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Rat Park

If I could go back to those days when my kids filled my house with muddy shoes and red punch stains around their lips- I mean pure cranberry juice without sugar, of course- as any good Mom would buy- I would relish in the mess this time. I promise. I would take all those old Tony Robbins tapes and replay them over and over.

His theory is that every decision, every action, is dependant on what ‘state’ a person is in. State of mind, state of body- how we feel at any given moment has proven to be paramount in my search for addiction ’causes’.

As my Papa would always say “I wish I could do it all over again knowing what I know now.” I used to think that was such an old thing to say.

Well, now I’m old.

But if I could do a time travel- even for a day-I would pull my kids close to and whisper to them how many times they are going to feel confused and uncomfortable; and how it’s ok to feel out of sorts, that they can be in those moments and survive without having to change it or distract from it or bury their feelings.

As I described in this blog post when my son was spared a horrible accident as a toddler; this time-travel, I would tell him how strong and valiant he is. I would look in their little shining eyes and say “No matter what- you’ll be ok. The pain won’t last. You can work through it.”

Of course, I may have said these things to them, but I think I may have also done a lot of the opposite. “What do you need to feel better right now?” Eeek!!! Distraction, suppression, external validation. Anything to avoid the current state of fit throwing, or anger or sadness. Parenting advice changes every few decades so I only take partial blame if this happened.

When I set out on this journey in 2018 of wondering why this epidemic is happening and why in God’s name- as my Mama used to say- it had chosen MY family to implant itself on; I had no idea the answers would be so elusive, yet so vast in nature.

Everyone is just trying to feel ok at any given moment. That moment then turns into a lifetime of addiction because of what brain changes occur. I tire of the argument of whether it’s a disease or choice because as I’ve stated in many posts– how does that change how we treat it (or them?)

Pam Jones Lanhart, a recovery advocate, parent coach and Arise interventionalist, states it so well:

“The science and evidence based research shows that addiction is a reward and response. I think “pain” is a broad word but there is now doubt that people start using because the drink or drug does something for them. “When I drink this drink, I feel less anxious.” Or “when I use this pill all of my emotional pain goes away and it feels like a warm, comforting blanket.” The word pain is relative. But pain could mean the pain of feeling left out. The pain of a family divorce. The pain of a label such as adhd and being made fun of. Pain doesn’t necessarily mean big T trauma. But it does mean that the substance is the solution for the negative emotions that they are experiencing.

So of course, we all make a choice to use or not use. Everyone does it. So we live in a culture where substance use is social glamorized and yet when someone gets ill from it, we demonize and shame them.

NO ONE and I mean NO ONE chooses addiction. Not one person who took a drink or a toke off of a bud expected to become addiction. That’s a ridiculous notion and not informed by any data or science. “When I used I was rewarded with a really good feeling. So I used again.” And eventually the neuropathways of the brain are reprogrammed and THEN in spite of all of the negative consequences and the fact that the using is no longer working for them, they can’t stop. That is the definition of addiction. Continued use in spite of negative consequences.

No one expects this. It sneaks up on them and before they know it they are addiction.

That being said, today 7,000 people will choose recovery. 7,000!

And yes, it has EVERYTHING to do with pain. We all have pain. When I drink a glass of wine I feel free. The pain of my life dissipates. Let’s face it. If substances didn’t make us feel better on some level, none of us would use them.

So using is a choice.
Addiction is NOT a choice
Recovery is a choice."- Pam Jones Lanhart

As I have explored the CHOICES and CAUSES of my son’s addiction, I keep coming back to the connection theory of Johanna Hari. Even if we never know someone’s true reason for starting (and maybe they don’t and won’t ever know either) we can still get a picture of the importance of a person”s ‘state’.

“Get a rat and put it in a cage and give it two water bottles. One is just water, and one is water laced with either heroin or cocaine. If you do that, the rat will almost always prefer the drugged water and almost always kill itself very quickly, right, within a couple of weeks. So there you go. It’s our theory of addiction.

