The Escape Road – Is addiction a disease or a choice?

MIRAGE MEME II

Imagine there is a crowd of onlookers next to a lake where there are people in the water who are drowning. Instead of throwing a rope out to the drowning people to pull them in and save their lives, everybody just stands at the shore of the lake arguing about whether the drowning people fell into the lake or jumped in. You see where I’m going with that? Both sides of the disease vs. choice argument contain elements of truth, which fuels the fire of the circular debate which is usually just steeped in dogmatic fallacy. Meanwhile, according to the Center for Disease Control, 72,000 people lost their lives in 2017 just to drug overdose (not including deaths from alcohol abuse). So in effect, 72,000 people “drowned” – that’s more people than most football stadiums can hold.

Is it a choice? Of course – nobody was born with a bottle of vodka in their hands or a heroin needle in their arms. At some point, in everybody single person’s life, they made a choice to take a risk and do something they know they should not do. For instance, many took the risk of having unprotected sex when they were in high school. Most people in their lives gambled for the first time, smoked that first cigarette, drank that first beer or shot of whiskey, smoked that first joint, etc. People made a choice to take a risk. For most people, the choice to take that risk did not result in a life shattering series of events going forward. But for the millions of us, whether we fell into substance abuse, were pushed into substance abuse, or gladly jumped into substance abuse, we continued to make the choice to use those substances, even after it became an imminent and immediate threat to our life and threatened to destroy the lives of our families. So technically yes, we made a conscious choice.

Is it a disease? The policy of the American Medical Association under the “disease theory”, for both psychiatric and medical sections of their policies, states that addiction and alcoholism are diseases: “The AMA endorses the proposition that drug dependencies, including alcoholism, are diseases and that their treatment is a legitimate part of medical practice.” But arguments have been made that those classifications were made for economic or political reasons, in particular third party reimbursement (insurance) for the treatment of addiction and alcoholism. There have also been several recent studies that challenge the classification of addiction or alcoholism as a disease. But right now, almost all health organizations classify addiction/alcoholism as a disease. So technically yes, it is a disease, or at minimum an “illness”.

So both sides of the disease/choice debate can claim legitimate support for their positions. In reality, it is technically both a disease and a choice, or at least a choice that leads to or becomes a disease or an illness (or whatever it may be called). But in reality it is much more easily and simply defined than just a disease or a choice, because it may be both and it may be neither.

Most people don’t like the feeling of loss of control created by heavy alcohol or drug use, or the sickness that follows, so they rarely ever return to that place. But for the rest of us millions of people, the euphoria generated by alcohol or drugs created a neural pathway (a mind road) to a euphoric escape from the reality of life – “The Escape Road”. We became drawn back to The Escape Road like moths to a light. There are a variety of opinions and another hornet’s nest of debate under the root cause behind that predisposition – genetic vs. environment, nature vs. nurture, inherited vs. acquired, etc. Whatever the cause, for those of us who have abused substances, we found the feeling of euphoria and the relief of The Escape Road something that was almost impossible to resist. Drugs and alcohol provided a magic carpet ride away from mental pain, physical pain, even spiritual pain. It temporarily soothed the misery of bonafide mental illnesses like PTSD from childhood or adulthood trauma, Bipolar Disorders, Generalized Anxiety Disorders and others. So once we had a taste of that relief and the euphoria of walking on The Escape Road, we found ourselves back on it until it became a habit, then a physical/mental dependency, and ultimately an addiction.

