Talking About Gateway Things

Back when I was a little kid, I remember when I had headaches that were bad. Mom used to break up little tablets of baby aspirin and put it with a teaspoon of water. I’m not sure why she delivered the aspirin this way. I suppose I struggled to take the pill itself. Maybe Mom gave me the aspirin this way because it tasted better. I can’t say why she did this.
Unfortunately, Mom is not around to ask but I do remember the teaspoon trick. The medicine was delivered delicately and with love. This was good for me. Also, the aspirin would do its trick. And I understood the exchange; therefore mentally, I knew something was going to help me. I knew that if I felt uncomfortable, I could take an aspirin, wait about 20 minutes, and then I would feel better.

I remember the first time I ever received a numbing agent before taking a needle in my mouth at the dentist’s office.

The truth is I am terrified of needles. The truth is the anticipation of the needle is worse than the injection.
And I get it. I get that the fear doesn’t make sense because I am tattooed to the gills. But still . . . needles freak me out.

No one wants to feel pain; therefore, we have pain relievers. We have Aspirin, Excedrin, Motrin, Aleve. There are over the counter pain relievers that do a trick. And we depend on that trick to help us feel better.

There is an argument, which I hear frequently, about which is a gateway drug.

Is it alcohol? Is it marijuana?

What is the drug that leads to the path of self-destruction? I had been asked my opinion on this, to which, I usually keep to myself because A) I don’t do politics because politics is like the new religion these days. Everyone is arguing that their God is better than another God. Meanwhile, I go back to something I read by Robert Fulghum that says, “Arguing whether or not God exists is like fleas arguing whether or not the dog exists. Arguing over the correct name of God is like fleas arguing over the name of the dog. And arguing over whose notion of God is correct is like fleas arguing over who owns the dog.”
I say this relates to the current way I see our society, which is why I don’t want to be like a flea that argues about the dog or its name.  
And B) I seldom enter my opinion because I have a different version of what the gateway drug really is. Please keep in mind; this is only an opinion. People are welcome to agree or disagree. The following is just a thought and I am not claiming this as fact . . .

First and foremost, this is neither an opinion for or against the legalization of marijuana. Secondly, whether marijuana is legal or not, it is still readily available, and it is my opinion that there are other issues that lead one down the path of addiction.
Through my interactions with those struggling with addiction, alcoholism, and depression, and through personal research to gain a better understanding, I see there is a commonality in their story, which links towards the addiction process.

Whether they started early or late of if they were popular or not, and whether they were successful, whether they were an athlete, a lost child, the famous one, the family scapegoat or the mascot, there is a common need for avoidance; to avoid pain, avoid discomfort, and to fill the emptiness inside.

I was asked what I defined as a gateway drug. In a simple response, I call out aspirin.  And it is simple. We learn this at a young age.

We hate pain. We don’t want to feel it. We have been taught to take this or that and we will feel better. And once we know how to solve the pain, our resilience to endure is less than what it was.
Consider the old saying (and I just might be showing my age here, but to show my point, then so bit it.)

There used to be that standard saying when someone called their doctor. “Take two aspirin and call me in the morning.”

People are constantly looking to feel better. We are also looking for shortcuts. We look to find ways to feel better, faster, and with longer lasting relief; however, nothing that comes fast stays very long, which is why we have to take aspirin every four hours or so until the headache runs its course and we finally feel better.

But what do we do when it’s not a headache? What do we do when we just want to feel better? What about heartache? Doesn’t that hurt worse?
What about insecurity? Is there anything more punishing than insecurity? Or anxiety? What about panic?

What do we do when we feel something so tragic or painful, like say, the loss of a loved one or the loss of our identity? What kind of aspirin would help us with that?

From a young age, we are introduced to pain relievers. When we grow and pain becomes more intense, we are introduced to painkillers.
And think about this for a second. Think about the name. Painkillers.

Think about the names of alcohol. Think about Southern Comfort. Think about the sound it promises. Now consider the deliverance of mom’s teaspoon of medicine. Is there a difference? Either way, I knew I would feel better.

So to me, arguing about the gateway drug is a wasted point. It’s not the medicine; it’s the reason behind the medicine that leads towards the pathways of addiction.

In my case, I could not stand the pain. I could not stand feeling sick. I could not take the discomforts. I could not take the boredom and the lost feeling of not knowing what to do with myself. I could not take the overthinking, the nervousness, the little mental ticks which intrude, and most of all, I could not stand the internal dialogue that would not stop; however, once the medicine was delivered, miraculously, I was fine.

The gateway is the problem itself; it’s not the chemical we chose. It’s the reason behind it because me at my best possible potential, me at pain free, or me at the happy version of myself is not swayed by intoxication or euphoria. But me at my worst; or take me at the frustrated version of myself, take me as the angry one or the depressed one —yes, this is when I’m looking for the gateway. This is when I need to feel better.

I think we are arguing about the existence of the dog like Fulghum said. But instead, I think we need to focus on the dog itself and that yes, we are like the fleas in this scenario, and yes, the dog definitely exists no matter what name we call it. As for the gateway drugs…..
We need to focus on solving the reasons behind the gateways. We need to educate on the reasonings and the rationalizations to gain understanding. Rather than focus on the overdoses and the arrests and the active addiction, we need to focus on empowerment. We need to discuss the problem itself and not the symptoms because whether they make weed legal or not, until we settle the inner, personal disputes, we will never solve the problem.

One thought on “Talking About Gateway Things

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