Seasons (that suck) are followed by Seasons (that ROCK!)

fall

By: Jana Greene

This whole post could easily be about hating summer.  Because I really hate summer, and frankly don’t understand why any temperature over 90 degrees exists. That’s what I want to talk about today – hating summer because it’s hot.

In the literal heat of the moment, I can decide the whole damn season just sucks.

Heat is oppressive. My body doesn’t like it. Easily eighty percent of my health woes are directly impacted by temperature, although I hate admitting that because it’s such an old lady complaint. (Spoiler alert: You really CAN feel the storm coming in your bones!)

Something about sweating really brings out my flair for the dramatic. In the foyer of my house – as I am exiting my home – I am woman, hear me RAWR! And I can do ALL THINGS through Christ who strengthens me! I’m having a great hair day!

Two seconds later, I’m walking to the driveway awash in the oven-like conditions of the great outdoors (yes, the stretch between my front door and driveway IS considered the ‘great outdoors,’ especially in the summer.) Within moments, I have dissolved into a sweaty, ruddy, giant two year old who needs a nap. The air feels too damp to breathe. Ew.

When I get over-heated, all of the sudden, I feel fat and ugly.

All of the sudden, my inflammation levels rise.

All of the sudden, I hate everything about living on planet Earth.

Oh my goodness, what first world problems! But during the experience of segueing between Hearth and Home and Habitat Hell, I become extremely grumpy. What possible purpose could 100 degree weather serve? I mean, sorry about the Ozone, God, but could you hook a sister up with some nice 80 degree days between May and September?

To everything, turn turn turn,

Season, turn turn turn,

And a time for every purpose

Under Heaven.

Purpose. Hmmmm.

The inevitable truth is that summer is only a season – one season – and as such, will turn into Fall. Things turn; it’s the nature of things to turn.

Now, I LOVE everything about Fall, ya’ll. The whole shebang!

Autumn leaves changing colors, and hot apple cider. Snuggly sweaters and crisp, cool air. October is my favorite color, and I can’t wait for it to come around! At the slightest whiff of cool air, my attitude changes. Witnessing the falling of one orange leaf means all of the bounty of my favorite season is in view. It’s coming! It really is!

That seasons change is a fact. Better times are coming. After this season comes another, better one. I will not need gills to breathe outside then. I will be able to exhale, and inhale again, with little to no drama about leaving the house.

So I suppose this whole post is kind of all about hating summer. But even this wretched season has it’s charms – like going to the beach. And….going to the beach. (I got nothin’ else here.)

No matter what we are hating right now – it will change. Seasons always do. Whatever is stifling us and strangling us, making us grumpy.  Knowing that it’s nearly September and October inevitably follows is a great comfort to me right now!

If you are going through some awful season right now, I pray you will just be encouraged. I’m not going to feed you a line about everything happening for a reason; that’s not helpful at all. But I am reminding you that it is temporary.

It helps to remember that in all of the other seasons, too – the ones that make heat strokes look like a walk in the park. Like the Big Three – health, money, and relationships. There’s a season for everything, including huge life changes.

Take heart – your “October” is coming!

Mine is, too.

 

Ecclesiastes 3:1-9

“There is a time for everything,

and a season for every activity under the heavens:

a time to be born and a time to die,

a time to plant and a time to uproot

a time to kill and a time to heal,

a time to tear down and a time to build,

a time to weep and a time to laugh,

a time to mourn and a time to dance,

a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,

a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,

a time to search and a time to give up,

a time to keep and a time to throw away

a time to tear and a time to mend,

a time to be silent and a time to speak,

a time to love and a time to hate,

a time for war and a time for peace.”

