Passionate about all things beautiful-both seen and unseen
Author: Samantha Waters
A unique perspective on the world from a small town girl turned big city nurse. Now a grandmother to 4 gregarious, resplendent boys and 3 endearing, magical girls, she strives the make the world a more understanding, pleasant place to experience this intense thing called life.
These are the words I heard echo from a co-worker during a meeting today. She was talking about a client who didn’t want to go to a place of business in case he had to sit by a heroin addict.
If I was financially independent, I would have stood up and said: (well- yelled, “There are worse things than being a heroin addict, like being intolerant of humans who’s sins show on the outside!”
But I’m not, so I didn’t.
As it is, I sat there in my silence of suffering as usual.
Michael J Wilson in his book Loving Lions describes the impact as this
“I watch the impact that my addiction has, and it’s like watching a horror movie. You know something bad is going to happen and you want to yell at the person onscreen to not go into that basement, not to open that door, but they never hear you. The movie goes on and I am forced to watch, trapped within myself, unable to stop it. I feel helpless, I feel useless, and I feel worthless.”
I keep my struggle with my Lion seperate than other areas of my life. Or, I at least try.
Later on that day I was sending another patient to see a medical provider as scheduled, and she yells out, “I’ll be back, I’m going to see the drug dealer!” Haha, everyone laughs, while my insides fall the 1000 feet that it took me to build them up again after the comment earlier this morning.
Drinking or joking about “needing” a glass of wine, is all fun and games until you see the first phone call from the jail knowing it’s your beloved child who not only had that glass of wine, but couldn’t stop at one.
Loving lions also describes their (the person with a substance use disorder) ( in-)ability to fix that problem too:
“I do not have the ability to fix a problem that has me convinced it does not exist. I am not capable of putting myself into the challenging recovery process that is required to get well. I am not capable of coming up with a plan to fix a problem I cannot see clearly. I am not capable of fixing this without help. I am not capable of pulling myself out of this hole. “
Which brings us to a crossroads and to the normal model of “a disease”. How do you help someone who’s very disease won’t let them believe they need help?
It’s like a pimp. Convinces his girls that they can’t live without him, even though HE is the problem, engaging them in illegal activities, lowering their quality of life, risking their health, their freedom etc.
Drugs are the biggest pimpmobile ever and I wish that caravan hadn’t stopped in my town.
Just to top my day off, this Day in The Life of a Mom of a person with a Substance Use Disorder; I see a “Story” pop up on my son’s Facebook. He is quite new at Facebook, having only had it the last year or two when his addiction seared to new “heights” so to speak; so I was curious that he figured out that feature.
Much to my shock, I saw a conversation that he accidently posted on there, which was “seemingly like a drug deal”. Unbelievable. I frantically tried to message him to delete it. No answer. I knew there were people on his Facebook that were not “real” friends and would look at that as “ah ha see? He’s still at it, what a loser” or whatever people think of addicts. No, I’m not trying to cushion his fall. He’s fell so hard the last 2 years there’s no cushion left. I guess I’m just still a bit embarrassed of it all.
Shame and blame go right along with the agenda of addiction. For not only the addict, but the family.
My son finally answered my frantic messages. He said he doesn’t know how that conversation got on a story or how to get it off. I hurriedly explained with detailed screenshots how to get it off.
Then in true Nar-anon cringe worth fashion, I gave unsolicited advice & told him since he has warrants out, he probably should be more careful. He still insisted it wasn’t a drug deal.
Ok son. Over and out. 10-4 to this day. Another Day in the Life of a Mother of a person with a Substance Use Disorder.
As I left work and headed to run errands amid the Covid pandemic, I slowly put my mask back on that I had been wearing all day as a nurse. Usually I resist putting it back on, because of breathing, claustrophobic & dizziness issues. This time however, I welcomed it. Because today was another highly emotional day in the life of a mom of an addict.
My son is an adult, but the devastation on our family the last two years has been palpable. His two little kids abandoned from their daddy, his ex-wife forced to sell their beautiful new home, and his business that most of the family worked at- was gone. He had one attempt at rehab and it seemed to make it worse in the sense that it gave him the impression that all rehabs were scammy like that one.
Today, though was another rough one for this mama. He had sent pictures of himself to me after not seeing him for 5 months. To say I was shocked is an understatement. My once buff, stocky, six foot 240 lb. son looked like a little old man who hadn’t eaten in a month. I, of course, had to torture myself all the more by pulling up his old pictures and making a split screen to show the drastic difference that the toll of drugs has had on his body.
As I walked into the grocery store, the images of these pictures pierced my mama heart so deeply, my eyes stung with tears. I felt my face scrunch up and my body become weak. But I still was able to push my cart around with my mask pulled up to under my eyes, and no one knew the difference. I can mourn my son while he is still alive, amidst other shoppers who wouldn’t have a clue what I am dealing with. I can walk around and grab the milk and eggs and wonder if my son is eating today. I can basically buy anything I want while he struggles to get a few dollars. I can feel guilty for not paying his phone bill this month, even though it seems to not do any good because he doesn’t call in for his court hearings anyway.
Nothing with addiction makes sense. You’re either tough loving them or your enabling them. They’re either going to die, or they’re going to recover. You feel powerless for the outcome, paralyzed in fear and confused as to what is the right thing to do. Most of all, you have deep sense of sadness for your child that you once knew, is gone.
My struggle with my son’s addiction is mostly a secret anyway except to family so I literally wear a mask a 24/7. But now, with the current covid precautions and the masks, I can still have my complete daily or weekly meltdown while doing errands and no one is the wiser. I arrive home with my tears dried, my eyes just a little red and my mood lifted just enough to get on with my nightly tasks. This is a day in the life of an addict’s mom. – Samantha Waters
I despise the argument of addiction being a disease or a choice. For the simple fact that I’m a nurse. If a child has a sliver in their finger, it really doesn’t matter how it happened; we just have to get it out. Even while the child is fighting us trying to get it out.
With addiction, I just don’t see the relevance to what it matters after the fact. If it’s a choice then are we really going to use that as a punishment?
Someone is writhing in pain from excruciating nausea and chills and shaking uncontrollably and we are going to tell them you made this choice? Really?
