Addicts are People

Addicts are people. They are not trash to be thrown away. Please don’t talk about them like they are human refuse. There are plenty of people who use substances who are good, kind and decent people. There are many people who use due to the trauma they have experienced or because of their circumstances. Some are born into a life where drugs or alcohol is a part of their culture, where using is normalized. Maybe a person uses drugs to treat their mental health condition, or maybe just to escape from the reality of their life. Drug addiction happens to all ages, genders, colors, socioeconomic statuses, it can happen to literally anyone. There are many ways in which people start down the path of addiction, no two are the same, so don’t assume that because you know “one worthless drug addict” that everyone struggling with addiction is the same. That’s called overgeneralization and it’s not fair to do to any group of people.

Some addicts commit crimes. So do normal people. When you are someone with an addiction, some of your time is spent feeding that addiction. Many of your behaviors are focused on satisfying your need for the substance of your addiction. The normal cycle is use, come down, buy more. Sometimes in trying to get drugs, a person becomes desperate and uses whatever means they are able to in order to get what they want. Sometimes this results in crimes like robbery, check fraud, panhandling, prostitution, and, in extreme cases, murder. While I am not justifying any of these crimes, I’m telling you that there’s a reason these crimes are being committed and why someone fighting an addiction might see it as a means to an end. Once again, these can be desperate people. This is also why some people choose to make or sell drugs. It means that their own use costs less and they are able to even have an income on which to base their lifestyle if they sell enough. I once had someone tell me “I can make $3,000 cash in two days selling meth. Why should I ever work 40 hours a week to make $400 at the end of it and then wait another week or two to be paid?!”

Some addicts struggle with completing drug treatment, and some normal folks struggle with finishing EVERYTHING. Where there are drugs, there’s demand. Where there’s demand, there’s drugs. It’s an unending cycle. You can’t incarcerate people fast enough to stop it, and you can’t treat addicts quick enough to stop it. There’s no good cure for the drug addiction plaguing our country. Incarceration of addicts doesn’t cure them of their addiction, but then again, sometimes neither does treatment. There are some really good treatment centers out there, but they don’t have a 100% success rate. There are people who go to all the meetings they possibly can, have a sponsor, have a good social support system and who still relapse. Recovery isn’t perfect. There are really two ways out from addiction: death or successful treatment. One of those options doesn’t have a 100% success rate, the other does.

Some addicts have priorities which are not the same as yours (so you refer to them as “the wrong priorities”). Picture yourself living the life of an addict. You need to choose whether to buy food or drugs. To me this is probably one of the most difficult choices a person could possibly make, but many people think it’s easy. Most people don’t understand why addicts would choose drugs over food, rent, medical care or their children. Drug addiction is a sick and twisted thing and I wouldn’t wish it on anyone. It’s hard for someone struggling with addiction to hold down a job, especially if using leaves them unable to function properly. “Desperate times call for desperate measures”… as the saying goes, once an addict loses their job, the result is desperation to meet EVERY need, not just addiction.

Let’s not pretend for a minute that all addicts are breaking the law. Alcohol is legal. A person can drink themselves stupid as long as they don’t drive, be drunk in public, etc. There are very few laws related to drinking at home. Alcoholics are probably the most common addicts, and yet they are somehow viewed as “better” than people who use meth or heroin, probably mostly because they are not breaking the law. But alcoholics break the law all the time. There’s many people with violations due to drinking and driving. There’s many assaults, including domestic violence and sexual assault, which were escalated due to alcohol. So how is this type of addict somehow “less bad” as compared to a hard drug user?

Addicts are people.

They love, they live, they contribute to society. They play music. They create art. They work. They play. They have families. They have spouses and significant others. They own property. They rent. They care for others. They teach. They learn. They have skills. They are kind. They can sometimes see the best in others. They are smart, sometimes bordering on brilliant! They are resourceful, much more resourceful than I will ever be. But most of all they are someone’s family member or friend. They have people who care about them and love them.