Once The Escape Road was heavily paved and we were in full blown addiction, the shame of our addiction, and the guilt of our activities, gets added to the heavy mental illness baggage many of were carrying around before we became addicted in the first place. So we became even more thoroughly entrenched in traveling on The Escape Road to obtain relief. While we may have wanted to step off, we knew that doing so would result in, not only the return of the weight of the pain we were trying to obtain relief from, but also the addition of the heavy anxiety and horrible misery of withdrawal. In the case of drugs like alcohol, withdrawing from it could be life-threatening. Our minds are intuitively aware of this, so a fight or flight response would be triggered when faced with sudden withdrawal. When all of these things are taken into consideration, when someone is in full blown addiction, the decision to continue using may arguably not even be a choice, but rather a natural survival-type auto response. We were willing to do whatever it took to stay on The Escape Road, including lying, cheating, stealing, hurting ourselves, hurting others, risking our lives, even risking other people’s lives. None of this is intended to provide a justification for substance abuse nor is it intended to provide some rationalization to the millions of people who lost friends, family, and people they loved to addiction or alcoholism. Those people who suffered loss are filled with deep intense sadness, burning anger, smoldering resentment, agonizing frustration, and a host of other horrible emotions they are feeling. Which is completely understandable and heart breaking. But maybe a modicum of understanding in how this happened might help at least take a small step towards placating some of these emotions and provide at least a little peace.

When a person is drowning in the lake of addiction to drugs or alcohol, they cannot be “enabled” because enabling them is like pushing their heads under the water. But those people who are drowning need to have a rope thrown to them so they can be helped to make the decision to pull themselves out of the water. People need education on what can be done to help those who are struggling with addiction make that choice, and to help them without enabling them. Once people have made the choice to recover, hopefully with help, there are a variety of different recovery programs and recovery paths that people can follow. There are many arguments and studies on whether abstinence-based recovery is the best approach or not. But for people who have had major issues with addiction to alcohol for example, the idea of returning to it under a controlled drinking or moderation environment could be potentially catastrophic. Because if they are on the path of moderation, which they would argue is not traveling directly on The Escape Road, they are in effect walking along on the shoulder of that road. Major hardships, or a serious of smaller hardships that often coincidentally happen simultaneously, are common to everybody. It is not a question of if, but a question of when. When those hardships happen, The Escape Road would be right at their feet (since they are walking on the shoulder), so then returning to it would be an all-too-easy natural progression and would only take one tiny step up.

The mind will never completely forget the feeling of euphoric escape through drugs or alcohol, so The Escape Road and the knowledge of that escape hatch is always going to be there. It is always possible to be consciously or subconsciously drawn back to it, so a person who has been addicted to substances is never completely “cured”. From that standpoint, a person who has been addicted could be considered permanently “diseased”,  as is a common reference in 12 step programs. There is a recovery catchphrase that says “once an addict, always an addict”. Because the mind will never forget The Escape Road and the feeling of euphoric escape, that catchphrase is not at all inaccurate. I knew someone who had been sober for 25 years, regularly worked a recovery program, was happy with her life, and in a state of well being. One morning, her car was covered with snow from the night before,  she couldn’t find her keys, was late for work, her car wouldn’t start, she was yelled at by her boss, had a bad day besides, and ended up stopping at the liquor store on the way home without even thinking about it. Three days later she was in detox and almost died. The Escape Road is always there.

If we make a decision, hopefully with help, to withdraw from our drug of choice and obtain sobriety, our minds will still never ever forget the feeling of The Escape Road. Fear is one of the worst motivators there is, so fear of drugs/alcohol, or fear of relapse or returning to The Escape Road, may not be the best approach by itself. But even fear can keep people off of that road. A much better approach is using reputable recovery programs, individual therapy, learned coping mechanisms for dealing with life’s difficulties, safe medication for people suffering from mental illnesses, and physical/mental activities that release things like endorphins and natural dopamine. All of these positive things can establish brand new neural pathways, or healthy new highways that the mind can travel on, which allow it to permanently steer clear of The Escape Road. Once we are on the road of recovery, with the proper tools, support and new neural pathways, we are able to always ‘make the choice to avoid the disease’, permanently stay off The Escape Road, and stay on the new healthy mind highways we have paved.