 

Demi Lovato and Relapse – No Addict Left Behind

Demi

By: Jana Greene

“I think I’ve definitely had my rock bottom and I think that was probably right before I went into treatment where I said, ‘I definitely need help.’  – Demi Lovato

I know I’m not alone in my feelings of sadness about Demi Lovato’s heroin relapse.
The singer and actress had six consecutive years of recovery time before she overdosed on Heroin yesterday.
That’s a long clean time, by anyone’s estimate.
Relapses are always jarring – even when they happen to celebrities who – if truth be told – sobriety may even be more difficult for with so few checks and balances on finances and public adoration.
They are even more jarring when they happen to someone you know and love. I found that out in March.
One of the “girls” my daughters grew up with was taken by heroin after two years of sobriety. Two YEARS.  She and I had grown close in the past, because she knew I was in recovery, and I had the distinct pleasure of getting to mentor her a while back. She was  feisty, hilarious, sweet, and beautiful. More recently, she moved and we’d lost touch,  but I knew she was a couple of years into active recovery and I was so proud.
Demi’s overdose brought up so much pain, all over again. It highlights an uncomfortable truth – we are never, never free of our addictions. You don’t “get over it.” Society may not understand this, but I hope that some wisdom and understanding about the disease will blossom on the heals of this awful thing. People need to know that we cannot rest on our laurels and that we need support to stay in recovery.
This problem touches all of us. The more we understand, the better.
I’m seeing something beautiful happening in the wake of the tragedy. I’m watching the recovery community around the world – MY recovery community – rally around one of our own. It’s very Jesus-y, really; the way only LOVE (and plenty of it) triumphs, no matter what. As she had made the recovery life a platform, she probably thinks she disappointed the whole world. She may not realize that we still claim her, proudly. That we still believe in her.
In the cyber world, I see it everywhere. My Instagram (MyFIERCErecovery) feed is awash in posts by 800 fellow addicts who GET it, and are pulling for Demi in every way. There hasn’t been a shred of disappointment or smack-talk, much to my surprise. On Facebook, I see the same thing. For those in my community, this is an excellent time to spread awareness.
I see it in the real world, too. My friends and I have had discussions about the sadness of relapse, but also the tremendous hope that comes from knowing she can make this near-death experience into an even stronger recovery.
We don’t give up on anyone!
It’s like the addiction world version of “no man left behind.” She will likely be embraced and encouraged from the recovery community around her. These people are just bulldogs, ya’ll. They stand with you until you can stand on your own. I’ve no doubt she has a wide and loving network of people and resources to help her heal.
I myself am one drink away from destruction, and I know it. I have no illusions about my disease, even with nearly 18 years of sobriety. Our drug of choice is a patient force; it will wait until we are tired and triggered. It will wait for us to feel confident about being sober. It will wait for damn near anything – time itself is no deterrent.
I came across another quote when I was preparing to write this piece, and if you just read it hurriedly or in passing, you may miss the profoundness of the statement:
“No matter what you’re going through,” Demi has said. “There’s a light at the end of the tunnel and it may seem hard to get to it but you can do it and just keep working towards it and you’ll find the positive side of things.”
I hope she still believes that, because it’s still true. The things she learned in recovery didn’t dissipate because she had a relapse. That’s another misconception. What you gain in recovery time, you keep. It’s yours. Now use it every single day – ONE single day at a time – to bolster your new recovery journey.
If you just keep working towards it.
Just keep working.
Just keep going.
I pray that Ms. Lovato will come out of this bolstered, strong, and with renewed commitment to recovery. Her light at the end of the tunnel has not been dimmed – it still shines bright waiting to guide her through recovery. I believe she will find the positive side of things again.
We are all pulling for you, Demi.

Please take a moment to consider the loss of life and talent that alcoholism and drug addiction has taken from the cultural landscape.

And then think about the voids left by the vastly more important people in our own lives who are lost or still in the trenches of addiction – the children, spouses, friends and family that you love.

