The Israelites were stuck in the wilderness for 40 years because they couldn’t see God’s vision for their lives. They thought of everything in terms of their past. In fact, they complained to Moses that they wanted to go back to Egypt and return to a life of slavery because that’s what they knew. Can you imagine?
But God wanted them to get a new vision—a land flowing with milk and honey.
If you want to see change happen in your life, you’ve got to get a vision that goes beyond what you’ve already seen and experienced.
A good place to look for that vision is in the thousands of promises contained in God’s Word. Through obedience to His Word, you can claim each one of them for yourself.
Surrendered people obey God even when it doesn’t seem to make sense. Abraham followed God without knowing where it would take him. Hannah waited on God’s timing without knowing when she would have a child.
Mary expected a miracle without understanding the mystery that was taking place inside her. Joseph trusted God’s plan without knowing why he found himself in difficult circumstances.
Each of these people we read about in the Bible surrendered to God, and the end result of their surrender was a victorious fulfillment of God’s promises.
We must learn to encourage ourselves in the Word. That’s what David did in Psalm 27:13–14. Even in the midst of his troubles he said, “I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord” (NIV).
Our hope should not be based on what we can see or what’s in our past. Rather, it should be based on the Word of God and His promises for our lives.
Isaiah 43:18–19 NIV says,
“Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.”
Give everything to God—your past regrets, your present problems, your future ambitions, your fears, your dreams, your weaknesses, your habits, your hurts, your hang-ups.
Allow Jesus to take the driver’s seat and then take your hands off the wheel. Don’t be afraid; nothing that is under His control can ever be out of control. When you are surrendered to Christ, you can handle anything life throws at you.
God is always doing something new. Use spiritual discernment to follow His plan and stop following your own thoughts and feelings. Glance at your circumstance but spend more time focusing on Jesus. He’s the author and finisher of your faith.
I knew the minute I saw the “Inmate has been discharged” on the prison message system that we were in deep do-do. Or More do-do…..
As I posted in this blog, I knew that 47 days in jail with 21 of them in solitary confinement, hadn’t brought my son to a place of clarity about treatment or a forward motion on fixing his life. I also realized that getting out on a Saturday afternoon without a home or car or even a job; was not going to be in his best interest. But to a jail with 100’s of inmates, one less to deal with, probably sounded good to them.
I mean I can understand the courts not knowing what to do with him but after 2 years of delays due to covid; to let him out thinking he was somehow cured and suddenly responsibly, is ridiculous.
What I didn’t anticipate, is that he would spend almost a month in Vegas with ‘professional gamblers” yet scavenging around for a room and food too.
So, now, after a few weeks of my horrible dreams of mafia leaving him in the desert, with a surprising(?) new addiction of gambling; here I am- no solution in sight and only envisioning more problems for him.
Meanwhile, I do still agree with Gabor Mate, that the “correctional” system doesn’t correct anything:
This is a great interview by ‘The Clearing Maia Szalavitz” that I may have shared before. The transcript is pretty long, so if you don’t have time to read it here are my favorite takeaways:
"We've been using punishment to try to treat a condition that is defined by its resistance to punishment."
"Treatment that is punitive, shaming, and humiliating is not good for addiction … All those tactics are aimed at making you hit bottom and experiencing consequences and all this stuff like this, because clearly the problem is that you just haven't suffered enough yet.
If you're willing to persist despite negative consequences to get your drugs and you lose your house and your car and your friends and everything else like that, why is another punishment going to help? It is not."
I know my son is suffering. I also know what his coping skills for ANY EMOTION are. Yesterday when I tried to talk to him about his friend being buried, he deflected to: “The good news is, ****( the ICU guy) was given 3 days to live, and he’s s driving around in a truck today”.
Sometimes I cringe in the Mom’s groups when I read texts between their addicted loved ones and themselves. The spite and anger that addiction causes are so often fed right back to them in such venom that it’s hard to know who has the hijacked, damaged brain.
Oh I know. I’m well aware of the intensity of those useless arguments and I’m certainly no saint when it comes to yelling at my son at what an idiot he’s being. But I have learned that I’m the one with the healthy brain too. I should be modeling healthy coping skills. I should be guiding how to unconditionally love someone but with clear loving boundaries.
Mountain Laurel Recovery Center had this great article on unhelpful words:
Words Hurt: 5 Things Not to Say to Someone with an Addiction
People who are struggling with an addiction to drugs or alcohol can do or say things that are completely out of character. This includes lying, cheating, and acting in ways that are selfish. However, this doesn’t mean they are selfish people. It only means that their addiction has caused drastic changes to their judgement and impulse control.
Even though it might not seem like it, your loved one is probably experiencing a great deal of guilt and shame. People with addiction often know they’re upsetting their loved ones, but feel powerless to break the cycle.
It’s better to say:
I love you, but I don’t like how you act when you’ve been drinking.
You hurt my feelings when you didn’t show up to my birthday celebration because you were hungover.
I am worried about how your drinking is affecting your health.
2. You Have No Willpower
Addiction is a biologically-based brain disease. It’s not a character defect, so all the willpower in the world isn’t going to be enough to keep your friend or family member from seeking out drugs or alcohol.
The best way to treat addiction is with a medically-managed detox, followed by intensive therapy to develop the coping skills that are the foundation for lasting sobriety. Holistic treatments such as yoga, meditation, art therapy, or music therapy may also be used to promote healing of the mind, body, and spirit.
It’s better to say:
I care about you and I want to see you get the help you need.
Let’s make an appointment to talk to your doctor together.
Getting sober won’t be easy, but I believe in you.
3. When You Hit Rock Bottom, You’ll Be Sorry
One of the biggest myths about addiction is that someone can only get help after something terrible happens like an auto accident caused by a DUI or a near fatal overdose. However, studies show that early intervention is the best approach.
Health issues are always easier to address when they are in the early stages. Think of substance use disorders as being similar to having Type 2 diabetes. If someone learns to manage their blood sugar with lifestyle changes and medication, they reduce the risk of complications such as nerve damage, vision problems, stroke, or kidney disease.
