if you are struggling with the disease of addiction, that addiction is not a defect. It is not a sign of weakness. It should not bring you shame.
Your addiction is your superpower – you just need to learn to master it.
No matter what label you give addiction it is becoming abundantly clear that it does not exist in the substance; addiction exists in the human brain. The root of addiction is neurological, and it is not a “choice” any more than depression or anxiety or any other mental illness. Moreover, many of the human beings whose brains are hardwired to be susceptible to addiction are equally hardwired to have a host of incredible qualities. Many folks who overcome addiction become extremely successful athletes, scholars and world-changing leaders. Take a quick glance through history and you will see how many artists and philosophers often suffered from addiction. While this disease comes with a lot of challenges, it has also proven to come with a lot of gifts.
Need a modern, primary source?
Check out how the principal of Archway Academy describes her students. Archway is a recovery high school, and according to the staff at Archway, “Archway students are brilliant and sensitive, fearless and funny as hell. They are our future. And if we expect them to succeed—they will.)”
The students at Archway simply needed support. Once we give those with addiction the knowledge and skills that their brains demand our society can move forward with reframing the addiction narrative. Addiction is not simply an obstacle; rather, addiction can also be the opportunity to unlock potential.
Those who work with or experience addiction often shared a very powerful message. People with addiction are not bad people. They are not weak. A human with an addiction struggles on a day to day basis in a battle against their own mind. However, those who have addiction are frequently able to use that same disease to accomplish amazing things. For more symbolism purposes — look at that disease as a fire. That fire sparks brilliance, it sparks passion, it sparks creativity, it sparks drive, it’s when it sparks a bit too much that it can burn out of control. That fire needs to be treated so it doesn’t burn the person up from the inside out. Luckily, with the right support network and the right training, anyone can learn how to channel that fire into more positive, powerful places. People who suffer from addiction don’t have a disease — they have the potential to have a superpower.
So to anyone who is newly diagnosed with addiction, my message to you is the same message that Professor Charles Xavier shared with the young superheroes of the X-men:
“Since the discovery of their existence they have been regarded with fear, suspicion, often hatred. Across the planet, debate rages. Are they fighting for their share of the world or are they the next link in the evolutionary chain? Either way it is a historical fact: Sharing the world has never been humanity’s defining attribute.”
Welcome to addiction. You might feel scared. You probably feel misunderstood. And if you’ve just enrolled, you’re probably not too happy to be here. But the good news is that there are people all over willing to give you support, and those people think you’re brilliant, not broken. Give it some time and you can take the qualities that are currently causing you to self-destruct and you can turn those qualities into your new superpower. And who knows…
Maybe one day you’ll save the world.
Maybe your superpower is exactly what humanity needs.