Moral Failing or Disease? Substance Abuse and the People we Love

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By: Jana Greene

Hello, dear Readers.

Earlier today, a friend whom I respect very much asked if I believed addiction was really 100% a legitimate disease.

I do.

In much the same way that the medical establishment used to consider homosexuality a mental disorder and have learned otherwise, I think we will come to understand substance abuse a disease, rather than a moral failure. The science is there.

Today, I hope to write about this subject, which can bring up volatile reactions. I hope to open a respectful dialogue between the addicts AND the people who love them.

Before you read on, I encourage you to visit YouTube and watch this little video. It is simple and profound, and might help us all to understand the nature of addiction a little better:

CLICK HERE TO WATCH VIDEO

 

In addition to being an alcoholic myself, I do battle with several other diseases on the daily. Through no ‘fault’ of my own, I suffer chronic pain from one disorder and a plethora of horrible symptoms from others – lots of others.

I also struggle with depression, anxiety, and ADD/OCD. There’s no point in presenting a picture of myself to you that has been polished up – this is the plain truth.

I’m pretty sure that everyone these days is on board with believing that mental illness is just that – illness.

Disease.

But for many people, addiction is a moral failing;  a matter of “Don’t you know right from wrong?” Calling it a disease seems like a really convenient cop-out. It can be highly offensive to people to people who do battle with recognized physical diseases such as cancer – innocent of being an accessory to their own illness.

I felt as helpless to recover from my alcoholism 16 years ago as I feel now to recover from my painful migraines or treat my connective tissue disorder.

The difference between addiction and cancer or diabetes is that addiction is so brutal on others who love the addict. Often, a trail of destruction is left for others to clean up. The user may actively choose the drug rather than the loved one. And that, my friend, hurts like crazy for those around him.

I believe that is why there is such a knee-jerk reaction to calling substance abuse a ‘disease.’ I used to get bent out of shape when people inferred that my drinking was all ‘choice’ and poor decision making, but now I feel more compassion for them. Many are thrust into the darkness through no fault of their own.

For those of you who are hurting from the behaviors of an addict or alcoholic you love, let me first say that I am so sorry. I am so incredibly sorry that you are going through what you are. And if I had only my laundry list of physical health issues to deal with, and someone tried to convince me that an alcoholic was suffering from a disease, I’d probably be pretty ticked off, too.

But shaming the addict only makes them feel more hopeless about seeking treatment.

I promise you that your family member did not aspire to be a user before she got addicted. She is undoubtedly ashamed beyond reason.

Before I got sober, of course I knew that my drinking was wrong. My life had clearly become unmanageable. I knew right from wrong and I knew I was hurting people I loved while killing myself. Every morning I would swear not to touch a drop, and every evening, I would get blind drunk. The very definition of insanity.

From the very first drink I ever had, I needed more. There was no segue into addiction for me. Something in my brain that had been genetically present all my life was activated in that moment. I felt like it was what I was born to do. A switch flipped.

How many people do you know who have never tried a drop of alcohol? What if a portion of people who tried a drink came to crave the high compulsively and became convinced that they must indulge just to feel ‘normal?’ With other drugs, the switch can flip even faster and harder.

It was as if I was possessed. My mind felt hijacked. Eventually, I’d convinced myself I’d be a better mother if I had my nightly glass of wine (which, by the way, was NEVER a single glass.) I’m naturally so keyed up and worrisome, I’m doing everyone a big, fat favor by having a drink. You can tell yourself a lot of things and eventually believe them. Before you know it, your life revolves around getting/keeping/using more – it’s an obsession.

We cling on to our ‘best friend’ –  who we thought would numb our hurts and lift our spirits and make us better – and defend it rabidly. At its core, addiction is a spiritual disease that branches out into the mind and body. It’s all intertwined and it’s all very difficult to stop once it has taken root. Without direct intervention from my Higher Power, I am doomed to do things my way, which didn’t work and never will.

If you are the addict or alcoholic in this scenario, let me also say this – I am so sorry you are going through this. I’m so sorry the monster has taken over and you feel helpless to stop it.

Nobody WANTS to get to that point. Most of us don’t realize it too late – we are already caught in the spiral. Do we have the choice to quit and get it together? We do! Do we know HOW to make that happen while in the throes of addiction?

Most of us do not.

In much the same way a diabetic who eats an entire cake in one sitting is giving in to his disease and soothing himself,  we might drink or use for the same reason. It is ultimately up to us to choose to take action and get sober.

