Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Off Switches

Continuing with the story “Truth and Falsehood,”  the punchline is, “There you have it. A well-dressed lie is being chased by the naked truth and it’s been like that ever since.”   The third well-dressed lie we continue to chase is, “After all this time…can’t you have just ONE?”
NO. We can’t. Not even one.
There is something fundamentally different about the brains of people with substance use disorders, compulsive behaviors, or addictions.  And even after a period of abstinence, if the substance or behavior is re-introduced to that previously hi-jacked brain, it triggers a return to the substance or the behavior. Once that happens, the person who has relapsed can easily return to all the addictive thought processes and behaviors that had been extinguished during whatever period of sobriety.
You mean those behaviors weren’t really extinguished?
NO.  Addiction is a chronic, progressive, and often fatal disease that profoundly affects the brain and therefore the functioning of the addict/alcoholic.  It must be treated and managed throughout one’s life, even if that only means one is abstinent.
Addicts and alcoholics don’t have an “off switch.”  When the light of addiction goes “ON,” the progress made in sobriety and recovery is often lost – sometimes forever.  No one knows how debilitating that relapse will be, least of all the person who has relapsed. Any relapse can have fatal consequences. No alcoholic or addict has been reported to resume social drinking or the occasional blunt without consequences.   No one would ever tell a diabetic to stop taking the prescribed medications or to throw caution to the wind with diet because that birthday cake is so tempting. Why would anyone tell an addict or alcoholic, “It’s okay…just this once,”?
There is a saying among recovering people: “One’s too many, and a thousand’s not enough.”  It would be wonderful if everyone who loves someone who has an addiction, or everyone who works with an alcoholic or addict, would remember that, too.

Sunday, March 10, 2019

Shame

Let’s revisit the story “Truth and Falsehood” again.  The punchline is, “There you have it. A well-dressed lie is being
chased by the naked truth and it’s been like that ever since.”   One of the well dressed lies we continue to chase is
that addiction, in any of its manifestations, doesn’t happen to US. It happens to THEM.
In 2018 in the United States of America, everybody knows somebody who has been affected by an addiction.  
To pretend or purport otherwise is absurd. We applaud the young man bravely sharing his story to a civic group,
or the young woman in the public service announcement.  The keynote speaker who shares a story of recovery
and success gets a standing ovation. So, shame is no longer an issue. Right?
WRONG!!
It’s okay as long as it’s not the person working next to you.  It’s okay as long as it’s not your child’s teacher.
It’s okay as long as the facility where you work is away from “those people” getting support services of any kind.  
It’s okay as long as where “they” live is in a neighborhood is far, far away from the neighborhood where you live.
Sadly, I have seen all of these scenarios play out in real time in my community in just the last few years.
I’m going to tell you a secret.  People in recovery are more ashamed of what they have done in the past than you
could ever know. Please don’t make it worse by treating them like the lepers of the 21st century.
Here’s another secret.  When someone is living without use (or benefit) of mood- or mind-altering substances,
including alcohol, that someone is out of step with the rest of society. Communion at church, a toast at a wedding
or celebration, wine with a family dinner or when dining out, all become awkward moments for the person who is
abstinent.  Often that discomfort leads to peer pressure of the worst kind. “Of course you can have just one...”
which is just not true.
And here’s the best kept secret.  People in recovery have to resolve the issues and the wreckage of their pasts,
either because the law requires it, or their families deserve it.  Not to do so puts the recovering person at risk
of relapse due to the burden of the shame and the guilt that accumulated during their active addiction. People
in recovery work at being a better person tomorrow that they are today in order to have hope of the better life
that is promised.  They become contributing members of society; taking care of their families and their own
personal business, working, paying taxes, and voting.

And yes,  it DOES happen to us….to 15% of us, regardless of socio-economic class or any other variable.
So, when all else fails, please be kind and respect the effort it takes to be a sober person today.