It’s better to say:
I’ve noticed you started drinking more after you lost your job. How are you feeling?
I’m worried about the path you’re on.
You’re caring, funny, and a great friend, but you seem angry and withdrawn lately. I think you should talk to your doctor to see if he can help.
4. Going “Cold Turkey” Is the Best Way to Quit
It might seem like abruptly stopping alcohol or drug use would be the most effective way to get sober, but this isn’t always the case. In fact, abrupt withdrawal from opioids, benzos, or alcohol can trigger dangerous and potentially fatal withdrawal symptoms. Withdrawal can also pose additional risks when someone is abusing multiple substances, has a co-occurring mental illness, or suffers from a serious health condition such as high blood pressure.
The safest and most effective way to get sober is by undergoing detox in a supervised treatment center. Mountain Laurel Recovery offers 24-7 nursing care as part of its detox services and works to make the process as comfortable as possible for each client.
It’s better to say:
Let’s work together to get you the help you need.
I know withdrawal seems scary, but the long-term effects of drug or alcohol abuse are even more frightening.
If you’re ready to quit, I will support you every step of the way.
5. You’ll Never Change
Watching someone who has been doing well in treatment suffer a relapse is understandably disappointing, but it’s important to realize that addiction is a chronic illness characterized by the risk of relapse. People in recovery are vulnerable to relapse in times of stress or if they become complacent about their sobriety.
A relapse doesn’t mean that change is impossible. It simply means your loved one needs to reevaluate their care plan and determine what adjustments are necessary to provide the support they need. At Mountain Laurel Recovery Center, we’re committed to helping clients find ways to move forward after relapse.
It’s better to say:
We’re proud of how far you’ve already come. We know you can get back on track.
Making mistakes doesn’t make you a failure.
I know you’re frustrated, but I have faith in you.
These next 2 articles are about the language surrounding addiction that we’ve been hearing so much about.
My dad gave me piece of advice when I was a know-it-all teenager. He said, “Never say in anger what you don’t mean, because you can say you’re sorry, but you can’t take it back.”
Satan can use our tongue to cause division, putting others down, bragging, false teaching, exaggeration, complaining, or just flat out lying. It only takes a few words to hurt someone. Wounds heal but they leave scars that never disappear.
OTop of Formur words have power. They can bring joy or cause misery. Proverbs 18:21 puts it this way: “The tongue has the power of life and death.” The stakes are high.
Your words can either speak life, or your words can speak death. Our tongues can build others up, or they can tear them down. An unchecked fire doubles in size every minute. Gossip and false teaching are no different. It’s been said that great minds discuss ideas, average minds discuss events, and small minds discuss people.
The church that James is writing to in James 3:1-12 was full of small-minded people who gossiped about each other and tore one another apart with their tongues. We’re quick to avoid the sins of murder, stealing, and drunkenness, but we often assassinate fellow believers and leave a trail of destruction by the way we use our tongues.
Husbands have stabbed their wives with words that are as sharp as daggers.
Wives have lashed out with tongues that slice and dice.
Parents have devastated their children by repeated blasts of venom.
And children have exploded at their parents with words that have leveled the entire family like a bomb.
Look at what’s written in the first chapter of James’ letter: James 1:19 “You must understand this, my beloved: let everyone be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger;” And verse 1:26, “If any think they are religious, and do not bridle their tongues but deceive their hearts, their religion is worthless.” If you and I launch verbal destruction, those words will have devastating consequences on others.
James connects sins of the tongue with sins of the body because our words usually lead to corresponding deeds. Proverbs 21:23 says “He who guards his mouth and his tongue keeps himself from calamity.” The tongue can express or repress; offend or befriend; affirm or alienate; build or belittle; comfort or criticize; delight or destroy.
“Sticks and stones will break my bones, but words will never hurt me!” We all know that isn’t true, don’t we? Actually, psychological pain is much more severe and lasting than physical pain. More people than we might think harbor scars from psychological abuse as children. Those scars are on their hearts and they influence their lives.
Words can break our hearts. Words can break our spirits. Broken bones can heal with time, but a broken spirit caused by words of death, isn’t easily repaired. How many people have you maimed or killed with your words? Is your tongue too quick to criticize? Do your words build up…or do they tear down?
So how do we tame our tongue? Did you know that the book of Proverbs has 31 chapters? One for every day of the month. I’m going to read one chapter of Proverbs and one chapter of James every day for the next month. I invite you to do the same. Nearly every chapter of Proverbs has something to say about the tongue. At the end of the month, we’ll have read the entire book of Proverbs once, and the book of James six times.
Just Like Sticks and Stones, Words Can Be Very Hurtful
Nov 13, 2019
When Addiction is the Topic
You know the old saying: Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me. It’s a nice idea, isn’t it? It would be wonderful if each of us could simply ignore the negative things others might say to or about us. But our day-to-day experience would suggest that we are not, in fact, very good at disregarding the mean or inaccurate comments of other people—whether said to our face, behind our back, or online.
And sometimes we can even be hurt by words spoken by someone who has no intention of causing pain. Sometimes we all say hurtful things without understanding what makes them hurtful—or even that they are hurtful. This is certainly true when it comes to ways in which we talk to and about those struggling to overcome addiction.
Watching Our Language
We use many words associated with addiction without even thinking about it. But some of those words do more harm than good.
Take, for example, the word “abuse”—as in “drug abuse.” That’s a common and widely used construction. It is also problematic for a number of reasons. When people hear the phrase “drug abuse,” they tend to think about illegal drugs rather than prescription medications or alcohol.
Also, the word “abuse” is understandably linked to behaviors like child or domestic abuse. Both of these connotations of the word “abuse” can lead to an inaccurate understanding of what a person is going through.
To alleviate that problem, experts recommend using the term “substance use disorder” instead of “drug abuse” or “substance abuse.” Here’s an easy way to remember this distinction: “substance abuse” is inaccurate because the person with the substance use disorder isn’t assaulting or otherwise harming the substance. Instead, the substance and its use is harming the person.
