Tuesday, November 8, 2011
How To Begin to Cure Drug and Alcohol Addiction
Simply put, addiction is easy. Rehabilitation is hard. I should know. I've been a rehabilitation counselor for over thirty years and an addict for over fifty. That's right, an addict. Just like you. Just like your wife or husband, mother or father. Just like your sons and daughters. An addict like your friends and neighbors, aunts and uncles, doctors and lawyers, or your cashiers and waitresses. Peace Officers, firefighters, the rich, the poor, government workers, elected officials, celebrities, sports figures--addicts us all. Throughout my lifetime, I've tried about every drug on the street and most in the pharmacy. In the past, I've been addicted to cocaine and, as a teenager, speed. Today my addictions include the mind altering, perception bending and hard-on-the-body but perfectly legal, drugs like refined sugar and caffeine. Some of my addiction are medically related, prescribed medications (as many of you can understand) that have been given to me by my well-intending physicians. Marijuana, prescribed to me due to the adverse effects of PTSD, is such a medication. As a student, I consumed my share of alcohol - the last real blitz in celebration of Richard Nixon's resignation. It's been several decades since that bleary night and I haven't had more than a couple dozen beers or sips of wine since, so alcohol is not difficult for me to manage. But I was an addict long before I gained my postgraduate degree as a rehabilitation counselor. Knowledge does not make you immune from the foibles of addiction. My eldest daughter, though a beautiful and talented actress, is an opiate addict. Opiate addiction among our young is a more common phenomenon than the general public would suspect. So, even years of experience dealing with drug and alcoholic patients didn't prevent my own flesh and blood from becoming addicted to a near fatal lifestyle. Gambling. Sex. Speed. Shopping. Your morning doughnut. An after dinner cigarette or brandy. Screens. Cell phones. MP3's, HDTV, video games on your home PC. Electronics hypnotize and enslave millions of us as they suck up our time and money, just like opiates, while we often ignore our own family and friends. Violence. How many of us are addicted to the many forms of violence? This listing could go on forever. Addiction is rampant and getting worse. Addiction is and will continue to be one of the chief social concerns of the 21st Century. How did this happen? Was it always this way? Why can't we stop doing the things we do excessively that, most likely, we needn't be doing at all? What is wrong with us and why does it produce so much guilt? Holistic practitioner and author Dr. Andrew Weil once proposed that altering consciousness was an innate process. That means we have a built-in urge to see and experience things differently than we normally see them. That would certainly explain why we love to turn in fast circles as children, or roll down hills to get dizzy. It would also explain why, as we grow, the simple turning circles or rolling down hills becomes riding a roller coaster or speeding at one hundred miles per hour. It would stand to reason this instinct we have to experience an offset reality may be the basis for alcohol consumption, drug use, and other extreme, perhaps life-threatening behaviors. However, addiction is a human condition designed to keep us alive. Think about the attraction we have to our mother's teat, returning again and again for the sweet milk provided with a warm and soothing touch. This natural addictive process melds with our innate need to alter perception, and it explains why these two create a very potent combination that is the precursor of all addiction. And, we humans are great copycats. In fact, it is not too much of a generalization to say that humans simply love to copy one another. From fashion to what we read or watch, to the activities we play, humans relish in imitation. If one person has a fetching new hair style, you can bet that within a short time that new hair style wil be seen on magazine covers and televisions shows. With knock-off garments and look-alike accessories, humans copy each other as a matter of course. No wonder designer drugs catch on so quickly and addiction to these new drugs is rampant. If one person is getting high on the latest and greatest drug, you can rest assured that an entire city will be consuming that new drug within a short period of time. Recently, I counted five out of six television commercials during an evening national newscast commercial break were ads from drug companies pushing their latest and most potent products. We are inundated by pharmacology and constantly persuaded that pills can cure our ills. This message subliminally gives us an unconscious okay to delve into drugs and the highs they provide. Yes, addiction is easy. Rehab is hard. Can we meet this challenge? Rehab is not for every addict. Too many of us are involved with life-threatening addictions. Some of us are in great physical peril and have gone beyond the ability to make rational choices for ourselves. These addicts need immediate intervention and treatment. Most of us know someone who needs this sort of help. When we are so far removed from our true selves, we may need someone or some entity (government, religious, spiritual) or something to read this book for us, to help us prepare for the rigors of rehabilitation. INTERVENTION SAVES LIVES! Colin Swift is a rehabilitation counselor and vocational consultant with over thirty five years experience working with diverse populations, from rock star to street walker. A unique world view allows for his eclectic therapeutic style that has evolved into PREHAB. A published poet, screenwriter, musician, and producer, Mr. Swift has three daughters and lives with his youngest in Sacramento.