Early in the 1980’s my father brought home this fancy new thing that he plugged in and attached to the corner of the garage roof; it glowed a fascinating neon blue. I was told it was a bug zapper. I sat watching to see what it did when an exciting flash of light sparked and a brief “bzzz” sound was made. “Cool!” I thought to myself. I sat watching, perhaps a little too long, as spark after spark led to an increasing number of little bug bodies across the electrified grid.
As a child I remember having a sort of painful realization…. “Wait a second. Why are all of these bugs suicidal? They must have bug families, kids, bug jobs,” yet spark after spark, and “bzzz” after “bzzz”, they lined up like lemmings into the neon glow of death. It was sad more than it was cool. I know just bugs right.
Years later I read up on the actual reasons why this happened and discovered that the bugs biology was hijacked by the light, pulling them in like a tractor beam to their deaths; the bugs were not suicidal at all. They wanted to live, to go home to their bug kids, bug spouses, and bug jobs. They wanted to live, but if they ever got too close to the light, then the light would pull them in. The light would trick their biology and override their ability to make choices, all the while pulling them closer and closer to the blue light until…….. “BZZZ.”
This is the same with substance use disorders. People with kids, spouses, hopes,and dreams can get pulled into the most vicious biological trap; a trap that looks all too easily like choice. “You chose to fly into the bug zapper. It was your wings that flew you in so it’s your fault.” But maybe substance use is not that simple. Maybe bugs don’t want to die...maybe they just can’t resist the light.