I'm practicing this morning, just writing. Without my usual need to correct myself as I go. Another lesson from Julia Cameron I will forever be grateful for in my life. I've learned, I can always go back and fix anything that makes a mess of the page later. For me, this practice is symbolic of my own life.
I address head on, in often misunderstood ways by others, any issues in my own space that need fixing. So much of the judgement leveled on me by the only two people who really matter anymore in terms of opinion of me, my wife and my mother, is leveled against me through so much misinterpretation of my inner motivation and intent related to our experience in life with my Addiction and PTSD.
I'm actually still, very angry at them both, for not ever fully demonstrating the faith in me that is finally solid in my inner-space in terms of how I deal with my personal issues in life. I share this bluntly to them both today, out of respect for both of them actually. Letting them both know, that they were fully heard. While at the same time, letting them both know where I personally stand.
For years now, in terms of any problem behaviour related to our collective experience with addiction, I realize and accept empathically my behaviour through it all has wounded them both, very deeply. For years now, my precious angels, I've loved you both more than I was able to love myself. You've both been preaching directly to the choir for years. I stand with my own apology to you both on this. Forgiveness towards me, for all of it. This remains entirely up to you.
A more recent set of lessons came with my loyal connection to an online education service, Coursera. An English Composition class, 'Achieving Expertise' just ended for me last week. It is the latest in a long series of university level courses Coursera, and in this case Duke University, has blessed my journey with to help me gain up-to-date knowledge contributing heavily to my full remission in recovery for bothPTSD and Addictions. Co-morbid conditions, relative to trauma in my life. Addiction developing as a self-medication issue, for me.
I thank God, every day for the gift of Coursera in my life. Through them, lacking any financial means to pay for real university, I've found all the educational material I've needed to understand both of these menacing conditions. Right down to the genetic and cellular level in the human body. I plan to profile Coursera and other online education services in a future blog. For now I'll only add that I'm finishing a course through them today, from Emory University, the title of which is 'The Addicted Brain'.
That is a good thing. This morning, like yesterday, I discovered very quickly where I'm heading in this piece of writing. I'm dragging us all, right into the face of the serpent we name Addiction, the true demon responsible now for the apparent demise in relationships currently standing in recovery's way. I'd hoped my family would faithfully stand with me to the bitter-end. I'm speaking directly of the angelic relationship I still personally emotionally celebrate with my wife. I'm sorry, sweet angel. No more running away. This is the serpent, Addiction. Together or apart, we both know in other circles it will remain a very tragic part still of your own personal life.
This is the dragon I'm here to slay this morning. Trust me, serpent. Like all who've stood in front of me in my past. Today my friend you are publicly exposed. You will die. When I finally find courage to expose such demons to the world, I've learned that their power is yanked forever away. It's time I exposed this demon symbolically in my own life for what it is.
My definition of Addiction, I've ultimately adopted now as a collage of sorts from the input of too many heroes in my life to name. The ultimate hero I continue to follow, lies in the published works of Dr. Gabor Mate. So here it is, the definition of addiction I use to ensure I fully understand the demon within myself.
Addiction is any compulsive behaviour, that in spite of us experiencing negative consequences in our lives for living with the behaviour, we can't shake of the need for the addictive stuff, whatever that stuff may be. Therefore my belief stands next to Dr. Mate, who not only treated addicts for years working for the Portland Housing Society as staff physician, he also examined addiction within himself. Experience for me remains in my life the ultimate authority on any subject. I will continue to study out of my own innate curiosity, many things. An additional blessing of free online university education I celebrate today.
When we speak of addiction, Dr. Mate and I, we understand that any substance or behaviour can develop addictive patterns in our lives. This can be the substances we spend most of our societal focus on: cocaine, opiates, marijuana and other more socially acceptable drugs such as alcohol and nicotine. Addictive patterns of behaviour however, can form in us over compulsions to more seemingly benign drugs of choice. When it comes to understanding our own behaviour relative to addictions, it is our thinking through ourselves and in other relationships from which the dragon nourishes itself best.