So then, are we addicts and alcoholics off the hook because it’s a legitimate medical illness?  We are not.  Addiction is a TREATABLE disease. There are resources to help and vibrant recovery communities in many places. There are proven methods of assistance and reliable support groups to help. You need never feel alone.

We can and DO recover! And when we do, the whole family experiences healing.

If you are concerned about your use, you can start to seek help by talking to your medical doctor.

Because, you know…it’s a disease.

And lastly, this:

The National Center for Addiction and Substance abuse published nifty information on why substance abuse is a legitimate disease. For more information, check it out here:

How Substance Use Changes the Brain

God bless us, EVERY one.

 

 

 

 

 

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By: Jana Greene

Hello, dear Readers.

Earlier today, a friend whom I respect very much asked if I believed addiction was really 100% a legitimate disease.

I do.

In much the same way that the medical establishment used to consider homosexuality a mental disorder and have learned otherwise, I think we will come to understand substance as a disease, rather than a moral failure. The science is there.

Today, I hope to write about this subject, which can bring up volatile reactions. I hope to open a respectful dialogue between the addicts AND the people who love them.

Before you read on, I encourage you to visit YouTube and watch this little video. It is simple and profound, and might help us all to understand the nature of addiction a little better:

CLICK HERE TO WATCH VIDEO

 

In addition to being an alcoholic myself, I do battle with several other diseases on the daily. Through no ‘fault’ of my own, I suffer chronic pain from one disorder and a plethora of horrible symptoms from others – lots of others. Life is not a bed of roses for me, as it is no doubt also NOT for you.

I also struggle with depression, anxiety, and ADD/OCD. There’s no point in presenting a picture of myself to you that has been polished up – this is the plain truth.

I’m pretty sure that everyone these days is on board with believing that mental illness is just that – illness.

Disease.

But for many people, addiction is a moral failing;  a matter of “Don’t you know right from wrong?” Calling it a disease seems like a really convenient cop-out. It can be highly offensive to people to people who do battle with ‘real’ diseases such as cancer – innocent of being an accessory to their own illness.

The difference between addiction and cancer or diabetes is that addiction is so brutal on others who love the addict. Often, a trail of destruction is left for others to clean up. The user may actively choose the drug rather than the loved one. And that, my friend, hurts like crazy for those around him.

I believe that is why there is such a knee-jerk reaction to calling substance abuse a ‘disease.’ I used to get bent out of shape when people inferred that my drinking was all ‘choice’ and poor decision making, but now I feel more compassion for them. Many are thrust into the darkness through no fault of their own.

For those of you who are hurting from the behaviors of an addict or alcoholic you love, let me first say that I am so sorry. I am so incredibly sorry that you are going through what you are. And if I had only my laundry list of physical health issues do deal with, and someone tried to convince me that an alcoholic was suffering from a disease, I’d probably be pretty ticked off, too.

But shaming the addict only makes them feel more hopeless about seeking treatment.

I promise you that your family member did not aspire to be a user before she got addicted. She is undoubtedly ashamed beyond reason.

I felt as helpless to get better from my alcoholism as I feel these days to get better from my painful migraines or connective tissue disorder.

Before I got sober, of course I knew that my drinking was wrong. My life had clearly become unmanageable. I knew right from wrong and I knew I was hurting people I loved while killing myself. Every morning I would swear not to touch a drop, and every evening, I would get blind drunk. The very definition of insanity.

From the very first drink I ever had, I needed more. There was no segue into addiction for me. Something in my brain that had been genetically present all my life was activated in that moment. I felt like it was what I was born to do. A switch flipped.

How many people do you know who have never had a drop of alcohol? What if a portion of people who tried a drink came to crave the high compulsively and became convinced that they must indulge just to feel ‘normal?’ With other drugs, the switch can flip even faster and harder.

It was as if I was possessed. My mind felt hijacked. Eventually, I’d convinced myself I’d be a better mother if I had my nightly glass of wine (which, by the way, was NEVER a single glass.) I’m naturally so keyed up and worrisome, I’m doing everyone a big, fat favor by having a drink. You can tell yourself a lot of things and eventually believe them. Before you know it, your life revolves around getting/keeping/using more – it’s an obsession.

