Tag Archives: addictions

“just stop it!” comments on alcoholism

back in august, i wrote a little post about addictions. here are two things commenters had to say:

#1  thanks for sharing this. i believe too much alcohol can’t help you better to stop it, you have to love your health and love your life. do something better, you can do physical activities instead of drinking too much.

#2 taking alcohol occasionally is okay but being addicted to it is not healthy anymore. health is wealth, so better start doing something about it. stop it and enjoy life.

both of these comments illustrate the typical mindsets of people who either know nothing about addiction or who are afraid of addiction (or both).

truisms
people who don’t know much about addiction don’t understand that people who are struggling with addiction already know things like “too much alcohol can’t help” or “health is wealth”. in fact, at least half of them beat themselves up with that knowledge a hundred times a day. once you’ve been using for a little while, guess what, you’ve figured out that it’s unhealthy and that it would be a pretty darn good idea to stop or at least decrease it.

advice
it’s the same with advice. let’s take “stop it and enjoy life”. once again, the thought of stopping it has occurred to the person a thousand times.

and enjoying life? what if it feels like enjoying life seems impossible without the alcohol (or drug, or gambling, or whatever the person is dealing with). what if the person couldn’t enjoy life to begin with, and stopping the addiction would just bring her back to an unbearably bleak and painful life?

words such as “you can do physical activities instead of drinking too much” are supremely unhelpful for a number of reasons, e.g.

  • as said before, the person who is addicted already knows that
  • at least at the beginning, you don’t get nearly as much a kick out of the physical activity as the addictive activity (that goes for other activities as well)
  • substitutions only work under certain circumstances. how’d you like it if i said, “you’re boyfriend just died? don’t worry, just get yourself another one – here, take john, he’s got a moustache, too”

attitude
the most troublesome part is the attitude, and the unthinkingness (nice word, huh?) if the person offering these comments thought for a moment, they could realize that the person with the addiction already knows that stopping would be a good idea. implicit in truisms like the ones above is the message, “you’re too stupid/naïve to have figured this out on your own, so now i’m telling you something that everyone else but you knows.”

the above and the lack of thoughtfulness portray disregard. the message is “this person i’m talking to is not worth thinking about; what i have to say is more important”.

what comes with all of this is a lack of empathy. “i’m not going to stop and reflect on how i would feel if someone gave me unsolicited advice about something painful in my life.”

fear
and why? most of the time it comes down to fear. fear of having my life entangled with the difficulties of another when my own may already be difficult to bear. and fear that by getting closer to the addiction, i might get “infected”. humans have a deep-seated fear of “catching” diseases not only of the body but also of the mind. the fact that this is irrational drives the fear even more underground, which just makes it more potent because it gets to roam around uncontrolled. (now there’s an interesting thought – the parallel between that suppressed fear and the underground, uncontrolled drug trade).

thoughts?

chat tomorrow: mental health and addiction

tomorrow night at 6pm PST I will be hosting the weekly #mhsm chat on twitter. #mhsm stands for mental health and social media. #mhsm was started by amy kiel, an ardent mental health activist.

the topic of the chat will be mental health and addiction. #mhsm typically uses between 5 and 8 questions to stimulate conversation. here are a few i’ve come up with – any more suggestions?

  • where do you see the connection between mental health and addiction?
  • how do you define addiction?
  • how do you see the two are different? are they?
  • some say that addiction is a form of self medication for mental health issues. what are your thoughts on this?
  • what are your thoughts on addiction to prescription medication?
  • the term “recovery” is used in mental health as well as in addiction circles. do you see a similarity between the meaning in both contexts? is it different?
  • what is your experience with treatment specifically aimed at concurrent disorders?
  • do mental health and addiction stigmatize each other? is it “better” or “worse” to have one or the other?

please let me know what you would like to discuss in the chat – whether the questions above or anything else!

to join us in the chat, sign in or sign up with twitter and then go to http://tweetchat.com/room/mhsm.

to show you what you can expect in such a chat, here is an excerpt from last week:

12:59 am mhsmchat: welcome to tonight’s chat!

1:01 am mhsmchat: tonight we will discuss our passion for #mentalhealth issues.

1:02 am mhsmchat: can join in the chat here: http://tweetchat.com/room/mhsm =)

1:04 am mhsmchat: q1: how did you get involved with #mentalhealth activism, professional roles, or discussing #mentalhealth topics? what drives you?

