Sunday, 27 April 2014
She was an elderly woman living alone in her home in a small village. Her name was-- I will call her-- Mary. I hadn't met her then. I imagine her as a cheerful but quiet sort with blue eyes that sparkled in the sun as she bounced a grandchild on her knee or waved to a neighbor.
The mother had blue eyes. The son and the younger daughter had blue eyes. The mother's ex-husband living in another state had blue eyes. The middle child-- my"little sister" in the program at that time-- had brown eyes.
I imagine her asleep. It was the middle of the night. An intruder broke in. I don't know how. I will say through the back door. The back door had three small windows. He broke the bottom pane and felt around for the lock.
"I don't want to be his daughter," she told me. "I hate him. He is disgusting." I didn't know what to say to her. I didn't know enough to ask her those sorts of questions that one is supposed to ask children or to take her to someone who did. I was not able to keep her safe. I didn't know how.
Carefully, he closed the back door and secured it shut. He didn't want any interruptions. He stepped into the kitchen, avoiding the shattered glass.
The local program went on a witch hunt. I'd been in that program for eighteen years and I'd been clean for sixteen of those eighteen years. I'd had two "little sisters" before her without incident. One had aged out of the program. The other had moved away.
No lights came on, no dog barked, no alarm system sounded. Good. Silently he crept through the small kitchen to the hallway.
Unexpectedly, I received an application in the mail and a request to fill it out. Seems the office had "lost" my original one. The application asked if I was asexual, heterosexual, bisexual, or homosexual. I was unmarried. I wrote in "celibate." I returned the application to the office in person. "We lost your references too," the woman in charge told me. "Please obtain three new references for us."
The stairs were there, to his right.
I was disgusted. "I've been a volunteer with this program for eighteen years. If you don't know who I am by now, that is your problem," I told her. "I did not lose the references. I will not be getting you three new ones." My days in that program were numbered.
The house was quiet. He crept to the bottom of the stairway.
The newest literature generated by the local program stated that if a "big sister" or a "big brother" was homosexual, the parent of the "little sister or little brother" had to sign a form releasing the program of all liability. As a single woman, I was no longer to be trusted with a child. I had suddenly became a liability after eighteen years in. Women my age were "supposed to be" married to men. Women like me who weren't partnered with men were suspected of a virulent form of lesbianism-- according to the collective imagination of the local program board-- which automatically preyed upon little girls from single parent households.
The third stair creaked. He froze.
John-- that is what I will call him-- found me outside. I had just returned from walking my dogs. I knew him from recovery and also as my ex-little-sister's ex-step father.
He had around six years clean. We were friends, so I thought. I invited him in. He could not sit still. He paced. "I don't know what to do," John said. "I'm clean for six years. This isn't getting any better."
His long-term ex-girlfriend did not want him back. Ever.
The intruder marked nine more stairs. Almost reverently, he nudged open the bedroom door.
Buried in the blankets was his target. She was frail with papery skin and age spots. A head of thinning gray curls framed her face. She was an angel. He wanted to consume her.
Savagely, he tore off the blankets and took her.
The elderly woman in the nursing home was terrified of us. "She was raped in her home last week," a nurse told me in hushed whispers. Wordlessly, the elderly woman screamed herself hoarse, no matter how gentle we were with her.
He was tried and convicted. He was sentenced. I forget how many years. "Did you hear about John?" friends in recovery asked each other, startled out of their apathy. I could not talk about it.
Nothing eased her pain.
"It's a letter from John," my neighbor said. "I don't know if you want it or not." I took it, retreated into the safety of my home, read the letter.
She shook and screamed until we were finished.
If only I'd been able to ask you for help that night, John had written. I tore the letter up and threw it into garbage.
She died still frightened of everyone.
