Why there are ALWAYS. Three sides to every story.

We all know that addiction brings out the huge parking lot of pain, disappointment, agony, despair, sadness, violence, and misery. Some of this chaos is self-inflicted for many reasons. This chaos is projected onto everyone who gets in its path. Some people pull into the parking lot unknowing of what is coming. But everyone brings their own personality traits into the parking lot.

Of course, we are going to hear about all the tragedies of drug use. From criminal behavior to divorces to bankruptcy, it would appear that addiction is its own snake-filled evil entity all in itself. But as Gabor Mate, Johann Hari, and many others leading the way in addiction research and dissection; there are reasons and causes for this behavior.

Doesn’t matter, some would say. A crime is a crime. A lie is a lie. But in the context of BEING HELPFUL and MAKING A DENT in this epidemic, What is going to be helpful to stop all this pain and suffering? I can tell you 1000% percent “if only they would stop” is NOT A COMPLETE SENTENCE. There are many other problems that have to be solved other than the drugs, by the addicted one AND by others around them.

Unfortunately, many personality types are unwilling to budge their “warring heart” or learn new skills or “ways of being”. (Both from Anatomy of Peace)

My heart hurts for all who are affected by addiction. But today I am saddened for the absolute cruelty thrown at addicts, by using their darkest moments against them continuously and denying them access to their children- in the name of virtuous parenting. When in fact, seeing their kids and starting the bonding process again could be the very thing that keeps them from relapse. True that it could “lead the kids on” & cause damage if a relapse occurs, but it also could be the very last time a child sees their parent.

Demanding expensive hair follicle tests and repeated urine tests just for an hour supervised visit only increases tension and conflict on already stressed relationships. Life is so short and these windows of opportunities are so few and far between.

This kind of unnecessary cruelty hits deep into a person’s soul contributing to the shame and discouragement of having something to look forward to and live for; thereby pushing people deeper into the depths of addiction.

In these convoluted situations, I think it’s helpful to keep in mind that there are always 2 perspectives and one version of the mixed truth. Everyone thinks they have such clarity as to what needs to happen.

Regardless of whichever version of a certain dynamic is the truth, many studies show that inflicting more pain on an addictive brain causes more addictive behaviors.

In all of time, there are people who inflict pain on others separate from having any addiction. It’s true that those under the influence can become unruly, violent, abusive and very enrollment dysregulated. They lie to keep their addiction going. They get defensive and manipulative to cover up their use. Their behaviors make sense to them, but seem completely off the wall to others.

So there are both sides of the equation at work. There are people who are addicted and not addicted who:

  • Love to call others liars while spewing hate.
  • Preach moral virtue while insisting others beg and grovel for forgiveness
  • Proudly claim to be the best friend, sibling, child, yet never sending cards, well wishes or words of encouragement to others.
  • Brag about their stellar communication skills while ignoring others’ pleas for help or their deepest thoughts and feelings.
  • Make unreasonable demands that are not easily met
  • Then they wonder why after the 💯th time, you aren’t jumping to comply
  • Now they have “proof” of how horrible you are
  • No matter how many times you say sorry, they will swear on a stack of Bibles that you never say sorry
  • Complain about never being included, but plays victim martyr with every invitation
  • Wonders why everyone else’s behavior is “inconsistent” or non- supportive, yet their behavior is inconsistent and their support is non-existent.
  • Accuses you of ridiculous things that are actually of no concern to them, but it’s a way to get info in order to use as back up ammo to prove either that you lied, or that you shouldn’t have done that or you don’t deserve to have that.
  • Confusing the boundaries, rules, expectations, so that your self confidence and outlook on life is skewed or depressed in order to get you to act in confused or depressed ways so they can then justify what an idiot human being you are.

So, the next time you hear that “there’s no excuse for addiction” or for their kids not being enough to get them to stop, or that the worst thing in the world is addiction; please remember that there are always 2 sides to the story and a third side which is a version of the truth. Addiction is curable. Other traits-are with us for a lifetime unless WE take initiative to improve.

Being kind is its own superpower. 

The Scream

The scream.

Johann Hari nailed it.

Except my scream is buried inside me.

I go through my day in auto mode. The little problems, the endless chitter-chatter.
Someone needs a bandaid or an Electrocardiogram.

A mom of one of my patients wants to talk about vitamins.


What about oxycodone? Or Heroin? Let’s talk about that evil monster that ruined my life the last few years.
But I can’t. I have to pretend I care.
I have to BE NICE.
I can’t think of my son sitting in a jail cell with a bullet hole in his leg.

Continue reading The Scream

The Scream

The scream.

Johann Hari nailed it.

Except my scream is buried inside me.

I go through my day in auto mode. The little problems, the endless chitter-chatter.
Someone needs a bandaid or an Electrocardiogram.

A mom of one of my patients wants to talk about vitamins.


What about oxycodone? Or Heroin? Let’s talk about that evil bastard that ruined my life the last few years.
But I can’t. I have to pretend I care.
I have to BE NICE.
I can’t think of my son sitting in a jail cell with a bullet hole in his leg.

Continue reading The Scream

Punishment Surely Works

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”.

“Yes, yes son that’s amazing”.

I’m tired.

Connection is the Medicine for Addiction

-Guest blog by -Shelly Young

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Johann Hari is famous for his work in the field of addiction. His most famous quote is “Connection is the opposite of addiction.” His book Chasing the Scream and 2015 Ted Talk 

were revelational for many including myself and helped open up a bigger conversation, a bigger story around what the ideal conditions for wellness are and by creating the ideal conditions for wellness, substance use would decrease organically. 

I feel connection is the medicine for addiction rather than the opposite of addiction but either way, human beings require connection to survive. 

What are the ideal physiological conditions for connection? 

  1. A regulated nervous system
  2. A felt sense of safety

When our body’s nervous system is regulated, (relaxed, calm) our nervous system sends a message to the body’s around us that we are safe to connect with and that we are open to connecting. The bonding chemical oxytocin is released in the brain which moves your brain out of the primitive survival mode and into the social engagement mode.

When your body feels safe, safety is reflected outward through body language, the tone of your voice and in your eyes which signals ease to others. Sharing the sense of safety which creates a felt sense of ease is co-regulation. You can help others feels at ease in your presence by practicing regulating your own nervous system, the ideal conditions for connection. 

Your presence, your ability to connect and co-regulate is powerful healing medicine for your loved ones. 

What if you’re feeling dysregulated? Seek out people or animals who can breathe with you, hold your hand, provide comfort until you have the felt sense of safety in your body again. Keep practicing. It’s worth it. 

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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.