Or the unconscious patient, as we stand there holding the narcan saying, “I don’t know dude, I don’t know if this was accidental or your choice so I’ll just stand here and play God for a minute until I decide if you’re worth saving”.
Remember the tainted Tylenol episode from year’s ago? Someone put stuff in bottles of Tylenol then put them back on the shelf. Customers took them for pain or discomfort and a few died.
Well -I make the argument that Addicts are in pain and discomfort and they take something to make themselves feel better too. And some of what they take is deadly. Just because we don’t agree with what they took doesn’t make their life less valuable.
I’m all about finding better ways to get them to not want to take the “tainted” Tylenol.
So it was interesting to read this article from the National Drug and Alcohol Centre in Sydney; stating that addiction may be more the result of Deep Learning. Rather than a disease. …or basically Habits as I wrote earlier.
The article states that:
“Addiction still is ‘probably’ triggered by stress or alienation. It can duly be unlearned by forging stronger synaptic pathways via better habits”.
This gives me alot more hope for recovery for my son, than being chained to 12 step meetings the rest of their life and forever facing “triggers” that will surely cause relapse.
I feel that way because that seems to be my son’s attitude too, and a main reason why he doesn’t seek recovery. He just doesn’t believe in the current advertised recovery model. He sees the statistics and sees the relapses and he feels like the stigma perpetuates that it’s a lifelong battle and only makes addicts feel hopeless that they can’t achieve that.
Some of this attitude is definitely his hijacked brain talking, trying its damndest to extend the addiction as long as it can, to keep my son it’s slave in misery.
My son also doesn’t trust the medical prefessionals who he feels perpetuated his early addiction. ( Again, this IS his hijacked brain talking- BUT The proof has also come out that this is true. )
The article agrees:
“The implication for the $35 billion-dollar treatment industry in the US is that tackling addiction as a medical issue should be only a small element of a more holistic approach. The problem is, there’s a lot of vested interest – and financial investment – in perpetuating the disease model”.
Professor Allison Ritter expresses fatigue with the brain disease model.
“It has not produced any new technologies for treatment nor necessarily decreased stigma or improved the lot of people who experience dependence problems”.
Matthews Hope Foundation is one model that’s trying to change the landscape of recovery with remapping the brain to imbed different pathways which result in better habits. It’s called Iasis technology.
On their website they have Nicole Labors’ Neuroscience of Addiction video. She is one of my favorite advocates for explaining addiction and this video hits it all.
Regardless, the cause isn’t nearly as important as the solution. As this Mother who has lost a child stated: What does it matter? The pain of loss is heartbreaking.
As I sit here in the early morning hours finishing this article, awaiting my nurse shift to begin; I’m overwhelmed with a sadness that I even have to defend my son’s recovery. So much energy spent on some sort of moral aspect of addiction, when people are suffering and dying. It’s heartbreaking. My entire family has a big hole in it from this journey, just as we would if my son had a debilitating, progressively deadly disease such as Lou Gehrig’s. Some diseases do affect the mind eventually yet that doesn’t lessen our compassion for them.
Addiction is a complex insidious, torturing disease of the brain and all I’m asking for is some compassion that will move people toward more action- less judgement.
I saw fear in a baby’s face today. I was in the the pool at my condo complex. There was a grandma who was trying to convince a baby that the water wasn’t cold, or scary, and that it wouldn’t envelop his little body completely and cover him in water darkness. Or that the splashing in his face wouldn’t sting his eyes & the bright 95-degree sun wasn’t hurting his eyes. He was okay. Because she said so.
Deny deny deny our feelings……. How we have been raised to not even trust our bodies, But rather to listen to everyone else who knows better.
“Father knows best”. Or Mother. Let ME tell YOU how to feel.
Trust other’s opinions. They know best….until what age? What age do we magically stop having to be ‘protected’?
A quick google search shows the disparity:
Then suddenly you’re supposed to have all the confidence in the world!! And not care what anyone else says or thinks… 😵
Time flies and then we are an anxious teen or adult, who can’t get a grip on what our bodies and minds are telling us! We might develop anxiety or depression as a result. This might be where eating disorders or addiction come in.
The worst thing about having anxiety-other than the wasted energy and time-of course; is being perceived (even by yourself) as being ungrateful, angry, or just plain selfish.
It’s true that people who live inside their thoughts for “longer than deemed necessary” by those who aren’t inside our heads (& those who seem to be in a carefree, worry-free zone at the moment); have an added guilt factor on top of their anxiety. This is because they are constantly told that they’re being ridiculous. Or that they SHOULD be able to just GET over it; or as I was told once: Why can’t you just be grateful and happy? …
Sometimes it takes a long while to find and maintain a balance.
I finally realize what this meme means. To unlearn. I like how Dr Nerdlove describes unlearning. It really fits in with today’s Social dilemma media blast too.
One of the hardest things you can do — that anyone can do, really — is to try to unlearn something.
Especially something that you aren’t even aware that you’ve learned.
This sounds like an impossibility; how can you have learned something without being aware of having learned it? But in practice, it’s like the old David Foster Wallace talk This Is Water; you aren’t aware of it because we have been swimming in it for all of our lives.
And so it is with a host of toxic ideas about life, about manhood and masculinity, about women, even about how to live and behave. You have. I have. Everyone who lives in society has. It’s something that we have all been born into, something we’ve been so immersed in for so long that almost everyone is unaware of it and many folks push back when it’s pointed out to them.
Even people who become aware of all of those beliefs and lessons we’ve learned over time — myself most certainly included — can still buy into them. It’s not just a question of being aware of having learned these lessons. It’s about trying to unlearn them… and, in the process, replace them with the right ones.
But it’s a difficult process… and one that often leaves you frustrated, even angry at times. It’s one that we each have to go through, and if any of us do so with good faith, we have to do so without expecting a reward or even congratulations. And it requires looking at aspects of ourselves that we often aren’t comfortable with. Like Luke Skywalker in Empire Strikes Back, we often have to come face to face with the fact that sometimes the thing we’re struggling with the most is ourselves.
But the fact that it’s not easy points to just how important it is to do it; for yourself and others. Like trying to turn the Titanic, the sooner you start, the more likely you are to avoid the iceberg.
