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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.






Friday, November 29, 2019

Rome wasn't built in a day, but it didn't crumble in a day either

I've discussed with my daughter on a few occasions about the importance of taking school seriously and minding adults.  Without going into detail, she has had some members of her extended family have gotten in trouble in their teens and early adulthood.   I say to her, do you think so and so expected when they were your age that one day they'd be where they are or make the choices they did?

I had a friend a few years back whose life became an out of control mess.  She struggled with heroine addiction for years.  Though no one could be sure that heroine was in her system when she died, I believe it ultimately led to her passing.  It had so consumed her life that even when she wasn't high on it, that she struggled to function.  She died late one night in a car accident after recently struggling with it.  Due to the circumstances of the accident there was no way to tell for sure.

She wasn't always a heroine addict.  From what she told me, she was at one point a teen who had body image issues and got hooked on weight loss drugs.  As you might guess there were underlying issues that fed this addictive personality.  In any case, it's likely had one told her in her teens when she started to take weigh loss medicine (drugs), that it could eventually lead to heroine and and early passing, she probably would have looked at them like they were nuts.  However, near the end, she had said that she'd probably die young.

--

The news is replete with stories of people in prison whose delinquency started out small--disrespecting the adults in their life, petty shoplifting,  truancy,  breaking curfew. etc--who eventually were doing serious time for hardcore criminal behavior.   "Scared straight" touches on this. 

I understand "Rome wasn't built in a day" to mean that great things take time build or create.   When I say it [Rome] didn't crumble in day, I refer to our historical understanding that that it decayed over time.  It didn't like a man who died of a single gunshot or a well-placed stab wound, but instead like a man who was weakened, compromised and eventually passed away due to how he treated his body and bad things he partook in and the bad influences he surrounded himself with.

Like the collapse of the Berlin Wall and later the Soviet Union, to some people, the whirlwind of events was shocking, but I think to others, if they were honest, would have seen the signs of collapse forming evidencing over time.   Lives like empires, can complete their collapse abruptly, but the process of crumbling from my experience, knowledge and observations can be a gradual process with most of the steps being fairly small.

Anyway, here are some observations on

Harmful and destructive tendencies or addictions and how they can operate to destroy our lives
  • They can lie or deceive you about their impact.
    • They appear to be small, but end up being a gateway to worse.   You smoke a cigarette after being peer pressured and it makes you feel relaxed.  Eventually it can take more and more cigarettes to keep you relaxed or even worse, it just doesn't do it anymore and you look for something stronger to help calm your nerves or make you feel better such as marijuana or worse.
    • They appear to be small, but continuously 'getting away with' them can give a false sense of being consequence free or invincibility.  This can give 'courage' or illusion that it is okay to take the next step and then next step and then next step.   You steal a candy bar and get away with it, this can give you the confidence to steal progressively more and more expensive items until you get caught stealing an automobile or worse. 
    • Consequences of them can build up over time.  Whether it is spending more and more money you don't have gambling and having to borrow more on your way to losing everything, whether it is a build up of liver damage or heart trauma or the like from drugs and alcohol, or some other consequences that seemed manageable or not visible immediately, consequences will build up and eventually become impossible to miss in time.
  • Can put you in a progressively more hopeless place. 
    • If you blow off school and don't do well, you limit your future earning power and in turn can limit your ability ability to start and/or provide for a family and in turn end up poor, miserable and with a shortened life..
    • If you get caught stealing or cheating, you can ruin your reputation and make it harder to succeed honestly as people may limit your ability to earn an honest living.  The extreme version of this is people who end up in prison for felonies, especially involving illegitimately gained income.  When they come out, it is more difficult for them to get a good honest job.  So, there is an incentive to 'earning' money the only way they know how and going back to their life of crime.
    • If you alcohol or drugs take hold you may lose employment and/or friends and dive deeper into it/them instead of facing the the pain of that which you already lost.  

Rome, on the surface, was a thriving empire for scores of years after its high point and to an outsider probably looked invincible.  But, as history has taught us, it was decaying on the inside.   There wasn't one step which led to its crumble, but many.  The world of that time couldn't envision the Roman empire collapsing into the dustbin of history.  But just like those whose lives crumble around us, the changes in them can be gradual and hard to envision as fatal.  Yes, when my friend when she first struggled with body image issues, I doubt she envisioned the path that she was on as fatal, but unfortunately it was.