We cling on to our ‘best friend’ –  who we thought would numb our hurts and lift our spirits and make us better – and defend it rabidly. At its core, addiction is a spiritual disease that branches out into the mind and body. It’s all intertwined and it’s all very difficult to stop once it has taken root. Without direct intervention from my Higher Power, I am doomed to do things my way, which didn’t work and never will.

If you are the addict or alcoholic in this scenario, let me also say this – I am so sorry you are going through this. I’m so sorry the monster has taken over and you feel helpless to stop it.

Nobody WANTS to get to that point. Most of us don’t realize that too late – we are already caught in the spiral. Do we have the choice to quit and get it together? We do! Do we know HOW to make that happen while in the throes of addiction?

Most of us do not.

In much the same way a diabetic who eats an entire cake in one sitting is giving in to his disease and soothing himself,  we might drink or use for the same reason. It is ultimately up to us to choose to take action and get sober.

So then, are we addicts and alcoholics off the hook because it’s a legitimate medical illness?  We are not.  Addiction is a TREATABLE disease. There are resources to help and vibrant recovery communities in many places. There are proven methods of assistance and reliable support groups to help. You need never alone.

We can and DO recover! And when we do, the whole family experiences healing.

If you are concerned about your use, you can start to seek help by talking to your medical doctor.

Because, you know…it’s a disease.

And lastly, this:

The National Center for Addiction and Substance abuse published nifty information on why substance abuse is a legitimate disease. For more information, check it out here:

How Substance Use Changes the Brain

God bless us, EVERY one.

 

 

 

 

 

Be Still and Know that You’re Not God (Whew – What a relief!)

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By: Jana Greene

“Be still and know that I am God.” – God

Yeah, but it’s HARD to be still!

Sometimes it’s almost unfortunate that our Creator has endowed us with this thing called “free will.”Free will has gotten me into a lot of jams.

God, if you knew me, you totally wouldn’t trust me to me.

You know, the will that keeps telling you that you don’t have a disease called addiction.

That you can stop anytime you want.

That you have a plan and it looks like doing what you’ve always done.

But if nothing changes, nothing changes.

Recovery in real time doesn’t look like a baby-steppable feat, but a free fall. Every single day, I surrender my will to my Father’s, because I know he only has my best interest at heart.

Every single day, I don’t drink today. No matter what happens, I don’t have to take a drink on this very day.

And tomorrow, I will wake up and surrender my free will again, just for tomorrow.

Bite-sized pieces, you see. Bite off enough recovery today to nourish yourself today. Then free fall into the love of a very real Father.

So often we try to do the opposite. Bite off more than we can chew by declaring we can never, ever drink again and poor pitiful us! And we chase it with ‘babystepping’ just to make it through the day.

This is not the life your Father desires for you!

You don’t fail God when you fail, dear one! That’s an old trick of the enemy. He wants you to feel like a failure. Don’t give that rat bastard the pleasure.

Instead, surround yourself with other people whose free wills are also prone to malfunction. Find as many as you can and watch what they do to just NOT drink. Take what you need and leave the rest, as they say in the Rooms.

Here’s the thing – God totally does know you. He isn’t tolerating you and your janky free will. He is madly and passionately in love with you, in all of your jankyness. He gave us free will so that when we choose to receive His love, it comes from us mind, body, and soul.

Be still and trust in His perfect will for you….

That He has only your best interest at heart.

That He knows you intimately and loves the bejeebers out of you JUST AS YOU ARE.

That He has the most amazing adventures for you to enjoy, and to enjoy SOBER so that you can be mindful of the  miracles as they unfold.

If you can’t be still and know that He is God, be mad that He is God. Let Him know that you relinquish trying to push Him out of a job, and if you can manage it, surrender your will to Him.

You’ve got this, daughter of the Most High, because He has YOU.

Save

Goodnight, Sweet Prince

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By: Jana Greene

Today I have a great sadness.

I am sad because the autopsy results are in – : Prince died from opiate overdose. I just lost my musical main man, David Bowie, earlier this year. Prince was my second music love; his lyrics wove the words of my final growing-up years with fine purple thread.

My friends and I saw Purple Rain in theaters half a dozen times. We sang along with “Party like its 1999” and marveled at how OLD we would be when it really was 1999. I played “KISS” on my boom box, rewinding it until the tape in the cassette broke. My friends and I ALL  loved Prince’s voice and drowsy sexiness and ridiculous androgyny, and we all wished we were Apollonia or Sheila E., or Vanity. He also fostered in me a love for Corvettes – little red and otherwise.

