Addiction: Willpower or Disease?

What about both? Or neither? We don’t even really need to label it, do we? Does it help anything? It seems to only divide people and that takes the focus off of recovery. Before you even get started, you’re at a disadvantage.

Yesterday I got to hear Caroline Myss speak on addiction. What I heard, blew my mind, literally expanded my brain. I felt it grow bigger (I’ll have to remember to thank her for the headache). I’m sure much of the reason is because I used to be a very black and white thinker. There was always an absolute. Until there wasn’t.

I’ve been learning the DBT skills for a number of years and if you’re unfamiliar with DBT, I encourage you to read up on it! It has helped me so tremendously. The basic principle says it is both/and vs either/or. Just because something is one way, doesn’t mean it can’t be any other way. Childbirth is a great example. Happiest day of my life, finally becoming a mother. Also, saddest day because she was very premature, was born not breathing and it was touch and go for months afterward. But just because I was sad and scared, that didn’t take away my joy.

Anyway, after being steeped in this new way of looking at life , I couldn’t believe I’d neglected to see the dialectic aspects of the willpower vs disease argument.

I learned early on that addiction was a disease. I believe that, to some extent. On the other hand, I didn’t like surrendering to a Higher Power. Not because I don’t believe in God or because I thought I could handle it on my own but simply because it sucks to feel powerless.

If I turned it over to God, was he supposed to freeze me in my tracks every time I came close to a liquor store? Sour the taste of alcohol on my tongue? Come down from Heaven to personally lecture me on the evils of drugs and alcohol? That part wasn’t so laid out for me.

In her talk, she got my attention right away by saying “there is no way we’d ever think of treating a person with any other disease by suggesting that they first admit they were powerless”. That’s not an exact quote, it was more like, if anyone suggested I treat my illness that way, I’d kick them out of the room… That made sense to me.

I didn’t like the notion that when an addict (I use the term addict to include alcoholics, compulsive eaters etc just because it’s easier for me to write) had a relapse, there was very little in the way of consequences. Sure there are the natural consequences of the behavior but as far as family and support, the reaction (if you subscribe to the notion of addiction being a disease) is mostly, if not entirely, encouraging. Just pick up where you left off. It wasn’t you, it was the disease… I’m not suggesting you berate anyone for a relapse, that won’t help… AND, drugs (or whatever the harmful behavior) does not exist without the person. Heroin has never robbed anyone at gunpoint. A fifth of vodka was never pulled over for drunk driving… See where I’m going? We do have some control.

And, I get it. It is REALLY HARD. That’s why we need support groups and sponsors and activities to keep us engaged. There are far too many practicing and deceased individuals who want(ed) to quit and it didn’t happen. Natalie wanted to quit. She had quit… and, there is a reason I don’t have any regrets about how we as a family, handled “it” (her addiction). Like someone said to me earlier, “when you have the flu, that’s not the time I want to hear about how washing my hands will help me in the future”.

We couldn’t stay with her 24/7. Or even if we did, there’s no guarantee she would’ve stayed clean. I know I talked about this already and I don’t mean to ramble…

My point is, in addition to Caroline explaining her viewpoint (which by the way, odd as it may seem, really was a very non-judgmental way of looking at things. It was more just fact to her, let’s figure out where the problem is so we can find a working solution) there was an article I read that looks at addiction as a learning disorder.

Addiction is basically a maladjusted coping method. If we can look at it that way, without the shame and the stigma… acknowledge that yes, a part of the brain is affected but it’s not a degenerative illness we can focus on the recovery aspect. We can STOP debating the cause and concentrate on re-learning.

Caroline Myss has videos on YouTube, this particular one was part of a paid course so I can’t create a link to it. I will include the article about school of thought on addiction being a learning disorder though.

The NY Times “Can You Get Over an Addiction?”

What are your thoughts on addiction? Or your views on how addicts are treated? Do you have any ideas on how to make things better? I’d love to hear from you in the comments section!

Ps: I am still doing the GoFundMe campaign to help #EndtheEpidemic and #ShameEndsWithMe event to be held on October 15th, 2016. Time is TBD. If you can help with a donation or a share of the link, I’d really appreciate it!

EndtheEpidemic

Thanks so much! ❤

Because Of Patton Oswalt

Ok, I’ll admit it. I thought I was doing a pretty good job expressing what my grief feels like to me. I felt like I knew it intimately enough to write about it from the inside out. I felt like a competent tour guide on a very macabre ride… and maybe I have been. But this morning I read a post from Patton Oswalt that skewered me. He expressed his grief in such a way, I felt new pain. Or the old pain felt new. It wasn’t a bad thing, in fact I am grateful to get an outside perspective… even when the conclusion is the same. It’s like taking a different route to a familiar destination. And anything different at this point, is good.

What struck me about Oswalt’s posting was how beautifully he displayed his agony despite some somewhat crass visuals.

“Thanks, grief.” He starts.

“Thanks for making depression look like the buzzing little bully it always was. Depression is the tallest kid in the 4th grade, dinging rubber bands off the back of your head and feeling safe on the playground, knowing that no teacher is coming to help you.

But grief? Grief is Jason Statham holding that 4th grade bully’s head in a toilet and then fucking the teacher you’ve got a crush on in front of the class. Grief makes depression cower behind you and apologize for being such a dick.”

