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Showing posts with label #addiction. Show all posts
Showing posts with label #addiction. Show all posts

Tuesday, November 30, 2021

Hubris and getting out of one's own way

I believe most people realize they don't know it all.  Only a true narcissist would think that they do.   However, I think a lot of people think they think they 'get it' when that's not necessarily the case.  That is they think they are easily able to understand people and circumstances.  In other words, they feel like they are easily able to assess people and/or situations based on their life experiences and other factors.   The problem is that not everyone experiences or is taught life the same way.   For example, a person who has spent his childhood being corrected the adult in their life, might view an innocent suggestion given as trying to control him or her.   Whereas, a person who has felt like they've been heard even as a kid and might better read the speaker.  They might properly view the same suggestion as an attempt to help them see an easier way to do something.   This points to what I see a flaw in trying to read people and situations.   Sometimes, our own personal experiences, rather then informing us, can cloud our ability to 'get it' when presented with a person or situation or circumstance.   Sometimes, a mistaken assessment of our own knowledge and abilities--often based on what we've been taught--can get in the way of our understanding.  Sometimes, both combine to get in the way of true understanding vs. a mistaken belief that we understand.

Why we misread others and circumstances.

  • We have been told 'the way it is' time and again by those in authority whom we respect.
    • It could be a parent, minister, teacher or someone whom we look up to.
      • They may have emphasized that people who get poor grades are either a) ignorant or b) don't try hard enough.  Sometimes, it is neither. 
      • They may have told us people from "that side of town" are more dangerous.  This may be due to their own negative experiences and not based in fact or reality.
    • They are/were very sincere in their explaining life as they see it.
      • A strongly held belief if presented well, can be seen effectively as a 'truth'.
      • A strongly held belief if asserted confidently enough can taken as a 'truth'.
    • We wanted their approval or to emulate them, so we take what they say to heart.
      • We don't want to be seen as lazy or a failure.  So, we push ourselves and in the process come to believe that others who aren't "pushing themselves" don't care and/or are lazy.
  • We have experienced what we saw as a similar situation on occasion in our own life.
    • Whether it is from our own life or the life of someone close to us, we have made observations about situations.  In other words, we believe we are familiar with that type of person or situation.
      • For example, if people close to us have let us down, my may 'decide' that most people are 'in it' for themselves.
    • A first or early impression can imprint on us.  We may not have a grasp of what we see or observe, but nonetheless it leaves an impression.
      • For example, if as a youngster, we tried to get an autograph from a player  and instead we got attitude.  This might lead us to a mistaken impression going forward that 'all' professional athletes as ultimately arrogant and self-centered.
  • We have a misconception of our knowledge or experience.
    • If we've never really faced a given circumstance before, while we may have understood intellectually, we never have really 'gotten it'.
      • If we've never had to truly face hunger before, we might not get the level of desperation a person suffering from real hunger has.
      • If we've never had to truly face depression, it sounds easy to tell a depressed person to seek help.  But, we may not understand that a deep sense of shame or embarrassment combined with the negative energy of depression may make it nearly impossible for someone to proactively seek out help.
    • We might have experience in a similar area/circumstance, but that doesn't mean we can apply it to a similar one.
      • A person who is good at drawing and believe mistakenly that if we can draw well we would probably be a good painter.  That is not necessarily a given.

How can we mitigate against misreading.
  • Treat each situation/person separately.  (Guard against profiling)  
    • Just because a person/situation/circumstance reminds you of someone/something doesn't mean it is definitely so.  
    • Attempt to, if you have the opportunity, to seek out more information before you come to 'conclusion'.  You may that you didn't have enough information to assess the person or situation correctly, when you were initially trying to assess.
  • Look for context or understand you might not have context.
    • Often times a circumstance or situation can by itself read one way.  But, when you see the larger picture, it reads completely different.
    • For example, you might see someone you run store might not say hi to you when you say hi to them.   What you may not know is the person might have received horrible news and is distracted.
  • Understand that while you may be knowledgeable and a good read of people, you don't 'know-it-all'.    
    • Sometimes, we may mistakenly think we have enough knowledge to make a value judgement of a person or circumstance.
    • I used to have a less forgiving view of drug addicts until I realize a) what might drive someone to drugs,  b) People don't always know that they are getting into, and c) kicking the habit may sound like a 'if-it is important enough to them' matter, but really it might be way beyond that.
    • A late friend of mine struggled with heroine addiction.  It ultimately led to an early grave for her.  I realized along the line that she had likely been abused, that she hadn't started out on heroine, and less than 10% of heroine addicts avoid dying or going to prison.  In other words, it isn't something that is easily kicked.  
      • If you are weakened emotionally along the way, it can make you more subject to getting addicted and not being able to kick it.
      • Withdrawal is apparently so bad that the sweet lies of 'feeling better' and stopping 'next time' outweigh the physical and psychological torture associated with attempts to withdraw from it.

Ultimately, I helped one friend get off the bottle successfully.  That gave me a false sense that I could do the same again with my other friend who was on heroine.  Hubris got in my way.  

