Drugs, Words, Drug word War.
It is imperative when discussing drugs, drug use, drug users, people affected by addiction or those caught up in chaotic use we first recognize that the language we use when discussing these topics comes from a number of different fields of study, recovery programs, 12 step groups, and religious groups. Emotive language affects how we read, what we understand, how we feel about the subject or person. Some words illicit such strong reactions from people they cannot even continue reading once they have seen a term that causes them to feel angry or judged. I think that language around drug use has become worse than some religious terms that make people cringe. Recovery, addict, disease of addiction …… those are 3 that I hear regularly. When I read these words or hear them, I often hear the article I am reading or what I am listening in a specific tone or I assume the background or ideology of the speaker based on their word choice. Whether this is right or wrong really is not my point, my point is that we need to redefine many words and really take care when we discuss drug use.
Lindsay just left drug treatment, she is going to “meetings” she relapsed the other night but she is doing well now. She considers herself a recovering addict. This is what she was taught at the drug treatment center she was at, she is not sure what to think, she never drank alcohol, she only abused percocet after she had surgery on her ACL. She could not stop after that. She started using heroin, then she shot it up but now she is in recovery.
Every word that is in yellow could be read differently by different people but, to many this paragraph means that Lindsay is part of a 12 step fellowship. Some of these people or others would draw immediate conclusions about Lindsay. They would even go as far as to say she is new in recovery, not yet able to be responsible, still “diseased thinking”, manipulative, not yet ready to surrender- she probably has not had enough painful stuff happen to her. She is incapable of being in a relationship as she is still “sick”.
Now, you see why some of us are weary? Maybe.
It is not true that Lindsay is unable to work, hold a job, or be a good parent. She may be doing all of those things very well and still be struggling with drug use. In fact the majority of people that use drugs do those things everyday with little thought. \
Drugs don’t make you lie. Situations cause people to lie.
Drug users are taught that we must lie. Telling the truth is detrimental to your life if you use drugs.
I know a bunch of people that use drugs and you could not make any one of us hold up a drug store, or kick and old lady and steal her purse.
I believe if you do those things you are already fucked up. I have never used a drug strong enough to make me completely forget or lose myself with one exception……ALCOHOL
Okay back to Lindsay. Lets take a look:
Lindsay: Newly off all drugs (including alcohol) but she relapsed.
Relapse: She used after she had been out of treatment, but told her 12 step group about the relapse and has committed to start again. (Now a relapse could be anything including her taking a xanax (unless it is prescribed and her sponsor (another person in 12 step recovery with no license to practice medicine or psychology but who has lived experience recovering from what they consider addiction) decide she medically needs the xanax. A relapse can be Lindsay having a glass of wine, even though Lindsay proclaims she does not have a problem with alcohol. Any use of substances (except tobacco and caffeine).
Now, some of us have so many problems with the above paragraph that this is where it gets down right tricky. What is recovery. To me, Recovery is a regimen of my choice that I live by to ensure they I don’t return to chaotic drug use. In my world, my recovery plan is highly personal, ever changing, and subject to revision at any time.
What my recovery is not is zero use of any mood or mind altering substances whatsoever without approval a life overseer. So, as we move away from 12 step recovery which we know is not scientific and is outdated how then do we discuss these subjects without making assumptions etc. I do not refer to myself as an addict, a recovering addict, and I do not share “clean time” with people. I do not want to ask strangers or people I barley know about the last time they fell short, made a mistake, etc. I in fact, do not keep up with numbers like this. The fact that people run around sharing this information with everyone is mind boggling to me. It is another way we have tricked stigmatized people into revealing highly personal information that can only be used to make judgements. IT MEANS NOTHING. Not saying that if you have not used heroin for 15 years and you used to have an enormous problem that is not a great feat. What I am saying is there are other ways to measure that success. 15 years really tells me nothing about you. It is an amount of time you have refrained from doing something that was once habitual. DO you pay your bills? Take care of your children? Pay your taxes? Have a job? Those are better measurement tools as far as I am concerned.