IMHO, that's why it is important to find a way to stress the point to young people that poor choices you make now, may not seem like a big deal, but like the Roman empire, can be a stepping stone towards eventually crumbing of their lives.


 

Sunday, May 12, 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

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Mission Accomplished: Declaring victory too soon.

Few people ever want to admit defeat.  People generally want to think  well of themselves (unless they are what I call a negative narcissist), but I digress.  People generally want to think reasonably well about themselves.   Sometimes that means ignoring your flaws and seeing an inflated view of yourself, that is to say you are a narcissist.  History is littered with tyrants who justified their tyranny because they felt they were serving the greater good--Hitler is probably the most well known.  Sometimes that means measuring your flaws against your good points and concluding your good points exceed that of your flaws.  We see that in politics, where people who have used bad judgement in their life or made mistakes survive their negatives and go on to become successful and well thought of.  Sometimes, it means working on your flaws or failings and 'overcoming' them or achieving victory over them.  We see that in the friend who puts down the bottle for good, the parent who does a better job with their second or third kid or the felon that who finds peace in their faith and makes something of themselves once they are out of prison.

The focus of this post is those who know they have difficulties, flaws or failings and see themselves as overcoming or having overcome them.   Sometimes if we tie our worth too much to our 'issues', then we create an incentive to 'declare victory' prematurely.  I believe everyone has examples from their own life or from those close to them.   I will list examples or cases I've seen of been a part of.

Declaring victory too soon
  • In my post, #MeAsWell: For What It's Worth, I detail sexual abuse I faced as a child.  In my mind despite some hiccups, I had successfully made it into adulthood gainfully and successfully employed most of the time.  I had bought a decent house in a good part of town, had a nice car, was married and was well on my way to parenthood.  In other words, the American Dream.  I had convinced myself and the few others around me that knew about it that I had survived and escaped the damage of my childhood, despite the fact that I'd never sought counseling for it.  The signs of 'success' were there, so hey...    Meanwhile, I had a generalized anxiety disorder raging since age 17, I had a problem trusting people--even those close to me--and my behavior didn't always measure up to the standards that my faith would imply.  Anyone who knows me, realizes that eventually like any great fa├žade, eventually the truth has an ugly way of rearing its head.  The truth was that I had never really fully healed from the abuse during my childhood.  The distrust, the anxiety, the flaws eventually came to a head and by 2011, the signs of success had largely been swept away like a sign on the beach during a hurricane.  House, marriage, job, etc. were no more.
  • I had a friend who had a heroine addiction.  I stood by that friend as long as I could.  I saw her 'successfully' complete a stint at a drug treatment center.  I heard her hopefulness that she was done with it.   In short, she was seeking to declare victory.   Supposedly she was clean (at least for a short time)  when she tragically died in an auto accident.  Her life had spiraled out of control and at the very least I think she was very fragile by that point.  That is to say, even if drugs hadn't contributed directly to her accident, indirectly I think she was still reeling.  I'd seen another friend successfully through detox and sobriety for alcoholism, so I thought my friend with the heroine addiction could make it too.  I didn't realize at the time how addictive and deadly heroine is/was and was fooled into being optimistic.
  • I've seen someone I dated push aside anger, grief and other such feelings and claim she was fine and didn't need counseling.  Yet, every time things got rough or she faced adversity she could be seen running to grief and regret that she couldn't help her mom avoid dying young from pneumonia. 

I think for most of us, if we honestly look into our lives, we can find area or two in our lives in which were have 'declared victory' too soon.  That is to say, we are not in as good of a place as we would like to believe we are.  That's not to say that everyone is totally screwed up or has areas in their life which hold them back excessively.  However, I think it is safe to say that most people have misjudged their progress in an area in which they can improve.  I believe sometimes it is easier to 'declare victory' than to do the hard work of self-improvement.   

Just my 1/50th of a $1 for the day.  

Cheers from a snowy day in the Gateway to the West.


Saturday, April 28, 2018

Stop lights versus flashing yellow lights

Time and time again when I've run across (and gotten to know) people who have engaged in or are engaging in 'reckless' or 'destructive' behavior, I've discovered, learned or been told that they have been the subject of a significant trauma in their life.

