Letter: Addiction needs healing, not hate

To The Editor,

Good Morning , My name is William Thomas and I am a recovering Addict!

Although it was April 5, 1984 that I was scared enough and in pain enough to seek real  help. I make no apologies  for my addictions and accept full responsibility for my recovery. My drug of choice was Alcohol, however hundreds of Quaaludes, amphetamines, lines of coke, bottles of codeine cough syrup and an occasional Acid drop was not uncommon. Yes, I smoked pot and Hash as well. I came of age in the 60’s.

On that evening I came to from a black out sitting on the john with a scotch in my hand and knew it was essential to really get help. I had not picked up my children from the evening care where we left then from time to time. I realized I had to act that moment. If I waited until morning I would have rationalized not doing it. I checked into a program for impaired physicians in Georgia. For me it was a 3 month program, 30 inpatient days and 60 more daily all day sessions of group and individual therapy. I continued in assorted 12 step programs to supplement a lot of therapy several times a week. I don’t believe in anonymity. The fact that everyone I knew was aware of my alcoholism helped me recover. My co-workers  support was a great help to my recovery and survival. I accepted that I was an addict and realized I could not recover alone—I was not anonymous. It was essential to my recovery to have a person or group who was totally non-judgmental of me.  Alcoholics Anonymous was not able to be this group because it did not accept me being a Secular Humanist– believing in humanity, but not a god or higher power. Thankfully I had the intensive support from the 3 month program and my co-workers that were far more helpful and didn’t require a belief in a god or higher power.

When the doctor who ran the facility had a meeting and told us “we were not bad people trying to get good, we were sick people trying to get well” something shifted in me that made all the difference. I think we would all benefit if our culture accepted that having a disease was not a weakness or a sign of personal failing, but instead as a sign that the person needs support and healing.

I also wish we would recognize that all people, no matter what socioeconomic status or color of skin are valuable and in need of that support and healing, not judgment or prison. Now that white upper middle class people are dying it’s an empathic health epidemic rather than a fear based crime wave. You see 50 yrs. ago and when Susie debutant got knocked up they sent her away and had an abortion or put it up for adoption not to tarnish the family. The same was for drugs and alcohol. When it was blacks, poor whites and hippies there was not a threat to the families of those in power, there was no FEAR! When Quaaludes became a popular problem they took them off the market.  Today there is too much money in the hands of Pharmaceutical companies and Pill mill doctors to reign in the prolific use of opiates.

Here is another kicker, there are millions of people who can drink and take drugs and don’t abuse or get addicted to them. My lovely wife Marty, we would go out to dinner, she would have a glass of wine, and sometimes leave without finishing it! She might have 1 or 2 cigarettes out at dinner and none for a week and throw away the pack. This shows it’s more about addiction than the drug.

I don’t feel the new popular term ‘disorder’ is appropriate; it’s an addiction. If you have a reading disorder you can correct it some, and eating disorder the same. An addict cannot become a social drinker; it requires abstinence. One is never cured. People who recover from Addictions are survivors, like cancer, not reformed. It is a deadly disease.

Please read the book ‘Chasing the Scream’ by Johann Hari or at least go to his TED talk “Everything you think you know about addiction is wrong” on YouTube. Many thousands of soldiers who returned from Viet Nam regularly used heroin in the war, but were not addicted when they returned home.  Read about the ‘Rat Park’ experiment in the book which exposes the fallacy that the issue is the drug.

Link:  https://www.huffingtonpost.com/johann-hari/the-real-cause-of-addicti_b_6506936.html

Addiction like suicide rates are a symptom of other problems in our society. Although I support the treatment of symptoms of the heroin epidemic with Narcan to save some lives and I support more beds for recovery, some day we need to address the causes. We need to release judgment, shame and guilt and empathically recognize that “we all do the best we can with what we know.” In this area we really need to expand our knowledge and apply it.

We are the most fearful society in history and this part of the problem. Fear keeps us from being open to change. I am afraid that the reality of understanding the causation will take a lot will upset people even more. Cures are generally that way.

The reality is pretty simple, the causation of cancer is generally in our environment and or food and energy, things that society has changed or developed, yet we spend billion for Ph.D.’s to fight the symptoms for a time. The reality of addiction and suicide often by our children will need intense analysis by psychologist’s and major reformations to our social norms. Adults need to learn the importance of communicating with, supporting, listening to, respecting our children and creating a safe nonjudgmental space for our children (and other adults). In my understanding, it all comes down to acknowledging pain and creating an environment that supports healing.

I don’t believe we can cure addiction, but we can certainly start addressing the causation which leads to addiction and help save our future generations.

Is our society going to continue in denial or try to spare generations to come?

William Thomas,

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