There is nothing wrong with being confident in your intuition as often your gut feeling is right on the money.   There is nothing wrong with feeling confidence in your abilities or knowledge.  There is nothing wrong with forming an impression--after all we all have to live our lives based on knowledge and judgement of people and circumstances.  The problem lies in an inability or willingness to move on from or be open to another read of a person or circumstance.   If we are so used to something meaning one thing in our experience, we may miss that it could mean another.   It may look and sound like a horse, but sometimes it is a zebra.  Ultimately, we have to not like our biases and stubbornness get in the way of better judgment.   In other words, 'getting out of our own way'.   Easier said than done and no doubt that take a lot of practice for many people.   But, the payoff can be great.  

  • We can gain a better understanding of someone or something.
  • We can make better choices based our willingness to do so.
  • We can develop greater and better relationships and friendship or in some cases avoid disastrous ones.

Saturday, December 5, 2020

Drug Addiction: A Hazy Shade of Spring

I finally watched Less Than Zero. Only you know like 33 years after it came out. Robert Downey Jr's character, Julian Wells, played a really convincing drug addict. Obviously they take a lot of liberties with the original novel and some liberties with addiction. However, at one point in my life I spent some time around a friend who suffered from drug addiction. Unfortunately, the film was pretty accurate in its depiction of the downward spiral. At some point in my life, I may or may not have inhaled (as Bill Clinton said re: marijuana). However, I was offered a more highly addictive, harder drug than that. Fortunately, I grew up in a family and faith that frowned upon that. I also was blessed with an ability to just say no to things like that. This evidences itself in my take or leave approach to potentially addictive medicine, including painkillers after a surgery. I've had a few procedures and know that painkillers are "nice" in terms of blunting pain and helping one to feel alright. But, the few times I've taken them, post-procedure, I rarely have gone through 25% of the prescription. I do take medicine for anxiety, but once again, I've been able to take or leave it. I thank God that of my imperfections, that a weakness for 'needing' addictive drugs is not one of them.
So, I know from personal experience--a friend who had a hardcore drug addiction-- as well as experiences of others that drug addiction is NOT a pretty picture. Drug addicts:
  • Don't realize or underestimate the addictive potential of the drugs they choose.
  • They alienate those closest to them.
  • They are subject to harsh withdrawal and a desire to make it go and just feel good again.
  • They have the delusion that "I'll just get high one just one more time", even after they have had a crash or they have a 'sober' moment when they realize the damage. See the point above.
  • They have the inability to keep employed.
  • We (their family/friends) wonder if we are enabling them when we help them out.
  • They are often 'off' or shaky even when the when the have been sober for a bit.
  • They struggle with staying clean, even after a stint in rehab.
Unfortunately, the friend that I mentioned who struggled with drug addiction, died way too soon. It was a spring day years ago. From what I heard, she didn't die during a high. She was driving a vehicle she wasn't used to and was supposedly texting at that point and lost control. It was on her way home from a 12-step meeting, ironically. I suspect even if she was 'sober' at that moment, that the up and down ride with her addiction had taken its toll on mind and body. In other words, I suspect she "off" or "wasn't herself" when the accident happened.
Besides losing a friend, the worst part about it for me was that I predicted it with chilling accuracy. Earlier in the day she had asked to borrow a little money or to get her something to drink or something like that. I knew that that could or would be enabling her and told her I couldn't do it. She wasn't happy about that as addicts often aren't when their requests are rejected. I'd gone to a meeting with her previously when she asked--I think for moral support--but that night I didn't. After rejecting enabling her, I talked to a friend of hers a little later. I told her friend that I couldn't control whether my addict friend finds a way to get what she doesn't need, but that I wasn't going to inadvertently enable that. I said, I don't want to enable her and get a call later that she had wrapped her car around a tree. Famous last words...

Unfortunately, the next morning, I got a call from another friend that she had died in a horrible one-car crash the previous night. She swerved off the highway and the foundation of a sign. I then told him what I said to her friend. I was like, "I wasn't meaning to be right or make a prediction". But, sometimes somehow you just know when a bad outcome is inevitable. I had helped another friend years previously with alcohol detox. That gave me enough hubris to think I could "be the difference-maker". Anyway, the circumstance with my friend had reinforced something I think I already knew on some level, but denied: You can't "fix" everybody. People needing help have to be ready to help themselves before you can help them to get to a better place. I had to relearn that you can't help everyone.

You never forget a circumstance or person like that. I guess in the back of my mind, I always knew that she would go too young, that her life wasn't going to have a good ending. I had told her about two weeks prior that she needed to get herself together as I didn't want to be reminded one day of this conversation being one of the last we had. Unfortunately, once again, that was a 'prediction' I didn't want to be right on.
Anyway, I guess the moral of the story is this:
  • Always seek a healthy outlet for your life's worries.
  • Never start something that you have to convince yourself that you won't get hooked or that you can stop at any time. If you have to convince yourself, you've basically already admitted you are at-risk.
Anyway, thanks for reading this if you've gotten this far and I hope you have gotten something out of it. I don't know how to end this except to say, always make good choices and encourage loved ones to do so too.

-- Rich

* The irony of the situation is that the friend of hers that I talked to before her accident eventually was claimed by drug addiction (or its affects as well). I kept in touch with her friend for a while, but years later I checked her friend's Facebook and it said, "In remembrance of"... I found out the details of hers friend's passing through a common friend of all of us.