So let’s talk about unlearning what you have learned.
Learning All The Wrong Lessons
Of course, one of the hardest parts of unlearning a lifetime of toxic lessons is recognizing how we came to learn them in the first place.
And to illustrate that, let’s go off on a tangent for a second. Trust me, this will make sense in a moment.
What do you think of when I say the name “Tonya Harding”? Odds are, you have a mental image of someone who wanted so much to win the Olympic gold medal in figure skating that she broke the knee of her biggest rival, Nancy Kerrigan. What about if I say the name “Yoko Ono”? The quickest and most likely answer, beyond John Lennon’s wife, was that she was somehow responsible for breaking up The Beatles. If we mention Kitty Genovese, then we think about the story of how a woman was brutally murdered and nobody could be bothered to do anything about it.
But more often than not, what we think of isn’t what happened. It’s what we remember being told what happened — a slurry of headlines, late-night talk show monologues, friends relaying the story from friends and vague memories of news coverage we didn’t pay that much attention to. We remember the meme of Harding bashing Kerrigan in the knee, but forget that it was her ex-husband’s best friend who did so. We assume it was because Harding was a poor skater intimidated by Kerrigan’s skill when Harding was, in fact, the first person ever to land a triple-axel during competition, something people once thought was impossible for a woman to achieve. We are eager to blame Yoko for the Beatles breaking up but ignore not only the near-constant conflict between Lennon and his bandmates, but the domestic abuse that she suffered at Lennon’s hands. Genovese’s murder wasn’t a case of 38 people callously ignoring a woman screaming for help; witnesses called the police, others yelled out the window at the attacker… but few knew exactly what was going on. Some thought they had heard a domestic quarrel, while others thought they were hearing drunks leaving the bar at closing time. The idea that 38 witnesses watched a woman be brutally murdered was the result of sensationalist headlines, poorly written articles and a game of telephone that ultimately lead to people remembering a story that was markedly different from reality.
Like Dr. Timaree Schmitt, I’ve been been binging the podcast You’re Wrong About, where journalists Michael Hobbes and Sarah Marshall discuss and debunk famous news stories, urban legends and moral panics, revealing how much we misremember or misunderstand about stories that gripped the nation. It’s an eye-opening experience to recognize how much of what we thought we knew about a topic was, in fact, colored by social expectations and beliefs. It was much easier to believe that Harding was a cheater who used violence to try to buck the system than a more complex person wrestling with class prejudice, sexual and spousal abuse and a system that actively forced her to stay in a profoundly abusive marriage, because we were primed to do so. The same goes for Yoko Ono; it’s much easier to say that a woman got in the way of creative geniuses because of her own ego than to credit deep fissures between bandmates.
That same willingness to bend our memories to our pre-existing beliefs, massaging and twisting stories until they only vaguely resemble the facts, is an exemplar of how easy it is to absorb toxic messages without ever realizing it. More often than not, we never had any reason to ever question our recollection or our interpretation of stories. Why should we? We heard them so frequently and so often that those were the versions that took root. We wouldn’t have heard it so often if it weren’t true, right?
The fact that they just happened to fit our beliefs about, say, sex, women, class or society just made it easier to absorb them without ever thinking twice about it.
To take it back to men, women and dating, you may have seen some variation of this post online:
Many people, especially men who struggle with dating or accepting their own worth, will look at this list and nod. This makes sense; this lines up with their experiences and therefore it must be true. But as with some of those news stories or memes we mentioned, these are a mix of things that are true, but also things that are deeply misleading. Ignoring that “if you’re undesirable then people won’t desire you” is fundamentally a tautology, it’s an example of the way that society and cognitive biases reinforce toxic beliefs — in this case about masculinity. We find it easy to believe because we’ve been raised to believe it. Men in particular are quick to relate these lessons to other men, not because they’re rooted in fact, but because they line up with what they already believe about women. They have been primed to believe it because we have had it literally sold to us in every possible form.
Yes, there are women who like powerful men. There are women who like rich men. I suspect it would not be much of a surprise to anyone that there are women who like classically handsome men. But not only is this working from the assumption that this is universal in women, it ignores that there are women who are attracted to men who aren’t powerful, who aren’t rich or who don’t have traditional good looks or builds that we don’t think of as “perfect”. However, because it tracks with popular beliefs about manhood and what women supposedly want from a man, it’s very easy for folks to believe it. Some people see this and decide the answer is to pursue becoming all of these things because it’s the “only” path to being desired. Others see it and despair; they believe that they can’t possibly measure up and so they believe they’ve been cut off from any chance of finding love or sex.
We have all grown up in a society that teaches us that it’s acceptable for men to act a certain way. We have all come of age — even now — in a world that teaches us that men are supposed to be incredibly aggressive in how they pursue money, power, sex and relationships. We have grown up in a world that teaches us over and over again through repetition, through jokes, through music, novels, movies, and television that stalking, physical aggression, manipulation, possessiveness and even threats of self-harm are acceptable ways of getting what we want… especially when those things we’re pursuing line up with what it means to be a man.
But we hear it so often and so frequently that it isn’t new or disturbing to us; it’s simply the lessons we’ve been hearing all of our lives. Even once we become aware of it, we aren’t out of it; it’s deeply rooted in our consciousness in ways we rarely expect.
Looking For The Blind Spots
One of the things that makes it so difficult to unlearn these lessons is that often we’ve absorbed them in ways that we aren’t even aware of. These become functional blind spots, things we don’t think to address because like a physical blind spot, we often don’t know they even exist. Not, at least, until they come into play. Often in ways that end up hurting other people.
Take me, for example. I don’t believe I’ve ever been less than candid about my past — being part of the pick-up artist scene, learning some things that were valuable and good and a veritable ton of shit that was wrong, manipulative or hurtful. Realizing just how toxic I was becoming was painful; trying to unlearn it even more difficult. It’s the sort of thing that’s easy to buy into because it aligns with the things you already believe — or just want to believe. At the time I was learning the various ins and outs of different pick-up schools, I never questioned it because it wasn’t in my interest to do so. I — so I believed at the time — was learning all of the secrets that would finally allow me to have the kind of life I’d thought I wanted. I had no reason to examine things because it lined up with so much of what I had either learned or been taught about women, about men, about sex and sexuality. The possibility that what I was learning from the pick-up scene was manipulative and harmful never crossed my mind. The idea of how much the things I had been learning were less about mutual pleasure and more about differences in power didn’t occur to me. I hadn’t thought about it from the perspective of the women I was flirting with or trying to pick up; I had no real motivation to do so.
