No one sets out to become an addict. Drug use begins voluntarily, but somehow, through repetition and ritual, drug-taking becomes unstoppable. The most obvious characteristic of addiction is that drug use takes on a life of its own, but how and why this happens remains a mystery. The voices of addicts only serve to deepen the mystery. They tell us that their drug use continued even though they were trying very hard to quit. In addition, as addiction closed in, they were oblivious and never saw it coming.
The Tail of the Raccoon, Part II: Touching the Invisible is a story about the progression from drug use into drug addiction. The lesson of the story is that due to Sign-Tracking, the drug is taken automatically, involuntarily, and excessively, regardless of the intention to stop. Sign-Tracking develops because an object becomes a cue for drug reward, and this cue becomes so powerful that it can direct and control behavior. Because the addict is unaware of Sign-Tracking, the root cause of the loss of self-control is completely overlooked, and the failure to control drug-taking is likely mistaken for poor judgment. In the end, lost and bewildered, the addict is left to say, “I can’t believe this is happening to me.”