1:05 am icantican: q1 my interest started as a curiosity when i was a teenager and a bigger mess than i am now and my mother had schizophrenia.

1:05 am partimefabulous: @mhsmchat after dealing with my own challenges with #depression, i decided to try and understand it better by creating a truthful film

1:06 am namimass: @mhsmchat i’m involved because i care about mental health. i’m a family member with a sibling with mental health issues.

1:07 am partimefabulous: #mentalhealth issues are so poorly represented in today’s media and entertainment. it’s time that the stigma is unveiled.

1:07 am perthtones: @icantican helped mum study 4 psych nurse exams at 14 advocated 4 decades, then hit by ptsd 10 yrs ago. now an even beter advocate 😉

1:08 am icantican: vulnerability of the human mind, resilence, and adversity due to mental illness or causing it is interesting to me.

1:09 am mhsmchat: i became involved because of my own personal mental health issues predominantly.

1:10 am voiceinrecovery: q1 advocacy was a natural progression in my recovery from ed & alcohol abuse. felt i had a story 2 share 2 help others feel less alone

1:10 am perthtones: totally agreed on #stigma – the biggest barrier to proper treatment, media coverage & positive community awareness

8 reasons why i give money to panhandlers

“don’t give a panhandler money! he’ll only buy drugs!” we’ve all heard this.

today i gave a hefty amount of money to the guy who always sits in front of my neighbourhood supermarket. the parking sign pole against which he was leaning was shaking because he was shivering so hard. i made him promise to leave for the night and watched him go.

while i completely believe that it’s everyone’s decision whether and what they give, i thought i’d tell you the reasons why i give money:

  1. it’s respectful. they don’t sit there to ask for food, they ask for money. most panhandlers are savvy; they know where the food banks and soup kitchens are. for one reason or another, they don’t want to go there. there’s something rude about someone asking for one thing and then giving her or him something else. when i ask to borrow your pen, you don’t give me a lighter either, do you?
  2. i don’t know whether the person is using it for drugs. having working with very poor people for a number of years, i’ve met numerous panhandlers who didn’t use it for drugs.
  3. even if they’re using it for drugs, they’re not going to stop using if i don’t give them money. even if nobody gave them money, they’d still not stop using. it’s like hoping that removing wine glasses will stop someone from being an alcoholic.
  4. even if they use it for alcohol or drugs – guess what, i (and you) support a lot of peoples’ bad habits. of the bankers, politicians and multinationals that make money from me, how many do you think spend money on cocaine? gas-guzzling SUVs? booze?
  5. panhandlers are micro entrepreneurs. i like the spirit of independence.
  6. panhandling is hard work. if you don’t think so, try it yourself. i respect hard work.
  7. there’s something honest about panhandling. the panhandler who just sits there quietly or asks politely for change doesn’t try to sell me a dream of a slimmer body, a happier child or better sex. it’s a straightforward kind of business. (btw, i can’t stand those frauds who try get money by telling me that they just arrived from calgary and all they need is a few bucks to call their ailing mother – i never give a cent to those scammers, only a growl)
  8. above all, agreeing to the exchange as it is proposed – the panhandler asks for money, i give it – gives the person and me a chance to interact as humans. the panhandler asks, i give, we both smile and exchange a few words.  we connect, and we feel good.

what do you do?

blogging yourself home

laptop at homehere is part 1 of my presentation at MentalHealthCamp on the topic “blogging yourself home – writing, blogging and creativity.”

i’ll present it as if i was talking at the presentation and treat you, dear readers, as if you were participants in the workshop.

here we go …

when i was a little girl, there were these tiny glass bottles that fascinated me, and i loved playing with them. and not only were there bottles, but there were also tiny saws with which to open them. i could never figure out why they didn’t just have caps but anyway, i thought they were great little things to play with. especially since my mother really didn’t want me to.

turns out they were my father’s morphine vials.

after a few years, he exchanged the tiny little morphine bottles for bigger ones. from the little 2-ounce ones to mickies to 2-litre bottles of cheap red plonk. they were everywhere. i dind’t really think they were that cute anymore.

my father had the typical addictive personality. he managed to overcome the booze, too, but he had first bladder then pancreatic cancer, and there’s a high correlation between that and smoking, which he did with a passion.

he was also a great artist, a wonderful person in many ways, he introduced me to buddhism which many of you know is very important to me – but he had major difficulties.