I did have friends who would occasionally call me on my shit; many of the women I have the privilege of being friends with would point out that hey, my attitude and behavior was, mildly, more than a little fucking creepy. Not that I gave it more than half an ear at the time; my mindset was one of “yeah, but you don’t understand, it’s not like that…”
But it was. I just wasn’t willing to listen or think about it from someone else’s perspective. In part, because so much of what I was learning matched with what I believed about women, about men and about sex. But I also was enjoying the results I was having. There were active reasons for me to not look too closely.
And like a lot of systems of motivated reasoning, it worked… right up until it didn’t. You can’t be as manipulative as that, putting up a fake persona for that long and not have consequences. In this case, I had a near total collapse, following a moment of clarity in the middle of trying to pick someone up at a bar.
I realized in rapid succession that a) I was already trying to figure out how we would go, have sex, and then I wouldn’t need to see her again, b) I didn’t actually like her, I was seeing her as another number to bolster my ego, c) that I didn’t like the bars and clubs that I’d been hanging out in, d) that I hadn’t talked to people outside of the pick-up scene in weeks, e) that I hadn’t talked to anyone about damn near anything but pick-up in God alone knows how long and f) I couldn’t stand myself.
I apologized to the woman, saying “sorry, I have to go, I think I’m having a breakdown” and then sped home for a very long dark weekend of the soul, facing down how much I did not like what I’d allowed myself to become and what I was going to do to move forward. As much of it is a cliche to say, there was a lot of reading to do, a lot of listening to do, a lot of learning and studying and — yes — unlearning things. My friends who called me out were gracious enough to say “yeah, here’s the shit you were doing that bothered us”. People pointed me towards resources that I could study, about power and consent; actual, legitimate psychological, physiological and sociological studies of male sexuality and female sexuality.
But deeply ingrained beliefs and behaviors are hard to shift. It’s very difficult to uproot the learning of a lifetime, and there are frequently areas that I — like many folks — had no idea even existed. It’s not that I didn’t believe that certain behaviors were problematic, it’s that I had no idea that there were problems at all until they were pointed out to me.
One of the most notable examples was in the concept of the “Freeze Out” — a technique utilized by PUAs to counter what they referred to as “last minute resistance” and what everyone else would call “they really don’t want to have sex with you please stop”. The idea of the freeze out is that if a person were to encounter that “last minute resistance”, they would immediately cease all contact. Not just sexual contact, but physical contact. They were to stop, put on enough clothes to allow for modesty if not dress fully, then move to another room to do non-sexual activities. If done correctly, the other person would often re-initiate sex or sexual contact. In theory, this sounds like exactly what one is supposed to do; they’re not interested, you stop, all is well. In practice however, it reads entirely differently. It doesn’t read as “I am respecting your boundaries and the fact that you don’t want sex”, it reads as “I am angry with you and I’m going to cloak my anger in passive-aggressive behavior”. To a person facing this sudden change in attitude, it can be deeply unsettling. The balance of power favors the larger, masculine-bodied individual. Being alone with someone bigger than you who seems upset or offended means that you’re going to be motivated to make them not upset at you… including possibly having sex with someone you don’t actually want to have sex with.
As someone who’s a cisgendered, straight man with a fairly broad and heavy build, I had never had to think in those terms before. I didn’t even think to look at it from another perspective until after reading Clarissa Thorn’s Confessions of A Pickup Artist Chaser, where she discusses it in detail.
Once I had this blindspot pointed out, I could at least correct for things. I could adjust what I taught as acceptable, I could advocate for better, more conscientious and more equitable behavior. But learning doesn’t stop. Finding a blindspot doesn’t mean that you’ve found all of them. And you can still fuck up without realizing it, even when you should theoretically know better. There’s always more to learn, there’s more to work on and to improve and pay attention to.
Unlearning is a process, not an end, and it’s one that requires active attention to be paid.
You Must Confront Your Dark Side
Unlearning something is difficult under the best of circumstances. It’s hard to shift beliefs and behaviors that you are aware of, never mind ones that you aren’t necessarily conscious of. The lessons learned over a lifetime are deeply ingrained, with decades of reinforcement. Worse, trying to unlearn them often results in pushback from others. Some people will push back against the need to examine or change those behaviors because they don’t see them as being wrong. They’re “just how life is” or “they’re natural and instinctual”. Others will push back against it, actively insulting or maligning people because of their own beliefs and insecurities. Attacking another person’s masculinity is one of the quickest and surest ways of shoring up your own manhood; by policing other people’s behavior, you establish yourself as being “higher” on the masculine social pecking order. And still others have vested interests in people — men especially — not examining or changing their behavior. Any sort of growth, change or improvement is abhorrent to them because it becomes a path to deradicalization. Proud Boys, MRAs, Red-pillers and the like love to yell about cucks and manginas and soy boys because pushing back against toxic forms of masculinity threatens their position in the status quo. They need people to be angry and frustrated, aggressive and isolated, in hopes of bringing them into the fold.
But it can also be hard to shift because it requires taking a long, serious look at yourself and confronting things that you may not like to see. It’s hard to look at your actions and see how you’ve hurt people. It’s terrifying to think about the way you were and are part of a system that brings so much pain and misery to folks. It requires being conscious and aware of the parts of yourself that you don’t like, the things that you wish weren’t part of you. In Jungian psychology, this is referred to as your “shadow” or your “shadow self”, the things that you believe to be unacceptable or that you wish didn’t exist. It’s all the things about you that you would prefer to believe you didn’t have. It’s much easier, less intimidating and less painful to try to excise it, to try to pretend it doesn’t exist.