Some of us become addicted to food, sex, money and power. Dr. Mate shares his personal experience with his drug of choice. Shopping. He's written to this compulsion in his personal life now many times. Any readers out there, who just felt their own stomachs role over in shame with this revelation of the truth? His best work on the subject of addiction, comes through his direct experience, getting to know addicted human beings, living in so much trouble in Vancouver BC's Downtown Eastside. The title of this profound work, for those interested in reading it, titled, In the Realm of Hungry Ghost's: Close Encounters With Addiction, is available for sale through Amazon Canada along with his many other brilliant works.
Dr. Mate and I both believe that power, drugs, alcohol even relationships can develop in us addictive patterns of use. In fact, in my personal life, I know someone who right now is suffering through the aftermath of a relationship pattern of self-abuse in her personal life. Dr. Mate taught me that it can be our own emotions and stories about ourselves (drama) that we become most easily addicted to in life.
Addiction is first and foremost, a brain dysfunction for us. What I've learned is we aren't actually addicted to the substance or life choices directly. All of the potential substances we might find ourselves addicted to, actually create a more difficult scenario for us inside of ourselves to contend with. With any and all addictions, we end up in the end addicted, not to the substance or behaviour of choice, but to the brain chemistry that the substance or set of behaviours works on in terms of dopamine neurotransmission activity in the brain.
Take cocaine for instance, my now admitted serpent of choice. Cocaine is a pleasure inducing chemical. It acts in the body by blocking the re-uptake of dopamine in both the lab-rats used to study this phenomenon, and when studies are further validated, we'll soon learn this also applies in the human brain.
We've heard of antidepressants that are selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors. Cocaine is actually, a very selective, highly effective, dopamine re-uptake inhibitor in the human brain.
Most addictive substances are now recognized as working with our pleasure centers inside. Even nicotine does that to some degree. Alcohol, actually a depressant drug, still acts some suggest through interaction with these same neurotransmission processes. The only differences with any substances we might find ourselves addicted to lies in the actual mechanisms of neurotransmission, which are specific to the substances themselves.
My addiction issues are not unique. When we get down to the medicine of addiction, all addicts are seeking pleasure or are using what ever their drug of choice might be to quell inner physical or emotional and psychological pain. In his book, Hungry Ghosts, a must read in my opinion for any addict and their families, Dr. Mate points his finger at trauma in early childhood as the root cause of all the social issues pertaining to the lives of the most studied and marginalized among us. Those living in BC in the Downtown Eastside. These, I believe, are our greatest teachers. If only we could all learn to stop throwing human-beings away
In the Downtown East-side of Vancouver, the visibly mentally-ill and addicted are living lives of so much hardship because we continue to insist on tossing their 'sorry asses' into the street. This continues to be society's approach. Available Statistics from the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in Canada, points out that a very high percentage of Canadians, actually believe addicts deserve such treatment. That they deserve in life, everything they get.
Most of us, believe this is where they all belong. As an addict myself, living with a diagnosed mental-illness. I simply don't hold the luxury of such a belief in my own life anymore. Truth does in fact, ultimately set us all totally free.
Swallow this bitter pill, I suggest. If you to want to find a release from your personal bondage to our societal perspective on life and addiction. Swallowing the truth is unfortunately the only way, trust me. The approach now of decriminalization, medicalization and harm reduction initiatives is the only means left to us to seriously combat the issues of homelessness and addiction, so highly visible to us as a problem in our streets.
As you've already likely figured out. I have in my life, many mentors. Some, I don't' know personally. These are the authors and speakers, teachers in the world who I've learned from along the way. I needed to seek my own helpers throughout most of my recovery. Rather than simply seek counsel from an addictions counselor locally, which I've done all along. I sought counsel through deep education and through the work of others in the field, such as Dr. Gabor Mate.
Today, I respect and value three people I've gone to for counsel locally. Out of respect for their privacy, I will not name these people here. Unlike Mr. Charlie Sheen or Mr. Robert Ford, I've taken my addictions issues, very seriously. In spite of what the demon living still inside my wife and mother might be trying to get them to believe. Even these two gentleman, in my opinion, deserve a greater amount of public compassion than our people-watchers in society seem to be willing to give.