Flirting With Disaster

DEATH BARTENDER II

In some cases, the addiction/alcoholism journey started with binge partying that became habitual and ultimately led to physical and mental addiction and chemical dependence. For many (if not most), the substance abuse was spawned by the need to feed the escape from the reality of pain from deep wounds caused by some past trauma. In any case, we couldn’t wait to ride that magic carpet away from reality every day. Social anxiety disappeared, we went from low self-esteem to superhero, boredom evaporated and life became a giant party, or at least an adventure that was happily tolerable. Right up until that giant balloon of substance abuse exploded and burst our lives and everything in them into flames. The spiral staircase that spun downward into the bottomless hell of addiction all started with the irresistible temptation to escape reality through the artificial euphoria created by drinking, swallowing, smoking or snorting something.

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During my life of addiction, I had conditioned myself to always being able to disconnect from life through the use of substances. If I was having a bad day, I could make it better and if I was having a good day I could make it great. There was always that escape hatch for me to crawl through when I didn’t want to deal with life anymore. When the general anxiety became too much or spiked because of something bad life through at me, boredom took hold, or depression got a grip on me, or anytime the road got rough in any way, I could always jump back onto that train that took me away from it all. Eventually and predictably, my substance abuse and chemical dependence elevator flew through the top floor and ended with me in a coma and not expected to survive. Then that train I was riding derailed and left everything in tatters.

TRAINWRECK

The concept of  substituting a different drug for the drug of choice in my life is something I just cannot wrap my mind around – where I have to justify and rationalize it in my mind by saying that “Well, at least I’m not using my original drug of choice anymore.” Haven’t I still just created a new life of illusion, just on a different path? What happens when life throws a new major hardship onto that new path? Do I seriously think I’m not going to start abusing that new drug? What if that new drug isn’t enough to numb me through this new hardship? I’m still on a road paved by the conditioning of chemical dependence that would eventually circle back to my original drug of choice.

DEAD END II

The same thing goes for me attempting to just use “reduction” and “moderation” of my drug of choice, rationalizing that under the delusion that if I reduced my overall usage, or if I plan on using only a certain amount (even if it’s a large amount) on a given night and adhere to that, I have it all under control. Using the previous example – things might go just fine right up until the point where life puts some major hardship my way, or a compilation of many smaller but significant problems all at the exact same time. Am I naïve enough to think I won’t return to abusing my drug of choice to escape these problems? I’ll be swallowed up into that pit of addiction faster than I can drop a glass. And let’s say I choose the path of “moderation”, and I feel I have all my addictions conquered and under control now – If I really have them under control and I think I’m no longer dependent on drugs or alcohol, THEN WHY DO I FEEL I CAN’T LIVE A HAPPY LIFE WITHOUT THEM?!! I have yet to hear any coherent answers to that question.

Whichever of these tempting paths I think I might lead me to happiness and contentment, wouldn’t I still just be returning to that same mentality of substance use, as a solution to my problems, being a staple of my life? Wouldn’t I just be reverting back to that same old conditioning of being able to escape reality by drinking swallowing, smoking or snorting ‘euphoria drugs’? Aren’t I still just keeping myself in the prison of chemical dependence to those types of drugs? Both paths would eventually lead me right back into that dark pit.

DEATH DRUG DEALER

Everybody’s recovery path is their own business and none of mine, so I’m not criticizing anybody else’s path at all, because I have no right to do so and it’s not my place. I’m only stating my own case for my own path. I’m totally in favor of short term Medically Assisted Treatment (MAT). This isn’t the 1930’s where they strap you to a bed for 30 days until you “dry out”. I also 100% support long term treatment, under dual diagnosis for mental illnesses, using medications for those illnesses, deemed safe by the professional medical community for people with substance abuse history.

Wherever I refer to “chemical dependence” and “euphoria drugs”, I’m specifically talking about all substances, whether legal, illegal or prescription, that are considered by the professional medical community highly addictive and particularly dangerous for people with a substance abuse history, because they create an artificial feeling of sedative euphoria and/or alter reality. For my own personal recovery, because I’ve had substance abuse issues, abstinence from all these types of substances is the only logical path for me.

Conquering life’s problems with a clear unaltered head creates quality character, which strengthens my hope and self-esteem. To be able to look life in the eye and say, “give me your best shot”. As opposed to turning tail and running back to the pretend sanctuary of substance use at the first sign of trouble. No – if I flirt with disaster long enough, I’ll eventually return to that bottomless hell of addiction. Thanks, but no thanks. I love my life and I love life, free from the chains of substance abuse and out of that prison of chemical dependence.