In the same way, it is helpful to avoid a phrase like, “Jason has a drug problem.”
Jason may well have problems caused by drug use, or what might be called drug-related problems. But the construction “drug problem” does not accurately represent the full context of Jason’s life and situation. What are the contributing factors to Jason’s substance use? How best can they be addressed? How can we demonstrate support for treatment rather than judgment?
These are important questions to consider when we are tempted to shrug off the ways in which lazy language can contribute to—rather than help alleviate—the difficulties an individual is facing.
Shame is Lame
When the ways we talk about addiction contribute to a sense of shame, we are making a problem worse rather than better. The shame a person with a substance use disorder feels can prevent them from seeking the help they so desperately need.
And what if you are the person who is on a recovery journey? What can you do to reduce the shame you may be feeling—and to help ensure that others don’t feel that same kind of shame? Some steps you might take include:
Acknowledging your substance abuse disorder
Being honest and straightforward about your situation and your feelings about it
Building a strong support system (including professional treatment and ongoing care)
Becoming an advocate for better understanding and less shaming language
Working toward specific goals
Discovering the coping skills that you can rely on when things are difficult
Realizing that some people will never understand your situation
Those steps are all about personal empowerment and ensuring that you are not contributing to your own feelings of shame. That empowerment will ideally include the confidence to let those around you know when their words are hurtful instead of helpful. Clear communication and gentle reminders when someone slips into old patterns of speaking can help ensure that you encounter less painful language while you work toward lasting sobriety. The people who are part of your strong support system—your family, your close friends, your sponsor—will want to know when the language they use becomes a stumbling block for you.
The Insensitive, the Bullies, and the Clueless
Some people simply won’t adopt new language for talking about substance use disorders. Maybe they think this kind of thing is politically correct malarkey. Maybe they think people who use drugs or alcohol are losers who deserve to be shamed. Maybe they just can’t quite figure out how to consistently make the change in the way they talk and think about things.
So what should you do when you encounter these people? In the end, it is up to you to determine the best course of action for yourself. You may find that there is a big difference in your ability to handle insensitive language from a relative who means well than, say, from a coworker who refuses your request to use different language when talking about your situation. Avoiding negativity and the people who promote it is a good coping skill, and one you should feel empowered to employ when necessary.
This picture is supposed to be funny, but it really is addict shaming. Contributing to the stigma of “what a person with SUD looks like”. And guess what? I did it myself yesterday. After all my preaching and teaching of why can’t people just have compassion- bla bla……
Yup, guilty as charged.
I was at my complex’s pool again. Enjoying my pool float with my blue water weights in typical old lady fashion. The only other people there were the usual, non-English speaking elderly man, who always gets in the pool with his grandson- I’m assuming; and a lady-assuming the grandma.
Soon, through the crinky electronic gate, comes a dad with his boy. They jump in the pool and I immediately had thoughts of packing up. Then I hear the beat. The low base rumble of a car usually with it’s windows open, but even when they’re closed, you can hear the beat. The beat. It brings to mind a person who’s trouble. Not troubled, even though they probably are, but someone to stay clear of, nevertheless. The low riders. Car and pants.
Sure enough, it pulls up next to my unlocked car- because I hate to lug all my keys into the pool area. I panic, thinking of my wallet under the seat. I decide just to stay a few more minutes to take advantage of the cool water in the 98-degree heat. Then I’ll go rescue my car from Mr hard-of-hearing’s view.
Then he comes in. In all his glory of brazen colorful tattoos on his chest and arms & long khaki shorts with a hole in the knee to show another tattoo popping through.
His ‘tw******* girlfriend soon followed with some contorted mouth movements. Yup, I made a quick and thorough judgment of her too.
Then, he brings in a case of water and starts walking around passing them out. He goes around to everyone. The old guy and his wife were shocked. They tried to ask him how much? The kid said, “free”.
Then he proceeded to play with the kids and offer to cannonball into the pool. He said he hasn’t done it in years, so he kept counting to 3 & chickening out. He then said,
“If I get hurt, will you help me?”
One of the kids said,
To which he responded,
“I can respect that.”
I thought about that and how he didn’t expect anything from anyone. He spread kindness when it wasn’t expected. He didn’t care what people thought or that they weren’t willing to help him.
I couldn’t believe that with the journey I have been on with my son, that I couldn’t stop myself from passing judgment at first. I’m usually hyper-vigilant about “correcting” others.
Yesterday on a non-drug-related site, someone posted a picture of a syringe they found, with the word “irresponsible junkies” in the post. The comments that followed were, of course, triggering to me. The one that hit me was, “I’m so sick of these kinds of people”.
Of course, I made a snarky comment of,
“I’m soo glad none of US would EVER know or LOVE these kind of people.”
Who are these kinds of people? We moms know…they’re our kids. Our brothers, sisters, spouses. How do we offer a morsel of compassion when these hijacked brains are leaving needles around? For me, it just proves how this is only going to be solved with all hands on deck. Not with an “I’m sick of these people, but let me go on with my perfect little life while someone else fixes the problem”.
"There is enough negativity in our world today—further judgment and blame towards those actively using drugs or in recovery needs to go. Let’s create connection in an unprecedented time of isolation, and give those who are all too used to social isolation and shame the love and support they have always deserved."
Sharing the following story as a way to emphasize the truth in addiction and hopefully help everyone understand. I did not write it but it is how I believe. To win this battle best we can we need to be educated on it.
We were uneducated when our son told us he had a drug problem. We hadn’t given much thought about whether addiction was a choice or a disease. We had so much to learn. My husband and I started seeing a counselor who specialized in addiction. We had to educate ourselves. We read and read, and read some more. Our views quickly changed and we began to understand why our son couldn’t just see the damage and stop, why family wasn’t enough. It wasn’t that he didn’t want to stop, it wasn’t that he couldn’t see what the drugs were doing to his life or that he didn’t love his family or that we weren’t enough. We learned how opiates change dopamine levels in your brain, the chemical that regulates pleasure. We learned it takes a minimum of a year for those levels to even begin to return to normal. We learned things which would normally bring pleasure no longer do because of the change in dopamine levels. We learned that the brain’s response to opiates overrides everything else. We learned it is not a choice. We learned recovery was a long process and that relapse is part of it. We learned that people struggling with addiction need to know they matter and that someone cares. We learned once the addict was clean that the battle wasn’t over, that it would remain a lifelong fight. We learned there are not enough quality treatment centers. We learned most treatment centers are not affordable to most of those in need. We learned that many treatment centers have waiting lists and that many people die waiting to get in. We learned that many things need to change in order to stop this epidemic. We learned volumes.
