The worst Four Words in the English Language
Someone once said that the worst four words in the English language are:
I Can't Help Myself
I received an email the other day, from a multi-year meth-using friend of mine. She is what most people would call a functional addict. I have been trying to encourage her to think about quitting for some time - ever since I have known her. Every time she defends her addiction to me, or rationalizes the reasons why she uses or needs to continue, it just makes me think of the above quote again and how true it really is. Some people just do not want to help themselves.
Whether it is a lifestyle choice or excuse, a self-image thing “I am a drug addict” or any other of a million different reasons, rationalizations, or excuses, the drug using person has built their own trap.
The end result is far too often: Til Death Do Us Part!
The “bottom” that most addicts need to sink to doesn't have to be that far down - yet far too often it is. A recovering addict once told me that: “Being addicted is like catching a ride on the back of the garbage truck. You can jump off any time, but almost everyone rides it all the way to the dump.” Well, this is the latest excuse that my friend tossed back at me. Her excuse is work. I personally think her life is worth more than her job. What do you think?
My drug use physically gets me out of bed in the morning where I have enough energy physically to take a shower and get dressed. A lot of the times this is a chore. My drug use allows me to physically and mentally go to work and function like everyone else does. Without it, I simply cannot physically or mentally function like a normal human being. I am not justifying anything nor insinuating that I must continue to do drugs because of these facts because we both know that given enough time to heal, these things would go away in time - hopefully. All I am doing is telling it like it is.
When I say I need it to function - I mean literally. It's going to take a lot longer than a couple of weeks to be well enough to function on my own and quite frankly, I can't afford to take off months from work nor would they allow me to. There is no way I would be able to quit while still working. It's not possible. Me.
Why do I (Doug) keep trying to help Addicts?
Lee from the bulletin board asked me: Why I do what I do?
What follows is my reply to her. This post is mostly in response to Lee's earlier post, and our reasoning together “Come now, let us reason together, says the Lord.” Isaiah 1:18
However, all are welcome to toss in your own points of view. Here is mine...
You first asked: If I was a Christian? As you think that will “help you to communicate better with me.” You also asked me to share a little regarding my faith (or what my beliefs are).
I too, try to match my delivery to where the other person is at, in terms of their thoughts, beliefs, understanding and capabilities. Hence the above quote. In terms of communicating with others, I strive to understand and accept everyone, no matter what their beliefs are: religious or not, spiritual or not.
I am not sure that this is the proper forum to delve into my personal beliefs, but I do think that there is a definite relationship between free will, responsibility, humility, and personal understanding. As to why I do what I do, with regard to the RecoveryRoadMap.com website and my occupation as an addictions counselor, and now college instructor. Here is my answer...
Doug's Comments From a Christian Perspective:
Think of the parable of the talents. Matthew 25:14-30. A man gave different amounts of talents to his servants according to their abilities. Several of the servants put their talents to work and earned more. The one servant said “Master, I knew that you are a hard man, harvesting where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered seed. So I was AFRAID...” The master then said: “You should have put my money on deposit with the bankers, so that when I returned I would have earned it back with interest.”
In terms of my approach to addictions treatment: I strive to gently and sometimes not so gently challenge those who I have the privilege of coming in contact with to better themselves. I try to be firm and strong, and bring out that strength in others and let them know that I believe in them and their capability to live up to their talents.
I want to reap where I have not sown - gather the good in people and make something out of it. It does not matter that I have not nurtured them all the way along, I want to work with what is there and build on the good things that are in people.
In the above parable, I believe that FEAR, kept the servant from living up to his or her potential. How true that is with ALL OF US, for so many things in our lives. We are afraid to even try...
If we consider the “bankers” to be each other, the supportive people in our lives, 12 Step meeting fellowships. How very important it is to lean on each other for support, and still earn interest even when we do not have the strength on our own or are crippled by our fears!
Perhaps, you may feel a bit like me in that: I have blown it in a lot of ways, (and still do every day); but I am trying to use my talents to the best of my abilities and do not want to be left out in the darkness, weeping and gnashing my teeth.
