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Sunday, May 12, 2019

Anakin was an Addict: From At-Risk to Full-Blown Addict to Recovery



I spent a lot of time last Fall (2018) camping with my stepson and his den-leader mom.  So, naturally, I got to see first hand the emotions and behaviors of preteen and single digit age boys.  Each kid has their own angst, drama, concerns and/or things that make them tick.   For one kid it might be the worry about being excluded, for another it might be body image issues, for another it might be proving that he is 'macho' enough.   In any case, as with all kids and boys specifically they each have their concerns and which can get elevated to fear or anxiety.

So, as my mind is apt to wonder, I got to thinking about another young lad, in a galaxy far, far away.  His name was Anakin Skywalker.   In some ways, he was a typical young man, but in other ways not so much.   He was an at-risk young man who ultimately fell victim to his inner demons, becoming an addict.  Unfortunately, as is the case with addiction, he wasn't the only victim.  In fact, in the Star Wars world, his addiction led to an untold number of victims.

From what I see here is his progression:

At-Risk Adolescent
  • He was born into slavery.   Not only did he have to mind his mom, but ultimately, he had to mind their master.  In other words, he had little control or say.
  • When he won his freedom, with the help of Obi-Wan, he was not able to win the freedom of his mom.  Once again, little control.  He was happy to have his freedom, but he took on a greater fear too.
  • Upon winning his freedom and going with Obi-Wan, he was thrust into a galactic conflict.  As a matter of fact, once Obi-Wan crossed his path, he probably lost his ability to stay out of the conflict.  Definitely once they ran across Darth Maul, he was destined to be part of the conflict.  In other words, he lost his ability to stay neutral.  That is he lost control again.
  • When Senator Palpatine aka "The Emperor" took a strong interest in him, he was effectively, unbeknownst to others, in the sights of a predator.  Effectively, the Senator was in a position to 'groom' Anakin towards the Dark Side.  This is yet another degree of control he had unknowingly lost.

Transition or Turning Point(s)
  • He had visions of his mom's suffering.  This tormented him and helped feed his feeling of helpless.  These visions helped him from being at risk and an impending addict.
  • When he was finally in a position to address his mom's situation, he discovered that she was in trouble.  Furthermore, he eventually discovered that he was too late to help her.  Her fate had been sealed.  His fear was fully realized and his anger was engaged.  His addiction to anger and power had finally started to be engaged.   
    • While he had wished for power (control), he had accepted that he did not have it or shouldn't try to seize it.   Seeing his mom tortured and left to die at the hands of the sand people pushed him over the edge for the first time.  He engaged his anger addiction, a prelude to his addiction for power (control).
    • It wasn't just those who abused his mom that suffered as a result, but it was the innocents among them that faced his wrath.   He not only killed the warriors responsible, but he wiped out the whole village of Sand People.  It this point, he was on a collision course with his anger addiction.
  • Senator Palpatine reveals to Anakin his knowledge of The Dark Side and later that he is a Sith Lord.  He first reveals to Anankin the legend of Darth Plageuis, who supposedly could cheat death of those he cared about.  This fed right into Anakin's desire to protect Padme from dying, unlike that which he didn't with his own mom.

Full-Blown Addict
  • After Anakin informed Windu and three other members of the Jedi Council of Palpatine's true identity, they come to arrest the Senator.  Palpatine quickly dispatches the other three and engages Windu.  Windu gets the upper hand and when Anakin arrives he pleads with him to spare Palpatine.  When it is clear Windu will not.  Anakin panics striking Windu to leave him helpless and Palpatine dispenses with him.
    • Anakin's fear got the best of him.  He is afraid with Palpatine's death will come his inability to protect and save Padme.  In a moment of weakness, he 'acts out' and helps the Sith Lord.
    • Gripped by what he has done and that he effectively chosen sides he takes his place as Palpatine's apprentice, that is of a young Sith Lord loyal to his Sith Master, becoming Darth Vader.
  • Anakin is compelled then to destroy the Jedi with a contingent, including attacking the Temple and slaughtering all including the younglings.  His conversion is complete.  He not only protected the Emperor, but is doing his bidding.  He is effectively going on bender like a full-blown addict, embracing his role as Darth Vader.
  • Anakin takes his place besides the Emperor, ruling the galaxy with an iron hand and wiping out those who pose a threat.