But the shadow isn’t something that you’re supposed to ignore or suppress; it’s a part of you, and trying to excise it cannot and will not work. Trying to repress it just makes it come out in other ways, leaking into other aspects of your life and causing more pain and misery. Your shadow self is something you’re meant to confront; not to destroy it, but to reckon with it, learn from it and understand it. Our shadow selves are often a reflection of unmet needs; they’re the ways that we’ve attempted to fulfill those needs and desires. The problem is how unsuccessful those aspects are at helping us meet those needs, and how often they work against our goals. Someone whose shadow represents a fear of rejection that manifests as social anxiety might turn to alcohol to try to relieve their unease and boost their courage. Someone whose shadow self represents a fear of vulnerability or weakness might compensate by performing a particularly aggressive form of masculinity.
Examining and confronting your dark side isn’t about eliminating it or even finding balance with it so much as trying to learn about yourself. It’s about recognizing those needs, examining those fears and finding ways not to eliminate the shadow but to have those needs met in more positive and productive means.
By being willing to face our dark side, we’re able to get a fuller, more complete vision of ourselves.
Doing so, however, is hard. It means taking ownership of your choices and taking responsibility for them. Trying to face that side of you is never pleasant under the best of circumstances. It means having to confront embarrassment, shame and guilt. It means having to see your choices as just that: a series of choices that you made, not things that were forced upon you or that happened outside of your agency. It means recognizing that you may have scared, upset or hurt people and being willing to accept that, own it and make amends where possible.
And you may have to confront it more than once. Like I said: there are often blind spots in your life, ones that you weren’t aware of until they were pointed out to you or until you learned about them the hard way. Finding them means taking another look and seeing that there’s more to learn, more to unlearn and more growing that needs to be done.
It’s understandable that the idea of facing that side is scary, even painful. It’s understandable that anyone would rather avoid doing it if at all possible. Having done it myself… it’s never fun.
But it also means change. It means being the person who breaks the cycle, the person who contributes to the end of a societal message that leads to others being hurt. It means learning how to be a better person, creating new and more positive patterns in your life.
How To Relearn The Right Lessons
As hard as unlearning can be, relearning can be tricky too. It requires being willing to challenge what you believe and what you’ve been taught. It means learning to look at things from different perspectives, perspectives that don’t merely reflect your own beliefs and experiences. And it may mean making changes to your life.
But that doesn’t necessarily need to be a bad thing. After all, the things you do and the people you spend time with become your filter. The lifestyle you lead directly colors the way you see the world. Incels who spend all of their time soaking in the misery of various online communities, for example, find it only makes them even more miserable and hateful. Leaving the community, starting to spend time out in the world and seeing it as it really is instead of as the funhouse mirror distortion of the incel philosophy helps lead them to becoming happier and more fulfilled.
Trying to see things from other people’s perspectives and gain a fuller picture of the world around you can often mean examining other people’s lived experiences and seeing how different their reality can be from the one you perceived. Books like Jenna Birch’s The Love Gap1, for example, can be invaluable for men who struggle with dating. Men frequently have a vision of women’s dating experiences that have less to do with reality and more to do with what they imagine based on their own beliefs. Seeing how different their lived experiences are from the version that men learn from other men can be an enlightening experience and one that often helps alleviate anxieties or fears about attraction or desirability.
The people you spend the most time with directly affect you, as well. People who are supportive of the growth you’re trying to achieve and the changes you’re trying to make are vital; we are all social animals who need support and community. Having people who are there to prop you up, cheer you on and help you improve can make all the difference in the world to your progress and improvement. And having friends who you can turn to for advice and perspective is invaluable. One of the benefits of having a friend with you when, say, you’re out socializing and meeting people, is that you have a second set of eyes with you. They can help you see things that you might be missing, whether that might be picking up on cues that you aren’t seeing or that you’re doing far better than you realize. Having someone to support you at times when you’re nervous, give you an emotional boost if you’re feeling down, or simply being good company can make a world of difference.
Part of the work I’ve done for myself meant making substantive changes, both in terms of the way I conducted my platonic and romantic relationships but also my lifestyle overall. I have been lucky enough to have friends who didn’t just support me but would also say “dude, what the fuck?” when needed, or point out patterns in my life that I didn’t notice. I de-prioritized bars and clubs and spent more time with friends, hosting parties and finding local events and activity groups that I enjoyed. I examined the ways I approached folks, the ways I flirted and where I met folks — both friends and potential lovers. I continued to seek out new resources for study, new perspectives.
None of it was easy or fun; in fact, a lot of it was, and still is painful. But as the saying goes: nobody said that it would be easy, just that it was necessary.
Becoming The Change You Want to See
As I said: part of what is so difficult about unlearning the lessons we all are brought up in is that they’re systematic. They are, quite literally, part of a system that we all live in, and one that we’re often unaware of. The more that we benefit from the system, the less we notice it… and why should we? It’s the sea that we swim in, one that causes us few problems… even as it damages others. And even being aware of the system doesn’t prevent us from benefiting from it or absorbing the lessons from it.
But once you’re aware of it, you’re able to affect it. And that means examining what you’ve learned and working to make changes in yourself. While change on an individual level — fixing yourself, unlearning those toxic lessons, addressing toxic behaviors — is a small thing, large. systematic changes are built from small ones. We are able to create spaces for ourselves and those around us that help encourage positive change, while discouraging the negative behaviors we hope to uproot.
It’s not a simple change. It’s all too easy to buckle under the weight of despair or the feeling of helplessness. It’s incredibly tempting to want to shuck off the weight of responsibility and not look too closely at your own actions, to deny the need to change or do better. And it’s tempting to say “here is what I need to do and then I am done. I am complete. I have nothing left to learn.” It’s always easy to try to decide that you’re finished, even when you have far more to learn, to rush off under the assumption that you’ve done as much as you need to, only to get hurt again.
Except there is always more to learn. Order requires maintenance, or else it falls back into chaos. And while it can seem like a daunting challenge — one that’s too great, too painful or simply too late — the first step is the simplest. Be willing to accept that maybe you’re wrong. Be willing to accept that maybe change is possible, that you aren’t alone, and in the end: you can advance. It takes work to build a better life, be a better person and help build a better world, even if it’s just your small corner of it.
But in the end… it’s worth it.