So before you say something unkind about someone struggling with addiction, think about how you’d treat someone you love who was facing this struggle. Each of us contributes to this world, and there’s enough negativity in it already. Be kind.

 

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Thirteen Reasons Why and One Reason I Won’t

I just finished the show Thirteen Reasons Why on Netflix. First let me tell you there are spoilers included in this post, so you’ve been warned.

I read some articles discussing the good and bad points of it, but I wanted to give some additional feedback about the show from my experience and also share my personal experiences with mental illness, bullying, sexual assault and suicide.

Hannah Baker

Hannah Baker from “Thirteen Reasons Why” as played by Katherine Langford

Let me begin by saying that yes, some of what Hannah Baker experienced can be attributed to “normal high school experiences”. Yes, feeling outcast as the new girl, feeling alone sometimes, gaining and losing friendships, etc. are all normal. But there are other parts of Hannah’s story that are far from normal.

 

Overall I felt that the show was more focused on the trauma Hannah experiences than a mental health condition or a clinical definition of depression. Given all the trauma Hannah experiences during a short amount of time, it’s a normal thing to feel sad, depressed and low. Never once does the show reveal that Hannah is affected by any kind of mental health diagnosis or undiagnosed illness. No one ever says anything about mental health at all other than the scene where Clay’s mother suggests he try medication. Therefore, the hopelessness and loneliness that Hannah experiences, in my opinion, is not a byproduct of a mental health condition; it’s a reaction to trauma. She’s bullied, sexually assaulted and abandoned. She’s experiencing everything from guilt and shame, to flashbacks and triggering and the people she does turn to for help don’t recognize the signs or do nothing and her normal coping skills aren’t working. Maybe they just didn’t ask the right questions.

Hannah Baker experienced trauma.

It’s not her fault. She’s a victim in all of her trauma. To blame Hannah for what led to her suicide is ignorant. In the long run, Hannah did have other choices, but the choice she decided was best for her was taking her own life. Yes, it’s always sad when a preventable tragedy like this happens, and it’s a senseless loss of life. I’m not making judgments on Hannah for this choice, nor am I saying “she shouldn’t have done it”. I’m only saying that it was Hannah that made that choice, and it was hers to make.

I don’t get to decide what is best for Hannah’s life, only Hannah does.

While watching the show I identified with Hannah. I know what it’s like to feel alone, bullied, assaulted and hopeless. I know what it feels like to experience trauma and the lasting effects of trauma. I know what it feels like to think the only option is suicide. Even as I watched and knew what would happen eventually, I found myself screaming at the TV at the people who could have helped Hannah. I yelled at them about what else they could have done or resources she could have accessed. As I was sobbing and watching helplessly as Hannah slit her wrists, in what was the most heart wrenching scene of the show, I thought about all the ways her story had gone sideways, and all the ways it could have gone differently. I was thinking about why she felt suicide was an option for her, and why it isn’t an option for me.

I’ve been where Hannah Baker was. I’ve reached out to people to get help only to have them tell me to “move on” or “cheer up”. I’ve felt like I wanted to disappear, like my life was too hard. I’ve had people say I was a “drama queen,” a “slut,” and that I was making things up or making them “all about me”. Even this blog will be misconstrued by some as all about me. (It is, but it’s also about trauma reactions and mental health and it’s my blog.)

I’ve sat with that razor blade at my wrist willing myself to cut. I’ve had two failed suicide attempts. I’ve used cutting as a form of coping. I’ve had many more times when I contemplated suicide or even had a plan but didn’t carry it out. I’ve wished that I didn’t exist or wished I could disappear. And still I say that suicide is not an option for me.

Here’s why:

Suicide isn’t the end of my pain, it’s the transference of my pain to those I care about.

Think about it for a minute.