I worked with myself through all my helpers in my own way and in my own time to learn all I needed to know. I did so to protect myself and my family from a lifetime of failures. Failures so many I know make through our dysfunctional, societal approach.
I know many who end up stuck in experiencing cyclical rejection of society. Unable to work or participate through only judgements due to their pasts. Rejection that long after an addict is clean, should no longer impose any punishments from society at all. Yet, as we see in the lives of those of us who land in prison. With addiction many of us choose to continue punishing our addict-companions, long after they are officially released and have done their time as justice for societies benefit. All this continued rejection serves the addict, is to reinforce the shame imposed upon his spirit from inside of himself. Ultimately, this will cause an unnecessary relapse. A relapse due to societal pressures, frankly WE CHOOSE TO IMPOSE.
These pressures are imposed by many faces in the world. First of all, imposed by those following us most closely from right inside our own homes. Most often societies more-judgmental-heathens, have never challenged themselves with the blessing of digging deeply enough into the garbage living in their own souls. These are the seemingly dominant monkeys in our world. Animals who use the suffering of others, to stand higher-up the hierarchy than the so-called low-life addicts their own inner-judgments allow them to bully.
Personally, with my own experience with addiction, I was not willing to accept societies judgements. I'm coming out of it, still unwilling to accept this fate. Fighting-back to save myself acts now as a continued blessing in terms of advocacy and activism for this aspect of my trauma experience. Today I'm telling-it- as-it-is, to make sure I never forget the pain of it all.
I offer up this part of my journey for anyone else caught up in the addictions trap, and to their families so wounded by the experience themselves. In terms of the criminal behaviour that addicts are forced to engage in to support their habit. I point my own finger, directly at prohibition as responsible for that. Given the right understanding, compassion and support, human beings can overcome anything thrown at them in life. I personally support initiatives such as the Housing First Strategies currently recommended by the Mental Health Commission of Canada.
With these measures adopted in Canadian society and my own hypothesis of addictions issues now fully filtered through my personal experience. I believe persons living withmental health and addictions challenges will have a very real shot at healing. This is an approach long-overdue in my opinion. I'm certain Dr. Mate and my previous counseling relationships would agree.
My wife needs to hear this, today. My mother needs to accept these revelations of my truth too. I didn't waste a minute of my time in recovery. Not for PTSD. Certainly not for addictions, the most dangerous to all of us of the two. I've adopted a very clear position for myself. I'm an addict, by nature. To succeed further in life, with integrity and with no further evidence of hypocracy in my personal life. I can't afford to hold any other position on these two issues, than I've been graced to personally adopt.
In terms of this societal understanding, I need to tell you both that in terms of law and order, morality and criminality related to drug use. Prohibition and judicial, punitive measures to eradicate addiction from the planet have failed. Today, law enforcement itself is slowly starting to agree.
I direct all readers here, to take a look at a Veteran Law Enforcement organization, LEAP. I'll simply share their convictions on the subject. Personally, I will share only that I too support these convictions, so eloquently stated as their collective mission. This organization represents the reasoned position of retired police veterans, in response through their own experiences battling this honourable, societal cause:
"We believe that drug prohibition is the true cause of much of the social and personal damage that has historically been attributed to drug use. It is prohibition that makes these drugs so valuable – while giving criminals a monopoly over their supply. Driven by the huge profits from this monopoly, criminal gangs bribe and kill each other, law enforcers, and children. Their trade is unregulated and they are, therefore, beyond our control."
"History has shown that drug prohibition reduces neither use nor abuse. After a rapist is arrested, there are fewer rapes. After a drug dealer is arrested, however, neither the supply nor the demand for drugs is seriously changed. The arrest merely creates a job opening for an endless stream of drug entrepreneurs who will take huge risks for the sake of the enormous profits created by prohibition. Prohibition costs taxpayers tens of billions of dollars every year, yet 40 years and some 40 million arrests later, drugs are cheaper, more potent and far more widely used than at the beginning of this futile crusade".