Our son was a good kid from a good family. He was loved very much. He had a big heart and was always helping others. I know without a doubt he never thought he would be that person. I know he hated he ever crossed that line. I know he hated himself when he was actively using. I know he hated seeing the pain he put us through. I know he wanted more than anything to be clean. I know he fought with everything he had. I know he was winning the battle. I know he loved his family. I know his daughter was his pride and joy. I know he was proud of himself for being clean. I know he was looking forward to his future. I know he deserved more. I know he didn’t want to throw his life away or to die. I know without a doubt that no one would chose to be an addict.
Our son was and will always be our hero.
“Everybody has their own opinions on drug and alcohol addiction, but until you’ve been there, your opinion remains insignificant. Yes, they chose to use a drug or alcohol thinking they would be one that would be able control it. You don’t control a drug or alcohol, it controls you. There are some lucky ones who have beat it, but don’t think because they’re still alive that life is gravy. They fight everyday all day to stay clean or sober. It’s a constant battle from the time they open their eyes until they close them and it never goes away. Most are good people who made a bad choice.
Battling a drug or alcohol addiction is a beast for the person addicted and the ones who love them. So, in loving memory of every family member and friend who has lost their battle with drugs and alcohol and to those who continue to conquer it, put this on your page if you know someone who has or had (no such thing as had) an addiction. They need every single ounce of encouragement.”
Most parents want to do everything they can to ensure their children grow up to lead healthy, productive, successful lives. That goal acts as a driving force behind how parents raise their children and the day-to-day actions that parents take in doing so.
Parents may be interested to know, a new study showed that when young people (in their teen years and early 20s) experiment with drugs, they are more likely to become addicted to drugs in adulthood.
Dr. Nora Volkow, the director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, worked with Dr. Beth Han and Dr. Emily B. Einstein to determine some of the long-term effects of drug use when a person begins using drugs during their adolescence. One of the most critical findings of the study was that the younger a person was when they first began experimenting with substances, the more likely they were to transition to regular substance abuse and then addiction.
According to the researchers, young people are most likely to experiment with alcohol, cannabis, and tobacco. The younger those surveyed in the study group were when they used these substances, the more likely they were to become dependent on those substances later on in life. Furthermore, the researchers found that people who experimented with one substance in their youth were more likely to experiment with other substances later in life.
For example, someone who used cannabis when they were a teenager was also more likely to use cannabis or hard drugs like cocaine, heroin, or prescription opioids later in life as opposed to someone who did not use cannabis at all in their youth.
However, the study did not go so far as to make the claim that people who do not use drugs in their adolescence are more likely to live sober, healthy lives.
Dr. Volkow, who led the study, commented on the findings. “We know that young people are more vulnerable to developing substance use disorders, but knowledge is limited on how the prevalence of specific substance use disorders varies by time since first substance use or misuse among adolescents and young adults in the United States. Though not everyone who uses a drug will develop addiction, adolescents may develop addiction to substances faster than young adults. This study provides further evidence that delaying substance exposure until the brain is more fully developed may lower risk for developing a substance use disorder.”
“Research has shown that brain development continues into a person’s 20s, and that age of drug initiation is a very important risk factor for developing addiction.”
Emily B. Einstein, Ph.D., chief of NIDA’s Science Policy Branch and a co-author of the study, also commented: “Research has shown that brain development continues into a person’s 20s, and that age of drug initiation is a very important risk factor for developing addiction. This underscores the importance of drug use prevention and screening for substance use or misuse among adolescents and young adults. Offering timely treatment and support to young people who need it must be a public health priority.”
Five Tips for Preventing Young People from Ever Experimenting with Drugs and Alcohol
Some would say that prevention is the best tool for tackling addiction, as most agree it is easier to prevent someone from ever becoming addicted to drugs than it is to help them get off drugs once they are hooked. Following are five tips on how parents can help ensure that their children never experiment with drugs, not even once:
1. Communicate, communicate, communicate.It’s important to talk to kids about drugs, to have this conversation as early in their life as you are comfortable. Then, continue to have the conversation, and continue to engage your children in that conversation as they grow up.
2. Play an active role in your child’s social life. Rather than letting your children spend time with anyone and everyone, play a proactive, engaged role in their social life. Get them involved in positive and healthy groups, such as sports teams, art programs, youth groups, etc.
3. Make sure the family engages in activities together. When young people feel as though they are involved in the family unit, they are less likely to venture off and seek camaraderie and a social network elsewhere. Simply making sure that the family gets together and does fun activities together can play a significant role in ensuring sons and daughters do not experiment with substances. One study even indicated that teens who eat dinner with their families were less likely to use drugs or become delinquent.
4. Set a good example. Being a role model for your children is important. Whether they show it outwardly or not, your children look up to you, and they look to you for information on how they should act. That’s why parents must not experiment with substances.
5. Teach your kids how to say no. In most circumstances, young people use drugs for the first time because they are peer pressured. If your children know how to say no to drugs, they are much less likely to be peer pressured.
Addiction Treatment – What to Do When a Young Person Becomes Addicted to Drugs
There are many reasons why parents would not want their teen or young adult children to use drugs. The risk for addiction is one of the most obvious concerns, but other health problems can befall young people when they use drugs.
For example, something as widely accepted as marijuana use harms young people. Several studies have found that cannabis use in one’s youth can cause brain damage, harming critical areas of the brain that monitor cognitive function. Other studies suggest a link between marijuana use in one’s adolescence and stroke later on in life.