Amy Winehouse, musician; Brian Jones, musician with The Rolling Stones;   Chris Farley, comedian, actor;  Cory Monteith, actor  and singer;  Darrell Porter, American professional baseball player ;  Elisa Bridges, model, actress;  Elvis Presley , musician, singer, actor, cultural icon; Freddie Prinze, actor;  Hank Williams, Sr., country music singer-songwriter; Heath Ledger, Australian actor;  Howard Hughes,  business tycoon, movie producer and director, aviator, engineer, investor; Janis Joplin, musician; Jim Morrison, musician, singer; Jimi Hendrix, musician and singer-songwriter;  John Belushi , actor and comedian; John Entwistle, bass guitarist for The Who; Jon Bonham,  drummer  and songwriter for Led Zeppelin;   Judy Garland, actress and singer; Keith Moon, drummer for The Who;  Kurt Cobain, Nirvana singer;  Len Bias, Boston Celtics player; Lenny Bruce, comedian ; Marilyn Monroe, actress, model, singer;  Michael Jackson, singer and icon; Richard Burton, actor; River Phoenix, actor;  Sigmund Freud, considered by many to be the founding father of psychoanalysis; Tommy Dorsey, jazz musician; Truman Capote, writer; and Whitney Houston, singer and actress; Philip Seymour Hoffman, actor; Prince, singer; Michael Jackson, singer; Whitney Houston, singer; Tom Petty, singer; Chyna, female wrestler; Scott Weiland, singer for Stone Temple Pilots; Corey Montieth, actor; Mikey Welsh, bassist for Weezer; Bobby Hatfield, singer for The Righteous Brothers.

Her Name is Natalie

homeless man

By: Jana Greene

Every day, more than 115 people in the United States die after overdosing on opioids. The misuse of and addiction to them is an absolute crisis – and the deaths of those who overdose affects every facet of life in every community. It’s absolutely out of control.

I have the pleasure of living in a beautiful beach town, but the displeasure of living in what has become known as the “Opioid Capital” of the nation. My town is Wilmington, North Carolina. Things are bad here – addiction things. Really bad.

Last week, I was en route to a recovery meeting on a regular Monday night, in a less-than-pristine part of town. As I turned onto the venue street, a saw a young woman walking on the sidewalk parallel to the street. From the back she looked like every other 20-something  – she wore palazzo pants and a tank top, and her hair was atop her head in a messy bun. But she looked like a girl who was in a hurry to get nowhere. Her steps were unmeasured and unsteady. She looked only at the ground. As I passed her, I glanced back and saw that she had a look of defeat on her otherwise beautiful face.

As usual, there were a group of folks standing around the entrance to the building, just smoking and talking. As I’d never attended this particular meeting before, I rolled down the window and asked a gentleman if I was at the right place.

“Yes,” he said. But he wasn’t looking at me at all, but at the young woman walking by staring at the sidewalk as she passed.

“Natalie!” He yelled, as I took a parking space. “NATALIE!”

In my rear view mirror, I watched Natalie reluctantly saunter over to the man, whose name I would later learn was Bill. They were speaking right behind my vehicle, and when I got a better look at the girl, I felt a pang in my heart so suddenly that it left me breathless for a moment.

Natalie is a drug addict. She is what society labels a “junkie.” This young lady looked as if she were headed to knock on death’s door. I imagine she gets judged, everywhere she goes, what with the track bruises up and down her arms and hollow, sunken eyes. She is rail thin, and the look on her face is one of 100% proof hopelessness. She’s given up, and just waiting for her body to follow suit.

I watched Bill trying to convince her to come to the meeting. He was trying to convince her to get help. I couldn’t help but overhear their conversation, which mainly consisted of Bill lovingly encouraging her and reminding her there is a better way, and she mumbling “I know” with her eyes down as she shifted from foot to foot.

When I opened my car door and headed into the meeting, I heard Bill tell her that she is worth it. And I heard Natalie say, “I’m not a bad person; I just have a problem.”

She’s right. she is not a bad person. She is only a sick person.

I have heard offhanded comments about the Narcan – an FDA-approved nasal form of naloxone for the emergency treatment of a known or suspected opioid overdosethat infer taxpayers should not have to bear the cost to bring “just another junkie” back to life after an overdose. There is NO SUCH THING as “just a junkie.” It troubles me greatly that people could dismiss the value of human life so blithely.

Natalie is somebody’s little girl. Somebody once sang nursery rhymes with her and put oversized bows in her hair (or should have.) She was a tiny girl once, and then she most likely got hurt – maybe so deeply that she can’t bear to feel those haunted emotions. Maybe she grew up loved and safe, and suffered an injury and got hooked on pain meds. Maybe she just experimented with a drug “once,” and it rewired her brain and now she cannot stop. She might be somebody’s mother who should be putting oversized bows in her daughter’s hair right now, but wakes up to repeat the same nightmare day after day as the child grows up basically motherless. It’s a horrible cycle.

