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.

 

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.

Life of an Advocate

I wake up. I try to come to grips with the fact this today will be busy, but I will make it through – I have a 100% statistic so far in my life of getting through the day.

I slept like garbage last night, I’m exhausted and I no longer own a coffee pot. I also don’t have the money to buy coffee or the time to make an extra stop on my way to the courthouse.

I throw myself together in 5 minutes and hope that I look presentable enough for court. (Hey, I showered and brushed my teeth, I’m wearing clean and professional clothes, so that’s great, right?)

I arrive at the courthouse and drive around for 10 minutes before finding a space 2 blocks away.

I run to the courthouse so as to avoid being late and accompany my client. Things go smoothly.

Finish my first appointment at late 10am and my next one starts at 10am… across town. I’m definitely going to be late.

Run to my car and try to obey the speed limits as I’m driving, but it’s so tempting. I think to myself “Getting a ticket will make you later and broke.”

Client doesn’t show after all that rushing. Oh well, on to the next. I shake it off.

I return to the office and it’s an absolute mess from yesterday and all the work I did. I clear enough space to start working.

My phone is ringing off the hook and I have 8 phone calls to return already.

I have 3 clients with financial needs waiting for an answer and my director has still not responded.

I have 12 emails in my inbox and most of them require a response today.

I shove a snack into my face as I try to call back a client, no answer. I leave a message. I pray to God my garbled message is understandable. I make a mental note not to eat when I’m calling a client, but who knows when I will be able to get lunch?!

I have a client at the front desk wanting to speak to me and an appointment in 5 minutes.

I’m stressed out to the max and my stomach is growling so much I’m worried someone would be able to hear it through the phone.

I needed to pee at 9 am and still haven’t gone, it’s now 1pm… my bladder may explode.

I’m sitting in a meeting when I get an email from the accounting department about a client financial item. They are issuing checks today… right this minute…and if I don’t get my request in now it won’t get paid for another 3 days.

I leave the meeting and run to my desk and then downstairs to accounting. I run back up to the meeting and try to regain focus.

I shove some food in my face between phone calls. My phone continues to ring off the hook as I’m on the phone and trying to eat.

I have an appointment in another hour. I’m sure she has a lot which needs to be addressed and I know my workload will get worse before it gets better.

I suddenly wonder what it would be like to work in the corporate world again. It would be so nice to have predictable hours, predictable needs and predictable workloads. I can picture my life as boring and average. I wouldn’t be helping people in need, but my skills would still be in high demand. My day would be filled with , human resource functions such as staff trainings, creating documents, running reports, employee files, background checks and interviews.

I’m bored at the simple thought.

Would my life be easier doing many other jobs? Of course it would! But I wouldn’t ever want them. As stressful as my life is, it an be very rewarding. As hectic as it can be, it can be filled with client victories and progress towards risk reduction. As ever-changing as it is, it can sometimes be boring and mundane still. As much as I may travel and it annoys me to “waste my time” on the road, it’s not wasted because it’s bringing vital services to clients who need it. I’m making outreach in rural areas which need me. I’m assisting some of the most vulnerable people on this planet with vital services. Is it sometimes challenging? Absolutely. Is it sometimes very sad and hard to listen to the stores I’m told? Hell yes. There are days where I wonder how someone could hurt another human being like that. But as hard as it is, it’s important to listen to victims. It’s crucial to their story and it’s a huge first step to getting their needs met.

Being an advocate can be hard as fuck.

But I wouldn’t want anything else right now.

Choose your words with love

As I preach over and over and over again, the world does not have enough love in it anymore. People don’t truly care for one another. There’s too much entitlement, instant gratification and apathy. People just don’t give two shits about others unless it directly benefits them.

Case in point: businesses which “go green” for the marketing value. People who perform random acts of kindness only to publicize it on social media…those are supposed to benefit the person receiving the act of kindness, not the person doing it. By publishing it, it’s selfish. (Yes, I’ve listed what I do for random acts of kindness before. That wasn’t to gain publicity, it was to give others ideas. There’s a difference.) People who donate to a charity to have their name on a plaque. Puke.

There are certain words which no longer belong in modern society, and tonight someone used one with me. The end result was a rather large argument in which the person actually thought I may disown them. Yes, it was that bad. I take this seriously.

It was “The N Word”.