Another article, this one published by Harvard Health, discussed how cannabis use can even cause memory loss. Quoting those findings, “There’s no question that marijuana (the dried flowers and leaves of the cannabis plant) can produce short-term problems with thinking, working memory, executive function, and psychomotor function (physical actions that require conscious thought, such as driving a car or playing a musical instrument).”
If a young person begins using drugs or alcohol and cannot stop using, they must get help. This is true even if they are using prescription medication in a way not intended by their doctor, as pharmaceutical drugs can also harm young people. When a young person begins experimenting or self-medicating, they put themselves at serious risk for injury, accidents, even death. If you have a son or daughter who is using substances and who cannot stop using them, make sure they get help at a drug and alcohol rehab center as soon as possible.
A few months ago, I wrote a story about a place in Texas that I visited called Natural Bridge Caverns. 61 years ago, Clara Wuest from New Braunfels, Texas stood on a spot on her farm and asked God to help her raise her 2 little boys alone after her husband died trying to milk a cactus, sort of. Little did she know what was underneath.
This story was similar to this newer cave that was discovered, recently in another country:
The reason these hidden treasures appeal to me- other than normal treasure hunting curiosity- is because one day we are just walking around with certain elephants on our shoulders, or the opposite: not a care in the world; & the next minute our world drops out, literally, from us.
“They” say – whoever “they” are- that we are all one paycheck away from homelessness or one argument away from divorce. I could apply this to substance use and say “one h..¥¥ or one bottle away from losing everything & ruining family cohesiveness and family functions, but my sarcasm isn’t even funny today. So ignore that comment.
Yesterday was my son’s 35th birthday. For one year, I have prayed he would make it to 35. I even made all my passwords reflect that hope. So imagine that I woke up to his continued “missing in action” in Las Vegas of all places, and had the feeling to call the Clark county morg.
Yup, that’s where we are. I’ve called Emergency Rooms once before, and the booking report is on my home screen, but never this. As the answering service paged the mortician on call, I find myself wondering like Brandon Novak states repeatedly:
“How did we get here?
Luckily the very nice mortician, who must receive worried mom calls alot; informed me there was no John Doe’s in the last 24 hrs.
This debilitating fear.
Addiction loves to shroud us in it’s victimhood and make us go dark with brooding thoughts of death and destruction. I mean, we really don’t even need the thoughts- we can SEE the devastation. But we don’t have to stay there.
So how do we turn this fear into hope or at least some sense of inner peace?
A recovered addict had this to say about us Moms:
Shared with permission
Disclaimer: I do not agree with the word enabling as it has negative, guilt-inducing connotations AND it means different things in different situations, so I cut out the middle part….
“I see so many mothers in this group with broken hearts and it honestly kills me. I was in active addiction for 15+ years and have been in recovery for 8+ years. One of my biggest regrets, through it all, was the heartache I caused my parents and my daughter. My brother still struggles with addiction today and I wish I could help him! I wish I could bottle up how good it feels to be in recovery and pass it on to every struggling addict. Recovery can only be received by a person that is ready. No amount of begging, screaming, talking, crying will ever work unless they are doing it for themselves. We can place our loved ones into treatment by court order or they can be placed there as part of their sentencing, but until they want it to stick, it will not………….. Love yourself as much as possible. Live and enjoy the life that you have left. You are killing yourselves for ones who will not save themselves. Let your children know you love them and when they are ready for treatment, you will be there. This is a battle only an addict can win. You can be a part of their addiction or their recovery, but not both. Also, We DO recover!! It takes some longer than others.
My prayers are with you all and if I could be of any assistance, please let me know”.❤️- Tamika Watts
I want to highlight the take care of yourself part. Hold onto hope and live in your peace despite the chaos around you. Just like the caves in my story, you never know when that moment will come that your life will be changed. You could be standing over a GOLD MINE while worrying about how the ground looks or looking at all the weeds. They say complaining brings about more of what we don’t want and gratitude brings about more of what we do want. The challenge is trying to find that gratitude in the middle of dire circumstances.
Where is my hidden cave of gems? Is it gratitude waiting in the darkness for me to discover it? Am I losing diamonds because I see too many stones? Am I unable to see the blessings of strength & perseverance because the prize isn’t in front of me, all shiny and being worshipped?
I’m in darkness regarding my son’s illness.
I don’t know the outcome, yet as of right now – there’s hope because I haven’t been told otherwise. If I can get out of my head & not jump to catastrophe thinking, I might have some moments of peace for my gratitude to expand.
This is a blog from Corey Ranger at Community at Practice hub.
Enduring Prolonged Grief
July 20, 2021
Author: Corey Ranger
How do you safeguard your heart and mind from the devastation of the fentanyl poisoning crisis? In the wake of countless preventable deaths, how do you stay afloat? What is emotional harm reduction, and how do I use it to survive in this sector? I was asked to cover this topic for The Drug Hub, and the irony is that I myself, am not doing particularly well as of late. Shortly after taking on the assignment, we here in Victoria lost a pillar of the harm reduction community – someone who was so loved and cared for that I could feel the collective grief surge as the news hit social media. Another face in my mental slideshow, another beautiful human with hopes and dreams, killed by toxic drug policy. At times, I am numb to the losses. It’s almost as if someone has taken a lighter to my nerve endings, and I feel sad about being unable to feel sad.
As a nurse working in harm reduction amidst the backdrop of an increasingly volatile drug supply, I am no stranger to grief and loss. In the last year however, I have witnessed more trauma and despair than in all of my previous years of work combined. The global pandemic created a perfect storm for drug toxicity deaths, and I’ve grown fearful of answering my phone in case there is more bad news waiting for me on the other end.
The pain is worse for me when I see how impacted my coworkers, friends, and community members are by the War on Drugs. They are collateral damage in this war; field medics trying to stopgap death while being under-resourced and unsupported. I want to take their pain away. Of course, I can’t do that, and truthfully none of us can. So the question then becomes, how do we mitigate the harms of this endless grief?
Enter emotional harm reduction.