BREAK THE CHAINS

End The Stigma

BREAK FREE MEME

According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), 72,000 people died last year from drug overdose and another estimated 88,000 deaths from alcohol consumption. That’s 160,000 people EVERY YEAR, way more than the largest football stadium could hold – that’s over 400 people EVERY DAY, or over 18 people EVERY HOUR and that number is growing. In fact by the time you’ve finished reading this post another person already died.

Changing the method and manner that addiction/alcoholism is being treated seems to gain little traction and the treatment industry just continues to follow an old textbook, dogmatic paradigm, that obviously is falling way short. Then the inane, senseless debate rages on as to whether it’s a disease or not. Plus the view of the general public seems to be, unless it affects them personally, they couldn’t care less – those weak-willed fools chose their poison so let them rot and die from it. Even within the recovery community of those who have personally gone through addiction or alcoholism, it seems once people have a couple years of sobriety under their belts, empathy and desire to help other people recover seems to wear off and replaced by a general “to each his own” apathy. But that’s because it often seems like there is only so much you can do and what else is to be expected when it feels like the world has cast us all aside and shunned as outcasts who just wanted to take the easy way and escape reality.

Only people who have personally gone through the despair of addiction or alcoholism and the hell of withdrawing understand the courage, resolve and strength it took to recover from it. Change can be sparked by rejecting the stigma that forces us to cloak ourselves in the shadows of anonymity. Where else in history has that happened – where a group of people had a stigma stamped on their foreheads, forcing them to congregate with other people who were given that same stigma? Let that one sink in. It’s easy for those labels to stick to us like toxic barnacles, because we’re usually already trying to set down the guilt and shame baggage of our past. Plus, in a world where privacy is paramount, we often feel compelled to either slink around in secrecy or avoid the recovery world altogether, and just be accepted back into the herd. But if we all start to break free from the stigma and boldly wear our recovery courage as a badge of honor, as a collective, loud voice, more people may take notice, start to listen and real change has a chance to happen in the treatment industry and recovery world.

Over 400 people every single day – 18 people every hour – no longer with us, who will never get a chance to experience life, love or friendship. Then there’s all of the people who loved them and will never get to see them again on this earth. If I’m going to ever feel seriously guilty again about anything in this life, it would be if I sat on my hands and did nothing. We all know the despair of addiction, the hell of withdrawal and how horribly difficult it was to obtain sobriety. We can give help and hope to anybody who is struggling with addiction and we can encourage everybody in recovery by boldly showing that addiction and alcoholism is nothing to be ashamed of. In fact recovering from it is a major accomplishment to be extremely proud of.  We can be just as courageous in ending the stigma as we were in becoming sober in the first place. Because we can all be extremely grateful that we’re still here and that we didn’t end up a statistic on a CDC chart.

Necessary Narcissism?

NARCISSISTS II

Almost everybody knows someone who meets this definition of Narcissist Personality Disorder (NPD). But many of us have past abuse, neglect and humiliation at the hands of someone with an NPD that left us with deep wounds. We then had to become our own cheerleaders, and developed a self-absorption to fill in what was missing or damaged and to counter feelings of unworthiness. Some of us also created a constant need for approval from others to prop up and maintain a fragile sense of self-worth, fractured by our past. We developed our own “necessary narcissism” as a coping mechanism. It also created a war within, because that necessary narcissism was in constant conflict with our natural tendency of empathy towards others.

For many of us, that road of self-absorption led to alcohol or drugs as an escape from this turmoil – to numb the pain and silence that internal voice that told us we’re not good enough. If we were fortunate enough to get on the road to recovery, we were required to engage in significant self-focus and again returned to that necessary narcissism to fix what was wrong. Then once we made repairs, we were feeling good about ourselves for the first time in our lives. It was an intoxicating feeling in and of itself, and it became a need, often dependent on a steady validation by others to keep this newfound self-esteem going, which then kept us in the prison of what other people think of us and stuck in the tar pit trap of that necessary narcissism.