I still think you should cry if the water splashes in your face though.
Us, humans, have worked so hard to create a world filled with so many magnificent things that can easily become addicting. From tangible things like food to intangible things like social media – we are surrounded by beacons calling us to them. […]
Sugar high is THE real high. Okay, I shouldn’t be making that declaration since I haven’t tried a lot of other high inducing items. While I definitely enjoy wine’s happy high (kids, please read this as: grape juice) but nothing compares to the high I get after demolishing a slice of cheesecake or even just a whole bar of dark chocolate. I’ve reduced my sugar intake a lot over the past couple of years but it is IMPOSSIBLE for me to cut off completely. At some point in my day I need me some sugar or I just can’t deal with the day. I can reduce my intake but I can’t totally cut off from sugar.
I need to have something constantly playing even if it is just as background music while I go about doing my work. I have gotten into this habit of leaving a show on to just drown out my thoughts with the incessant noises of a show I’ve already enjoyed watching. I also am addicted to a few youtubers and end up binge watching their content from time to time. I NEED content, I just can’t do without Netflix and Youtube and Prime Video and Disney+ and…more content!
If you approach me to talk to me before I’ve had my cuppa coffee – God help you! I am a demon who is only able to reign in their terror with the help of caffeine! I literally cannot function without coffee – adulting is hard enough but doing it without coffee is impossible. Literally the only good thing about being an adult is that you can have coffee and cake whenever you want. Again, I have managed my addiction a lot and I am usually able to function on just 1 cup of coffee in the morning but I need that 1 cup for sure.
Where is my overthinker gang at? No matter how hard I try to stay away from getting lost in the spiral of my thoughts – there are still nights when I stay up till 5AM with my mind spinning tales that I can’t control. Overthinking is definitely an unconscious addiction but it is a habit that has been SO SO hard to kick.
Do you battle any of these addictions? What are some things and habits that you battle hard to not be addicted to?
I wish I could say I was the epitome of kindness. I wish I was the one who does things automatically because I’m a good person not because I’m a peacemaker or passive. Truth be told, my actions all have selfish motivations. I want tranquility. It’s as simple as that. I will do anything to get it. OM’s article explains how much more smoothly life would go if we all operated at a certain level of kindness. But we also see what you want to see. If I’m angry & frustrated, I see anger and frustration around me. Regardless, it”s certainly goal worthy to re-evaluate our motives and practices to reflect the right and honorable thing, not just what makes us feel better.
Re- printed with permission from the Daily OM
Kindness expands the light within us and reaches out to touch the light in others as well
Kindness is an ideal that is easily accessible to all of us. We all know that a small kindness can make our journeys lighter and more enjoyable. Even bringing an instance of kindness to mind can put a smile on your face days or weeks later or perhaps even inspire you to share kindness with another. Though it may seem simple to the point of insignificance, many cultures throughout the world and history have recognized kindness as a powerful virtue. It may be the simplest way to experience and share all the grandest ideals of humanity. We can make the choice to act from the best place within ourselves at any time, while simultaneously recognizing the highest potential in another with the smallest of acts, nourishing the seed of hope in each soul we encounter.
In a way, kindness acts as the oil that makes the engine of our world move more smoothly and with less friction. We can still get where we are going but the ride is more pleasant, and those around us can share in the ideal world that we help to create. We are all fortunate that kindness is limitless in its supply and available to everyone. When we act in ways that confirm our ideals, we make the ideal our reality. Then, instead of affirming the experience of struggle and competition, we can shift our experience to the reality of ease and pleasurable camaraderie with the fellow citizens of the world.
Whether giving way to someone in traffic or letting someone go ahead of us in line, donating money or sharing our resources in a crisis, we actively create a universe of kindness and giving with every choice we make. The smallest gesture can bring a smile to light the shadow of an unpleasant situation or remove tension from a difficult task, but it’s effects can echo and extend far beyond the moment. We can be sure that we will receive a kindness in return, but giving is its own reward. Kindness expands the light within us and reaches out to touch the light in others as well, giving us all a glimpse of the glow that has the power to enlighten our world.
I woke up today shrouded in worry & dread. Wishing for so many “things” that I want to happen-to me and those I love.
Things that would surely calm my riddled heart of chaos. I sat on my patio & watched the planes go to and from the airport, with my daughters little chihuahua basking in the sun beside me, without a care in the world. I realized that although those planes LOOK like they’re moving in a straight line; it’s only because they are soooo close to their destination.
They are coming in for the landing, gliding on all their predetermined pathways and seemingly invisible data. Or taking off with high hopes and lots of turbo- high in the air, where they are tossed to and fro. Veering off course many times, but always coming back to center.
What if they were to give up in midair? Saying to hell with these clouds! I can’t see where I’m going anyway! Yet how often do we do that, just because we let the fear of not knowing determine our emotions and actions.
It’s ok to NOT KNOW. It’s ok to wonder. It’s ok to be curious and not have all the answers.
Just like the plane’s journey, my kids and my own journey are also riddled in clouds & uncertainty at times. The turbulence of daily life, spilled drinks, messes, hurt feelings. Fear, confusion, hopelessness even.
I realized that most of the “things” I want are long term and out of my immediate (& ultimate) control. Such as having all my kids healthy and happy and living productive lives.
Sure I can do the foot work, hustling in all directions trying this way and that way to pull people and circumstances my way. Wanting immediate results, wanting Control! Wanting to ENSURE…. What?
Nothing is “ensurable”.
At some point I have to give it up to curiosity. To wonder. Try to find joy in the journey without regard to the many possible outcomes. And align myself into the highest vibration possible so I can accept those outcomes.
