There needs to be a change. We need to find a new angle, but more importantly, we need to work together in order to find it. Above all, we need to become a community again and understand what it means to have a sense of civic responsibility. We cannot look to blame or find fault anymore.
I would like to see a change in the dynamic when it comes to the way we treat mental illness. More accurately, and more importantly, I would like to see a change in the way we treat drug addiction.
Consider the facts. The news of tragedy is not a deterrent. The statistics mean nothing; the stories we hear about, the overdoses, the lifestyle that comes along with addiction and drinking, the ugly facts, the sickness, and the families who mourn the loss of their loved ones are not a new thing.
Teaching about addiction is important. Teaching about the statistics is important too, yes, but regardless to the terrible news and the tragic stories; the problem of drugs and alcohol still exist. This is not new. No, this problem has been around for a very long time.
I often hear people say, “But it’s never been like this before.”
I disagree, but this is not an article intended to debate whether the problem is new, better, or worse than ever before. The truth is drug and alcohol use is alive and well. But why? This is where the conversation needs to be.
More than discussing what happens, there needs to be a better focus on why this happens. There needs to be a better understanding of the need itself. But more, in order to successfully treat addiction or alcoholism (or any other ism or social problem for that matter) we need to find a way to overpower and overcome the need to react to the ism with a sense of empowerment.
If it is true that we live in a “Me First!” world and that we have become a “What’s in it for me,” society, then in order to help the addicted, we need to show them what’s in it for them.
I have been a proud member of the sober community for more than 27 years. I have been to different self-help programs and different 12-step fellowships. I notice, however, that any program works so long as the participant is willing to work that program. However, fear-based and negative consequence based programs have had the same low success rate for years.
Now, I understand there is a discrepancy regarding the actual success rate of 12-step programs. But at minimum, I have heard percentages from doctors that claim the rate is as low as 3%. Then I heard the number was 5% but that number sounds tragically low.
The best number I heard was up to 12%. So, let’s take the best number of 12% or let’s improve that and make it more like 20%. Well, since addiction is deadly and since addiction also affects more than just the addict themselves; since the addict and alcoholic also affect the family, and since this also affects our community as a whole —we need to do something to change the dynamic in the way we treat this problem. These numbers have remained unchanged for a very long time. I think it is time we work together and do something about it.
Sadly though, we have become too complacent. Sadly, our society has become inherently lazy. We have become self-serving, self-righteous, and we have become lost in an inaccurate sense of entitlement.
I go back to the frequently mentioned statement: Addiction has never been this bad before.
If this is true; then what are we going to do about it?
And if the statement is not true and if addiction is just more of the same, then what are we going to do differently?
I have been a part of school discussions. I have been a part of outreach programs that go to classrooms and I have given presentations to students. I have accompanied law enforcement programs whose intention is to educate the students of what’s on the streets, what the drugs do, and the dangers of prescription medication, which in many cases has been proven to have opened a different gateway to addiction. But still, with all the graphic and grotesque pictures, with all the sad stories from parents that have lost their son or daughter, with all the stories from people who have been there and done that; addiction still happens. Kids still get high. People still die
It seems we treat more of the symptoms than the problems itself. In 12-step programs of recovery, only the first step deals with the actual substance of addiction. The other 11 steps deal with the inner self, which lead towards a spiritual freedom. But still, no matter how attractive the idea of spiritual freedom may sound; the success rate is still very low.
When speaking in schools, I spend less time explaining about the drugs or drinking and more time on explaining why I drank or used drugs. I do not focus on the symptoms. I do not focus on the problem. Instead, I mention my symptoms and define the problems and focus on the empowerment of my solutions.
I would rather show the other side of me than the ugly side of who I once was. I expose my truths without glorifying my actions.
Besides, to the wrong mind, the insanity of street life and addiction is all too often seen as attractive. To them, this is like being a gangster or a rock star.