But once we’ve traveled far enough down the road of recovery, we unhitch ourselves from what once was a necessary narcissism. Now we’re just content with the work in progress we are. We disconnect from that need for approval and validation. We compare ourselves only to who we were in the past, and not to others. We can just be ourselves without thinking we are better that anyone else. We hook ourselves up to a new train that heads down the tracks of pure empathy towards others, with contentment and deep appreciation for what we have in the moment, including ourselves.

NARCISSISM III

 

 

Pessimists, Optimists, Realists – Are they right? Are they wrong?

PESSIMISM IV

Most people, in general, have attitudes that fit into the category of “pessimist”, “optimist” or “realist”. Some might consider themselves “idealists” or “opportunists”, but as a whole almost all fall into one of the other three categories and display the attributes of one or more of these three in their lives,  sometimes all three. In reality, there may be some merit to all three of these, but none are right (or wrong), just in and of themselves.

Here are very generalized, extreme, metaphorical examples of how pessimists, optimists and realists might view a blind date:

THE PESSIMIST“I just know they’re going to be a dumpster fire or they’re going to hate me. If by some bizarre fluke we both like each other and get married, it’s going to end in divorce and, as usual, my heart will get broken, so why bother going on this date in the first place?” In this example, they would find it difficult to envision love or being loved because they are always living the worst possible future in advance before it even happens. The pessimist prefers to swim in the murky pond of assuming the worst because that way they’re either going to be right or pleasantly surprised. But is it wrong for anyone to prepare themselves for the possibility of bad things so they’re not taken by surprise if they happen?

THE OPTIMIST“It’s going to be love at first sight. We’re going to get married, have 2.5 children, live in a farm house in the country, surrounded by flowers with a white picket fence, and a dog, maybe a cat and a horse too, where nothing bad will ever happen, and we’ll live happily together ever after” In this example they would jump into love head first, but if it went south, they may be unable to cope with it, and crumble like a cracker, because they never took into consideration the possibility that things wouldn’t workout in the Hallmark Channel manner they thought it would. They would be completely unprepared for anything bad happening. But what’s wrong with making positive assumptions and having a bright outlook on the future?

THE REALIST“There’s at best a 50/50 chance we’ll find each other mutually attractive. If we do develop a relationship and get married, there’s less than a 50 percent statistical probability of that marriage surviving. Therefore I should proceed with very guarded optimism in this statistically unlikely and illogical pursuit of love.” In this example, they are so wrapped up in the actual consideration of the exact likelihood of success that they can’t really enjoy the present. Plus they can end up with such a surgical precision approach to everything where things like love can become just a surface feeling without much depth. But doesn’t it make perfect sense to look at things with a realistic view of the possible outcome before pursuing it?

In all three of these examples, everything is being played way forward with little consideration for the reality of the present. By themselves, each of these miss the mark, because only an extreme future is considered, under specific all-or-nothing anticipation, while the present, with all it may have to offer, is overlooked. But if positive elements of each of these are cherry picked and combined, they can provide a healthy view.

THE PREPAREDIST

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“Preparedist” is a word I made up but it accurately describes my approach to life. I blend positive elements from pessimism, optimism and realism with a healthy set of ideals while I look for new opportunities for growth, even in the face of difficulties. I’m a Preparedist. I’m married, so my ‘blind date’ days are luckily in the rear view mirror. Instead I’ll use my cat as an example, for lack of a better one.

BB

His name is B.B. – he’s 8 years old with probably no more than another 8 years at best. When I got him as a kitten, his entire body fit in the palm of my hand. Today he’s a 14 pound bruiser who kicks my ass when I rough house with him (and I have the scars to prove it). He is my pal and was my only friend, at my lowest point of despair, when I was abandoned by everyone who knew me, because of addiction. Now I could lament the fact that he’ll only be around for maybe another 8 years. Or I could just pretend like he’ll live forever. I could also precisely determine exactly how long he is likely to be around and always count the days. But instead, I just have a deep appreciation for him being with me today, and I think how fortunate and grateful I am that I may still have another 8 years with him, especially vis a vis how it would be without him. I also have plans to maybe get another kitten (or two) when he is no longer with me, which will give me new opportunities to form a brand new love for brand new friends. I have a plan of action in the event of bad things, I’m anticipating only good things in the future, and I’m fully enjoying a happy present, deeply rooted in reality. A Preparedist.

