Posted in Addiction, alcoholism, anxiety, Depression, health, inner peace, Life, Mental Health, misinformation, People, recovery, twelve step

Fear, Shame, & the Stigma of Addiction

stigma

Something I am really riled up about right now is the stigma and shame around drug addiction. SO MANY people do not understand what it really is, what it is really like, and how it feels when you are in the grips of it. They get upset that it is classified as a disease, and they say that it is a choice…which…I mean, even drug addicts themselves feel guilt and shame around this. Trust me, I was one of them. For a long time, I thought it really was my fault, and I didn’t understand why I couldn’t just quit, why I insisted on making my life so much harder than it had to be.

Well, news flash! It might start off as a choice- a BAD choice, obviously- but lots and lots of young people experiment with drugs. I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that a really healthy chunk of the population has, at one time or another, tried drugs. Lets not forget that alcohol is prevalent almost everywhere, and it is one of the most highly addictive and destructive drugs that exist- why do you think AA started WAY back when? It wasn’t just a friendly, old-timey social club. Anyway, not everyone gets addicted. But for some of us, for whatever reason, our brains get a little hit of that euphoria, and from that moment on, we just want MORE. To our detriment. As our lives crumble, as our dreams wither up, as our families cry and beg for us to change. And we promise to try, we promise to pull it together, we want to get better, but…

It’s not a choice anymore. Something has us in a grip so massive that we can’t stop killing ourselves. So maybe it isn’t a disease the way that cancer is. I will give you that, if it hurts you to think of it that way. But what about OCD? Bipolar disorder, or other mental illnesses? Would you judge someone harshly for having something like that? Because to me, addiction is a mental illness (and usually not a stand-alone one, either) and it’s no more my fault than it would be if I had…say, an ulcer. Or maybe diabetes that I controlled with my diet and lifestyle. Other people might do the same things that I did, and be okay. But some people aren’t, because something inside of them is different.

Sure, now that I know better and I have it under control, I can manage it by avoiding the things that would make me sick again, and by taking my “medicine” (meetings, therapy, watching what I eat and how I behave and paying attention to my thoughts and feelings). Just the way someone with diabetes has to monitor their diet and their glucose and all of that. I know that if I don’t do those things, I am putting myself in danger of a relapse. I am now responsible for my continuing health. But I was not responsible for the way my particular body reacted to the substances I foolishly tried.

Here’s the thing, though: People get sick and they aren’t afraid to go to the doctor and ask for help. They are not judged by their doctor when they show up sick. They don’t generally fear repercussions from their employer if they are ill. But do you know how many people walk around every single day, desperate for help with their substance abuse problems, but terrified to reach out because of what might happen to their lives? Not all addicts are the people you see on the streets, acting crazy. It isn’t always that obvious. Many of us are high functioning professionals with a LOT to lose. And asking for help is terrifying.

I stayed sick for a really long time because I was afraid to tell the truth, afraid of what would happen to me, and to my family. I was lucky.  I got the help I needed and I got to keep my job, I got to tell the truth to my boss, and she was compassionate and concerned. That is not everyone’s story.

But I really think it should be. We don’t throw people away like garbage because they aren’t working correctly. You don’t KNOW…you don’t know what kind of beautiful human being is there, underneath that illness. The addicts I have known in my lifetime, and there have been LOTS of them, are not garbage. Not even when they were using. Even the worst people I have known had redeeming qualities, and intelligence, and loyalty, and very, very few of them did not dream of getting better. I can’t think of one person out of hundreds that didn’t want to lead a better life.

We should be able to ask for help when we need it. When someone asks for help, we should help them. When someone is sick, even if it makes us uncomfortable and afraid, we should help them find their way to help. Addiction is stealing the lives of our friends, our family members, and our children, many times over, every day. Addiction is destroying the lives of not only the addict, but the addicts parents, and the addicts children. It is a disease of loneliness and disconnection. It might help a lot to end the stigma and remove the shame. It’s a terrible life to be stuck in. When someone is reaching out, we have to reach out, too.

And that’s what I am thinking about this morning.

1-800-662-HELP is the number for SAMHSA, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Call someone if you need help, or even if you just want to know how to help someone you love.