As it is, the students have been pounded with awareness talks and education. They are sick of hearing about this topic; whether pertinent in their lives or not and whether the students are susceptible to addiction or safe from its grip, whether the students are too young to understand or old enough to know, if we think back to when we were kids in class and listening to the same thing over and over again, we would have turned off like a light switch as soon as the topic was brought up.
If it is true that creating awareness is important then we need to come at this from every angle. We can’t just warn people. In truth, warn someone not to do something and their curiosity will lead them right to it.
However, teach them what wellness means. Teach them about their mind; teach them basic CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) and help them to understand how to avoid the bullying problem; teach them how to overcome insecurity, help with the roots of depression, help solve their anxiety problem, solve their panic attacks, and you will see the need for “relief” or “release” will become lower. This will also help to create and improve with behavioral changes.
I mentioned the word “Wellness” in a previous paragraph. And that word is a word used all too often. But what does the word mean?
This is a definition according to Dictionary.com
- The quality or state of being healthy in body and mind, especially as the result of deliberate effort.
- An approach to healthcare that emphasizes preventing illness and prolonging life, as opposed to emphasizing treating diseases.
I submit that wellness also has another meaning. I submit that with regards to mental health; wellness is the understanding or one’s own value.
Wellness is the improved level of consciousness, which in turn, leads to a better sense of self-awareness, and then leads to a better sense of understanding.
This is where freedom is found. To know, to be aware, and to understand means that no one can impose upon you nor can they take away who you are or what you are capable of. Most importantly, this empowers us to know that we do not need anything to alter our mind because by understanding our true inner value —we would never waste our efforts on an outlet that would degrade our worth.
In my presentations, I discuss addiction as a self-destructive response disorder. I talk about the emotional quicksand that we sometimes find ourselves in —and with quicksand, the more we try to get out, the deeper we sink.
Although the use of drugs is to feel better or break the boredom and cure the monotony of life as it presents itself, the end result is unfortunate and often deadly.
To the user, they just want to feel better. They just want to cut loose and take that mini-vacation. I get that.
The mind does not want to feel pain or fear or any sort of discomfort. The mind does not want change or disappointment. But this is life and life is unavoidable and often overwhelming; therefore the user uses the drug or the drink to solve all of these things.
I see addiction and alcoholism (as well as any ism) and depression, social anxiousness, anxiety, and panic disorders as a direct link to our own worth system. In my experience (both personal and through speaking with others) I see a lack of self-worth and self-confidence. I see this linked to a fear that we cannot successfully overcome or compete. I see the roots of insecurity act like a weed, which strangles the thought process, and makes the mind weak and susceptible to give in.
I explain that drug use is a cheating way to balance the scales we use to weigh our life. Unfortunately, by cheating to balance the scales; the effects are short lived. Therefore, we need to re-up and try to balance them again.
This leads to a continuous, back and forth process. This is what addiction is; always looking, always trying to feed that third party voice in our head; always trying to cure the itch we can’t reach to scratch, and always trying to honor a troubled thought, emotion, or feeling.
I hear people say, “I was clean for a while and I thought to myself, ‘Well, hey, things are good. Maybe I can just go do a bag,’ and then I went out and I went right back to where I left off.”
The question here is why?
Things were good, right?
Everything was going fine, right?
Well, this might be true, but internally, there was a conflict. Internally, there was an idea that came up and triggered the thought machine and the ripple effect spread outward..
Staying clean is hard because the thought of “NEVER” doing it again comes up and the idea of the personal responsibility comes to mind. Put simply, life in any form is work. Nothing comes easy. Everything requires work. So does staying clean. No action happens without a thought behind it. Sometimes the thought of never having that avenue of escape again is enough to trip the interest switch, and again, the ripple effect pools outward
In order to treat this more effectively, we need to help others understand the thought process behind it.
Addiction and alcoholism is a community problem and a social virus. In order to better our towns, our streets, and our society, we must act together as a community and attack this problem from every angle.
The school year will begin soon.
Be mindful, folks.
Speak with your children
Trust me . . . you’ll be glad you did!