I've known alcoholics and drug addicts who were abused (sexual and otherwise) at a young age, I've run across others who unexpectedly lost a close family member at a young age and have struggled.  I myself was sexually abused at a young age and at times made poor decisions likely tying back to that.  But I digress.  A friend of mine explained in simple terms what animates such a person.   Stop signs (lights) vs. a flashing yellow light.

Imagine being at a busy intersection and running into a stop light.  Well, unless we want to risk a ticket and/or an accident, we will almost always stop and wait for the light to turn green before we proceed.  Now imagine that intersection having a flashing yellow light--which means proceed with caution.  Most of the time we will proceed with caution, but there will be that time or two in which our impatience at the seeming endless procession of traffic will eventually wear our patience thin such that we 'just go' and in the process cut off someone (and occasionally cause an accident).   If shown a video of what happened we may be shocked at our behavior, but at the time the other cars seemed 'far enough away'.  In short, something in our mind and heart disabled usually good judgment.  Now to the person behind us who by virtue of their position realizes that he or she isn't going anyway, our poor judgment seems puzzling.   He or she wasn't quite in our shoes as he/she didn't have to make the turning decision yet. To him or her, how could we have missed the obvious traffic that was approaching us as we were deciding make the turn.  In short, our poor decision-making seems puzzling as it was 'obvious' to them that we shouldn't turn at that point.

In a way, that sort of describes those with hangups, addictions, and addictive tendencies.  To those around them: Isn't the destructive nature of an addict's behavior obvious?   I mean anyone can see that it is foolishness to cash your paycheck and head to the casino.  It's foolishness and dangerous to risk injecting or snorting that dose of heroine.  It's ridiculousness to go to the strip club and give away our hard earned money to the dancer who shows positive attention (at a price).   I believe many people with hangups like these at one point did see a stop sign (light) when hearing about or thinking about that type of destructive behavior.  But, imagine an unimaginable: Your life being turned on its head by a harsh or unexpected trauma.  While, we'd all like to think that after facing tragedy or traumas that we'd keep our wits, our good judgment, our wisdom, the truth is we can't really say for sure until we are in the situation. 

Imagine being a kid or a young adult if our parent(s) do(es) all the right things to be stay healthy, but end up being struck down tragically by sudden illness or an accident.  While we might not say it, but in the back of our mind, we are likely to think, wow, why bother taking care of yourself as you could end up just like them. 

OR

Imagine being taken advantage by ones you are taught to trust as a kid.  After that, it could be hard to believe that those who are supposed to have our best interest in mind actually do.  

In a way, instead of the distinct decisiveness and firmness of a stop light, such events could lead us to question the stop light, maybe if it is truly even there.  Such events could cause us to see the stop light as more of a proceed with caution or flashing yellow light.  In a way, such events could cause us to question what is passed off a given.  In a way, such events could cause us to wonder if making the choice we are expected to (waiting for the light to turn) will matter anyway.


Anyway, I just thought I'd share what someone told me once and how I received it.  I'm hoping that others might take a little of what I share and find it useful.  But, either way, I march on with my blog.

-- Rich


Sunday, January 22, 2017

Making good choices for yourself--not just for God or others

I learned a valuable lesson back in 2006 when I lost around 50 pounds.  Choosing to do what's best for you has to be a personal choice in order for you to best implement or stick with it.  My personal choice happened by 'accident'.  I hadn't been happy with my weight for a long time and I tagged along with my daughter's mom when she hired a personal trainer at the gym.  The trainer was actually very cool and didn't mind me working out along side her.  Anyway, in the process, I'd started running again and I started losing weight.  Once I dipped below 200lbs, it was like a light bulb went off.  I realize that I could really lose a significant amount of weight with exercise and diet choices.  In other words, I'd personalized the steps necessary to lose the weight.  I'd been teased about putting on the weight and I'd been told by my physician that I could stand to lose some weight.  Heck I remembered that the Bible even exhorts us to remember that our "body are a temple", which can be interpreted to include keeping ourselves fit or in shape.


Yes, despite wishing I could weigh less, teasing, my doctor's encouragement, and even biblical reference to respecting my body, I could not be moved to do what I needed to.  It was only when I embraced the choice to lose weight and become more fit that I actually did it successfully.