There are very few words in the world which I have issues with, but racial slurs are the absolute worst words a person can use. When someone uses a racial slur, it’s not “just a word”. It’s insulting, disgusting and rude. This word is not separate from the hundreds of years of oppressing people based on their race by use of this word to mean that they were less of a person. It’s not just a word rappers use in reference to their friends regardless of the spelling. It’s a degrading insult which I will not stand for. It’s disgusting.

There’s others.

Retarded. Retarded is a word I wish would just disappear. It’s almost worse than a racial slur in that it insults people who are mentally challenged. Really?! I’ve known many people with lower cognitive function and the people I know are beautiful, wonderful, intelligent and kind people. They know facts you never knew you needed to know, but they just told you just now. They are some of the most loving people I have ever met. They do not deserve to be insulted by your ignorant words. People are not retarded. People can have cognitive problems, downs syndrome, or a disability, but they are not retarded.

“That’s gay” is another phrase I will not stand for. By using someone’s sexuality in place of the word “dumb” or “stupid” (which are also words I very rarely say because they are also cruel) it’s insulting to every person of that sexuality. You’re saying that gay is synonymous for stupid. If that isn’t what you mean, then don’t say it! There was a recent media focus on this phrase, and I think it has finally been eliminated for the most part.

I’d love to see a world in which people are respected, loved and treated as equals. We’re all members of the human race. Who gives a fuck what factors divide us?! We have skin, it doesn’t matter what color. We have thoughts, it doesn’t matter how many. We have feelings, it doesn’t mater what kind, they are acceptable. No person on this planet is more deserving than another. Not everyone gets what they want nor do they always get it in the timing they want.

I’m all for celebrating diversity, but in the belief that we’re all special and unique. No one is the same as anyone else. This isn’t to emphasize matters which divide us, but to splendor in the fact that although we are all human, we are all individuals and should be treated as such and not by some blanket policy or practice.

It’s time we set aside these thoughts and think more clearly about where our planet is going. We need to stop dividing this planet based on national origin, religion, race, gender, sexual orientation, political affiliation or any other factors. Let’s band together and spread more love. Let’s take care of those less fortunate who need help. Let’s give aid to those who need it whether that’s financial, physical, mental or emotional not because they “earned” it but because it’s the right thing to do. Let’s be kind and generous to one another not because of religious doctrine, but because it’s what decent human beings would do.

Let’s spread more love in this world and think about our words. Let’s eliminate hateful words with no purpose but to wound others and cause division. So I challenge you, if you’re using any of these words, stop. There’s so much hate already in this world, please don’t perpetuate it further.

I miss him

It’s terrible…missing someone you care about. The dull ache in your heart, the worry, the constant thoughts….

I miss him.

Although those three massive words have yet to be said, we both know what happens next. He cares about me and I care about him.

I miss his texts in the morning.

I miss his witty, sarcastic, smart-ass texts.

I miss the sweet texts too. The ones that have so much between the spaces of each word and phrase. The ones that tell me everything and nothing all at once. The ones that make me excited, and curious, and nervous, and so scared that I’m reading more into it than is really there.

I miss his goofy looks. I miss the way he makes fun of me. I miss the way his skin feels on mine. I miss his lips. I miss his arm in mine. I miss his fingertips.

I feel like I’m going crazy.

I’m falling in this inevitable hole that is love…. and I’m not stopping any time soon.

I can’t wait until he’s home. I can’t wait to hold him in my arms and kiss him. I can’t wait to see his smile.

I miss him.

A Little bit of Happy

It’s been brought to my attention that lately my blog has been reflective, but doesn’t accurately describe the happiness which is currently in my life. For that reason, I would like to share with you a little bit of happy.

I’m so blessed to have in my life a man who makes me so happy. Last night my best friend and I were sitting around talking, and I could not get him out of my head! Now I’ve known this girl since I was 4 years old, and she hears close to everything about the people I date, my work, everything. She’s one my my best friends and she knows me so well. But she has never heard me talk about anyone the way I talk about this guy.