There is also no use in my mind of calling myself an addict. It is not something that makes people feel good. It has no use except as something to stigmatize a person…judge them or for them to use as an excuse or reason for their behavior. People get caught up and blame everything on their “addiction”. Most of what they blame on their “addiction” is human behavior and poor impulse control. You can go to a 12 step meeting any day of the week and hear: “Well I can tell my addiction is live and well, I ate a cookie yesterday and it was so good, I could not stop, I ate another, and then I ate all of them. God I made myself so sick. ”
I have heard this another way….”The devil came over me and made me do it”
We seem to want to name something outside of us as the “reason” or the “excuse for” behavior that is well, indulgent. I do know and understand the brain and understand how pathways change and this creates the addictive cycle that people struggle with. I do not disbelieve this. Now, that being said, my mother was at my house the other day —-I just found out that my 19 year old daughter who died of a heroin overdose in a drug treatment center, was sent the drugs from her boyfriend. My mother said to the young man: ” Oh, You need to get some help, this disease makes you do awful things.”
That statement makes me cringe. Does it make me cringe because it was my daughter and I am just upset?? Maybe??? But I doubt it. I do not subscribe to a belief that we are “diseased” and this controls our brains and makes us do things totally outside of what we would normally do. Yes, I will say without question that my drug use has changed the way I see the world. I will also admit that being dependent on a drug that is very expensive (caused by the black market prices ) makes everyone’s life who use them somewhat dysfunctional, unless they have endless money.
It is very difficult to untangle difficulties that stem from drug policy to difficulties that come from drug use. But, just for arguments sake….my life is dysfunctional because I am using a drug that is expensive. I buy this drug in lieu of many things I need and want. Early on in my life I made terrible mistakes with my money, and spent money that I needed for rent and other serious bills on drugs. I spent time homeless, and without needed services, these lessons were pretty horrific and pretty powerful. I WOULD NOT SPEND MY RENT AGAIN. I am absolutely capable of not spending money that I need, it is not always pleasant but I do it and I do it all the time. SO DO most people. I think to say, oh I have a diseased brain, or my mind is not right somehow because I am currently afflicted with the disease of addiction is misleading and incorrect. I think that when S’s friend gave her drugs at the treatment center they made a terrible choice. A choice I wish I could change with all my heart but, I think it’s a streach to blame the disease of addiction…??? Just my rant though.
If I steal money that is a choice. I am not operating under some sort of spell- like disease if I make that choice. I make a choice that I believe it is worth it or I think I can get away with it….. Most people assume they are going to get away with what they are doing. When people get caught are they mostly sorry they got caught as opposed to sorry they did the actual thing they did. ( They have justified the behavior somehow).
We all feed ourselves a narrative…..it is the narrative we tell ourselves that makes us right and others wrong, or it is our excuse to behave in some way. Some of us need more narrative than others….
I think as drug users we are pushed to make decisions we would not have to make if we did not use drugs….We would not need thousands of dollars, we would not be between a rock and a hardplace having to figure out just how far we are willing to go to get something we really want (or need) if we were not using very expensive drugs.
If you had to get food for your child, you would most likely feel it is okay morally to steal….Right?
Or if it was not morally okay, you would say, I just have to do it I can’t let them starve. Our morals are pushed by our conditions.
People that have lived through wars have often been pushed to do things they would never do if they had not been in a war.
I guess what I am saying is that our conditions push us and we do not operate by the same nice neat principles of someone who has never been in a situation where they need something they are not able to afford….If you have never been in the situation then it is hard to say exactly what you would do. I know this to be true.
It is too easy to sit on the sidelines and say “oh, I would never do this or that. If you have not lived it then, I think it would be most wise to remain neutral in your judgement or go easy at least on those that have been forced to make difficult decisions.
Here is a scenerio
Your partner is sick, so sick they cannot work, they are miserable, they are pacing around, sweating, throwingup, having diarrhea, unable to sleep. They are violently ill, you could make it all stop if you just could afford medicine. The medicine costs 60 dollars though.
What are you willing to do?
Well this is the position of a heroin addict and their partner every day. They make this decision over and over again. Sometimes they manage to get the money up then they go out and buy the medicine and it is fake. Then they have to start all over again.
When you are constantly grappling with these sorts of decisions the choices you are willing to make change and shift. That in my opinion is not a diseased brain. It is a diseased world.
I do not know the point of this rant. I have very little to offer the world except my experience and the little I know about drugs, drug use, addiction , chaotic use, recovery.
Maybe this is just me writing —asking myself about life. I don’t know. I just don’t know.