the funny thing is that his addictions were difficult but for me as a child they were more a nuisance than anything else.

he also had bipolar disorder, and what did get to me were those long periods of depression where he basically wouldn’t leave his bed for months in a row.

it was that and a mother who tried to cope with this and my sister who has a disability by being a rageaholic and giving me the role of being the “responsible one”

so that’s the home that i grew up in.

why would i want to blog myself home then, why would i suggest to you to blog yourself home? because let’s face it, many of us grew up in homes we don’t particularly want to go back to.

here’s what i propose.

most of us are bloggers here, which means we’re writers.

and that means that we use our creativity, we use our imagination.

the neat thing is, not only is our writing a piece of the imagination; in many ways, the whole blogosphere is a piece of the imagination.

i’d like to ask you, then, what do you imagine your ideal home to be – what are the good words that come up for you as you think of the word “home” – in general, and then also specifically, your virtual home?

why don’t you reflect on this question and comment below? next blog post, i’ll continue the presentation.

image by nuanc

addiction and creativity

i’m back from kelowna, after a somewhat tense 6-hour drive (some stretches were a bit treacherous), followed by one hour’s worth of snow shovelling.  so i’m going to go to bed now and will cede this space to someone else, creativity coach eric maisel.  here he talks about his new book, creative recovery:

creative recovery, the book that susan raeburn and i recently wrote describing a complete addiction recovery program for creative people, just received a very nice library journal review. here is the review in its entirety.

“therapist and creativity coach maisel (fearless creating; the creativity book) and clinical psychologist raeburn illustrate how creativity both contributes to addiction and is a tool for recovery. in the first of three sections, entitled ‘preparing,’ the authors begin by expanding upon the biological and other risks for addiction and explore the abuse continuum. the next section, ‘working,’ is devoted to the foundation of recovery, awareness, which can be enhanced through creative talents, and addiction challenges, including an acceptance of the need to change. finally, in ‘living,’ the authors emphasize that recovery is an ongoing, lifelong process, and they expand upon and reinforce the role played by creativity, which provides an artistic outlet to express the hope, strength, and wholeness of continued recovery. including an extensive list of resources, this informative, insightful, and valuable book is recommended for large public and academic library collections focusing on addiction and addiction recovery.”

here is a brief excerpt from the book:

the short story “the bound man,” by the german author ilse aichinger, is a beautiful piece in the existential tradition. it goes as follows. a man awakens one morning to find himself inexplicably bound by rope.

instead of removing the rope at his first opportunity, as we might expect him to do, he decides to remain bound and to become a circus attraction, turning his accidental bondage into his trademark work. how strange! why would a person happily accept such bondage? it is similar to the question that franz kafka poses in “the hunger artist,” where a man, who also chooses to become a circus attraction, starves himself to death because he can’t find food that interests him. these authors are asking variations of the following vital question: “why do people carelessly, inexplicably, and even happily do things that harm them so much?”

one of the things that people do that harms them, but that they nevertheless hold on to as if they were benefiting from it, is to get addicted and to stay addicted. not for anything can you pry them away from their alcohol, cocaine, tobacco, internet surfing, video-game playing, overeating, shopping, or sexual escapades. tell them that they are dying: no matter. tell them that they are wasting half their life in front of a computer screen or in the aisles of department stores: no matter. remind them that they can’t have love or a real life if they use sex as a drug: no matter. point out that their liver is already not functioning, that their nasal lining is already perforated, or that their lungs are already black: no matter. what you experience as you talk to an addicted individual is that he or she is completely indifferent to your good arguments.

creative people, our best and our brightest, squarely fall into the category of people at high risk for addiction-people who accept the “happy bondage” of an addiction even though they might be expected to know better. it isn’t just romantic mythology that creative people are more prone than their peers to succumb to the lure of an addiction. it is a fact, and there are many reasons for this. as we proceed we will explain these reasons: why, in addition to the biological, social, psychological, and developmental risk factors that confront many people, extra risk factors confront the creative person. for now we just want to get on the table that the risk is significantly greater for you if you are creative. that is a fact.

if you are creative, at how high a risk for an addiction are you? consider what tom dardis has to say in the **thirsty muse: “of the seven native-born americans awarded the nobel prize in literature, five were alcoholic. the list of other twentieth-century american writers similarly afflicted is very long; only a few of the major talents have been spared.

