I’m wondering if there are words I can write that can, in this moment, truly reach into the heart and mind of someone who is addicted to drugs and/or alcohol, and persuade them to get the help they need? Better yet, let me get very conversational here and speak personally, not objectively, namely to you. I first want to explain the obvious title’s twist on the famous play and movie, “A Streetcar Named Desire,” by Tennessee Williams. Maybe you have jumped aboard this vehicle named for ‘desire’ because you think it is a means of entering into a world of longing and craving, and, finally - gratification. While not wanting to admit the truth to yourself, you have actually leapt aboard a dangerous streetcar leading you to a world of endless despair, filled with pain, self-abuse, and treachery.
I’m not trying to be cute or minimally creative here. I want so much to reach out to you – now. Somehow, I want to discover the language, that can penetrate through the barriers you may be trying to erect – self-imposed walls that keep you removed from the truth of the menacing actions you are engaged in through your perpetual use of drugs and alcohol. I’m not sure if I can do this. Often what happens when anyone tries to persuade another caught in the midst of addiction, to stop using, such attempts easily fall upon indifferent or even hostile ears. And, the truth be told, it is so easy for someone, like myself here, to unwittingly sound preachy or superior – like, look at me – I’m no longer addicted, I did it, why can’t you? Or, I’m just an outsider, writing a recovery blog, not a part of your current social or inner circle, or even among your own peers. Why should you afford me, my words, a single second of consideration? Anyway, if you are using now, or getting ready to venture out to a party or sitting alone somewhere anxiously awaiting your next dose of something - a bottle, pill, pipe or needle close by – why would you allow anything to alter your next, obvious move?
The use of language and words are a primary means of communication between people. Yet, although you may fully comprehend and understand a given language and the inference of meaning behind the use of words in sentences – spoken by you or to you – we are never assured that the full meaning of these sentences have any effect upon us. We all carry with us a host of ‘filters’ in our minds that can either regard or disregard comments – this is necessary at times and a part of self-protection and our right to accept or not accept words presented to us at a given moment. Granted, we are surrounded by so many forms of electronic communications in each given day, we must have some ‘filters’ to what we are exposed to and afford ourselves some limits on reacting to each and everything we hear.
So, when is it that you do allow yourself to stop and listen to something being said? When do you relinquish the filters, just enough, to permit your inner being to not just hear but to listen? Moreover, after consenting to really listen, when do you decide to ‘act’ upon such promptings. And, is your action one that will be good for you or result in negative consequences – healthy or unhealthy – humane or inhumane – forward movement or backwards movement? People have choices and make decisions every day – for better – for worse. And, this especially holds true for someone coping with addiction. I can be talking to you, trying to persuade you to stop using or drinking – yet, you choose to continue to harm yourself. You may even agree with what I am saying – but, you choose to capitulate to the urges you feel and dismiss, even for now, the advice being offered. Words are so often useless and ineffective.
But, look around you. Even with all of the expected rejection of helpful advice from others, people are in fact entering into recovery every day and ultimately succeeding. I’ve seen people in AA meetings who were drunk during the meeting. We’ve all seen others at NA meetings who were high on something. And, to a casual observer, this may appear quite incongruous. But, seeds are being planted all the time. You never know when one of those seeds finally sprouts and shines that important ray of hope through all the pain and turmoil you may be presently experiencing. Those of us participating within the recovery community want to help. And, guess what? The help that is out there is plentiful, honest and sincere, true and capable of reaching into your heart.