We don’t ever want to be overly prepared or prophets of doom about things we have no control over. Nor do we want to be cloud heads floating along, oblivious and unprepared for the possibility of anything bad ever happening. Full attention should always be given to the present and enjoying the moment, in gratitude for where we are and what we have right now, totally engaged in reality. When we’re prepared for and have a plan to deal with the worst, but always positively anticipating and hoping for the best, while fully enjoying and appreciating the present, and on the lookout for new possibilities, we are living life to the fullest and best, all while protecting our well being, as Preparedists.

preparedist

A Relapse Carol

GHOST OF RELAPSE VI

The AODA groups I speak to are overflowing right now. The relapse assassin seems to be working overtime, picking off recovering alcoholics and addicts, who were overwhelmed by temptation or trauma, shame or blame, guilt or jilt. My doorway was certainly not passed over by the dark angel of relapse during my past recovery. I found that I needed persistent vigilance on my part – I needed ongoing, meaningful mental exercise, so I didn’t became complacent, plump, slow and easy prey for the relapse wolf. I regularly utilize the features of rewind, pause and fast forward in my recovery and allow the three relapse ghosts of past, present and future to walk me through the “carol” of my recovery.

THE GHOST OF RELAPSE PAST

One of the first monsters to conquer in recovery is to stop forever living in the past or reliving the past. It’s counterproductive and self-destructive to be constantly agonizing over past mistakes, failures, bad choices, etc. Those were all just part of our life story that shaped us into becoming who we are today and they don’t really need reliving. However, when it comes to general recovery and especially temptation to use, it can be beneficial use the ‘rewind feature’, and remember back to how we became alcoholics and/or drug addicts in the first place – when physical/mental addiction and the overwhelming desire to escape reality buried our desire to live in it. We can also remember holding that crushing weight of despair as we sunk to our rock bottom. If we had sobriety and caved in to that last relapse, we can remember how we felt ashamed, frustrated and disappointed with ourselves. But all these journeys backward are of good use only if we glimpse at the past and never stare at it because where we are going is way more important than where we’ve been.

Driving vehicle through Grand Teton National Park

THE GHOST OF RELAPSE PRESENT

When faced with a current temptation to use, we can use the ‘pause feature’ to have an “attitude of gratitude” and be grateful for exactly where we are and how we feel today vis a vis swimming in that sea of shame, guilt, frustration and despair of  yesterday’s addiction.  We can think about how we do matter and are needed by the people in our lives where we are right now, not where we could be or should be if we would have done this or didn’t do that.

LIFE II

We can consider that whatever bad things might be currently happening in our lives, they don’t compare to that rock bottom of our past. We can use the past to give us appreciation for the present, to appreciate ourselves for how much we have been through, and are still standing.

STILL STANDING

THE GHOST OF RELAPSE YET TO COME

Working recovery isn’t all about just constantly thinking about how to avoid using or  perpetually thinking about how to suppress the desire to use, because both just keep the mind revolving around using and are different eggs from the same chicken. It also isn’t about just working recovery while we give the rest of life our partial attention. But when faced with a “trigger”, we can use the ‘fast forward feature’ and play a relapse forward, because we all know from experience exactly how that would play out – we know that if we relapse, it is absolutely guaranteed to make whatever problems there may be today 10 times worse tomorrow. As long as we’re still alive, it’s always possible to dig a deeper rock bottom than the last one, which is what a relapse would likely do.

TODAY

BLESS US ADDICTS EVERYONE

Our sense of identity, self-worth and self-esteem is not tethered by some umbilical chord to our alcoholism/drug addiction or our recovery from it. We are recovering from alcoholism and drug addiction, but that’s not what defines us and that’s not all we are.

