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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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Trauma Blocking

What the heck? Never heard this term before but when I came across a local recovery group Addict to Athlete’s IG Checklist for it, it sounded vaguely familiar.

It sounds like stress.

Life, ya know? Trying to get through the day. Or the week.

Don’t we all mindlessly scroll on social media and the next thing you know it’s been an hour? Some of us celebrate Friday with a glass of wine.🍷

Boredom eating, the feeling that you SHOULD be doing something when you have a few minutes free time.

It really comes down to what expectations have groomed us into thinking that we NEED ѕoмeтнιng elѕe. Something more….

Tony Robbins used to call it variety- the need for the unknown, change, or new stimuli as part of the 6 basic human needs: you can read it here:

Uncertainty, Variety

(I’m sure he made a hellofalot more money than Maslow by adding an EXTRA need! But that’s neither here nor there) -ɪɴᴛᴇʀᴇsᴛɪɴɢʟʏ, ᴡʜᴇɴ ɪ ғᴏᴜɴᴅ ᴛʜᴀᴛ ᴠɪᴅᴇᴏ- ᴛᴏɴʏ ᴡᴀs ᴛʜᴇ ʙᴇɢɪɴɴɪɴɢ ᴀᴅ..

This variety /boredom/ thing fascinates me because with any excessive behavior that STARTS with these “Trauma Blocking” behaviors they soon become so out of control that everyone involved is just wishing & begging to go back to that “boring” life.

Watch any movie or documentary on cheating or murdering a lover or spouse and you’ll see that their lies and their sins seemed to start from a place of boredom or opportunity.

So how to avoid starting these “blocking” behaviors that just lead to trouble?

I outlined a few ways in this blog on Checkpoints -by basically keeping ourselves accountable- to stay ” safe” if you will.

The other thing this list brought to mind was what constitutes a “trauma”? Some people insist they had a great childhood without too many upheavals yet they have poor insight into why they have such a horrible and quick temper as an adult.

I think of someone, somewhere telling the inner child of this person that their feelings aren’t valid so they learn that somehow rage or anger or impatience will help them feel validated. Somehow.

I guess because it makes people stand at attention or react which makes the angry one feel in control, respected even. Those of us who have lived with such a person know that’s not the case though. Respect flies out the window when one acts like a jerk..lol.

I’m not a therapist, but I am a nurse👩‍⚕️ and one thing we do as nurses is validate the patient. If they’re mad at the doctor, we are the peace-makers. (I know you really wanted to talk to him but Monday mornings he has alot of rounds to go to- he will be here soon. Meanwhile- what can I do for you?)

As mother’s, we know all about manipulative validation. “I know you’re tired, but just pick up all your toys, eat dinner, do homework, have a bath THEN you can sleep!”

I know, all these things need to be done, but how many times do we SHOW kids that their feelings aren’t valid? Or correct for the situation by trying to get them to think the way we do?

“Honey I know yourt mad at your brother for stealing your toys but how would you like it if he hit you?

This says,: “your anger is misplaced, you have to THiNk about OTHERs BEFORE you get all crazy.”

I guess depending on what era you raised your kids and what parenting model you followed, this may or may not be correct.

In hindsight, and in conclusion; the things that we do on a daily or weekly basis to comfort ourselves are very real and very needed to stay emotionally healthy.

It’s the oldest best advice I heard growing up, MODERATION IN ALL THiNGS that may be the key to keeping these behaviors in check, whether we think we are covering up some hidden “trauma” or not.

By creating the time and space to look at ourselves and the affect we may be having on others, we might be able to ward off behaviors that leach into addictive ones that will eventually harm us and the people closest to us.

©Samanthawaters

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Preventing Addiction

I mean…is that even possible? Maybe not with our children, because I believe we do the best we can with what we have while raising them.

But as adults I have always felt that if we stick to our personal “checkpoints” as I call them- we could prevent allot of problems.

When I watch a movie, I’m always curious as to that “ʍօʍҽղԵ” when things changed to start the downward spiral either in the form of stealing, cheating, lieing & addiction.

My very favorite example of this is an old movie with Bridgette Fonda & Billy Bob Thornton. Good Lord, talk about normal people’s lives being thrown to the wolves! A Simple Plan

One of my fav movies.

Hindsite being 20/20 aside-; If we religiously ( I use that word loosely but completely IN context here) have a self -monitoring system that we can use to pull ourselves back from a path that will only lead to disaster, I believe we could catch allot of issues.

This system might actually be a weekly worship, a nightly prayer, a daily journal writing, or a friend who holds us accountable as simply as in the form of a conversation once in a while to help us see how far fetched our thinking is getting – lol.

There are many other ways to do this including Hal Elrods Miracle Morning program called Savers Seen HERE.

Or reviewing Miguel Ruiz 4 agreements daily Seen HERE.

Tony Robbins, of course has his billionaire advice HERE.

Mel Robbins morning routine made her famous ( & Rich) with just 5 measly seconds HERE

Recently I discovered a great list right on the government substance use disorder website thats listed in my GET HELP section on MY site

It’s called “Creating a Healthier Life, a step by step guide to wellness.

You can download it free HERE

Many companies have put their spin on it but it’s basically an expanded version of Maslow’s hierchy of needs.

When looking at this, it’s easy to see how far off the circle IN ALL AREAS addicts find themselves, so it’s no wonder how overwhelming it must be to even begin.

Luckily some wonderful recovery professional made a simple recovery model- which I love.

I hope you’re able to see this 🙂

I hope these resources can help us see how important it is to stay true to ourselves on all areas of life so we can be a healthy, emotionally strong beacon for those struggling. Not to mention to keep US out of danger of going off track for living our best lives ❣️✨❣️