Thursday, July 13, 2017

Five Years Abstinent: No Blow Up Dolls and No Goat fucking

In my work as an addiction psychiatrist I commonly advise people of the prognosis of their disease and the successful scientific treatments that have been beneficial.
I like to point to the studies, epidemiological and  anecdotal data which showed that those who attained 5 years of abstinence from drugs and alcohol  routinely had only  a few key points in common.
Number 1.  Persons with 5 years abstinence from drugs and alcohol had a HIGHER POWER.  Higher power in this case didn’t represent a white bearded god on a cloud or a big breasted woman deep in the sea.  What higher power referred to was simply something more important than drugs and alcohol.  Something that the person gave more power over their lives to.  It’s long been recognized that addiction is a religion. The drugs and or alcohol were the addict’s God, their direct dealer the deacon and the supplier the high priest of the cult church with all it’s rituals, paraphernalia and jargon. A higher power represented anything that was more important to the person than belonging to this church and religion.  Over the years patients had told me that their higher power was their children,  their family, their job, anything really.  Others had said that life it self was their higher power.  Addiction was killing them.  Some simply described their higher power as God.
C.S. Lewis the great Christian theologian said simply, “Why look in the wall for the architect?”.  Addicts and alcoholics are the most materialist hedonists.  Addiction is idolatry. They worship their addictive substance.  They commonly say their are atheists or agnostics when its obvious that they are stalwart members of their church of addiction.  They commonly say they don't want 'any religion' simply because their addiction is their religion. Translated they are really saying they're not ready to give up their addiction. Their brain is tricked into believing they are getting ‘high’ or even that what they are doing is a ‘party’.  Spirituality refers to an invisible God or power or force that people have in their lives and experience in their world especially after they’ve known the soul empty experience of addiction.  It is the interconnectedness and relationship of life.  It's there strongest in the prayer of the indigenous for 'all of my relations.'
For people to stay clean and sober there simply must be something else, something with greater meaning that gives more purpose and power to their lives than the slavery of the addiction. Their  dependency is making their dealer high priests rich in ferarri’s and yachts.
Scientifically today we measure a person's 'motivation to change' because it's obvious that it's hard for the addict to admit that they have been suckered or duped by the ultimate con artist. The emperor has no clothes and often giving up addiction and entering recovery means admitting to oneself at least that for years and thousands of dollars one has been going backwards.
The Motivation to change assessment describes a person as 'pre contemplation', a true zealot for the church of addiction, a person in 'contemplation' recognizing that addiction was "fun", now it's "fun and trouble" and actually they might be ready to get off the slow to quicking descent before it was just plain 'trouble'.  Determination phase is when one is there.  They've made the determination that they don't want the lie and want the truth of life instead. In 'Action" phase they're 'walking the walk and not just talking the talk' , they're changing their behaviour and making themselves accountable to a plan of recovery.
Number 2.  Persons with 5 years of abstinence belonged to a group that supported their abstinence. When they look for people at 20 years abstinence or more the majority of people they find abstinent belong to AA, NA or some religious organization such as church, temple or synagogue.  Dr. Carl Jung recognized that people who developed addiction were spiritual people but that they were tricked into seeking the holy spirit in the "spirits" bottle. His famous Latin phrase for this was "Spiritus contra Spiritum".  Dr. Carl Jung said in a letter to Bill Wilson, co founder of AA ,that  the ‘craving for alcohol, was the equivalent on a low level, of the thirst for spiritual wholeness.”  He went on to say, “‘alcohol' in latin is ‘spiritus’ and you use the same word for the highest religious experience as well as for the most depraving poison. The helpful formula therefore is , “spiritus contra spiritum”. Addiction leads to alienation whereas recovery leads to participation.   At 5 years abstinent people found they were part of a better group. "We are not alone.” is the message that comes with recovery.  Though AA, NA and spiritual organizations were the most common groups there were many others that served as well such as community organizations like Kiwanis, Odd Fellows, Masons, Toast Masters.  These were not work associations as addicts and alcoholics commonly maintained work to the very last as work and work associations, professionals , unions and faculties gave them the finances to advance their addictions as well as the respectability to maintain the denial of the increasing desperation and the dehumanization.  With addiction people would rather be alone with their substance or drink or with others who shared their substances or drink than in any other recreational activity.
With respect to relationships and the damage to relationshionships, the delusion of addiction was best described by one recovered addict, “fucking a blow up doll and thinking it was love.”  Another said, “it got me high but it took away the sky”.  
Finally, Number 3.  The person was noted to have had a change in attitude.  The more one does drugs or alcohol, the more one minimizes the abnormality of the behaviour and the associations.  People who once loved to be outdoors will instead sit in a dingy bar all day or find themselves living behind closed curtains all the while thinking they’re ‘not that abnormal’.  Everything related to their addiction is justified and yet in recovery they have an awakening and increasingly see what they had become and want never to go there again.
My favourite description of this phenomena was a from fellow who said, “when I got off drugs my life got better immediately. I had money again. I had friends that weren’t trying to steal from me.  I had time and energy to focus on myself and my work and my family. Being an addict takes up all your time.  I had time and I put it to good use. At five years abstinent I was living in a beautiful condo in the west end, had a job I loved, friends I cared about. Nobody used drugs. No one knew that part of my life in detail, not that I hid it but I didn’t get into the sordid details and they just didn’t know.  I mean they knew but they didn’t know. It’s one thing to know that women and men exchange sex for drugs with the lowest scum of the earth and that we’d steal or lie and cheat. It's another thing knowing it. I ripped off my family. I’m not proud of that. Not the lying, betraying, not the person who  didn't care about anything or anyone.  But I’d changed.  It was a bad time in my life and now I was on the other side of it.
That’s when this guyI knew, I’d thought he had got clean and sober, showed up at my door one night.  I buzzed him in. Immediately he’s pulling out this powder,  showing me it and saying it was the best stuff ever.  He's wanting me to do it with him.  He's saying how he could even sell me some if I liked it.
Well, right there and then I kicked him out. I would have physically thrown him out if he didn’t go. I was really furious.   I shouted at him, “get the fuck out of here. I don’t do that shit any more” . When he was leaving I almost whispered, I was so angry, and embarrassed, I was embarrassed too.  I said ;don’t ever come round here again or don't even talk to me if  you’re not clean and sober. "
He went on to say, “I don’t think people get it.  What he’d done was an every day thing in my old life. But now, it may as well been having this guy show up at your westend downtown apartment. Right there at your condo where people know you as a regular guy.  Then there's this guy standing there with a goat and he's saying,
 ‘hey man I got a new goat.  You're really going to like it.  I brought it over so we both could fuck it. If you like it like before I know where we can get more goats to fuck."
That’s how weird it was for me having this guy I’d known in the past,  show up at my place with powder. "
"I realized my attitude had changed.   I was seeing drugs and addiction the way healthy people see it. I just say now.   If some one wants to do it, just leave me out of it.   Live and let live.  I don't fuck goats. so don’t bring any goats around my place.  I don’t want even to be  seen with guys who fuck goats. "
Dr. Vaillant, former head of psychiatry at Harvard studied addiction extensively throughout his career and noted that at 5 years abstinent the risk of a person relapsing to their previous level of abuse was no greater than the risk of an unidentified user becoming an alcoholic or addict to that extent.
Higher power, a supportive group and a change of attitude were the key features noted in those who remained abstinent 5 years.

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