WE ARE NOT ALCOHOLICS

We deserve and are entitled to the same self-respect that everybody else out there has. The past is what made our present, and what we do with our present is what determines our future. But we want to avoid wallowing in the pit of the past or living the future in anticipation before it even happens, which is just disappointment under construction. A healthy connection to the past while keeping ourselves always in the present moment, gives a sense of balance and overall well being going forward into our bright futures, filled with kindness and compassion and it keeps empathy pulling our train through the world of recovery.

EMPATHY

Addiction Recovery – Beware of Jellyfish

WISE FRIEND III

I used to think that there was two ways of doing anything – my way and the wrong way. When I was a kid, if an adult told me how to put something together, I wanted to ignore them and do it my way – and when it broke, I threw a fit because that stupid thing was junk. Nothing much changed as an adult – when I ignored the assembly instructions, did it my way, and it didn’t work out – well that thing was crap, the company sucked, the store sucked and I wanted my money back. If I fixed something my way and it didn’t fit together, I forced that sonofabitch in there and if it broke, well that piece of shit must’ve needed replacement anyway. Before we had GPS Navigation, I never followed a map to find out how to get there. Screw that. I knew the best way to get there and if I got lost, it was because those roads were all messed up, and the urban planner who designed them was an idiot and should be shot.

FINGER

When it came to my alcoholism and addiction, I wasn’t about to listen when someone told me my using was out of control. They didn’t even know. They didn’t know me, they didn’t know what I’d been through, or go what I was going through, so who were they to tell me how to live?! When my life first started to unravel because of my addiction, and I was forced into treatment, I went through the motions, said what the people who were trying to help me wanted to hear, did what they wanted me to do, just to get me out of my family’s spotlight, so I could get back to my ‘normal’ life. When my ‘normal’ life actually did explode into pieces and I really admitted I had a problem and wanted help, I went into recovery again with a better attitude. Or so I thought.

PINK CLOUD II

After a few months of sobriety, I was feeling great about EVERYTHING! Things had never, ever been better! I was working a program & ‘getting honest’, sobriety had helped me get my life together, the obsession to use had been lifted and life was GREAT! I had some sobriety time under my belt but I was tired of listening to these blowhards that had multiple years of sobriety telling me what to do – I had MY WAY of doing things and I was going to SAVE ALL THE ADDICTS! But after awhile, life threw some new hardships in my path and I was caught off guard because I was high on recovery, not paying attention, and stopped listening to the people with experience. Fortunately, I remembered what these experienced people had told me to do when bad things happened, and avoided relapse. I also remembered how they told me to always be prepared for and be on guard against bad things happening in the future. I went back to doing things their way, not mine.

Imagine being on vacation on a tropical beach, where you’re so caught up in the beauty of the scenery, that you don’t see the signs that say “beware of jellyfish”. The wise locals even tell you to be careful walking on the beaches because of the jellyfish, but you’re so high on the moment that you really don’t listen. You’re so mesmerized by the beauty of the ocean, the palm trees, the sun and the sky that you don’t even look down to see what you’re walking on. So you end up stepping on a jellyfish, sick for the rest of your vacation, become depressed, and end up relapsing. Which all could have been avoided if you would have been paying attention and listened to the experienced people.

We want to enjoy our journey and all the beautiful things around us, but we want to always be sure we’re on the right path, what we’re waking on, and to be prepared to deal with bad encounters that are going to happen at some point, so we’re not caught by surprise, and end up lost and in danger. It’s also always good to have a plan to utilize when we’re faced with these bad encounters. We want to live in the moment and enjoy life, not always worrying about bad things that might happen. But it’s still always best to avoid being so caught up in looking at the scenery that we don’t look down and side step the hazards from life in our path, or see other potential ‘triggers’ that might head our way. Most importantly, for us to listen to the right ,experienced people who have already been where we’re going, and who can tell us the best path to take to avoid the jellyfish of life.

JELLYFISH