--

Part of the equation of losing weight was to realize that I couldn't just deny all 'bad foods'.  I realized doing so would just put me in a mindset that I was 'depriving' myself and in a weak moment that I would binge on junk food.  Once again, if I tried to avoid all 'junk food' at all cost because I was 'supposed to', I would fail.  I knew I could not embrace a total ban on junk food, so I did the next best thing, limit and replace--limit servings & proportions and replace with a 'less bad' choice when possible.  Once again, in order for me to be most successful in my weight loss, I had to embrace a wise choice.

--

I've come to see in myself and others around who have struggled at times with making the best choices and/or addictive behavior, that only we will make the best choices only when we are ready to.  It can be frustrating or upsetting for those close to or who live with such a person.  But, they have to be aware that it is rarely about them, but instead about the one who is struggling.  The person struggling with bad and/or addictive choices often times doesn't always feel like they are in control.  Shaming the person might work for a little bit, invoking or pointing out their religious beliefs (Christianity) might work for a little bit and even getting someone else to intervene for a bit might help, but ultimately the person has to be ready.  

It doesn't matter how much an addict loves his family, friends, God, etc.,  If he or she tries to 'sober up' strictly for any of them, he or she will likely fail.  If he or she on the other hand wants to 'sober up' because they don't like that aspect of their life and they are ready, then they have the best chance to succeed.  As a secondary motivation love of family and friends and love and obedience to God are wonderful, but it has to start with the addict.

Perhaps the biggest revelation on the matter occurred regarding my faith.  As a Christian, I used to expect that I should be perfect and I would beat myself up for being flawed, making mistakes and falling short.  Eventually, after so many failures, I became discouraged that I couldn't be a 'good enough' person to call myself a Christian.  So, I gave up trying.  It is only in more recent years, that I learned that I will make the best choices if underneath it all, I want to.  I want to be obedient to my faith and Higher Power, but I ultimately, it has to be something that in my heart I strive and long for.  For example, it is important for me to be a good father for my daughter.  If I were only do the right things for her because I wanted to keep her mom off my case, eventually, I'd fail.  But, it is my goal in my heart to be the best dad for her.

I am sure if I opened this post to everyone I know or friends of friends, literally, we could write a book on the subject matter.  But, alas it is late and I have to get sleep.

In the meantime, from what I see: When desiring to make the best choices, always, always make sure the choices are yours first and foremost.  You should desire to make the best choices in your life for others involved too, but you risk failure if they are the sole reason for your choices.

Anyway, the twelve steps of AA, effectively communicate this message (focusing on step 1 and 6):

  1. We admitted we were powerless over alcohol - that our lives had become unmanageable.
  2. Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
  3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.
  4. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
  5. Admitted to God, to ourselves and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
  6. Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
  7. Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.
  8. Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.
  9. Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
  10. Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.
  11. Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.
  12. Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics and to practice these principles in all our affairs.


Hopefully, this post proves helpful to a person or two.

-- Rich


Wednesday, July 29, 2015

The Appeal of Addictions and Hangups


You know how sometimes you are just doing a tedious activity--laundry, mowing grass, running, cooking, etc.  You know one that forces time upon you--time to think, time to ponder.   One day, a few months ago, I was in the middle of such a task and had a profound realization.  I was thinking upon the demons that I have faced in my life as well as observing those in family and friends.  A simple question occurred to me: Why do people get stuck in self-destructive patterns, even when they know better?  These are usually referred to addictions or hangups.

Addictions or hangups are often an escape hatch.  Some things we are escaping from:
  •  Facing pain of loss
    • Death of a loved one
    • Breakup 
    • Personal security - resulting from physical, sexual, mental abuse, etc.
    • Of a job or career.
  •  The drudgery of everyday life--the boredom and grind of being.
How do these hangups manifest themselves in a person with such a personality?  More often than not by 'acting out'.  That could be going to the casino and gambling your paycheck away, going to the bar and drinking ceaselessly, using illicit drugs, seeking meaningless casual relationships to help you forget your troubles or some other destructive pattern.  

These episode are often triggered by something.  Sometimes it can be thinking about your troubles listed above.  Sometimes it can be remembering the 'good times' or high we had running away from them.  In 12 step programs they view common triggers to be HALT--Hunger, Anger, Lonely, Tired.