In the weeks since his untimely death,  I had been under a tiny umbrella of denial, even in a monsoon of Purple Rain. It’s not drugs, I convinced myself. Please no. No. No. No.

But it was drugs, and we need to talk about it.

Lets talk about the fact that around 40 Americans die each and every day from prescription opioid overdoses.

Let’s consider that the increased prescribing of opioids — which has quadrupled (QUADRUPLED!) since 1999 — is fueling an epidemic that is blurring the lines between prescription opioids and illicit opioids.* (Oxycontin, Percocet and Vicodin, heroin…it’s all the same to your body and mind. It all anesthetizes the Spirit.)

Lets talk about how hard life can be to get through – even when you are rich and famous, or talented and much-loved. Addiction is an equal opportunity destroyer.

I don’t know why Prince was an addict. Maybe he fed the monster to keep the music going, or to make the hurting stop. I can only guess.

Whatever the reason, I wish he’d discovered that freedom didn’t have to cost him his life. People can and DO recover. (If you are waiting for a sign to get help with a drug or alcohol problem, here it is – your Sign of the Times. Today is your day!)

We, Dearly Beloveds, need each other to get through this thing called life. We, the ones in recovery and our advocates – are that grassroots effort.

Prince (or the Artist Formerly Known as) didn’t die in vain if his overdose opens an honest conversation on addiction and closes the doors of stigma and apathy. How many Great Sadnesses do we need before we pay attention?

It was drugs, and we need to talk about it.

 

Dear Prince Rogers Nelson,

I hope your tender heart is satiated.

I hope you are in Heaven serenading angels with “Purple Rain.”

I hope your doves have finally found peace.

Thanks for the memories ❤

 

And God bless us, every one.

 

“Sign of the times, mess with your mind.

Hurry, before it’s too late….. – Prince”

 

*CDC director Dr. Tom Frieden, in an interview with People Magazine

 

 

No Glory for Demons

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Scott Weiland, commons.wikipedia.org

By: Jana Greene

Another creative genius, another casualty to drugs. On this occasion, Scott Weiland – front man for Stone Temple Pilots – breathed his last on December 3rd. Sadly, his family had already been in mourning for years.

As usual, there is almost a tone of glorification in the reverberations of his passing. He was a creative giant, so the natural progression of his ‘going down in a blaze of glory’ is sort of a sick, societal expectation.

Sex, drugs and Rock n’ Roll, right?
Right?

Not at the expense of living.

Not if death is the consequence. The price is too high.

According to his ex-wife Mary Forsberg Weiland, the musician claimed atheism as his belief system (or lack thereof) but I counter with the assertion that he served the little “g” god of addiction, perhaps without knowing it.

What a greedy god addiction is! It promises glorification of self while taking a razor to self, and making you too numb to notice it’s happening.
But it’s happening every day. We are losing music and art all the time.

Addiction can be a religion all its own. There is ritual sacrifice involved. But death does NOT have to be the natural progression of an addicted life.

Or as Mary says, “Let’s choose to make this the first time we don’t glorify this tragedy with talk of rock and roll and the demons that, by the way, don’t have to come with it.”

I’m not a Stone Temple Pilot fan per se, but I’m posting today just to encourage you to read Mary’s letter, which was published in Rolling Stone and has been widely shared. In it, she implores us all not to glorify his death, but instead to recognize addiction for what it really is – a void-maker.

Don’t celebrate the demons. They only ever bring loss and death to the cultural landscape and to the families who grieve.

“…But at some point, someone needs to step up and point out that yes, this will happen again – because as a society we almost encourage it. We read awful show reviews, watch videos of artists falling down, unable to recall their lyrics streaming on a teleprompter just a few feet away. And then we click ‘add to cart’ because what actually belongs in a hospital is now considered art.”

Why Does Everything Have to be About Recovery?

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By: Jana Greene

There are some things that normal people just don’t understand … like an active recovery life.

You can’t really blame them. If I hadn’t the experience with making everything about drinking, I wouldn’t understand either. Recovery Warriors are a hard-core bunch, making everything about getting and staying well.

Recovery, recovery, recovery.

I’m absolutely certain that many people – even those who love us dearly – harbor the secret thought “Get over it, already! You’re sober now….why the obsession with recovery?”

What they don’t know and cannot understand is that we addicts and alcoholics have two speeds only: Active disease or active recovery.

Those are our two only choices.

