The Face of Addiction.

Yesterday Carrie Fisher’s autopsy revealed a series of drugs from cocaine to heroin along with methadone- “the cure” for heroin addiction. Fisher was a woman who had everything from wealth to fame and beauty, yet she couldn’t overcome her drug addiction. Her life and her death are a testament to the hook of addiction. Yesterday, the face of addiction hit closer to home where one friend- a week out of in-patient rehab was stopped and charged with a DUI and taken to the hospital. Another friend 6 months into recovery allowed former friends to derail her plans, leaving her stressed and vulnerable. My heart ached for these beautiful, talented women who have become ravaged by drugs and alcohol.

One of these women 5’9- model beautiful tests high-end ski equipment, the other is a medical doctor. One is Caucasian the other African American and both struggle with the “stinking thinking” of addiction and both returned to the environment from which their addictions spiraled out of control. In a perfect world there would have been transitional housing, wrap around therapy, medical treatment, medication and financial support, but the world is far from perfect.

When, I talk about recovery the number one thing recovering addicts can do to maintain their sobriety is remove themselves  from the people and places where and with whom their addiction spiraled. This is hard to do especially if you are married or you are a parent or a minor. If someone you live with or with whom you are related to by blood or marriage, that person must also seek support and education in order to support their loved one’s recovery. Often times well meaning spouses, boyfriends, parents and children who are unaware of the psychological as well as physical aspects of addiction think “Why don’t you just stop using!” It’s simply not that easy- witness Carrie Fisher.

Drug addiction therapists now believe that to cure addiction one must heal the user from his or her adverse childhood experiences.  Unless, this is done the rate of recidivism is high at about  70%. Experts say that the higher the number of adverse childhood experiences the more difficult it is for a person to cure thier addiction. About 64% of Americans  have at least one adverse childhood experience which could include sexual or physical or emotional abuse, living with a parent with a mental illness, an incarcerated parent, poverty or divorce.  People who have 4 or more of these adverse childhood experiences are  1200% more likely to abuse substances or commit suicide are 470% to suffer from mental illness,

Addiction is a complex subject encompassing both psychological and physical components.  Put in a simple way, addiction is using a substance or behavior for reward or relief to the detriment to the addict’s entire life- social, psychological, spiritual, physical, financial and relationships.

Today this country is facing an addiction crisis which has caught the attention of the media because the new addicts are young white people ages 18-25 who earn less than 20 thousand dollars a year and white suburban women.  At this time when so many are dying and suffering from addiction our  Republican Congress is seeking to remove the coverage for mental health and substance abuse- one of the hallmarks of Obamacare.  Most of this world’s tragedies stem from two things mental illness and substance abuse. If this Republican Congress wants to make America great again let’s provide the necessary services to those suffereing from addiction and mental illness which often times go hand in hand.

Many of us were fans of Carrie Fisher. I was not a Carrie Fisher or Star Wars fan where Fisher became a household name, but she is my contemporary.  I would not trade my freedom from substance abuse for anything she might have had.  None of what Fisher had eased her demons.  I hope that her passing and it’s association with mental illness and addiction will allow people to see how addiction and mental illness can touch the brightest and best of America.

 

 

Photos by dmitryzhkov <a

 

SIX FEET UNDER AND BEING EASY ON MYSELF

My Dear Friends and Readers,

Over the past two weeks I have watched five seasons of  the television show “Six Feet Under”.  A friend and former addict like myself, suggested I watch this show which went off the air 11 years ago, because it dealt with complex social issues in a dark but engaging way. The core of the show is a family in Los Angeles who owns a funeral home. Every episode of the show opens with someone dying. The show is made interesting in that we the audience and the characters have conversations with the deceased. Within these conversations we find out more about the deceased and their views on their lives. As a result our opinions on the subjects of dating, mating, death and religion are all called in to question.

This is not a spoiler, but the first episode of the show starts with the death of the father and current owner/practitioner of the Fisher Funeral home. His death happens on Christmas Day. Since the show takes place predominately in Los Angeles, Christmas takes on a new meaning( as does most holidays when it comes to Los Angeles) for this family and of course changes the course of their lives.

The prodigal son returns, the devout Christian gay closeted brother in an interracial relationship comes out, the drug interested sister comes into her own in the areas of sex and drugs.  While these are interesting elements for a television show, my watching this show has provided me fodder to look at how we as humans look at death.

There are two big groups of us: those who believe the body dies and with it all that came with it and deceased individuals hang out in a heaven with a superior being known as “God” ; and there those who believe the body is temporary and will continue on in another body.  Within these two big categories are whether the ritual of death honors the individual or the survivors or both. Accompanying both of these categories is the actual treatment of the body after death. Many religions do not permit autopsy and Buddhists,  Jews and  Muslims do not believe in embalming.  These are just  a few cultural and religious intricacies involved in the ritual of honoring the dead.

The  hours of watching the show is an example of one of my addictive behaviors which in truth is not television watching, but procrastination. By watching this show I avoid my own fear of death, my own fear of failure/success and I put off taking action  to promote long term goals.  In watching Claire or Ruth or Nate or David struggle in their relationships I don’t have to think about my relationship with my significant other which remains in a state of unspoken not being committed. This is an uncomfortable place to be, so I avoid the issue and when necessary I avoid him. Underneath that avoidance is anger, which I am avoiding as well.

By distracting myself and remaining immobile, I stay up late, eat snacks in the middle of the night, fail to exercise, fail to write my latest novel… the list goes on and the bottom line is self-sabotage.  Why do we self-sabotage ourselves? Psychologist, Robert Firestone says that we self-sabotage ourselves because we listen to our “inner critical voice”.

This voice is created when we are young and assumes and holds all of the negative things that might have been said about us. Its the voice that says “You will never amount to anything. You might as well not try.” Or the voice that says “Who do you think you are? You want to be a writer? Why do you want to do that? I thought you were already a lawyer.” Yes, that voice.  That voice is not our friend.  When it rears its head, counter by contradicting it and by taking action.  So, let’s not have that voice control our actions, especially actions that do not support our  long term or short term goals.

So back to Six Feet Under.  This binge watching has been a distraction, but not one that will cause me to end up in jail or the hospital. While I binge watch, my snacks are protein smoothies made with fruit and the occasional bowl of cereal. I have not missed any appointments, work or commitments. The show has given me a better understanding of plot and character and foreshadowing- all things relevant to  the trade of writing fiction. The bonus to all of this watching is that I am more comfortable about my own demise. I no longer harbor fears about the crematorium. I am sure that I don’t want to be embalmed. I don’t want people to see my dead  body and face. No, I will love or not love you in the present. I will or will not become a successful writer. All I have to do is keep present and keep plotting away.

Like one psychologist said, “You should pick what you listen to in your head like the way you pick your clothes.”

Signed,

Brianna S. Clark
The Addict Writes

Back to the fifth and final season of Six Feet Under