Bruce comes along in the ’70s and said, “Well, hang on a minute. We’re putting the rat in an empty cage. It’s got nothing to do. Let’s try this a little bit differently.” So Bruce built Rat Park, and Rat Park is like heaven for rats. Everything your rat about town could want, it’s got in Rat Park. It’s got lovely food. It’s got sex. It’s got loads of other rats to be friends with. It’s got loads of colored balls. Everything your rat could want. And they’ve got both the water bottles. They’ve got the drugged water and the normal water. But here’s the fascinating thing. In Rat Park, they don’t like the drugged water. They hardly use any of it. None of them ever overdose. None of them ever use in a way that looks like compulsion or addiction. There’s a really interesting human example I’ll tell you about in a minute, but what Bruce says shows that both the right-wing and left-wing theories of addiction are wrong. So the right-wing theory is it’s a moral failing, you’re a hedonist, you party too hard. The left-wing theory is it takes you over, your brain is hijacked. Bruce says it’s not your morality, it’s not your brain; it’s your cage. Addiction is largely an adaptation to your environment.

We’ve created a society where significant numbers of our fellow citizens cannot bear to be present in their lives without being drugged, right? We’ve created a hyperconsumerist, hyperindividualist, isolated world that is, for a lot of people, much more like that first cage than it is like the bonded, connected cages that we need.

The opposite of addiction is not sobriety. The opposite of addiction is connection. And our whole society, the engine of our society, is geared towards making us connect with things not people. If you are not a good consumer capitalist citizen, if you’re spending your time bonding with the people around you and not buying stuff—in fact, we are trained from a very young age to focus our hopes and our dreams and our ambitions on things we can buy and consume. And drug addiction is really a subset of that."
~ Johann Hari

This came up on my memories today. I’m unsure who to give credit to. It says what I feel in my heart, even though I know it is sometimes difficult to do.

The key to supporting people living with addiction in reaching their full potential is the exact opposite of “letting them hit rock bottom.” It is instead to move the bottom of that pyramid of human needs up so that the 
needs which are known to bring people closer to reaching their full potential are being met.
( Such as feeling loved, worth saving, forgiveness)

It means to foster social connectedness rather than to force isolation.... Wich leads to shame depression and death😭
It means to practice acceptance rather than intolerance.
It means to fan self-worth rather than to fuel shame.
It means to love rather than to disdain.
Mostly it means to never having last regrets for others...I can't imagine being on the brink of death knowing that you are a complete disappointment to everyone.
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Take What You Need

My job gives me the opportunity to intimately see into a person’s life…..in fact I see pretty much the whole spectrum from birth to death.

I’ve had the opportunity to watch 100’s of births and maybe half as many deaths.

After an emotional week at work which resulted in several awakenings, tonight my heart is full. Full of a sense of the struggles people face…
Sometimes silently… Sometimes in the public eye.

The sudden appearance of disease in your life; wrenching heartache & turmoil that you never dreamed of; or the pain of looking into the eyes of a lost soul, seeing the remnants of broken dreams shattered.

My personal awakenings included memories of my parent’s deaths mingled with twinges of regret; also the suicide of my brother 15 years before; who was my hero..my protector…my wizard.🤺

I’ve witnessed fame and the fall; anger and outright apathy. I’ve seen firsthand that disease, addiction and death have NO favorites. No one is immune. It doesn’t matter how famous, how rich, how respected you are, you can’t prevent  tragedy and strife from invading your sacred space.

Although our challenges are different, the one thing that we all have in common is human bodies & souls 💫 that need connection. Gabor Mate explains it well Here in this easy cartoon drawing.

What it comes down to is …..that ALL of us  eventually struggle with the same issues.

To think our time will never come or that our kids will never have to experience that deep pain is being very naive.

We all experience feelings of loss, regret, sadness, and guilt.

When those times arrive, almost everyone craves understanding & compassion without expectation;

A hand placed over theirs;

A gentle touch that says: “I’m not scared of your disease”.

Eyes that hold no judgement…. Just simple silence that says “I’m here”. A parting hug that says, “everything will work out”.

And most of all – A heart that says

L❤️VE

💜❣️💛❣️💚❣️💙

©Samantha Waters RN

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Alcohol is NOT Exempt

I know I usually write about addiction in the form of opiods, but I actually have some intense interest in the fallacy (?- is that the right word?) of alcohol dependance.