in addition to the five nobel laureates–sinclair lewis, eugene o’neill, william faulkner, ernest hemingway and john steinbeck–the roster includes edward arlington robinson, jack london, edna st. vincent millay, f. scott fitzgerald, hart crane, conrad aiken, thomas wolfe, dashiell hammett, dorothy parker, ring lardner, djuna barnes, john o’hara, james gould cozzens, tennessee williams, john berryman, carson mccullers, james jones, john cheever, jean stafford, truman capote, raymond carver, robert lowell and james agee.”

you don’t have to be a creative superstar to run extra risks for addiction. our clients and patients fall everywhere along the spectrum from unknown to established, from “sunday painter” to world-famous, from someone who manifests her creativity by knitting to someone who manifests her creativity by fabricating monumental public sculptures. we work with individuals who don’t know what they want to create and who can’t seem to access their creativity and with individuals who know exactly what they want to create and who work obsessively to manifest their ideas and their intentions. what links all of these people and makes them more alike than different is their felt sense that creativity matters to them, that it is a part of who they are. if you can say that about yourself, then you are a member of this family-and run added risks for addiction.

here is the site of eric maisel’s books and services, and one of his blogs, the eric maisel creativity central blog.

vancouver events at this year’s mental health week

this week is national mental health week in canada. like last year, i’ll dedicate all my posts this week to mental health. (in a way, all my posts are about mental health but this week we’ll just be a bit more explicit, ok?)

today a roundup of mental health events happening in and around vancouver this week.

movies and psychiatry – may 5th
the depiction of mental illness in film. a multi-media mental health awareness week event, presented by dr. harry karlinsky. a clinical professor at the university of british columbia, founding director of the award-winning frames of mind mental health film series and festival film critic for the canadian psychiatric association. dr. karlinsky will provide a historical overview of the depiction of mental health issues within the world of cinema. he will also explore how the practice of psychiatry can be influenced by concepts first introduced in popular movies. various film and video clips will be utilized throughout the forum to illustrate key points. date: may 5th, time: 7:00pm – 8:30pm, and location: douglas college, 700 royal avenue, new westminster room: 2201. enquiries: 604-523-1072.

***

improving your life-work balance – wednesday may 7, 7-9:30 pm.

organized by the canadian mental health association, vancouver/burnaby branch.

in this interactive workshop, we’ll discuss what life-work imbalance is, how it impacts your life, the different ways that you can improve your own life-work balance and spend more time doing what you love. you’ll leave the workshop with an action plan for improving your life-work balance.

admission is $10.00 at the door, cash only please.
location:
alan emmott building
6650 southoaks crescent
burnaby, bc

***

turning grief into action – dealing with teen suicide

when jude platzer’s 15-year-old son josh committed suicide in 1999, her future became clear.

the vancouver resident, overwhelmed with emotion, jumped into action and adopted an advocacy role to help raise awareness about teen suicide and prevent other families from going through what hers had.

this week, as part of national mental health week (may 5-11), platzer will speak at the canadian mental health association north and west vancouver branch’s health lecture series on wednesday, may 7 at john braithwaite community centre at 7 p.m. for more information, go here.

***

face value by the youth theatre action group
a play about teenagers dealing with mental health issues, addiction and prostitution. may 6th-8th at the roundhouse community centre. there are two matinee shows on may 7th and 8th at 1:15 p.m. evening shows are may 6th, 7th, 8th at 7:30 p.m. all shows will take place at the roundhouse community centre in vancouver. more info here.

***

public education series on addiction
at the pacific spirit community health centre on west 43rd. all are welcome to come to this free drop-in group. every friday from 9:30 to 11:30. this friday, may 9: chemicals and the body. more info here.

for a full list of events put on by the canadian mental health association in british columbia, go here.

recovering from addiction: a prayer

a prayer by someone dealing with addiction:

an image that goes with prayer

dear higher powers:
thank you for another day of life.
help me to walk closely with you today.
work through me so that i may better help others.
help me when i am weak. help me to reach out to your unending strength.
help me to remain hopeful and inspired.
help me to be humble in dealing with my ferocious disease.
help me to remember where to turn for help.
help me to get over myself and reach out to others for help.
and help me to remember what a magnificent being i am, that each and every person is your child, worthy of the utmost respect, that i don’t own anybody, that nobody owes me anything and that i live in a caring, abundant world.
help me to create more harmony, peace, serenity, joy, security, and love.
help me to freely give all these things and find them in return.

(image by alicepopkorn