It really doesn’t matter how she got here. It matters that she survives it.

A couple of months ago, the opioid epidemic became manifest to me in the loss of a sweet girl who I loved and helped mentor. She grew up with my daughters, came to their sleepovers, went to the beach with us, and brightened all of our lives. She was funny and smart and beautiful, and 25 years old. The last time I heard from her, she had two entire solid years clean! In three month’s time, she would relapse one single time, and not survive to pursue her recovery again. What an absolute waste. She leaves behind a son, a loving family, and too many friends to count. She has left a hole in our community.

I’m writing this now in tribute to that beautiful friend. And for the sake of Natalie and everyone like her whose live has become a spiral of destruction and shame.

This deadly addiction is a spreading plague. It’s happening to the poor and downtrodden.  It’s happening in the pristine parts of town. It’s happening to people from good families. Parents who love their children are dying in front of them.  It’s got to stop. We are losing so many precious lives. What can we do?  I won’t pretend to know how to fix this. Nobody does. The issue is so big and monstrous.

But I do implore you to do two things, even though I know that they are hard:

  1. Try not to assume things about a drug addict. You never know what personal Hell they’ve been through. You never know how utterly impossible getting clean seems to him / her.
  2. Treat addicts and alcoholics who are still active in their disease as if you believe there is hope for them, because there is. So long as they are breathing, there is hope. We don’t treat people battling cancer as if they are already dead; we treat them as if they will come out the other side. Drug addicts need you to love them as if they will get well. Not enable, mind you. Just love. It may be hard to treat people who are making really shitty choices with respect, but the true selves in them are not the junkie selves you see.

Natalie didn’t come to the meeting that evening. She was too addled by where she would get the next fix to listen to Bill. And that’s how this demonic thing works. She is thinking “just one more.” Just one more time, and then I’ll quit. I just have a problem. I will fix it tomorrow. But sometimes, tomorrow doesn’t come for these precious souls.

She’s not a bad person. God bless her broken heart.

How did this epidemic get started? Check out more alarming stats and facts here:  National Institute on Drug Abuse 

There’s no Graduating from Addiction (and why that’s a GOOD thing)

Present tense

By: Jana Greene

I follow a support board on Facebook that consists of women alcoholics and addicts. In a recent post, a member asked this simple question: “Do you think a person can ever say they’ve recovered from their addiction.” Out of 129 responses, there was only three ‘yes’ answers. And there’s a reason for this:

Addiction is a lifelong condition.

“Yeah, but….” you might be thinking. Consider the alcoholic uncle who just gave booze up cold turkey, after declaring that he just woke up one day and lost his taste for it.

Bully for Uncle Herbert. I’ve heard tell of people like this; I’ve just never known one.

For most of us, it takes work – and a lifetime of it. But the alternative is doing the same self-destructive thing over and over and expecting a different result. That’s the definition of insanity. At the end of the day, ask yourself: Do I want to jump head first into the recovery life? Or do I want to perpetuate the insanity of active addiction until I end up in a jail or coffin?

Sounds pretty dramatic, right?

In my small city, the heroin epidemic is the worst in the state. Our sons and daughters are dying with needles in their arms. Children are becoming motherless or fatherless. That’s not drama. That’s real life. Raw, serious real life. What the citizenry of my city is experiencing is happening in every state in the nation. Something has to stem the tide.

Thank God there is an alternative!

The recovery life IS life. And when you have very nearly lost the one life you’re given, it’s time to wake up. The next time you need a fix, seek help. Help is out there for the asking!

You don’t have to participate in feeding your disease. I don’t believe we are ever ‘recovered.’ You don’t graduate and get to flip your tassel, but you DO get to experience life and find the harmony in yourself just below the surface you’ve been numbing.

In plain speak, life can be a real b*tch – seek out your recovery tribe and let them love you until you can love yourself.