I first heard this term about a year ago. I was speaking with a trauma counsellor who suggested my coping strategies were wrongfully geared towards avoiding grief and anxiety entirely. It was explained to me that, as long as I worked in this sector, there would be painful losses. To avoid this pain, would be to become despondent and ultimately ineffective in my role. No, we need to grieve, even when it hurts so much. So then, is emotional harm reduction just a fancy new wording for short-sighted self-care and resiliency tropes? If so, it sounds like emotional harm reduction is just more bullshit aimed at forcing humans to normalize what should never be normalized.
Self care and resiliency language have become tools of oppression in the field of harm reduction. Every day, communities of compassionate people are trying to keep each other alive and safe despite unwinnable odds.
When individuals falter, because they can no longer withstand daily trauma, they are met with suggestions like ‘take a bubble bath’ or ‘practice mindfulness’. Make no mistake, this is how we victim-blame and gaslight people who are understandably damaged from the work.
This is how organizations and managers avoid being accountable to their staff, while simultaneously demanding them to continue showing up for work. Thankfully, that is not what emotional harm reduction is.
As an individual, I practice emotional harm reduction by surrounding myself with other caring people. I know that isolation is where my slideshow plays on repeat. Rather than avoiding the pain, I have a support network that understands it. I reciprocate whenever I have the capacity to do so, and we often cycle between supporting one another. We make space for each other to not be ok, and remind one another that it is in fact, ok to not be ok. There is nothing normal about the overdose crisis, and we should never waste our energy trying to normalize it.
As a manager, I practice emotional harm reduction by understanding the untenable work conditions my team finds themselves in every single day. Why suggest someone practice self care by ‘going for a massage’ when they have no health benefits to cover a massage and they themselves live in poverty? No, instead, consider pushing back against your own shitty institutional policies. Offer paid days off when a member of your team is not doing well. Be prepared to step in and cover their shift, even if that means you need to be the support worker that day. Pick up the slack and don’t make someone feel bad if they aren’t able to keep up the pace.
Finally, remember that at the core of harm reduction is a social justice movement aimed at redistributing power and resources to those who are made vulnerable by oppressive forces. That includes your staff.
People with lived/living experience have been at the forefront of innovation during this prolonged public health emergency. They have assumed the most risk, and have lost more than most of us could even begin to comprehend. If you are reading this and thinking ‘easy for you to say, we can’t just start giving people paid time off to grieve’ ask yourself why not? Emotional harm reduction, just like the broader harm reduction movement, is about challenging power structures and fighting for equity. If we are going to stay afloat, we must do it together.
The best comparison I heard recently to harm reduction, is the designated driver for alcohol. It’s well accepted & well advertised as a means to save lives, reduce fines and jail time, and still allows people to choose to drink as a stress reliever. Yet when people hear about needle exchange programs for heroin or meth users-or the granddaddy of HR- Injection sites; they lose their minds.
Harm Reduction becomes easier to accept when you have tried everything to get your loved one to stop. You realize that it’s now about keeping the substance user alive and safe until they can stop. Deedee Stout has a great video that explains it.
We become so accustomed to being shocked at our loved ones continued and usually progressive use, that we end up shutting down communication. Some parents even go so far as to say: “Call me when your clean”. What if someone you care about said to you, ” Call me when you are responsible and doing everything in the manner and time that I think you should”.
Instead, what if we find out what it is that keeps driving substance use? What if we could actually help them work on the original problem, not the symptom of the problem- which, in a lot of cases, substance use is.
This twitter thread has some great responses and ideas on harm reduction approaches, such as motivational interviewing questions.
One of my biggest day-to-day struggles with my son’s SUD is the reality of his risk of death. Fear drives us to into a place of powerlessness. We then project that fear onto a person with SUD who already has figured out how to numb his emotions and not ‘give a damn’ to those thoughts and feelings in themselves; so to have to somehow “fix” YOURS too – is overwhelming to them. They NEED us to be healthy, even-keeled, and strong. In this article it gives suggestions on how to parent using a harm reduction approach instead of with fear:
Dr. T: “How can I be of help to you? “ Client: “Nobody ever asked me that question before, they just started telling me what I needed to do.”
“You are where you are for very complex and personal reasons, and we need to respect that.”
“Some of you might think a drug-free society is a good thing. Some might disagree. But the question is: is it realistic? What’s realistic? What’s realistic today?”
On Compassion and Acceptance:
“Maybe I don’t want you to be injecting drugs, maybe I don’t want you to be putting your life at risk. But that doesn’t mean that I can’t accept that that’s what you’re doing, with compassion, and then see how I can possibly be helpful to you.”
On Obvious Things that are Not So Obvious:
“What do you love about the drug? How do you benefit from the use? If we can’t talk about the positive benefits of drug use, how can we talk about alternative ways to get those benefits?”
“If people are using drugs in a way that is not problematic, they’re not likely to come to us for help, and it’s likely that they don’t need help. We shouldn’t presume that all drug use is problematic.”
“Risk is a part of life. Human relationships are risky. Intimacy is risky. Getting close to somebody is risky. We cannot live a risk-free life. So we identify the risk, learn about it, and learn how we can reduce that risk.”
On Things That Aren’t Making Sense:
“They call addiction a disease, but they treat the person like a bad person. It’s not a true disease model. Like a diabetes doctor kicking his patient out for eating a donut. Do we arrest people who have diabetes when they eat Twinkies?”
On Roads and Journeys:
“There are many roads to addiction, so it should make sense that there are many roads to recovery.”
“How long it takes is how long it takes.”
“We don’t need to know the destination to begin the journey.”
Taking on a Challenge … :
“How can we make treatment more appealing, engaging, and effective for this large group of people? If the treatment isn’t more appealing than the problem, why would somebody go to treatment?”
“They’re looking for help that will feel helpful.”
… And Not Underestimating People:
“Addictive people are not just having fun; they are frequently managing a great amount of distress. […] We learned that if we give them resources that appeals to them, that fits their needs, they will access them. What did that teach us? Drug users care about themselves, they care about their community, and they have the capacity and skills to access care.”