I love words. All words. Even the ugly, offensive ones… (actually, I tend to favor those). Seeing emotions with such a jarring example, it kinda reminded me that I am still alive. For a few minutes, in someone else’s grief, I was grateful to be feeling such exquisite pain.

I know I’m depressed. I know I am grieving. I forget sometimes that I am still alive. I get so beaten down by all the sorrow, even to have that heightened sense of … anything at all felt like a blessing.

And, maybe that’s only a part of it.

Patton Oswalt lost his world when he lost his wife.

I lost a big part of my life when I lost Natalie.

Sometimes when I get so caught up in my misery, it’s hard to remember I am not alone. I don’t have to struggle alone. People around me want to help and feel good about being able to help.

“But 102 days at the mercy of grief and loss feels like 102 years and you have shit to show for it. You will not be physically healthier. You will not feel “wiser.” You will not have “closure.” You will not have “perspective” or “resilience” or “a new sense of self.” You WILL have solid knowledge of fear, exhaustion and a new appreciation for the randomness and horror of the universe. And you’ll also realize that 102 days is nothing but a warm-up for things to come.

And…

You will have been shown new levels of humanity and grace and intelligence by your family and friends. They will show up for you, physically and emotionally, in ways which make you take careful note, and say to yourself, “Make sure to try to do that for someone else someday.” Complete strangers will send you genuinely touching messages on Facebook and Twitter, or will somehow figure out your address to send you letters which you’ll keep and re-read ’cause you can’t believe how helpful they are. And, if you’re a parent? You’ll wish you were your kid’s age, because the way they embrace despair and joy are at a purer level that you’re going to have to reconnect with, to reach backwards through years of calcified cynicism and ironic detachment.”

This is one of the things I will re-read, ’cause I can’t believe how helpful it is. To remind me that I am not crazy, not alone.

Thank you so much, Patton Oswalt, for showing and sharing your grief. I am so very grateful.

To read Oswalt’s complete posting, click here:

Thanks, grief

 

Why I Write

Sorry I’m kinda phoning it in tonight, long weekend equals little brain power and almost zero original thoughts. “Why I Write” is written by Terry Tempest Williams and sums up exactly how I feel. This brings me to tears each time I read it. I hope you love it as much as I do!

I’ll try to post an original entry before Wednesday!

Why I Write by Terry Tempest Williams

I write to make peace with the things I cannot control. I write to
create fabric in a world that often appears black and white. I write to
discover. I write to uncover. I write to meet my ghosts. I write to begin
a dialogue. I write to imagine things differently and in imagining things
differently perhaps the world will change. I write to honor beauty. I
write to correspond with my friends. I write as a daily act of improvisation.
I write because it creates my composure. I write against power
and for democracy. I write myself out of my nightmares and into my
dreams. I write in a solitude born out of community. I write to the
questions that shatter my sleep. I write to the answers that keep me
complacent. I write to remember. I write to forget. I write to the music
that opens my heart. I write to quell the pain. I write to migrating
birds with the hubris of language. I write as a form of translation. I
write with the patience of melancholy in winter. I write because it
allows me to confront that which I do not know. I write as an act of
faith. I write as an act of slowness. I write to record what I love in the
face of loss. I write because it makes me less fearful of death. I write
as an exercise in pure joy. I write as one who walks on the surface of
a frozen river beginning to melt. I write out of my anger and into
my passion. I write from the stillness of night anticipating-always
anticipating. I write to listen. I write out of silence. I write to soothe
the voices shouting inside me, outside me, all around. I write because
of the humor of our condition as humans. I write because I believe in
words. I write because I do not believe in words. I write because it is
a dance with paradox. I write because you can play on the page like
a child left alone in sand. I write because it belongs to the force of the
moon: high tide, low tide. I write because it is the way I take long
walks. I write as a bow to wilderness. I write because I believe it can
create a path in darkness. I write because as a child I spoke a different
language. I write with a knife carving each word through the generosity
of trees. I write as ritual. I write because I am not employable. I
write out of my inconsistencies. I write because then I do not have to
speak. I write with the colors of memory. I write as a witness to what
I have seen. I write as a witness to what I imagine. I write by grace
and grit. I write out of indigestion. I write when I am starving. I write
when I am full. I write to the dead. I write out of the body. I write to
put food on the table. I write on the other side of procrastination. I
write for the children we never had. I write for the love of ideas. I
write for the surprise of a sentence. I write with the belief of alchemists.
I write knowing I will always fail. I write knowing words always fall
short. I write knowing I can be killed by my own words, stabbed by
syntax, crucified by both understanding and misunderstanding. I write
out of ignorance. I write by accident. I write past the embarrassment
of exposure. I keep writing and suddenly, I am overcome by the sheer
indulgence, (the madness,) the meaninglessness, the ridiculousness of
this list. I trust nothing especially myself and slide head first into the
familiar abyss of doubt and humiliation and threaten to push the delete
button on my way down, or madly erase each line, pick up the paper
and rip it into shreds-and then I realize, it doesn’t matter, words are
always a gamble, words are splinters from cut glass. I write because
it is dangerous, a bloody risk, like love, to form the words, to say the
words, to touch the source, to be touched, to reveal how vulnerable
we are, how transient.
I write as though I am whispering in the ear of the one I love.