A healthy, sustainable recovery is possible. Enjoyable, even. Being in lifelong recovery sounds daunting, but not nearly as daunting as the using life. Aren’t you curious to find out who you really are? Active recovery is the way to find out.

Did you know that you have friends you haven’t even met yet in the rooms? You are not alone. You have a safe place to fall.

As of this writing, here is a list of resources to get you on your way. Just click on the blue hyperlinks below.

God bless us, every one.

ALCOHOLISM (Alcoholics Anonymous)

SUBSTANCE ABUSE AND MENTAL HEALTH SERVICE ADMINISTRATION

National Alliance on Mental Illness

CELEBRATE RECOVERY

NARCOTICS ANONYMOUS

FRIENDS / FAMILY OF ADDICTS: AL ANON

 

Slay. That. Dragon.

17

By: Jana Greene

I know I’ve milked this 17 years of sobriety thing for an entire week now, and for that I’m sorry. If you are sick of hearing about it, I don’t blame you in the least.. But you are my friends and I want to be 100% transparent with you.
January 3rd is my official DOS (date of sobriety). I was going to pick up my chip on the 1st but it was special order and hadn’t arrived yet, which was fine with me. Because I really – for the first time ever – had zero enthusiasm for collecting that !little token of time earned through sobriety.
I rather resent the past year, which has been the most difficult to avoid relapse, if I’m honest. I made it – but by the skin of my teeth. At one point, I even opened a bottle of brandy I found that my husband had had for years and sat it on my bedside table. I curled up on my bed and cried. Then I opened the bottle. And I smelled the brandy, which smelled like an old friend, or how a grandpa used to smell when you were a kid. I never should have smelled that Brandy. Then I cried some more. I had words with God, and he listened so patiently, and I could feel His Spirit near me and in me, and it aggravated me to no end because without that presence I could pick up that bottle and just let the dragon have his way. I was so exhausted from fighting it and running from it.
See, having an addiction is a lot like having a dragon follow you around everywhere. And I mean EVERYWHERE. Your deepest thoughts. Your stress and anxiety. The crapper. EVERYWHERE. He taunts you, sometimes far more aggressively than others, This past year,, he has been practically crawling up my ass. One thing after another after another. In that moment in a fetal position on my bed with a bottle of Dragon Sedative sitting RIGHT THERE, so close – I wished God would bugger off.
But, that sliver of my soul that so values the life I’ve been granted – this beautiful second chance – gave voice above the din of my disgruntled sobbing. My lips said “please.’ Just “please;” that’s all. Over and over and over and over until I wasn’t crying anymore, and the brandy starting stinking, and I could feel my father’s arms around me. I wiped off the snot and tears, took the bottle to the bathroom sink, and poured it’s contents down the drain. I didn’t feel victorious. I felt nothing at all.
Soon after, that damn dragon was on my heels again. But I started trying to self care a little better – including joining my tribe at meetings. As the big anniversary approached, I felt unworthy of going through the ceremonial celebration of Chipdom, whereas I had ALWAYS looked forward to picking it up every other year. I’ll be sober 17 years. Cherrio! (Sorry, I’ve been watching a lot of “The Crown.”) Yay. Blargh. I don’t deserve it. I’ve been a terrible role model for recovery lately.
But something happened between last week and this week. Clear up until the moment I arrived at the meeting (with one of my daughters, who came for moral support,) I felt that same malaise.
The program is the same each week, as it was tonight: Worship, the reading of the 12 Steps, announcements, and then The Bestowing of the Chips.
Two people went up to pick up surrender chips, and my heart melted for them. I remember picking up that chip and finally admitting I had been drinking myself to death. I kept going – 90 meetings in 90 days – collecting chips with awe and wonder every noteworthy time chips were given.
Hey…..
Today is January 8, 2018. I can remember when I could only make it one day without drinking and having to start over. I remember when a month was an eternity, but a wonderful eternity of self-discovery. The whites of my eyes lost the yellow tinge. I worked on ME. And most importantly, I didn’t drink.
Well guess what? 2017 was a dadgum BITCH. Every thing in our lives changed, and not for the better. I had 6-10 migraines per month. I’ve still not found employment. A million stressful circumstances riled up my dragon like crazy.
But I did not drink. By God’s GRACE.
Tonight – when my friend who was giving out chips asked with a wink if anyone here tonight has 17 years, I felt like the conflab Grinch himself – my heart started expanding.
OH MY GOD. 17 YEARS.
And despite the suckiness of 2017, I DID NOT DRINK.
I became suddenly exhilarated beyond explanation. My daughter stood and applauded as I approached the stage to pick up my chip. I gave my friend a hug and he put the brass chip in my hand.
And I sobbed because the weight of it felt like lead. It felt like all the weight I’d been carrying on my shoulders for a year, but as golden treasure, not the heart-heaviness of  dragon bullying. I became giddy, ya’ll. I’ve never been so happy to pick up a chip in my whole entire recovery life, and I’ve had some doozies of difficult years. The dragon has tried to push me off the wagon many, many times, but today?
God flipped the script. All the ways I felt I’d failed this year felt instead like victories. Yes, I had close scrapes, but God gave me the strength to carry on and hold fast to my precious recovery – the thing that has made all other good things possible. The reason my children are not motherless. The reason I’m not 6 feet under. The reason I get to watch my grandchild grow up.
So ya’ll….I think this chip is my FAVORITE chip. Of. All. TIME. The hardest earned. Ultimately, the most gloriously received.
Oh God, thank you.
Thank you for getting me through, even if my the skin of my teeth. It doesn’t matter. I didn’t relapse.
(And it could not have happened without the boundless grace of God. And WONDERFUL friends. And my tribe – my homegroup. I couldn’t have done it without the support of my husband.)
And the dragon?
I. SLAYED. THAT. BITCH.
SLAY.
The sword is sharpened with every hardship.
And I’m so grateful.

