Just say no

In 1982, a little girl asked Nancy Regan what she should do if someone offered her drugs. Mrs. Regan told her to just say no. It seems like a simple thing, doesn’t it? If you don’t want to do drugs, you can just say no. But we all know it’s not simple at all.

She did say yes to Mr. T. I guess she pitied the fool?

She did say yes to Mr. T. I guess she pitied the fool?

Why don’t people just say no to recreational drugs? Some do. Others do not.

It’s a goddamn crapshoot.

If people would just say no, we wouldn’t be losing so many people to drug overdoses, would we?

Hell yes, we would, because it’s not that fucking simple!

Addicts are born, yet they are also made. Drug addiction isn’t always a consequence of saying yes to a little weed or coke. Legally prescribed drugs are used to treat injuries and illness, and we need them, yet these drugs are more often than not, metaphorical seeds that grow when planted in the fertile soil of a person with a genetic disposition toward addiction.

In the wake of Philip Seymour Hoffman’s death, there is no shortage of blog posts and articles talking about addiction. This is a good thing, but it would be a better thing if there was less anger and negativity coming from people who are unable to tolerate differing opinions on the subject of addiction and all things addiction related. The fact that conversations are happening is a good thing, because anytime we human beings can open up dialogue, there is great potential for learning and growth. Knowledge is power. Information saves lives. But how can we learn if we don’t fucking listen?

That’s right, we can’t.

At a time like this, is it really in everybody’s best interests to act like assholes?

I think not.

Yesterday, I spoke to two people in active recovery. When I say active recovery, I mean that these people were clean and sober yesterday. One day at a time, you know? Both of these people told me that they were feeling strong urges to use as a result of Hoffman’s death. Does it sound strange to you that a couple of guys who are clean and sober  told me that the death of a stranger, likely the result of a drug overdose, made them want to use?

If you are a recovering addict, it probably doesn’t sound strange at all, but it’s not so easy for non-addicts to understand the intense craving addicts feel with regard to their drug (or drugs in some cases) of choice. However, a non-addict doesn’t have to have personal experience with craving drugs to acknowledge the power of this reality for an addict. It is human nature to have empathy for others who struggle, no matter what the particular struggle happens to be.

These differences between the addict and non-addict can be a source of real conflict. They don’t have to be, but alas, they usually are.

Why can’t we all just get along?

Since Hoffman’s death, I’ve read several blogs and articles written by people in recovery, blasting non-addicts for what the addict believes is non-addicts lack of understanding about the disease and lambasting them for even attempting to write about it. I’ve also read several blogs and articles written by non-addicts that have been affected by a loved one’s addiction, people who have lived with and loved addicts whose disease impacted their lives in devastating and dangerous ways. These people also know first hand the horrors of addiction. Just because they aren’t the ones with needles in their arms or failing livers doesn’t mean they aren’t suffering.

Both addicts and the non-addicts who have lived with and loved addicts have much to say about addiction, and each has something unique and important to contribute to the conversation. The more we all know; the better off we are. The disease of addiction is like any other disease in the sense that causes physical, spiritual and psychological pain for everyone it touches.

In my first book, I write a bit about how I “danced with the devil in the pale moonlight.” This is my way of saying that I struggled with substance abuse as a teenager, but I don’t go into specifics. I wasn’t ready to do so, and as I write my second book, I’m finding it much easier to delve into the particulars. There is a very fine line between drug abuse and drug addiction, and as a teenager, I walked that line. But if you want to know that story, I guess you’ll just have to buy the book.

I have lived with and loved addicts. I have worked closely with and addicts as a Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor. I have danced with the devil of abuse/addiction myself. You think I’d have some profound wisdom or knowledge by now, but I don’t. Even experts in the field of addiction struggle, because addiction is a baffling and complex disease. What I do know is that each individual is unique in body and mind and because of this, we can’t speak for one another. We can only speak for ourselves.

We can and should listen to others, too, and in doing so, there’s much we can learn, whether we agree or disagree, whether we are addicts or non-addicts, if we can all keep the conversation about addiction going in a respectful way, both addicts and non-addicts can benefit. After all, we all want the same thing, don’t we – to enjoy living and loving own one day at a time for as many days as possible.

Why does everything have to be a fight?

Addiction is a disease. It leaves no one untouched. It lies. It steals. It hurts. It breaks. It kills. We need to work together to treat this insidious plague, and arguing, nit picking and judging just makes all of us sicker. Negativity adds to the problem, and people, addiction is huge problem! Do we need to make it worse? Families are crumbling, spirits are breaking, bodies are suffering and people are dying.



Just saying no to drugs isn’t simple, but saying no to negativity can be. I think we have enough of that already, don’t you? Let’s all keep calm and just say no to that nonsense now, okay?


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