Doug's Comments from a Secular Perspective:
I have learned how to better my life from other people, and I am simply trying to return the favor. One of my best bosses had huge expectations of her staff and the teens. Many people felt that her expectations were unreasonable and rebelled. Yet those who put the effort in to trying to meet her expectations, excelled even beyond their own beliefs. She knew: “I had the ability to succeed,” even when I did not see or believe it myself.
I believe in the teens that I (used to) work with, and in the users who participate on this board. I try to encourage them to lay aside their fears and accept personal responsibility to find the help that they need. I do not expect them to do it on their own.
However, if you use the analogy of BUILDING A HOUSE, I expect them to find the tools, gather the materials, and ask for the help that their need to build their house and then to give it away to help someone else. If anyone has not seen the movie “Life as a House” with Kevin Kline, I would highly recommend it.
Nature versus Nurture (Genetics versus Environment)
Now Lee, in terms of your friends who developed schizophrenia and lost their minds. I agree with you that many things can also impact on what happens to us “genetically” and that stress, unfulfilled expectations, or simply being abandoned can have a major impact on a person developing schizophrenia or any other mental illness. To most doctors there really is no “nature vs. nurture” argument (genetics versus environment) anymore. Both can affect the other in permanent ways. They are intertwined completely. However, if you have to put a percentage on the balancemany people go with about 60% environment and 40% genetics. What do you think?
If I eat well, I am taking into my body the nutrition for healthy brain chemistry. The benefit is that I now can think better, because my brain is fed properly. Thus my habits or environment affects my genetics. Then if I am thinking better, I am probably feeling better and feel like acting better getting some exercise.
The fact that you have learned to be patient and tolerant of people with mental illness, is something you should feel good about. I agree with you that if someone hears voices, that is their reality. For someone to try to convince a person otherwise is foolish. Learning to love each other and not argue with each other is always a worthy goal.
Drug Induced Schizophrenia
Some people do end up with mild forms of schizophrenia (disorganized thinking) from drug abuse. It is mostly caused by the loss or improper balance of certain chemicals in their brains. In some cases the damage can be reversed with time, and good nutrition, or managed with medication. I also think that miracles do happen. I can think of cases for instance, where a child is born to a meth-using mother. The Doctors are very afraid that the baby will have all kinds of problems (and in may cases do); but sometimes the baby is OK. Now is that coincidence? Was the baby able to heal on its own from the effects of its’ mother’s drug use? Or will “problems” simply occur later in life? There is so much that we do not understand.
If you have learned to turn to God in time of trouble in your life, and the darkness that you have experienced makes the light that much brighter; I think that is something valuable that you can hopefully teach also to others.
The idea that our trials and tribulations (problems in our lives) are actually “Blessings in disguise” is often quoted. Also, when we can; recognize and deal with our sin, humbly turn to God, rely on God’s strength to guide us in our journey these are all good things. Is not FAITH the opposite of FEAR?
Again, I agree with you in terms of knowing what we can change and what we cannot. I think that is why the “Serenity Prayer” is so often quoted both by drug addicts and the people who love them.
In your post you continue to say:
But most of us forget the brain of a mentally ill person is wired differently than normal people, and it is not realistic to expect them to function like a normal person. Is it true that after a person uses meth for a while, they would have signs and symptoms of schizophrenia?
I wonder if you have ever been to a mental hospital. I guess you wouldn't be surprise if you saw people in the mental hospital acting without any capacity of reason and logic. And you probably won't hold a mentally ill person accountable for their action.
My questions are (posed to Doug from Lee on the forum):
1) If meth is in a user’s system, and (we agree that) he or she could not function with the proper reason and logic of a normal person. Is expecting an addict to be normal and responsible kind of like expecting a Schizophrenia patient not to hallucinate anymore? If we can accept the helplessness of a mental patient, can we also develop an acceptance for the similar helplessness state of a meth addict? Is it fair to say that we cannot compare an addict to a normal person?
2) When it comes to exercising our freedoms, doesn't it need to involve our conscious mind? If it is a reaction that bypasses a person's region of consciousness, is it fair to say the freedom of the person is not usable. For example a person accidental put his hand on top of a hot plate, after a split second, he moves his hand quickly away. Because the heat is so intense, the body’s natural survival instincts kick in. And the action of moving the hand quickly away from the hot plate, doesn't involve a conscious decision. There is no free exercise of choices involve. Is it then fair to say when the impulse of using is very intense and craving of an addict is sky high. The action of using would bypasses the normal thinking process. If their action is not the result of the conscious mind, is it fair to say the addict didn't have much freedom or choice in the matter when the impulse to use meth is so intense?