Saturday, 19 April 2014
Alcoholism was initially declared to be a "disease" in the United States in order to get insurance companies to pay for treatment. Treatment used to consist of detox followed by an automatic twenty eight days in a rehabilitation center. Insurance companies got tired of paying for anything automatic I think around the early eighties. If the paid addictions counselors said anything too glowing about a patient's progress in rehab, suddenly some insurance company somewhere would decide that the patient was ready to go. "Oh but __________ is so sick," the staff would exclaim, "and needs more treatment." Counselors learned how to record things in the patients' notes so that insurance companies would not be able to force discharge as often.
Addiction to other drugs was soon declared to be a "disease" also by those treating addicts. "I have a disease," addicts who have been through treatment would state. This in my opinion was a much harder sell to the American public. These days, some of us know that addiction is addiction and that alcohol is in fact a drug. Some alcoholics don't much care to be lumped in the same vat with the addicts. And the American public could find sympathy for functioning alcoholics and even for stumble bums-- but not for crazed and scary drug addicts.
Now on television there are commercials advising us that obesity is also a disease. Treatment for being too fat has evolved away from fat farms and gatherings of foodies and more toward the provision of sleeves, lap bands, and by-passes for the morbidly obese. I have no quarrel with that. For some folks, those things can certainly save their lives and their health. Along with surgical intervention, the obese patient must reduce their caloric intake as well as take nutritional supplements as prescribed. [Those that don't can and do die. I've seen that]. Having said that, here is my problem: It's the whole "disease concept" that leaves me pondering certain dark and unpopular questions.
All of this is my opinion only. If you are happy believing that you have a disease, my hat is off to you. If you are threatened by the idea that your alcoholism/addiction/obesity may not be a disease, you may be better off escaping from this ranting blog post now. Please don't torture yourself on my account. It's simply not worth it.
In the eighties, alcoholism was compared to diabetes, tuberculosis, and AIDS. [The comparison to AIDS horrified me personally. I am way too close to the devastation that AIDS can cause to the folks who have it, their families and friends, and society at large.]. Diabetes is technically not a disease. Diabetes has more than one etiology [cause or origin]. Diabetes is in fact a condition which has a disease process. Like alcoholism and other drug addictions, diabetes can be progressive and fatal.
I believe that alcoholism and other drug addictions are also conditions. Like diabetes, there is more than one etiology. Like diabetes, a disease process may be present which dictates progression and fatality unless interrupted. Until further notice, I believe that alcoholism and other drug addictions [and over-indulgence in food] are all behavioral disorders [or what used to be called psychological conditions].
What medical evidence do we have that these things are "diseases"? None. We do not have a shred of medical evidence that points to alcoholism, other drug addictions, or over-indulgence of food as being diseases. Period. The development of tolerance or progression or fatality or the presence of "stages" is not evidence of a disease. The medical community will have to do more than that in order to convince me of this so-called "disease concept." [And no, I also do not believe that these things are "an allergy"].
The disease concept proliferated with the development of treatment centers for addictions. Even in the early eighties, it was not common to hear the "I have a disease" refrain in gatherings of addicts who were attempting abstinence. [What I remember hearing is, "Oh I have a disease so I think I will go out and relapse ha ha ha" said in a mocking way]. Now this disease talk has become all too common.
What is the benefit of believing that this thing "is a disease" or that we have a "genetic proclivity" to over-drink, over-eat, over-drug? Simple. There is an abhorrence to the idea that we may have done this to ourselves. Saying, "I have a disease" avoids any self-responsibility.
For the Addictions Treatment Industry, the disease concept means that people who are "suffering" from a disease deserve "treatment"-- their idea of treatment. And what is involved in treatment after detoxing?
Detox is a medical event. I detoxed at home, not knowing any better. People who detox at home can and do die. Some percentage of people who detox in a hospital also can and do die-- but the chance of dying during medical supervision of withdrawal is less than without. Because detox is defined as a medical event, certain criteria must be met for admission. This is why some addicts are denied admission. If they don't meet the criteria, they are judged as medically stable.