"We believe that by eliminating prohibition of all drugs for adults and establishing appropriate regulation and standards for distribution and use, law enforcement could focus more on crimes of violence, such as rape, aggravated assault, child abuse and murder, making our communities much safer. We believe that sending parents to prison for non-violent personal drug use destroys families. We believe that in a regulated and controlled environment, drugs will be safer for adult use and less accessible to our children. And we believe that by placing drug abuse in the hands of medical professionals instead of the criminal justice system, we will reduce rates of addiction and overdose deaths." Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (2014).
So my own angels in life, moving forward from our experience with addiction. This is where I will forever stand. I'm now clean and sober, and have been now for a very long-enough time. I can take cocaine or leave it now and am wise enough not to choose to feed my own addictions in life again. I personally am no longer afraid.
However, I do respect you both enough to allow you to develop your own personal position on the issues we've lived. I want you both to remain my angels of recovery on this earth. If I've been to much for you to handle? You need to make your own decisions on what you need in your personal lives moving on. If that means I'm out of your life. Trust me. I fully understand.
Mom and My Sweet Angel. I love you ahead of myself. I've taken all the responsibility for your personal feelings towards me on this issue now that I intend to. The rest, I'm sorry to have to say, is entirely up to you. After today, other than any opportunities that may come to support professionally a person with either of my two available lifeboats. I will not discuss my addictions with you further from here.
I will support you, to improve your personal lives as best I humanly can. Moving forward, I understand we do so within the limits that your own emotional issues related to the hell I've put you through will allow. I leave it to you to decide, what you wish to adopt, personally understand and accept. Just know I love you both. This will remain, the best I am able to do.
My personal issues with PTSD and Addictions today are served notice. Both dragons, you are today symbolically assassinated. In my personal life, you are both now, officially dead.
In closing, I'll leave you all with the words that developed this piece. These words of Albert Einstein will remain forever dear to my own soul. And, I'll leave you some additional words, from my psychologist hero in life, Dr. Carl Gustav Jung.
“Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.” ~ Albert Einstein
"Knowing your own darkness is the best method for dealing with the darkness of other people."
~ Carl Gustav Jung
Darren Michael Gregory. August, 10th, 2014. Darren Is A Community and Workplace Traumatologist, currently living in Creston, British Columbia, Canada.
Addictive Thinking Patterns: Lake-View Health: Internet Resource: 2014
Addictions List: Addictions.Com: Internet Resource: 2014
Allen Brain Atlas: Internet Resource: 2014
Breaking Ground in Understanding the Neuro-chemical and Molecular Aspects of Addiction: Internet Resource: Cambridge Neuroscience: 2014
Cocaine Addiction: Drug Addiction Treatment: Elements Behavioural Health: Internet Resource: 2014
Coursera: Duke University: Emory University: Online Education Resource: 2014
Depression: Major Depressive Disorder: Mayo Clinic: Internet Resource: 2014
Dopamine Neurotransmitter: Psychologist World: Internet Resource: 2014
Dopamine Re-uptake Inhibitor: Wikipedia Encyclopedia: Internet Resource: 2014
Dr. Gabor Mate: Author and Speaker: Internet Resource: 2014
How Does Nicotine Act in the Brain: NIDA for Kids: The Science Behind Drug Abuse: Internet Resource: 2014
How Drugs Effect Neurotransmitters: The Brain From Top to Bottom: Internet Resource: 2014
Law Enforcement Against Prohibition: Internet Resource: 2014
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder: A Primer Darren Gregory: July, 2014
The Truth About Alcohol: Foundation for a Drug Free World: Internet Resource: 2014
Understanding Addiction: How Addiction Hijacks the Brain: Internet Resource: HelpGuide: 2014
Disclaimer: These materials and resources are presented for educational purposes only. They are not a substitute for informed medical advice or training. Do not use this information to diagnose or treat a health problem without consulting a qualified health or mental health care provider. If you have concerns, contact your health care provider, mental health professional, or your community health centre.
Darren Gregory © 2014: All Rights Reserved
Certified: Community & Workplace Trauma Educator Traumatology Institute.
Associate Member American Academy Of Experts In Traumatic Stress.