But, if today is not that day for you, I understand. I get it – I really get it. I was you – I was that person who believed I was beyond reach. I would have shut out any ‘preachy’ words or advice from others. Just a few short years ago, I was in your condition – horribly addicted to alcohol, despite growing health problems, shaky hands and unending nausea and vomiting – every day. And, the sickening thing was, the only way my mind thought it could get through another hour or two, each day, was through consuming more alcohol to stop the shaky hands and decrease the intense nausea. Better yet, so much of my daily behavior was a futile attempt to appear ‘normal’ or ‘fine’ – making sure that no one knew about ‘my condition,’ my real condition. My perpetual use of my drug of choice – alcohol – was not making me feel good anymore – quite the opposite. I was now so deeply submerged into my abuse, that my drug consumption only allowed me to fragilely appear functional. I was playing a deadly game of hide and seek – then hide, hide more – until there was no more hiding. I could not see through the prison walls, not even for a moment. Rational, pragmatic, logical thinking or advice was beyond me and my behavior. The thought of stopping drinking did not even enter my mind – because I quite frankly, did not want to stop or knew how to stop. Finally, I alienated my closest relationships, the people I loved, my family, personal friends, business relationships, everyone. Could I see this or comprehend what I was really doing? Or, was I completely helpless except for that slight ray of light that only sporadically surfaced, offering a hint that help could in fact be found and was closer than I imagined. And, I suppose this ‘flicker of light’ is all that I would like these words to be – for someone, for you. I refuse to get preachy or use a type of approach that ‘demands’ that you must change your life now. Such tactics, I find, do not work too well – except for satisfying something in me more than offering something to you.
However, I will propose the following to you. You can change your life. You can decide this day to seek help, because, believe me, great help is there for you. You must first be bold and courageous though to take that first step, and admit to your inner self that you have become imprisoned by your addiction and before you can rationalize yourself into not getting help. You must become truthful to the actuality that you are on a streetcar of despair that has no intentions of letting you off. Your streetcar named ‘desire’ has lead you to a realm of utter despair. It is so painful to see you, anyone, in this state of pain and confusion, not knowing what to do next.
I recently read the news reports about the awful overdoses in Louisville, Kentucky – at last count, over 150 of them. What was even more disturbing is how few individuals, after experiencing their near-death encounter, actually sought recovery help afterwards. People were either afraid of legal ramifications, or being found-out, or worse – they simply did not want to stop using. Doesn’t this shake you? Are you horrified by the accounts from Louisville? I certainly am. But, any of us who have ever been addicted to alcohol or drugs, we know the truth – we just do not want to stop or know how to stop. And, tragically, the very help we need is so close by to us – a phone call, a knock on a door, reaching out to a friend – help is sometimes right in the same room with us.
You, your life is so important and you simply may not be able to see this truth right now. But, believe me, all those feelings and thoughts you have inside are all about you. If the outside world and those around you have treated you with little compassion, nurturance or love – I feel for you. You deserve more than that. You also deserve to live free and not shackled by your addiction. At best you are embarked on that streetcar again, imbibing in your drug of choice – and for what? – a moment’s sense of escape or relief – a tinge of a ‘good’ feeling – a temporary respite from facing yourself – settling for a twig of pleasure while denying yourself everything that there is within you? You have a right, a gift from the Creator, to live your life healthy and free from endless despair – the streetcar named despair – a life immersed in drugs and alcohol – keeping you from yourself while at the same time divorced from the outside world. Your life is worth so much more than this. You deserve so much more and it is in reach – only if you decide to take that first step towards recovery. There is love in the world around you – believe me – I know there is. There is caring help right in your own community, just waiting for you to open that door. There is love within you, despite whatever abuse you have succumbed to through your use of drugs and alcohol. There is so much more to life for you to experience than simply trying to survive another day on that treacherous ‘streetcar named despair’ – that destructive vehicle that seemingly will not stop to let you off. But, you can get off – you can exit anytime you decide that you are ready to stand up and account for yourself – give to yourself a real gift of life – a loving gift – the gift you deserve – embarking upon those first steps of your journey of recovery. Until next time, contemplate living your life with peace, serenity, compassion and love . . . One Day at a Time.