When One Size Fits All No Longer Fits:
“Many treatment programs are manualized, one size fits all, go through the phases. No doubt that some people benefit from that, they want it, they need it. [Harm Reduction] doesn’t have a cookbook. The form, the focus, the structure, the timing of the therapy completely emerges from the collaborative process. It’s much harder, and much more scary. We’re making it up with our clients as we go along. This is part of what makes it so radical, but also much more effective.”
On Whenever You Feel an Urge:
“Unwrap the urge: is there a part of me that lives in the urge? An angry part? Scared part? Sexual part? Playful part? Is there something that the urge wants to say? And if I know what this urge wants, is there an alternative choice that I can make that is actually less harmful and more effective?”
On Being Kind to Yourself (Because Science):
“Studies have shown that when we cultivate self-compassion, kindness towards ourselves, it is associated with reduction in anxiety, depression, and substance use. “
On Ambivalence, and Why It’s a Good Thing:
“If you only invite one part of you in the room, the part that wants to change, and we don’t invite the part that doesn’t want to change, what happens with that part? If we make an agreement only with the part that wants to change, the part that doesn’t want to change takes over as soon as the person leaves the office.”
“If you can split the ambivalence, get rid of the part of you that doesn’t want to use, now you’re off to the races. ‘Beam me up, Scotty.’ Splitting can grease the addictive flight. Helping patients stay ambivalent, sit with both sides, be connected to both parts of themselves, that’s the goal, really. So that when the part of them that wants to use, wants to engage in potentially destructive behavior, they can stay connected to the other part of them that doesn’t want to die, hurt themselves, lose the money, risk the relationship.”
On Small Positive Changes:
“Having to commit to abstinence only is like going from no exercise at all to signing up to running a marathon.”
“Tiny little changes can help people begin to feel more empowered, more in charge, more in control, builds a sense of self-efficacy, a sense of hopefulness — these tiny changes can begin the process that leads to quantum change.
“These small steps build, they build optimism, they build on one another.”
“Each time someone makes a positive steps, they’re feeling a little better, they’re feeling more hopeful.”
On What — Who — Matters:
“Somebody once pointed out: a dead drug user can’t recover. We can start by keeping people alive and safe: You’re worthy of staying alive. I care about you.”
Recovery Research Institute has more great advice.
Harm reduction doesn’t have to be scary. It doesn’t mean you’re condoning their drug use. It’s not encouraging more usage. Think of when you first found out your child was sexually active. It seemed too soon, you wanted them to wait, you wanted to at least be told before it happened! You might have lectured them or even shamed them, or secretly cried when you were alone. You might have consulted your clergy or your higher power, but soon you came to the realization that you probably didn’t have control over their actions; & the next best thing is to prevent harm. Teaching responsible disease and pregnancy prevention or directing them to someone who could.
The important thing is to keep the communication open so ultimately we keep the connection to our child, even though they may be an “adult”.
One of my little jobs I have is calling rest homes & assisted livings across America & surveying them on their experience they had with their loved one. Since I call the same facilities every month, I get a feeling for which ones are pretty well ran & which ones are going to have a bunch of very angry southern folk yelling at ME for it all!
I know when I call the Bible belt facilities, I will get a lot of “Bless you’s” & “praise the Lord!” which I appreciate! But it always amazes me how much of a different experience people can have in the SAME place, same time period, SAME food, somewhat same staff.
Yesterday I called my only local building. I had to keep reminding myself this is the SAME building that all these people are taking about!
It just goes to show that Sometimes (keeping in mind there ARE lots of variables in healthcare) it’s our attitude that can make or break our experience of life.
These are the answers I received to the exact same questions:
“I appreciated everything!!! I’ve never seen a group of people who treated their residents like family. Everyone was very professional and willing to help out if you needed them to.
“I’d say it was a great experience and the best place for rehab.
“They treated like you like long lost family, accommodating, communicative. If I had a question they would answer it.
“They never returned my calls.
“Communication is lacking. Management was poor. They made promises and would never follow through with anything.
“They were very attentive to my dad, the nurses were always good to contact me.
“If you can rate it into the negative, do that. It was horrendous.Nothing redeeming about this building. I appreciated NOTHING about this place.
“Very poor, if I could go below one I would. The care was that bad.
“If you guys are serious you should send in someone who has empathy for their patients.Have them go undercover, if anyone is not doing what they should, you should fire them on the spot.
“Therapy was disorganized and too much into themselves.
“The therapy was ok.
“GIve therapy FIVE STARS!
“The food was terrible.
“Food wasn’t properly prepared and no special diets.Lettuce was tired.
“The food was not good at all.
“The quality of the food was a five.
“Their food was edible and a good variety
Everyone’s experience differs according to what they’re dealing with. Fear can takeover how we see things and how we treat people – which then creates a dynamic of how they treat us back. If you’re coming from a place of unhappiness most of your day will look bland and negative (I’m speaking from MY experience). If you see a gray sky you may never notice the bright pink flowers. When your emotional energy is spent on worry and fear for your loved one or for a pressing problem, such as finances, you see everything through that lens, as stated in this lens of trauma.
I spent a lot of time listening to Abraham Hicks over the years. She (or ‘they’ – since she channels a spirit guide through her) preach on keeping your vibration at stellar heights in order to achieve the results you want. This article describes the cult like following of Abraham, but I still find her rants and speeches helpful to pull me out of a slump. It’s basically the theory of The Secret which has been tweaked into different psychology fads for years. Her quotes are helpful to pull my perspective into one of gratitude and grace by acting as if I have everything I need, so the universe doesn’t detect ANY LACK. The old saying:
If you're not grateful for what you have, why would the universe give you more?
After my Abraham binge, I moved over to Matt Kahn, who believes quite the opposite. He advocates accepting all feelings as valid and to be loved, so as to not glaze over them in some kind of fake positivity.
With so many opinions and paths to take, my goal now, is to maintain a balance of peace despite outside circumstances. Some days I fail miserably, like yesterday, as I cried all morning after a phone call from the IRS.