I love those who are in my life. I want the very best for them. I have family, friends and coworkers who care about me as well. If I were to take my own life, they would be the ones to feel the fallout just as the friends and family of Hannah Baker did. They would be left with the questions, the guilt, the shame and sorrow of what I had done. They would stay up late at night, unable to sleep because they were thinking about something they could have done differently to help me or stop me. They would cry at my funeral and every time afterwards when my name came up or they were reminded of me. They would be embarrassed when someone talked about the stigma of suicide and what it meant about me as a person, when they implied that I was selfish, weak, or unable to cope or when they blamed my bipolar.

Suicide isn’t an option for me because I can’t bear the thought of leaving them my pain. I want to leave a legacy of my accomplishments, my victories, my happy memories. I want people to cry because they miss me, and because it’s a shame that I am no longer alive, but know that I had a good life. I want people to talk about how I tried to dispel the stigma of mental illness and was open and honest about my symptoms and mental health. I want people to know that I lived with passion, I loved as much as I could, I lived my life to the best of my abilities regardless of my bipolar and the challenges it posed.

I want people to know that there’s no shame in asking for help, and if you can’t ask on your own, have someone help you or let someone know you need help. They don’t have to hide it. Just tell them “I need help” or “I’m suicidal. Can you help me please?”.  I want people to know they can offer help even when it’s not asked for. Like this “You seem pretty down. Are you feeling like hurting yourself?” or “Do you ever feel like hurting yourself?”

Let’s talk about mental health and suicide!!!

Suicidal thoughts are not shameful, I think everyone has them at one point in their life. So let’s talk about what is a shared experience for all of us regardless of the cause or reason we feel/felt that way. We can say “We can rely on each other and be honest about our feelings.” or “I’ve had suicidal thoughts. Have you?” or even “I’m a safe person to share suicidal thoughts with.” I guess it’s been my experience that offering help and having someone say “No, I just need to talk.” is much better than not offering. Discussing things makes it so that having future conversations isn’t awkward or difficult. If someone had cancer, they could talk about it openly. If someone had a broken leg and needed to go to the emergency room, they’d ask for help. Why should mental health be any different?!

I want people to know that medication can be a helpful tool for some people, and there’s no shame in that either. No, medication (or therapy, or anything else) cures mental illness-at least not yet. And finding the right meds, or combination of meds, or combination of therapies is BEYOND CHALLENGING and can be so frustrating! But it’s important that you do what works for you. Don’t judge yourself based on the meds you take. Don’t let others judge you based on your meds either. Everyone takes some kind of medication in their life because they need it. So if you need it, and that’s what you want, then there’s no shame in it. And if you don’t want meds, that’s ok too because it’s YOUR choice.

Lastly, I want every single person on this planet know that you are cared about, you matter and if you were gone this world wouldn’t be the same. This is true for every single person alive. Sometimes your brain will try to tell you this is a lie, but it’s not. So think about what will happen when you’re gone before you go. We all will die someday, that’s the nature of this fleeting journey we call life, so just be sure you really lived. And above all, be kind to yourself and to others. You never know what is going on with them.

Temporary

via Daily Prompt: Temporary

Today is temporary. I need to remember this.

This morning when I woke up, my head was achy, and my body hurt. I was tired (still am). I was cranky.

But this was all temporary.

When I went to leave the house, I realized that I had to move my partner’s car to be able to leave, and I shut my hand in the door.

But today, the annoyance, and the pain I felt is temporary.

Sometimes when the things in life get me down, it’s really hard to remember that everything on this planet is temporary. Jobs, houses, lives, things… it’s all here for a moment and then it’s gone. I’m not telling you this to sound depressing or morbid, but to remind you that your troubles are also temporary.

Prime example in my life right now, Trump.

He’s temporary. In a few years (if the world will still exist and isn’t blown to smithereens due to nuclear war) he’ll be out of office. He can’t stay there forever. Even if he would change term limits, he’d die eventually. Long before I will, hopefully.

This feeling is even more poignant when I get paid. My paycheck is also temporary. I work, and get paid, and then it’s all gone. Then I start the whole process all over again. It’s frustrating, and I really wish I had less bills, but I’m working on that. (My debt is also temporary.)