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Posted in family, Goals, humor, inner peace, Life, mindfulness, Musings, People, social media

24 Hours in.

getting stuff done

I’m not saying that Facebook is the root of all evil…I mean, I’m not going to blame it for all my problems. That would be silly. But, I am going to give you a little list of the things I accomplished yesterday:

1.) I finally called and made a dentist appointment to get my last remaining wisdom tooth pulled. It’s basically on the verge of disintegration, and I have been putting it off and putting it off for months now…because I am scared to have a tooth pulled, as it is damn near Medieval, and you would think they would have come up with a better way to remove a tooth by now (can’t they melt it out with a laser or something?!) than by wrenching it out. With full bodily force. And my dentist is a tiny little woman, I don’t know how she will manage…but, I digress. I’m going to get that sucker yanked next week. Honestly, had I not been so starved for human interaction, I highly doubt I would’ve called.

2.) This one is really embarrassing. I can’t believe I am even going to admit to this, but…I have been paying car insurance for over a year on two- not one, but TWO- cars that I no longer own. It’s not much. 60 bucks a month, total. But…come ON. I finally called my insurance company and asked them to remove these cars from my policy. It took five minutes. And guess what? I can actually send in some paperwork and get credited a bunch of money. I bet if I stay off Facebook, I might actually do it!

3.) I went on a long, leisurely, electronics-free walk with my kid and my dog down by our Fisherman’s Wharf here. Did you know that dogs are totally allowed on the wharf? I didn’t, and I’ve lived here forever! So, we walked along the recreation trail that borders the harbor, and on the way back, we stopped off on the wharf, got a little treat from one of THREE candy stores on that tiny row of restaurants and shops ( I found out that the turtles are way better at the first one on the left, but I feel like a traitor for trying out a new place). My kid was happy, but my dog was over the moon to be included on this little outing. I don’t know why I never did this before.

4.) Washed, dried, folded and put away THREE loads of laundry. Fixed dinner. Washed all the dishes, wiped the counters, and just generally kept moving until it was time for bed.

5.) Read our full required 25 minutes last night, as opposed to our normal 10 and then pretend like it was 25 routine. My daughter and I are reading The Boxcar Children series last night, and to my surprise she loves them, even though they were written in the 40’s! She can’t get enough.

Am I in full on Facebook withdrawals? Absolutely. That’s how I know it’s a problem. And do you know how I would feel if I went ahead and hopped over there right now to see what I have missed? I’d feel: excited when I saw all the notifications, then deflated when I saw that most of them were not even for me, but other comments on posts I’d commented on. Then I’d feel annoyed that I had forgotten how useless Facebook was (to me) already. Then I’d scroll through and see 40 things I’d already seen, 10 things that were factually incorrect, 5 things that pissed me off, and maybe 1 that I really loved.

So, basically, no. I’m not going on there, not even for a minute, not even to check. Who knows what I might accomplish today! My baseboards are looking pretty dusty. Stranger things have happened.

 

 

Posted in Addiction, family, friendship, Goals, inner peace, Life, living, mindfulness, Musings, People, social media

I Forget…

disconnect
courtesy of google AND Tanmay Vora, as listed above. Thanks!

I forget that living a full, happy life involves leaving my house. I get lazy from sitting still and want to keep sitting still. I spend way too much time in this house, by myself, and I think it is bad for me. I need to push myself a little harder to get outside, and to interact with real people.

One of my best friends showed up at my door yesterday (because she knows that’s pretty much the only way to get a hold of me- I can ignore phone calls, texts, refuse to make plans, but you can almost guarantee to find me at my house) and at first I was annoyed. I didn’t want to see anyone! But after a few minutes, we got to talking, and by the time she left after my lunch was over, I felt happier than I had in a while. I need to be with my friends. So why is it so easy for me to forget that?

I don’t know…I will tell you this, though. I spend way, way too much time on Facebook. This has come up again and again, and lately I have been fantasizing about how good it would be to break free of that site. I don’t want to know so much. I want to know the bare minimum about people again. I don’t want to know how different we are, and how bad your spelling is. Please, God, take me back in time. I think being on social media so much makes me think I don’t like people, when the truth is, I LOVE people, I just love real people. People who, in real life, aren’t so eager to vomit up every little dark corner of their heart. Trust me, I do it too. I’m just as guilty. So I am signing off of Facebook, again, for an indeterminate amount of time, and I am going to try to get out in the real world.