Yes, you can stay sober without putting a recovery spin on all areas of your life. You can be dry and clean. But in order to grow and thrive in a spirit that you’ve previously pickled and poisoned, you need to find alternate ways of dealing with Life on Life’s Terms, which I think we can all agree is brutal.

Our disease affected everything!

Because everything was about alcohol when I was active in my disease and something had to fill that empty space when I left it’s sorry ass.

Every day you wake with breath in your body, you have two choices.

ONLY TWO.

You can:

A) Obsess about your drug of choice – Keep everything about your addiction.

If you are drinking or using and are an addict, this is your default setting. You do it without thinking, even though it’s all you think about. Woven into choosing this choice are the possibilities of destruction, irreparable shame, sickness, and self-hatred. It is too often the route to death, spiritually, mentally, emotionally and even physically.

Most every minute of the day is spent either partaking in your drug of choice, feeling shame for having partaken in your drug of choice, and spending all available energies on obsessing about when you can do it again, which you swear you will never do again each and every time. And then you wake up the next day obsessed with doing it again.

B) Obsess about Recovery – Keep everything about becoming WHOLE

When you make the right choice, you lose your relationship with the abusive spouse of drink or drug. But that is ALL you lose, and when you get far enough away from it, you will more clearly see how abusive your default setting really was.

Doing the work of recovery is a life-long pursuit – just as active addiction was.

It is not a 90-day long stint in rehab, or an event you can attend and then move on to other things. If your sobriety is not nurtured and tended to, your spirit will turn back to it’s default setting of using.

In a victorious recovery life, most every minute of the day is spent maintaining that beautiful gift, learning new and healthy coping skills for dealing with issues, celebrating your clarity and ability to appreciate who God has truly intended you to be. It is time well spent, I promise.

Gratitude fills the space shame used to occupy. Clarity spills into the cracks where denial used to reside.

Recovery affects everything!

There is no magic pill to fix addiction. But there is an antidote to it:

It is active recovery.

It has to become what you are all about.

Life instead.

Who in their right mind would bring their deepest, darkest secrets out into the light for all to see?

Someone who has a story to tell that might help others out of the pit of despair that is obsession with using.

And somebody somewhere needs to know about your recovery story, Recovery Warrior.

What will be your obsession?

“If you don’t Understand” – A ballad from the hurting ones

God moves all obstacles between Himself and His children

By: Jana Greene

Every once in a while I come across a post on one of the many recovery boards I follow that just blows my socks off. A piece that is more than words, but a declaration and plea – a raw and personal effort to help normal folk who do not suffer addiction or mental illness to understand what it’s like to walk around in the skin of an addict or person struggling.

When I find that post (and get over wishing I’d written it myself!) I get excited about sharing it.

This is that post. And with the author’s permission, I am sharing it here.

I hope this post, with its’ chewy center of wisdom, goes viral. I hope Ashleigh Campora’s words echo in the minds and hearts of those who ‘don’t understand,’ and gives comfort to those who woefully DO understand, and need encouragement.

“If you don’t understand mental illness, good. Good for you. You shouldn’t have to understand. If you don’t understand why some people can’t get out of bed in the morning, good. I hope you jump out of bed every day, ready to take the world by storm. If you don’t understand how someone could drag a blade across their skin, good. I hope you’re never that desperate to feel something. If you don’t understand what drives someone to continually starve themselves despite everything they’ve lost in the process, good. I hope you stay heavy and present and real. If you cant understand why that woman avoids mirrors; why she just stares blankly, in anger. I hope you never look at yourself with such disgust. That you always see yourself for what you really are: which is beautiful. If you don’t understand why he won’t just go to church or rehab or find someone who can help him, good. I hope you always have somewhere to turn. If you don’t understand how someone can keep swallowing bottles of pills; tying knots in ropes; or standing at the tops of bridges, good. I hope you are never that desperate for relief. If you don’t understand, good. You’re not supposed to. It’s all f#cking sick.” – Ashleigh Campora.

The very definition of ‘stigma’ is “A set of negative and often unfair beliefs that a society or group of people have about something.” Those of us who suffer addiction and mental illness? We ARE that ‘something.’ And we know that we make no sense to those of you who do not walk in our shoes.

The only way to make stigma get up off it’s ass and move far away is by spreading these stigma-killing messages:

You are not alone.

You are worthy to be free of the oppression that binds you.

People can (and DO) recover.

God bless you, Ms. Campora.

God bless us, every one.