Recovery
  • Anakin (aka Darth Vader) throughout Episodes IV to VI is forced to confront his who he has become.  He is forced to face that fact that he has turned his back on his offspring.
  • As he confronts his son Luke, he hesitates for a moment.   He still fights his son, but it is becoming increasingly clear that he is conflicted.  Even the Emperor senses that and goads him to prove his loyalty to him.
  • In the climax the Emperor gets a hold of Luke and is in the process of destroying him with his Force Lightening.  After hesitation, Dark Vader, once again become a 'good guy' again.  He takes Emperor Palpatine and tosses him to his apparent death, redeeming himself.  
  • Effectively in a moment, Anakin has began the road to recovery.
  • He died shortly thereafter, and as evidenced by his showing up as a Force Ghost, his recovery and redemption was complete.

I believe each of us has a story within us.  Few as profound as the life and time and the path of Anakin Skywalker, but nontheless,  we have our moments in time, our path.   I believe we have our times in which we are disposed to make bad choices, a turning point in which we are poised make a bad choice or two or many, a decision or push to make those bad choices and an opportunity for redemption.   For most people, the path is not that severe.  For many it is a small path.  But, for some it is a big path which encompasses our lives.

Each of us has our own inner Anakin.  Invariably we will make a bad choice or two or two dozen or so.   However, what ultimately determines who we are in not necessarily the bad choices we make, but how we choose to redeem ourselves.   Do we choose to go along the bad path or to right ourselves.  We can have others guide us along the way, but only we can make the final decision.

Just some thoughts and my 200th blog post.

- Rich


Saturday, May 11, 2019

Caring means sharing: Do Troubled People Care?

In this life, I think everyone has run across people who are troubled or tormented, perhaps maybe even themselves or a close family member or friend. We've all heard the arguments, "pro" and "con", defending and condemning people with hangups and addictions.  By "pro" and "con", I mean arguments that seemingly 'defend the addict' vs. those which seemingly 'condemn the addict', but I digress. These positions boils down to whether you choose to focus on placing blame and culpability on the troubled person OR whether you chose to focus on understanding what is troubling them. I believe it is not an either/or. I believe there is room for both culpability and understanding. One particular perspective that has grated me over the years is this: If he/she cared enough... I will dive into that perspective later, but first let me introduce the culpability/blame vs. understanding model (using arguments I've seen, heard and thought of) and see where I end up.

Culpability/Blame Model
  • If she hadn't taken that first drink...
  • If he hadn't abuses his medicines...
  • If she hadn't gambled away his money at risk at the casino...
  • If he/she cared about his/her family than his or her own 'happiness'...
  • If it (family/friends/job) were important enough for him/her.
  • He is not really trying...
  • She is trying to avoid getting in trouble...
  • He is making excuses...
  • She doesn't care...
  • I've faced adversity and didn't need a crutch....

Understanding Model 
  • She grow up in a rough home...
    • Poor
    • Abusive
    • Addictive/codependent family.
  • He didn't know his dad, mom, ...
  • The 'role models' she did have taught her the wrong lessons...
  • He was taking addictive pain meds for an injury and got hooked...
  • She was just trying to cope with adversity in childhood, young adulthood, etc...
  • He had no way to know or no one to tell him that that the path and/or friends he was choosing were risky...
  • She never meant to hurt anyone...
  • It may seem obvious to us, but to someone his circumstance...