The best part about the guy I’m seeing is all the small things. He doesn’t buy me flowers or take me on expensive dates, but when he spends time with me I feel like the luckiest girl alive. I’ve never wanted any of those things anyway. All I’ve ever wanted is someone who let me know just how awesome he thinks I am and how lucky he is to have me around. This guy did it last weekend in 5 words:

“Thank you for being mine”

How can 5 words make me so happy?! I’ve dated lots of guys, and they all had one problem. They were all fatally flawed and doomed to fail. But this guy has me feeling like I’m living a romantic comedy movie. I feel like this may finally be my happy ending and the credits may roll at any moment instead of a star-crossed lover waiting for the end of the relationship. I’m totally twitterpated and it’s thrilling and oh-so-scary all at the same time.

The biggest reason I feel this way is that I’m always my complete and unadulterated self with him. Never have I pretended to like something which I truly don’t. Never have I had to make excuses or little white lies about how I feel about something. Everything I say to him comes with complete acceptance. Every strange thing I do is just how I am, who I am and what I’ve experienced that makes me uniquely me. I don’t have to wear a mask, I can just be 100% Jodi (which can be scary to others, I know that) and he enjoys every minute of it.

This weekend I went to spend some time with him. We had dinner and then went to see a movie. It was no big deal. It wasn’t tickets to the opera or five star dining. It was great food and a movie that I wasn’t all that into, but I got to sit in a dark theater for 3 hours holding his hand and being next to him. When I was cold during the movie, he gave me his coat so I could stay warm. He let me hold his arm as we walked down the street on the way to his apartment from the movie. Nothing that was a big deal to most people, but to me it was the most precious gift to be able to spend time with him because with him everything means so much more.

Just being close to him is a big deal because I know he has other things he could be doing. He has hobbies and friends. He works a lot. He has a lot of responsibilities at work, and I can understand that sometimes it’s hard to pull himself away from things he needs to get done at work, but he does it for me. He makes time to see me even though we live a good distance apart.

And in the back of my head there’s starting to exist this thought I’m not quite sure about committing to yet. That pesky thought that I may be falling for this guy, a feeling that has really snuck up on me. What if I’m falling in love with this man? Does he feel the same way? There’s always that awkward moment when you worry that you like someone more than they like you, but I don’t feel that way. I know that he likes me exactly as much as I like him, and it’s so comforting and so reassuring to know that I am someone so special to this guy. I love it. I’m so thrilled that I am important to him. To him, I’m a huge deal and he’s just as honored to spend time with me.

So I’ve been keeping it to myself what I’ve been feeling because I’m so scared that if I utter those words out loud it will scare him away. I’m scared that if I say it, it’ll all fade away. But last night talking with my friend it all came out, and she instantly said “I knew it! You really like this guy! You’re falling for him!” and I was ok with it. It wasn’t something I didn’t already know in my own head, it was just the fact of how I felt. And now it’s public on my blog… which is even more scary because what if he reads it!? (Oh god!) But I really don’t care because I think he already knows.

He showed me where he works. Not just “this is the office building I work in”, but he gave me a full tour like a proud papa would show off a new baby. He showed me his office, and the full building, and he was proud to do it and it made him happy to share it. I was just impressed. And not just because he has so much more responsibilities than what I do (we work in the same field), but that he allowed me to see what he does when I know his job is such a huge part of his life. And he wanted to share it with me, which is a big deal!

But I’m waiting to see where this life takes me and to see what happens next, and I can’t wait. I’m anxiously awaiting our next date as the days pass. With the holidays I know I will have to be extra patient, but I’ll gladly wait as long as it takes to see him again. I hope he feels the same way about me. I hope he’s just as smitten as I am. I hope he pictures our future together. I hope he is curious to see where our path will lead together. I’m not talking marriage and I’m not talking having children, but just this life and what experiences we’ll have together. I’m so excited to see what happens next, it’s like reading a book and wanting to turn the pages extra fast so I can get onto the next page as fast as possible!

And I hope he is falling in love with me because that would just make me so happy.

Sometimes I forget to sit back and really appreciate all the happiness I have in my life, but this is definitely one bit of happiness I’m so thrilled to share with all of my friends. I have my moments where I’m sad, and where I think the world isn’t fair, but then I have moments like this which make all the suffering in my life thus far seem so far away and so worth it for what has brought me to this exact moment with this amazing guy because if I hadn’t experienced all those things, I wouldn’t have been right where I needed to be for all of these pieces to come together and for this to be my little bit of happy. Maybe it will turn into a lifetime of happy. I’m not sure yet, but I’m enjoying it for now.