I want more laughter with my friends. I want to go to the apple orchard and pick apples with my kids. I want to fall into bed at night, exhausted but happy. I want to sit outside around my fire pit and talk to people I love about things that mean something to us personally.  In other words, I want to change the way I have been living. It is time. It is way past time.

Now I just have to figure out how to invite people over without using Facebook…shit. I might have to use my phone to make a phone call. That will be interesting. 🙂

Posted in Addiction, alcoholism, Blogging, inner peace, Life, Musings, random, recovery

Guilty

guilty

I’m a guilt hoarder. I just realized that this morning, and of course, as usual, I think it might be the root of all my problems- and maybe yours, too. What in the hell is a guilt hoarder, you might ask?

Well, it’s exactly what it sounds like- I hold onto guilt way past the time when I should probably let that shit go. I’m still feeling bad about things that happened ages and ages ago, and how does this serve me? How does it serve anyone, really? Short answer? It doesn’t. The guilt I haul around with me everywhere is soooo old, it’s as if it belongs to a totally different person (because, honestly, who the hell is the same person now that they were 10 or 20 years ago?), and it adds nothing of any value to my life. I think it’s time I let it go.

Here’s the thing- as I have discussed repeatedly throughout my posts, I started using drugs at a very young age. I really threw myself into that role, my friends. I was dedicated. That was my identity for such a long, long time. During those years, I did a lot of things I am not proud of. I hurt people that I loved dearly. I was a terrible friend. I said awful things, and treated people poorly, in general. Some of the things I did, I might not have done had I been older and wiser and had an ounce of empathy in me- But I wasn’t, and I didn’t, and that is all there is to it. I just did what I wanted to do, and never thought beyond that. Did I have remorse? Yeah, I did. But unfortunately, that didn’t keep me from repeating it all over again. I was incapable of seeing beyond the immediate, and that was how I lived.

That’s a lot of years of uncomfortable memories to walk around with. I’m sure there are people walking around in this very town who think some pretty unpleasant things about me. But guess what? The joke is on them, because they could never, ever, be as hard on me as I am on myself. Neener-neener. And I know more about the true scope of my behavior than anyone else ever could, so, again…in your face, mystery people who walk around hating me.

Oh, also? Those people probably don’t exist. There is no one sitting around talking about what a nightmare I was twenty years ago. This is all part of the elaborate torture-scape my brain has constructed over the years, just to mess with me. People move on. They have their own shit to deal with. They let go of things, eventually.

You know how I know this? Because people have done terrible things to me, too, and I swear to you that not one of them pops readily into my mind as an example. I could think of something if I tried hard enough, but why would I? It doesn’t matter anymore. My friends are still my friends, even when we don’t talk for years, and when I see certain people, I’m not mad at them. I’m happy to see them! I feel joyful about their successes in life, and marvel at the way things have changed for them. Sometimes, I feel a little bit worried that their lives haven’t changed that much, and I hope for better things for them. And honestly, the shitty things that happened? They seem kind of funny to me now. We were kids, and we were all doing the same shady shit, and that is all.

So why can’t I extend this same love and forgiveness to myself? Why can’t I look back at 25 year old me and think “God love her, she’s lucky she made it out alive!” or even “She just didn’t know what she was doing, that’s all- if she had known, she would have done better.”

An even better question would be, why can’t I look at 43 year old me and think “Wow. Look at what you have done with your life! You are not at all the person you used to be. What an amazing person you are!” Man, I wish I could say that to myself and really believe it.

I’m sure that drug addicts don’t own the rights to guilt- although we sure do give ourselves plenty of reasons to load up on it. I’m sure lots of people walk around with this weight on their shoulders.

What I really want to know is, how do I get rid of it? I deserve my own forgiveness, so how do I do it? Is there a workbook I can fill out, or a doctor I can see, is there some magical incantation I can say three times during the full moon while I sage myself? Because sign me up! I will do it.

Unfortunately, I think what I have to do is accept that I cannot change the past, and stop rehashing it. Stop unpacking it. Stop dragging it with me everywhere. Remember that I am no more the wild girl I was at 20 than I am the child I was at 10. Those were parts of my life, no more.

I have a lot to be proud of, and so many reasons to love who I am today. Living in the shadow of memories of the past is keeping me from growing the way I should. Today, I will work on accepting myself, forgiving myself, and loving who I am now.