Since it’s so widely shown, glamorized and basically accepted, on the movie and media scene; and since it’s even politically correct (does that even mean the same thing anymore?) to laugh at an alcohol meme; it sometimes gets overlooked as the horrible, slow killing addiction, it is, or can be.

So I was happy to see Matthew Ward’s An Open Letter to Myself About Sobriety post on Medium.

“We live in an opioid epidemic. The articles about it come out every week. People are addicted and dying and it’s horrible. According to the CDC, there were about 47,000 deaths related to opioid use in 2017.

So, it might surprise you that according to the same CDC data, there were about 88,000 deaths related to alcohol use”.

Originally published in The Ascent

If someone you know insists that they have it under control, there’s a great questionnaire on The government’s website SAMSHA
This is the very same website that the social media influencers will give you when they say they “have access to rehabs all over the country” including the ones they ‘broker’ for, if you have good insurance.

But all that aside, if you need help please  CLICK or CALL. I’ve called it and they’re very informative. There’s also tons of articles on this site for moms of teens and everyone. This site is our tax dollars at work, so use it.

Meanwhile, if you have managed to quit, or moderate your usage, or even thinking about it; I’m sure the thought has crossed your mind of what would you do instead of drinkng?

It’s sounds like an easy enough question, but those who spend hours and hours with their ḂḕṠṮ ḞṙḭḕṆḊ will understand this fear.

No worries,  Benya Clark (from Medium again) has the answer. He listed cooking, drawing, and running as his top three.

Now to those who are used to massive amounts of dopamine that substances provide; these are going to sound boring. And they probably will be at first. Until the natural Dopamine sources get built back up, you’re going to have force yourself, with some good accountability partners maybe, to start small and build up the habit—
Ya know-

ᴊᴜꜱᴛ ʟɪᴋᴇ ʏᴏᴜ ᴅɪᴅ ᴡɪᴛʜ ᴀʟᴄᴏʜᴏʟ ᴏʀ ᴅʀᴜɢꜱ

Boredom, ingrained habits in the brain, and the lifestyle of connection  that all and drugs bring; along with this lack of Dopamine; is the reason for allot of relapses. People feel alone, lost, and bored, without their old coping mechanisms.

The good news is, new friends, new coping skills, new job opportunities can and WILL happen when you don’t have the consequences that addiction brings. You will mostly have your FREEDOM back. You won’t be enslaved to the time and MONEY.

THIS Article quotes the average American spends $22,600 over 40 years drinking 1 – yes 1- cocktail a week. ($11). There’s a Spending calculator you can use HERE. I guess it’s variable what constitutes “too much” spending on alcohol. I certainly would not use that to predict if someone is addicted.

It’s surprising how much addiction actually cost – just for the point of sale. Not even touching on the money from jobs lost, fines, insurance, and the many  other fees that go along with alcohol & drug use.

Drugs are a completly different story when it comes to money.I would say you can quadruple those numbers, easy, if a movie star or wealthy person.

It’s all very sad.

Not sad for the business end, but sad for families and children.  

It’s not a fact that escapes people with a substance use disorder (SUD- not addict). It’s one thing that contributes to their shame and blame of their condition. So much so, that I think it keeps alot of them IN that very cycle, because they think they can never pull out successfully or make up all that money or fix all that they’ve broken.

Our healthy brains KNOW it can be done, but remember,  their brains are technically damaged or at least temporarily hijacked in the areas of emotion, self control & that darn jacked up reward center.

My favorite person with a SUD-turned Doctor, says it best in this video. If that link doesn’t work- here’s next best one. Nicole Labor. Also buy her book and stuff… She humanizes addiction because she’s been there. Even while in Med school!

Regardless of where you or someone you love is at in their consumption journey, there is no reason to not at least have the conversation about how they’re doing and where they feel they want to be in 5 years.

Study after study, and -headline after obituary-  show that all addictions are progressive, leading to jail, death or recovery. So early intervention is paramount. It is a treatment condition. Despite the statistics shown, you can be part of the 21 million Americans who are in some form of recovery rather than the 88k who die every year due to alcohol related deaths. 

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Watch “Everything you think you know about addiction is wrong | Johann Hari” on YouTube