Doug's Answer #1:
While a person “under the influence” of meth or any other drug for that matter may get to a point where they are not “in control” of their actions, that does not absolve them of the responsibility for them. Do you understand the difference here?
Can I accept that a meth addict may be in such a state that they are helpless and unable to control their own behavior just like a person with mental illness? YES, I sure can! That is when other people must step in and take back “the control” that the meth addict has given up (lost) due to their choice to use meth. They are obviously not able to make good choices, and need help from others.
Ask yourself “Am I my brother’s keeper?” If your answer is “Yes, I am.” Then you agree with “society” in that the reason we have laws are for the occasions when individuals “cannot or choose not to control their behavior.” Arguing the fine points of when someone is in control and when they have lost it, is really a separate issue from them being responsible.
If you are equating being “responsible,” with being “accountable,” (judged and punished), there is a difference there too. We are only truly “accountable” to God and God understands things much better than you and I.
In terms of being irresponsible, or out of control, I know of a case where some friends of a meth user kidnapped her and locked her in an apartment until her head cleared enough that she was able to choose for herself to go get help and see a doctor. She also has a mental illness and was using meth in an unhealthy way to self medicate with disastrous results. Do I recommend this? No as kidnapping is against the law.
However, when a teen ends up in jail because of their meth use and the judge orders them into treatment where I work. I am going to do my very best to get them to accept responsibility for their behavior, and get them to try to make some healthy choices for themselves that will allow them to remain in control and out of jail. I tell them that they may not have consciously made the choice to come to jail, but they can definitely make some choices now and when they get out, that will keep them out!
Doug's Answer #2:
You are basically asking that with an addiction does a person get to a point where they have “No choice but to use? Does it become like an instinctual reaction?”
Yes, that is why an addiction is called an addiction, because the user feels like they have no other choice. Recovery is getting a person into a sane moment where they can realize that they do have other choices. When you are high, or needing desperately to get high, it is pretty tough to make rational choices!
While a person who has a mental illness may never be sane enough to make good choices, and needs to have their behavior monitored or controlled by others. Most addicts, do have moments of sanity, or can be forced into moments of sanity. You can lead a tweaker to reality, but you cannot stop them from spinning. Still, they have to choose to stop spinning on their own. That is why it is important to intervene when and where you can, and hopefully get the person to a point where their conscious mind can exert some control again. in other words, they make a choice and form a plan to stop using and get help!
They saying: “Slip but do not fall.” Is when an addict goes out and uses a drug after being in recovery. The trick is for them to catch themselves in a semi-sane moment and stop themselves from continuing in their use. This is where being on meds to help with the cravings, anxiety, and depression can help. To have some other “medically sanctioned” chemicals in a users brain may not seem like the ideal situation. However, with carefully controlled doses the user can be “brought down” chemically, while at the same time some of the destructive behavioral patterns and associations can be dealt with.
My experience with users in recovery is that physical cravings tend to reoccur at threemonth intervals. So, the goal of a person in recovery should be to have lots of support and be mentally strong to fight off the physical cravings when they happen long enough for them to subside. Also, a user may have literally thousands of mental triggers, such as: sights, smells, associations with people and places that create in them a desire to use. That is why a lot of people change their environment as completely as possible (the geographical cure) to lessen the psychological aspects of dealing with an addiction.
To kind of conclude here, my biggest thing is that I am not responsible for another person’s drug use they are. I try to talk to people openly and honestly and encourage them to take control over their lives and be responsible for their behavior. Not everybody wants to, or knows how to do this. Recovery is a (learned) process just like addiction. I do not believe that addiction is a disease in that it is something specific like a tumor that can be cut out by another person. I believe that addiction in some form is something that we are all faced with as part of being human beings and that we all need to learn to: make good choices, to recognize when there is a problem, to reach out and get the help from others when we cannot help ourselves, to take the responsibility to help ourselves as mush as we can, and know that it is OK to need ongoing help and support from others.
I hope this helps. Thanks to all if you have read this through.
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