Turning a massive ship around can feel very daunting and discouraging as progress is slow and fraught with set backs and opposition. Trying to be grateful for any baby steps that help turn us in the right direction, however incremental they might be! We didn’t get ourselves in this mess over night and we can be certain it will take long and sustained effort to get us out of this mess, bringing a deeper understanding to the phrase “endure to the end”. Many say the way is too hard and give up. Truth is worth fighting for and even giving our lives for. Hang in there! Never give up or give in. Have faith, Work Hard, Stay True, Be Kind..and God will help us fight the battle!- Natalie Cline
“What to do when adversity strikes? There is only one thing to do. Stand steady and see it through. Stay steadfast, constant, and true. The real tragedy in the whirlwinds of life comes only when we allow them to blow us off our true course.” David S. Baxter – Oct. Gen. Conf 2006
My friend Joanne Richards has taught me so much about how to just BE. Her work with Byron Katie and our mutual study of Matt Kahn’s teachings, all lead me to the same conclusion: it’s ok to NOT KNOW. It’s ok to wonder. It’s ok to be curious and not have all the answers.
Here’s some of her priceless words regarding a loved one.
“What if his (soul’s) path is to be addicted? For what purpose? I know he’s touched other people’s lives and hearts. He is teaching me to learn to love without my wants, needs, and shoulds that place conditions on my deepest capacity to be love itself. And I don’t have to reach an ideal goal, and either does he. And we can if we do. If I want him to change with even the smallest desire that finally I’ll feel better too, that he will meet the ideal goal of being healed according to my version that that is the highest divine plan, that is a condition. And it gets in the way of me being totally present with him. I am wasting precious time, these opportunities are few and far between. And it gets really confusing and painful when I am playing God, and I am imposing what I think is the right path onto my son’s life.
I can know nothing of Gods plans and paths. I don’t have that power. From this place, he never has to change. Of course if he does, and he’s happier that way, great! Psychotic in addiction, or healed, I do my work and it leads me to love, and I don’t need him to change or get healed. I love him if he does, and I love him if he doesn’t. Maybe he will, maybe he won’t. I can not know. All that matters is this moment and how I’m serving Love. I serve him better and our relationship much better from this place. And it takes as much and more of my own healing work to show up for him this way. And if I do, the connection grows, the relationship grows, love grows, he changes or not, and I do. It changes every thing.
Without a past, without a future, without thinking I know what his journey should be, that he should want to heal, that he should heal, etc, I see him as love, I sit in the presence of love, silently, and am grateful to him, I am grateful and compassionate with him and with me, the mother that yearns to connect with her son in love and aware that the only time she loses him is with a story of a future that I impose my assumptions about how it should look. Maybe healing and recovery isn’t his path. Maybe it is, don’t know. Now what?
It sure does simplify it. I can not know any of it. And by doing my own work to get clear, to get present, to return to love without the wanting and needing and conditions that I’ll be happier when he’s healed, etc, boom! I am present and more able to listen, and be honest. I love you Kevin. It’s so good to hear your voice. Tell me your stories. You’re so resourceful. I trust your path (because it’s not mine), and if I can be part of it, I’d like to be, but I don’t know a lot. I’m here for you. I love you. He can hang up, or stay on the phone. Either way, love called and answered. Moment complete. Still breathing. Love remains.” Joanne Richards May 2021
Another precious pearl of wisdom:
Please notice where your fear takes you. You have me dead already waiting for that call. You see images of me dead. But I’m not there. Even if my physical body has passed or if I’m homeless and can’t be reached, please remember my goodness and my life.
I live elsewhere, and always in your heart. 💘
Look for me there. Look for me in the good, in the living.
Look for me and honor me with your life. I can not do this for you.
Please tell me you love me, and what you’re willing to tolerate, or not. I eventually hear you say no. And just repeat it or don’t answer the phone.
This is helping me. When you repeat what’s not working for either of us, it just keeps not working. Just be clear with your love and your boundaries. I need this. It helps me with my own fear, and helps you take care of your own. I can not do this for you.
I actually want your love.
I want you to love me as I am whether I live or die.*
Trying to fix me is beyond your control and obsessing on this will kill your chance at any peace.
It’s your fear that makes you do that. And you make me responsible for it.
I’m under the influence of drugs. Drugs have their way.
YOU must CHOOSE a different way when I can not. I love you and I can not express it right now. Just trust in that love, even though it’s silent and difficult to see.
Please remove this pressure from me that I have to get fixed and take care of your happiness.
I really can not handle it. Please seek your own recovery. I can not do this for you.
Live your life so I don’t have to feel the shame of taking it from you. I did not take your life from you.
I don’t have that power. So please don’t give it to me, or to drugs for that matter. I don’t want that for you either. God gave me a life and a death, same for you. If and when I can choose differently, I will. Will you? Show me the way. If I ever recover, I’ll need you to be clear and strong. Healing is possible for me, and for you. You be the one. I can’t do this for you either, and please please don’t wait for me. God has plans for me, and God has plans for you. Staying in pain is not His plan for you. I know it’s not God’s plan to have me addicted but God is going to use my life in ways we both can not imagine. Find every way to live and inspire peace and joy in this life. I can not do this for you.
I know you love me very much. I love you back. Nothing can destroy that. I will be with you always. God created me as love, and you are too. It is indestructible. Remember this and you will remember me well. And this love can break through your fears. Know I love you even when it doesn’t look or sound like that. Know this, but I can’t do this for you.
Your Child, and God’s.
Joanne Richards 💙😢💙😢💙😢💙😢💙😢
I’m not sure where I got this quote but it’s so helpful and true with our addicted loved ones:
For the record. Drug addicts aren’t getting high because they are having a good time. They don’t wake up & say “I had a great time lying to friends & family yesterday & injecting a deadly poison into my arm I think I’ll do it again today “ . They don’t choose to live like this. Whether or not they chose to do drugs in the beginning has nothing to do with when they are in active addiction. If I choose to smoke & got cancer I wouldn’t be choosing to have cancer in fact I’d wish I didn’t have to live with it just like an addict wishes they didn’t have to get high everyday. If you ask any addict who’s past the point of no return if they are enjoying themselves they will all say “ NO I HATE LIVING LIKE THIS” and yet they don’t know how to stop. I understand that addiction is a strange thing & that it’s hard to wrap your head around but that doesn’t make your opinion of it factual. If people spent as much time learning about addiction as they did telling everyone who’s addicted that they choose to live like this we’d be getting somewhere. We would have so many more people helping addicts instead of saying things like “It’s natural selection” or “Let them kill them selves off” If you’re someone who hates addicts so bad that you feel the need to let everyone on FB know about it then at least think of the families of those addicts who are grieving for someone who’s still alive ! Or the ones who are grieving for someone who isn’t. At least have the decency & the common courtesy to keep your false & ignorant remarks or opinions to yourself so that Mother’s & fathers, children, wives, & husbands who don’t know how to make it Day to day because their loved one is dying in front of them or has already died doesn’t have to feel anymore pain then they already do.