Best of all, my mental health struggles are temporary. My depression, mania, anxiety and mixed episodes are all temporary. It’s frustrating to experience these things, but I know deep in my heart that they are temporary. I can seek help to support me, and I can will myself to make it through with all the spoons I can muster. Until I feel better, I remind myself it’s temporary.

My pain is temporary. If I get hurt, regardless of what kind of hurt it is, it will heal because that injury and that pain are both temporary. My bruises and cuts will heal up, and my emotional pain will lessen with time. That’s not to say that wound will never be reopened, but even that residual pain is temporary.

So to those of you who are struggling, hang in there. This feeling you’re feeling is only temporary. Tomorrow can be different and even better.

The Stigma of a Criminal History

When I tell people that I have a criminal charge, the looks I get are just classic.

SHOCK.

AWE.

AMAZEMENT.

The thought that a kind, gentle and loving person like me could possibly have a criminal background is just unthinkable, but it’s true. I have a criminal charge.

Misdemeanor: 3rd degree harassment via communication.

When you say it like that, it sounds pretty bad. It sounds like I was seriously bothering someone on a constant basis. It sounds like something that took time and a lot of effort, but the truth is that it took 50 minutes. 50 minutes of my life which I can never take back, never get expunged and never delete. It’s a part of me now. People look at me like I’m a psychopath, but the truth is that I made a mistake.

I’m not a criminal. I made a mistake.

handcuffed

One of my friends is currently in federal prison for a conspiracy to commit murder charge. Let me give you a few minutes to let that sink in…

Now I know the full story. I know exactly what happened, and it wasn’t anything dangerous, it wasn’t anything serious. It was her making a mistake. HOWEVER, the things that people think when she shares that with them is RIDICULOUS!!! You would not believe the kinds of reactions she gets. She is a tender, loving, kind, funny and very sweet girl. She messed up. She knows she did wrong, and she’s serving her time for what she did. All 7 years of it. And once she gets out, it’s not going to get any better for her.

Now some people will say “But every criminal considers themselves innocent, and that’s just not true.” But my friend has never said she was innocent. I’ve never claimed I was innocent of my crime either. We both made an epic failure in our lives. Her offense is larger than mine, but you get the idea. Making a mistake is human.

Why does a criminal charge make people instantly jump to conclusions and judge others based on their mistakes?

My friend has big plans for her life. She wants to volunteer to help others. She loves animals. She has a BEAUTIFUL smile. She tells hilarious jokes. She loves snow and winter. She likes sports. She has brown hair. She has a few tattoos. She adores music. She’s incredibly smart. All of these things describe my friend. The label “criminal” does not. But here we are in our American society where everyone is either good or bad, and she’s included in the lumped category of bad people when she is so clearly not and it’s such a shame.

So I would like you to take a moment to think about how my friend will feel when she goes to a job interview and tells the hiring manager that she has a criminal charge. Then imagine the hiring manager’s face when he finds out it’s a MURDER charge. (Because that’s what people hear when she says it, they hear the word murder and nothing else.) How would that make you feel to have to tell people that? How would it feel to see that reaction on someone’s face knowing that what you actually did was much less violent and much less serious than how it sounds?

People make mistakes. It’s a fact of life.

Alexander Pope said “To err is human, to forgive is divine.”

Wouldn’t it be easier to forgive people who make mistakes than to hold on to those mistakes for the rest of their lives? Think about how it would change our world! If everyone was able to admit fault, pay their penance for their mistake and move on with their life instead of chronically living in the past and being soiled by their mistakes think of what the world would be like. That’s what I call kindness. That’s how I’d like to show people love; to allow them to make mistakes, continue to show the same compassion and care for them as I did before the mistake, and allow them to heal from the trauma the mistake has caused them.

Paying it Forward

I read a blog tonight about paying it forward and decided that instead of leaving a comment, I would create it as a blog of my own and “pay it forward” as a way to spread the words which inspired me.