 

 

Happy New Year! And Happy 17 Truly – and I cannot stress this enough – TRULY Miraculous Continuous Sobriety Years to Me!

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By: Jana Greene

Happy New Year, dear Readers! I hope your 2017 was awesome, but for me it was a virtual cascade of sh*t storm after sh*t storm. So SEE YA, 2017. And welcome 2018. Please Lord Jesus, make it better!

Last night, I picked up my 17 year recovery chip. THIS IS A MIRACLE. I’m not sure anyone outside of the program understands the significance and representation of a simple coin with no value outside of recovery circles. Anyway….

At tonight’s 12 Step Meeting,  I got to say a few words to the crowd – what an honor- and I didn’t sugarcoat a thing. It went a little something like this:

How did i do it? Stay over 17 years?

Even a year ago, I would have said it’s only Jesus, Jesus, Jesus.

But this year my answer is different.

God’s grace is always, always available to us, but let’s face it. Most of us are here because our natural default is to numb out. Grace or no grace, obliterating can be our inclination. I don’t care how long you’ve been sober, and that’s the truth.

As a matter of fact, this past year year was the hardest to maintain recovery ever. Shit hit the fan repeatedly and with endless supply. Yes, it is Jesus, Jesus,Jesus that’s kept me hanging on by the skin of my teeth, but I play a part in it too.

I learned I have to supply the willingness to surrender DAILY. Because there ain’t no graduation day for this. That’s my responsibility. I have to keep up with self care. I have to surrender my will. I have to remember what a sick drunk I was and how many people I hurt.

The rigorous honesty truth of the matter is that recently, I’ve gotten lazy about working the steps as I should. Last year kicked my ass, y’all. But I never survived any of it alone.

Holy Ghost is a gentleman in that his teaching is gentle. But he has also given us another way to ensure we are never alone. We have each other. I need you; you need me. We need our tribe, because we all GET it. We get how difficult surrender is.

No one ever woke up after a relapse grateful. But I’m grateful to have this place and so glad to be here.

Those things that kick your butt and make you doubt your recovery will always happen.

But they always pass.

Keep your recovery. It’s your choice to make it priority. Minute by minite if necessarily.

Helping each other keeps us well.

Thank you for letting me share

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.