Treatment after detox [or without detoxing first if not medically indicated] may involve any of the following: a thorough history is taken-- sometimes called a psycho-social, interviews of any family members as well as the identified patient, groups, individual counseling, referrals to residential treatment, referrals to aftercare, referrals to day treatment or evening treatment.
Groups and individual counseling-- whether in-patient in a rehab or out-patient in the community in a day/evening treatment setting or other-- usually involve one or two counselors who work with the patients/consumers/customers/clients/participants on things like "the disease concept," spirituality, the importance of attending twelve step programs, how to avoid "relapse," identifying "triggers" which may lead the addict "back out," grief, family systems, taking the fun out of dysfunctional, "co-dependency," identifying feelings, motivational counseling, vocational counseling, therapeutic recreation, and pop psychology.
By pop psychology, I mean specifically certain New Age-y type ideas which have infiltrated the addictions industry. Pop psychology includes the use of affirmations, showing of certain films or discussion of certain books purporting to reveal ancient secrets that will cause folks to attain higher "vibrations" and succeed at life, the differences between men and women as delineated by certain popular authors and what that "means" for recovery, meditation or trance work, beating on pillows and bitching about woebegone childhoods, inner child work, dream therapy... All of these things are attractive to some folks because they lead away from any ideas involving hard work.
Is addictions treatment really needed? That depends upon who you ask. Those involved in the addictions treatment industry will say yes. I maintain that we would do better to provide detox to those who are in medical need of such and then dump all treatment programs. What will all these people do without treatment? The able-bodied can work. Unfortunately, being engaged in treatment in the United States means that some professional tells the newly abstinent individual, "Oh you can't work now. You have to concentrate on your recovery." Le sigh. More folks on the public dole.
The addiction treatment industry tells their patients that they must attend one or more twelve step programs in order to maintain their abstinence or recovery-- and they must do this for the rest of their lives. After all, these patients are powerless over their addictions and must rely on some sort of Higher Power in order to not return to active addiction.
How can addictions treatment possibly be effective when each and every patient is funneled into attendance at twelve step programs? Some people will respond favorably to attendance at twelve step programs. I'll grant that. Others achieve abstinence through churches or other faith-based organizations and agencies. Some do better with secular programs such as S.O.S. Some may respond to Rational Recovery or other internet-based info. Some achieve success with harm-reduction sessions. Some folks remain abstinent without any attendance at any mutual aid groups at all. [I have two relatives who remained abstinent that way until their deaths from old age]. Self-determination is practically non-existent when "choices" are limited to one way of doing things. Attendance at twelve step groups is not a choice when it is the only option presented as being viable. Is this about people or is it about the cash cow that addictions treatment industry has become?
sapphoq needing coffee says: People can and do quit their destructive behaviors without "treatment." Treatment is costly and not effective. If treatment for addictions is to survive, then more research is needed on how to identify the best intervention with the best possible outcome for each individual patient. Until then, twelve step ideology combined with pop psychology and a lack of self-responsibility will continue to dominate the addictions treatment industry. This is truly a sorry state of affairs.
Thursday, 17 April 2014
Recently, I was at a recovery event waiting for it to begin. People were pleasantly conversing with friends. Man A was sitting to my left. Women B and C were sitting to my right.
Women B and C are both American citizens. In fact, both were born in the U.S.A. [Man A and I were also born here]. Women B and C are fluent in both English and Spanish. I speak English, some Spanish, and bits of A.S.L., French, Portuguese, and Tagalog. I don't know what languages Man A speaks besides English and that really does not matter.
Women B and C started off in English speaking to only each other. They casually switched to Spanish, as is their custom. They switch back and forth between the two languages. I am used to that. I do it also at times. [Although I learned Spanish later in life, I have had several dreams entirely in Spanish]. Women B and C were not speaking of private matters. They certainly were not speaking about Man A.
Suddenly Man A proclaimed loudly, "English only. That's Man A's rule."
"There is no rule like that here," I told him.
He insisted. "Yes there is and it's Man A's rule."