Read the original blog here

When I was younger, I was in an abusive relationship. My ex and I would constantly have arguments and I would constantly leave to avoid the abuse and my place of choice was to walk the neighborhood since it was public and he couldn’t chase after me. One time I was walking the neighborhood, obviously I had just been crying. And a woman came outside and asked me if I was ok. I lied and said I was, but that moment really stuck with me. That moment was what started me down the path to getting out of the situation. Fast forward almost ten years, and I now volunteer with a domestic violence program. I would never be able to thank that woman for what she’d done, but I have been able to help countless women in the position I had been in that day. I never ask their thanks, and I don’t need it. I know that what I do for the women I help could make a difference and that’s all that matters to me.

So I encourage all of you to pay it forward. I set my own personal goals pretty high and want to make a big impact, but not every “pay it forward” moment has to be this big.

I buy lunch for the person in the drive through behind me.

I leave cash in bus stops.

I donate to charity.

I volunteer with a few (Ok, so it’s more like A LOT OF) organizations.

I smile at people who look sad.

I let people use my phone when they ask.

Once I saw a woman crying, and I gave her a hug. It was a very small gesture and didn’t take a lot of effort on my part, but to the woman it meant a lot. (She told me her story and she’d been kicked out of her home and was facing a night on the street. I gave her some resources to find a place to sleep for the night. But this would have never happened if I didn’t get over myself and help a crying woman! She said loads of people had already passed by her and not said or done anything.)

When I see pennies on the ground heads down, I flip them over so that the next person will get a lucky penny.

I bring sandwiches and coffee to pan handlers.

Until now I’ve never shared all the ways in which I practice random acts of kindness. I don’t publicize it. I don’t make a big deal of it, I do it for others, not for recognition.

What do you do for random acts of kindness? Share in the comments! I’m excited to hear!

Look at me

I want to address a serious problem in our society: ignoring one another! I went on a walk tonight in my neighborhood and I was shocked and appalled by how many of my neighbors avoided eye contact as I walked by! I’m a lady walking all by myself in a neighborhood at night.

What happened to the sense of community?

What happened to knowing and watching out for your neighbors?

I’ve lived in this neighborhood for about 2 1/2 years. In those years I have made many walks through my neighborhood. I know that I’ve talked to some of them. I know that they have seen me around, yet they turn away!

Now I’m the kind of person that will go above and beyond to be friendly with others, so here I am staring down my neighbor with a big smile on my face… I surely look like a serial killer out to stab them with their own arm at this point. But I want nothing more but to connect with the people who live around me!

50 years ago communities joined together to raise their families. People weren’t afraid to let their children play outside by themselves because they knew that their neighbors were also looking out for their kids. People knew their neighbors by first name and were friendly. They helped one another. They had dinner and spent time together.

Now people are downright scared of their neighbors! People think that their neighbors are the bad guy. There’s fear about kidnapping, child molestation, gang violence and many other issues. Is there a real fear of this happening in most communities? I’m not sure that it is, but then again, I’m under the impression that most people are good.

Maybe I’m naive.

Maybe I’m gullible.

But I’d like to still think that there are people out there who would watch out for a child if they saw him fall and he needed help.

Smile 1

Tonight I helped a dog find his way home. He ran out to greet me, no tags and no leash attached with an owner. He wasn’t afraid of me. He was young and energetic and he just wanted to run along side me. I knocked on a few doors nearby and found the owner pretty easily. I can’t imagine many people doing that. Such a small effort to make such a big difference for the dog.

Smile 2

But then again, other people are worried that there are rapists and murderers living in the houses near them.

So the next time you see someone walking in your neighborhood, make a conscious effort to smile at them.

Smile

It’s a small effort on your part, but it can make a huge difference in your community.

Imagine if everyone in your neighborhood did this. Imagine the kind of friendly communities we’d enjoy living in.

Imagine the love that would be spread.