To a 'blamer', the addict is intentionally engaging in destructive behavior for their own selfish desires with callous disregard for how it affects others.  They might see steps taken by the addict to get sober as half-hearted or insincere.  They might view such efforts as a way to avoid having to face punishment.  In short, they believe the addict is totally about themselves.  In short, when others say an addict doesn't care about others, they mean he or she is pretty much a jerk without a conscience. 

To "understanding person", the addict is a person caught up in his or her own personal struggles.  The addict can be in their 'sober' moments is capable of being a compassionate, caring, loving, thoughtful person.  However, the addict, when their addiction takes hold, when they are triggered, are overwhelmed by their 'needs', by withdrawal, by unbearable impulses, it is not necessarily that they don't want to exclude considering others, but they are overwhelmed by their addiction.  In other words, it's not that they wouldn't want to care, but they are not in a good place.  In some ways, it can be a vicious cycle, their addiction has caused harm to themselves and others.  Realizing this in their sober moments can be overwhelming and further push their addiction cycle.

--

From what I see, it's not always clear-cut like.  It is not always, blame/shame the troubled person or understand them.  We must consider a few things first.

  • Has the person been clinically diagnosed?
    • Is their behavior indicative of a sociopath?
    • Is their behavior indicative of an addict?
    • Is their behavior indicative of having another mental disorder?
  • Has the person tried to get help?
  • Has the person shown in their more lucid moments regret or remorse?
  • Has the person shown a cold, calculating, planning side or do they seem in the grip of something?
  • Has the person ever had a good role model to give them a reference point?
  • Has the person ever been given the tools they needed to help themselves or to deal with damage done?

I guess my take has always is this
  • People, whether their legally/morally/ethically troubling behavior is a result of hurt/addiction or just a callous disregard for others, they still have to face the consequences of it.   You can be understanding of how their behavior or actions were born and what they are driving by, but ultimately it cannot go 'unpunished'.
  • People often have points in their life in which they have a choice and make the wrong choice, like taking the first drink or hanging out with people their better judgment tells them not to.  Choices like this can put us on a bad path and they need to own it. But we should be clear that sometimes the extent of the poor choice is it or wasn't isn't totally clear to them at the time.  I'd venture to guess that many who smoke that first cigarette or joint or take that first bottle, for example, envision the lifelong struggle they are submitting to. 
  • If their behavior is a result damage done to them and/or an addiction born out of coping, consequences should include an intervention by mental health professionals or a program designed to help such people.  If their behavior is born out of a callous disregard for others, no capacity to have any empathy, even when 'sober', then the problem is larger than an addiction.
  • If they were put in a circumstance in which 'they never had a chance', that should be taken into account before deciding they are 'irredeemable'.  That is to say, they never had a chance to develop good coping skills.  Still negative behavior should have consequences regardless.
  • Understand that it is easy to label people troubled by addiction as not caring about others or not wanting to get better bad enough or whatever.   Sometimes that might be true.  Sometimes when given a chance, they do prefer their lifestyle.  Sometimes they just may be too broken to easily help themselves or for that matter help or 'care' about others. In other words, the weakness of their emotional state in conjunction with the nature and strength of their addiction is just too potent a combination to easily rebound or recover from.  

I believe most people have some good in them.  In the movies, Anakin Skywalker (aka Darth Vader) had been a caring young boy and caring young man before he was seduced by the Dark Side of the Force.  But as his son Luke had suspected and discovered in The Empire Strikes Back, deep inside his tormented suit, lived a good man who was seduced and addicted.  It took seeing the Emperor attempt to kill his son, to push him to overcome.  So, before we write off those who struggle with and succumb to addiction even to the point destroying themselves let's look a little deeper.  Like the Emperor, they truly may not care and love that which it brings them. Then again they may be the tormented soul that is Anakin, who wanted to do the right thing but caught up as a result of his struggle and fears and ended up doing the wrong thing.

Just my some thoughts.  Apply them as needed.

Yours truly,
Rich

--

It's true I did extend the invitation
I never knew how long you'd stay
When you hear temptation call
It's your heart that takes