"Man A does not get to make the rules here."
Woman B turned to me and showed me a cool pic that she had taken with her cellphone.
"Lo siento," I said to her. She nodded.
The recovery event then started. The recovery event was in English and everyone spoke English during the recovery event. In the middle of the recovery event, Man A left. That is his right.
sapphoq itching for a coffee says: English is the official language of the United States of America. American citizens and people who are looking to relocate here [legally] from other countries ought to have a good enough command of the English language. I have no quarrel with that. I support that.
Kids from Canada and from various European countries are taught to communicate effectively in several languages in their schools. The average American child-- maybe-- gets to learn one other language besides English. In my view, that should change.
With technology, even small schools can combine classrooms with each other in order to give their children the opportunity to learn several languages [and by that I mean not limiting their choices to Spanish or French].
To be able to communicate in several languages other than our native tongue and to have some understanding of the history and cultures of people who speak those languages is truly a gift. To insist that "all American kids learn Spanish" is just as wrong as insisting that a private conversation before an event be held in English.
Monday, 7 April 2014
Addiction is what led me to recovery. My using [which includes the drinking of alcohol] kept getting worse. Never better.
Atheism is the end result of my believing. I came into recovery believing. By my second decade, I no longer believe in any sort of capital H Higher capital P Power. This seems to upset some people who insist that since I "talk to trees and nature" that I am "not really an atheist."
I love Anonymous. Anonymous inspires me to hack my way into a better world.
Brain Damage happened to me after many years in recovery due to a motor vehicle accident. The other driver was charged and convicted of attempted vehicular manslaughter. The brain I have now I named Briella-- still brilliant but a bit sideways.
Birding was the first hobby I picked up after I stopped using.
Backpacking came soon after.
My backyard is full of bees and I love them.
Celebration: I celebrate every day that I am alive.
I take care of my cats well enough. Toward the end of my run, there was one kitten that I knew was sick. Every day after work, I went out and got blasted instead of taking him to the vet. He died at the end of the week. I'm so sorry Sammy. I failed you. I cannot make that up to you. I can only do better with the cats that are in my life today.
I went on a three week cross-country trip by myself and that was wonderful.
Cory Doctorow is one of my favorite authors. He writes stuff that I can relate to. It's hacker-lit for me.
I have always loved dogs. The dog that was with me when I stopped using was ecstatic. I came home every day after work. I took him for regular walks instead of throwing him out the back door. We did stuff together on weekends.
Dad came down with Lewey Body Dementia. Dementia sucks.
I started doing digital art after my accident.
Since my traumatic brain injury, I have learned that it takes courage to dream new dreams.
I used to have a bit of a problem with envy. I learned that anything worth having is worth working for. I no longer feel much envy. I'm too busy going after my goals to think much about what other people have.
When I am happy, I sing along with my ear-worms.
An e-reader gave me back the ability to read for more than a half-hour at a time. [After my car accident, I could not read for very long. With the e-reader, I can].
My grands had a dairy farm. I loved it there and I still miss the place.
I got into having fish in tanks. But I wasn't any good at it. My housemate kept saying, "Don't you think those fish would have been better off if they never met you?"
I switched to frogs. I love frogs. I have eight frogs right now. I've had up to thirty frogs at one time.
From watching Duck Dynasty, I learned the importance of family.
My t.b.i. eye doc says, "Fatigue is the great enemy." That's true.
I used to manage group homes. I miss the people but not the agency.
I used to go to the gym but I wasn't exercising enough there for the amount of food that I was eating. I gained a lot of weight during my time there.
I joined a different gym in January. I now am striving to eat sensibly. I am not gaining weight this time. I do at least five machines and sixty to ninety minutes on the cardio machines five to six days a week. Although I have to nap after the workouts due to my severe fatigue, I like going to the gym.
I love herons and hawks. I've seen some really cool ones too.
After my accident, I had a constant headache. I had to get blocks put in the back of my head [six needles on three separate occasions] to stop them. I felt so lousy that the needles felt good.