Staying connected to your son is loving him in spite of his struggle. Our children couldn’t need us more than while they’re behaving unlovable. They are screaming “Please love me when I don’t even know how to love myself.” Once they realize that they are worthy and loved, they will begin to seek help. It’s when they don’t feel worthy or loved or connected to their people, is when they are in so much danger. I’m pretty doubtful that you telling him that he needs to go to detox is not going to be effective, but telling him that when he’s ready, you will support that with everything in you, and have some resources ready to help. Prayers for you, your husband, and your son. This is a difficult task that we’ve been handed, but God will see you through it.❣️🙏🏻❣️
I have always loved storytelling. Or listening to storytelling. So I enjoyed Bill White‘s comparison of addiction to mythical figures in history. For instance he compares Pandora’s box to our hidden shame of substance use or of a loved ones substance use.
“Each of us is the box of Pandora and within us resides primitive thoughts and emotions and closely guarded secrets all protected with the admonition that they cannot be released to the world. And so each of us is left with the burden of what precisely to do with this shadow side of ourselves that is so often the source of guilt and shame. We are often told that this shadow feeds our addiction: “You’re only as sick as your secrets.” Twelve Step programs—the steps of self-inventory, confession, amends, and service to others—provide a framework to address this shadow. Similarly, numerous schools of addiction psychotherapy are based on the assumption that recovery comes only through purging the hidden, distressing emotions that have long been self-medicated with drugs”.
“We have not even to risk the adventure alone; for the heroes of all time have gone before us; the labyrinth is thoroughly known; we have only to follow the thread of the hero‑path. And where we had thought to find an abomination, we shall find a god; where we had thought to slay another, we shall slay ourselves; where we had thought to travel outward, we shall come to the center of our existence; where we had thought to be alone, we shall be with all the world. “
Joseph Campbell, The Hero With A Thousand Faces
Story reconstruction and storytelling play an important role in addiction recovery. Newly emerging recovery narratives cleave lives into the transformative categories of before and after. They encapsulate and distance the destruction of the past and open unlimited possibilities for the future. Storytelling and story sharing (the latter adding the act of listening) evolve as rituals of self-healing, service and communion. They affirm our membership within a community of shared experience, identity and resolve. The foundational knowledge of these communities of recovery is drawn not from scientific studies or clinical texts but from a library of stories drawn from the lives of present and past members and from stories collected from the larger world that offer instruction on how to conduct ones’ personal, family and community life in long-term recovery. The latter range from the latest news stories to the oldest fables.
Ancient myths have much to tell us about the imperfections of character that are deeply intertwined with the addiction experience and that serve as landmines of drama within the recovery process. One of my latest posted papers explores what guidance some noted mythical figures (Icarus, Narcissus, Sisyphus, Prometheus, Achilles, the Sirens, Pandora and Procrustes) may have to offer us on living a life in recovery. You can view the article at http://www.williamwhitepapers.com/pr/2013%20Myths%20to%20Recovery%20By.pdf
I hope you enjoy it. – Bill White
Addiction is at its core a disorder of excess. The cells and the psyche scream in harmony, “higher, higher, ever higher,” fueling flights that, like Icarus, many addicts do not survive. The Icarus story is a story about self-intoxication—“self-will run riot” as AA co-founder Dr. Robert Smith characterized it. Addiction for many is not just about a drug, but a broad pattern of excessive behaviors that touches most areas of one’s life. So where does that leave the modern day Icarus? There are really only three broad choices. One is to succumb to the voices, ever pushing the boundary toward death and a life of crashing consequences and devastation to self, family, and community. The second is to stem this propensity for excess through self-talk (personal mantras of moderation) and by developing daily rituals of moderation in one’s life as antidotes to this drive toward excess. The final option is to channel this propensity for excess into areas that are less destructive. This final option can bring unanticipated rewards. The addict’s capacity for self-destruction is matched only by his or her potential capacity for creative contribution. Both may spring from the same source—this zeal for excess that can be expressed in infamy or greatness. A good lesson: the excess that has caused us so much pain can be transformed into a virtue when properly channeled.
When is the last time someone has actually looked you in the eye and sincerely asked that question?
How does it truly feel when you feel heard and understood? No judgement.
My husband told me today:
Don't be so hard on yourself, you're doing the best you can.
I’ve been stifling & muffling a lot of feelings lately. Deep fear & pain. So much that if someone were to ask me – I’m sure I would completely fall apart.
Everyone has different levels of coping. What is not a big deal to some, is catastrophic to others…
Even though I disagree with Myo Angelos quote in this context- I do like Barb Schmidts words:
Remember we can never control the choices, actions, and behaviors of other people. Never. So don’t waste your energy thinking that you can, instead let them be who they are.
In the words of Maya Angelou, “When people show you who they are believe them.” 🌻-Barb Schmidt
My fav guru states:
"Everyone is doing the best they can, if they could do better- they would".
This doesn’t give people an excuse for being mean or making negative choices that affect others, but it does give a little grace to where people are in their journey.
It got me thinking about how a person struggling with addiction feels to always to TOLD they’re doing it wrong. Never being asked “how are YOU feeling today?”We don’t ask them because we THINK we must know how they feel? Or is it because we WANT them to feel a certain way? We WANT them to say, “I’m miserable and ready for a change”. If they were to say, ” I’m feeling good today”. Would we jump to lecturing them?
Last time I saw my son in person, was over a year ago. He was on my couch after a quick 3 day detox. We were watching Seinfeld’s stand up comedy. My son was laughing…. Truly laughing. I filmed him with curiosity, thinking how can he laugh with all he is facing “to fix”. But I was overcome with the warmth of a struggling human who’s just trying to get through another day.
Whether someone hides their pain in laughter, or drugs; they still deserve to be asked, how are you? What’s on your mind today? ” If nothing else- just to know someone cares.