So, say for example, our hangup is alcohol.   What happens?  Something puts us over the edge and we hit the bottle.  For a time we just feel so much better.  The buzz wears off and often we feel worse with a hangover.  Over time this will destroy our body and liver.  We are drinking 'water', but the water is making us more thirsty and is actually destructive to us.  Same thing with gambling.  For a little bit, the high of winning or at least the 'promise' of winning fills our thirsty soul, but at the end of the day, when we are out of money and cannot pay the mortgage or rent, we have destroyed our security.
 
So why do we keep hitting these things, even in the face destruction that they cause us?  In our sober moments, we may see just how much damage our hangups or addictions have cost us, yet they still persist.

So, it occurred to me.  Once a trigger has reeled us in and the addictive behavior has taken hold, it is like water to a thirsty soul.  Our soul is hurting and it demands water to quench it, only the water is our hangup.  Think of it this way, you are dehydrated and you see a glass of water with ice.  Your body screams out to you to drink it.  Only, imagine the same scenario, except that the water has some salt in it.  If you have a deep thirst and have no other sources of water or fluid, you see the salty water, know that it has salt in it, but your heart says, dern it I'm thirsty.  So, you drink it anyway.  For a moment, you might feel a little better, but ultimately, you will become more dehydrated.  

Overcoming hangups and addictions requires a recognition that we are not dying of thirst, that the water that you'd drink is water that would never quench the type of thirst you have anyhow and seeking alternative ways of quenching the thirst.


Sunday, May 6, 2012

Addiction/Codependence: Alone and reaching for that bad or missing connection.

In conversations with friends in recovery--where addiction/codependence is present--I've noticed a common theme.  It seems like almost without fail, they have had a poor or non-existent family of origin connection.  

Anyway, to me, it's almost inevitable that addiction/codependence would be more likely to play a huge role in these people's lifes.   I've heard and I believe that people are social creatures.   In our childhood, we need reassurance/nurturing/validation.   I believe that if we miss this early on, people are prone to find this connection in other ways or at least a way to medicate the lack of connection away.

This can lead to a few problems:

  • Lack of healthy relationships.  We may not know how to handle a healthy relationships as we have no model to base what one looks like on.  Furthermore, if we are used to unhealthy relationships, we may be prone to think when we see a healthy one, there must be a catch.  This can lead to sabotaging it, as it is better to have the certainty of a bad relationship rather than the 'uncertainty' of a good one.
  •  Lack of trust of our Higher Power.  If our earthly father whom we can see let's us down, how could we trust our Higher Power whom we can't see.
  • Finding an unhealthy significant other or predatory 'friends' 
    •  As a friend said to me, "Healthy people, generally don't marry addicts".
    • A predator can see or sense an opening where a person is vulnerable and has the ability to adapt their "story" to take advantage of the addict/codependent.
  •  Finding something to 'medicate' away the problem.  Drugs, alcohol or illicit 'relationships', e.g.

--

Addictive/codependent behavior or relationships remind me of an artificial sweeter.


  • They seem to meet our needs, but like an artificial sweetener they leave a bad aftertaste.
  • As we live them long enough, we find that we adapt to the bad or unnatural/uncomfortable taste  to a point that healthy behaviors and relationships (sugar) becomes too rich or sweet.
  • The may seem like a decent substitute, but living with them--like baking--tends to produce an inferior final product.

Healthy behaviors or relationships remind me of sugar.
  • If indulged properly in our lives, these like sugar will bring us a more rich taste without the biting aftertaste.
  • If we indulged properly in our lives, we will be able to tell a difference between the healthy ones and the unhealthy ones.  Just as if we indulge sugar properly, we will be able to tell what is and is not a natural sweetener.
  • Properly indulging in a natural sweetener of sugar--just like healthy relations--will yield better results in baking--just like living.

Ultimately, I believe the best connections we have are with the guidance of our Higher Power.  We all may not have the advantage of starting off with the best connections as we all don't get to pick our family of origin.  However. even if we started off in an unhealthy environment which encourages with bad connections , as we grown and mature, we have a choice to hold onto the bad connections or not.  Like clinging to a cocoon, we can cling to our bad connections (and the coping skills)  Else, like a butterfly we can break free of the bad connections or sour to better heights and better connections.

In short, we can either seek the authentic sweetener OR we can settle for the artificial sweeteners.

* This blog was cleaned up and updated for republishing.