Today, I'm breathing life, hope and abundance into my family. I'm trying to appreciate memories for what they were, people for who they are, despite their struggles and actions; and the future for the possibilities.
Knowing that my perspective on life is going to make it as pleasant or as miserable as I decide to let it.
Some people get addicted to drugs and alcohol. It’s not the majority. But addiction is prevalent enough and causes enough turmoil for the addict and others to beg the question – Why? Is addiction in the genes? Is it the result of a bad upbringing?
There is no one simple answer to these questions, but there is enough information available to answer the most critical question: Can addiction be prevented? By reviewing some probable causes of addiction (based on studies), preventive measures come to view. Let’s take a look.
Drug and alcohol addiction is not a life crisis that just “happens” to someone. Though no two addicts’ life experiences are identical, most people start using drugs and alcohol because of a significant struggle in their life that they cannot seem to overcome. The emotional and psychological difficulty looms large, and the person uses drugs or alcohol to escape the pain of the immediate crisis.
The pursuit of happiness, success, and goodness from life is more likely to lead to a drug-free lifestyle. Ideally, an individual should view just about every aspect of life through a lens of creating pleasant, meaningful, and happy experiences. Conversely, a negative view of life, fostered by experiences of hardship and crisis, is more likely to lead one down a path towards substance abuse.
Adverse Childhood Experiences Closely Linked to Addiction
Two studies from unrelated sources demonstrate how positive experiences among youths tend to link to sober, substance-free lifestyles. In contrast, adverse childhood experiences tend to be related to substance abuse.
“Behavioral engagement in schools is an important contributor to academic outcomes for adolescents, but may also protect them from substance abuse…”
In one study, authors Froiland, Worrell, Olenchak, and Kowalski suggest that: “Behavioral engagement in schools is an important contributor to academic outcomes for adolescents but may also protect them from substance abuse. Positive and negative attitudes to the past, present, and future have been linked to adaptive and maladaptive behaviors in adolescence, respectively. Interventions that teach students to overcome negative thinking about the past, present, and future could promote behavioral engagement and reduce the risk of adolescent substance abuse.” The authors back up their claim by their analysis of two groups of young adults. One group had childhoods full of good experiences, and another group had more harmful experiences.
From a common-sense angle, the findings are logical. Understandably, positive life experiences would more likely lead to positive, healthy, and rewarding lifestyles. The opposite, then, would also be true. The authors concluded with, “The current findings suggest the importance of positive time attitudes as promotive of behavioral engagement and protective against substance use.” Parents should take extra steps to ensure their children have positive life experiences with this information in mind. Parents can learn to promote positive behavioral engagements and healthy, responsible, rewarding, and pleasant lifestyle choices and patterns.
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration put forth a great deal of information similar to the above. In SAMHSA documents, hardship experienced in youth has a definition: “Adverse Childhood Experiences,” or “ACEs,” for short.
The SAMHSA researchers put forth the idea that there is a correlation between the number of ACEs a child experiences and that child’s risk for substance abuse later in life. According to the data, “Research has demonstrated a strong, graded relationship between ACEs and a variety of substance-related behaviors. ACEs can predict earlier age of drinking onset. Therefore, underage drinking prevention programs may not work as intended, unless they help youth recognize and cope with stressors of abuse, household dysfunction, and other adverse experiences. ACEs, such as childhood abuse (physical, sexual, psychological) and parental substance abuse, are associated with a higher risk of developing a mental and/or substance use disorder later in life.” This information suggests that experiences in one’s past do much to mold their present.
One of the problematic aspects of ACEs, mainly as they occur in one’s youth, is that the young individual does not always possess the tools for coping. And while they might not turn to substances as a coping mechanism at that moment, if a young person experiences a severe hardship in their youth and is not helped, counseled or cared for through that experience, the experience may plant a seed for future difficulty. That seed matures as the individual grows up. By the time adulthood is reached, just one unaddressed ACE in youth could be the source point for addiction.
For this reason, in addition to attempting to raise children with little to no adverse experiences, parents should do their best to address difficult life moments when they occur and help their kids work through them.
Why Educating Young People About Drugs is Important
As it turns out, doing one’s best as a parent to ensure that a son or daughter grows up to live a sober, productive, and fulfilled life is not just dependent on making sure that kids have a “good upbringing.” The harsh reality is that young people are often peer pressured into using drugs, no matter their background, socioeconomic status, home life or quality of living.
Therefore,’ it is vital to educate young people about drug and alcohol addiction. Parents have the primary responsibility for doing this, but they should insist that schools help too. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, schools are the perfect setting for educating young people on drugs and alcohol for a few reasons:
Drug prevention and education are best implemented before someone starts forming erroneous beliefs about drugs. Those false beliefs tend to come from peer pressure in one’s teen years, so implementing drug education programs in elementary and middle school is wise.
Schools offer a systematic way of reaching many young people quickly and effectively.
As safe havens of learning, schools can utilize a wide range of resources, educational materials, and program steps to deliver a comprehensive education about the dangers of drugs to students.
In addition to doing their part to talk to kids about the harms of substance abuse, parents should also be proactive in their insistence that the local school system offers true information about the dangers of drugs and alcohol.
Addiction Treatment – How to Overcome Drug Abuse
Harmful life experiences take their toll. And when loneliness, sadness and other adverse life events lead to drug or alcohol addiction, the best way to overcome such a crisis is with the help of a residential drug and alcohol addiction treatment center.
We should all do our best to ensure that the people we love have good experiences in life, not bad ones. If we see loneliness and sadness impinging on someone we care about, we can do something about it. Now we know that such life experiences are not just harmful in a temporary sense. They have long-term repercussions. Therefore, let’s take it upon ourselves to ensure that our loved ones have positive experiences, not bad ones.
But if you know someone who has fallen prey to a drinking problem or a drug problem, please help them get to a qualified drug and alcohol treatment center. Doing so will be lifesaving for them. Don’t let a series of bad life experiences lead to a potentially fatal drug problem for your loved one. Please make sure they get help today.