I love my housemate.
Hacking has taught me how to approach a problem logically.
Intelligence and intellectual pursuits are cool. I've noticed that there is substantial prejudice against t h i n k i n g expressed by some folks in recovery. I don't feel that way.
Islands rock. I love islands.
I love jelly beans.
When I was in fifth grade, I discovered Jack London and I read every book of his that I could get my hands on. As a girl, no one was encouraging me. [It was a time when the topic of "electricity" was skipped over in the girls' science classes much to my dismay]. But I loved his writing.
I also read "Death Be Not Proud" a bit later on [John Gunther] when it came out.
In Spanish class, I learned how to tell jokes.
I like junk shops and fixing stuff I got for cheap.
We had a few kleptos in my high school class. I was a nervous thief and so I quickly quit that sort of thing. Plus one for anxiety.
I was klutzy and last to be picked for any teams.
I hated kickball. I probably still do.
Laughter feels good to me.
I've been to Mexico a few times. I used to want to go live there. Now with all the violence from the drug cartels I've decided that Mexico is out for me.
I like the Old Quarter in Montreal.
I've read practically everything that Mercedes Lackey has written. Talking "horses"? Yeah, bring 'em.
I'm a nature child.
I miss New Orleans the way she used to be.
I learned how to work on my self-esteem from Nathaniel Branden.
I love the ninjem on Twitter (r). Any ninja accounts that I come across, I follow. The ninjem are the ones having all the fun there. Everyone else is serious or fighting or both.
I've been known to over-eat [throughout my life] but I prefer to call myself a "foodie." I don't believe that obesity or addiction are "diseases." I consider them to be behavioral disorders. [I did the work and I am no longer obese].
I have ocular-motor dysfunction due to traumatic brain injury. That means my eyes don't work well with my brain or with each other.
O.V.R. was a complete waste of time for me. They've helped lots of [more traditional sorts of] people but not me. I dislike authoritarian approaches in general. They truly didn't "get me."
I discovered Oliver Sacks and I love his writing. He is a neuro-doc with a heart. I'd love to have tea with him once and just talk about regular stuff but I think that won't ever happen. Drat.
I am disgusted with the troubled teen industry. No one deserves abuse. Our teens are our future. So it's OpLiberation for me.
The phone phreaks taught me to play with technology.
I have a "pagan soul" in me but no beliefs in any gods.
I like Quebec City and Queer Nation.
Regrets, yes I have them.
I miss the magazine "Raw Vision." I like the artwork of the self-taught.
I dream in Spanish.
I had fun in San Francisco.
San Diego is a place that I can imagine myself living in. I love it there.
Self-determination is one of my values. Too bad the recovery industry and the mental hell industry only give lip service to that idea.
I toured the Tuskeegee Institute. I never understood the big deal about Booker T. Washington and the peanuts until I went there and saw it for myself. The people there were real nice to me. If I ever get rich, I'd like to establish a scholarship so kids can go there.
I love to travel, especially on trains.
I want to learn how to ride a unicycle.
Violets are pretty flowers. I refuse to have a "chemical lawn" because the crap they spray on the lawn kills the violets. Plus there is a bunch of other reasons not to do that. Besides, if you mow it all down once in awhile, it's green anyways. [Actually, I am working on killing the lawn gradually and replacing it with better stuff].
In recovery, I re-discovered the woods. Being in the woods clean is a very different experience from being in the woods blasted.
Words have always fascinated me.
Writing is my life.
Some people are xenophobic and some aren't. Xenophobia cannot be attributed to everyone who is against civil rights for all civils.
I love yarrow.
Zoos are pretty cool. Many zoos are actually on the cutting edge of conservation. One zoo that I've been to, I thought should be shut down. [...Hello Utica Zoo with your plastic playthings for your primates]. The best zoo I've ever been to was in San Diego. Even the herps were happy.
~ the end for now ~