Suffice it to say, the current times we are living in are challenging, to say the least. I wanted to repost this May 2016 Blog – “Why Do I Matter?” in response to some of the more recent contentious happenings around the world. I know there are many individuals asking themselves this same type of question – Why Do I Matter? The fundamental principles defining our individual existence and consciousness on this planet are vital - spiritually, mentally, and physically. And, I have personally experienced no other period in my lifetime when compassionate, loving and intelligent answers to this question - Why Do I Matter - are more needed. The very foundation of how we consider ourselves, our significance, each day upon awakening, must be brought to light and reconfirmed within our own minds and soul. This is most pertinent for those of us in recovery attempting to rebuild our lives and substantiate the reasons we do in fact matter. This article is especially for those individuals still caught within the struggles of addiction, attempting to discover the resounding answers that validate their significance and purpose. I sincerely offer the following words to support and encourage you to begin today, if you have not already, upon your recovery path. This day, you can enter upon the true path of recovery and begin to free yourself from the perils of addiction and alcoholism, one day at a time. This can be your day to inaugurate a new life, a new beginning - for you, your family, friends and loved ones. Please read on.
Our internal dialogue can end up determining so much of our entire outlook on life. Often, we do not even know where these inner thoughts come from - or - what is the source of the emotion that make us feel the way we do. Many of us are not aware of this almost subconscious self-conversation since our thoughts speed along at such a rapid rate, and can layer on top of each other or collide together into an indiscernible ‘mood
.’ Sometimes we may feel blue or upbeat, or just indifferent, not really knowing exactly why. Our nervous system and chemistry can certainly play a role in determining our ever-changing emotional states. Conversely, these inner thoughts can set off an array of chemical and neurological reactions. It is a bit like the proverbial – what came first, the chicken or the egg? There are so many contributing variables to how we feel in any given moment. However, I would like to direct the purport of this blog to deciphering this inner dialogue, particularly how it may relate to defining who we are and how we feel about our own self in the world we live in.
I recently heard a young teenage girl, struggling with overcoming an ongoing addiction to opiates, express out-loud that she felt she did not matter. “Why should I matter, no one cares about me, no one knows who I am. I am just a nobody. Hell, I don’t even care about myself. I’m a nothing.”
Powerful and painful words to hear from anyone and yet, quite similar to the victimizing words uttered by anyone going through addiction or alcoholism. The more you drink, the more you hate yourself. The more you use, the more you lose yourself. The vital reasons for living become obscured from your inner field of vision. Unfortunately, the muffled cries of your inner self, trying to escape the addiction prison, often fall upon your own listless perception.
What does make us matter? Do I matter in this world, and why? There are some very interesting, yet varied social factors that are applied today both directly and indirectly when determining the ‘value’ of any human being. Let’s explore this more. If I am wealthy, certainly this can influence many aspects of my life – the kind of area I live in, the schools I may attend, the opportunities I may acquire simply because of my wealth. If I am an attractive, good-looking person, this can play an important role in my self-identification, depending of course on how great a value and importance I place on this outward perception of my body. If I have the opportunity of being educated and suited to learning in school, I then have yet another component influencing my self-perception and mental development. Certainly, if I am popular and people tend to like me, again my inner self may absorb this feedback, and in fact, may come to rely on its continuation. This kind of list can go on for pages, of course.
Now, let us flip or reverse these assertions. If I am born poor, and grow up in a struggling, destitute environment, how does this affect the vital perceptions of myself? Suppose I am not very competent with my studies, then what resulting consequences am I looking at? Suppose I am not physically attractive, perhaps awkward in my movements, what will happen in my life as I grow older? And, if people do not seem to like me and I become isolated in life at an early age and become an outcast or retreated loner – well, we can easily surmise the kind of resulting inner dialogue that may perpetually fill my mind to where it is the only awareness of myself.
Fortunately, there are many ingredients influencing our lives that shape us. One of the most important of these is love. If we are cared for, nourished with love and healthy affection, we may overcome many of the peripheral aspects of our environment. Look at the shining examples throughout history that have worked and grown through seemingly insurmountable obstacles only to achieve not just great personal success but also contribute so much to others. I often think of Helen Keller, who despite her blindness and deafness emerged as a force of love and beneficence to others as well as a wise and prolific human being. Most importantly, she did not do it alone.
If my internal dialogue becomes filled with critical or demeaning thoughts about others, or myself certain states of consciousness will overtake me. It is no surprise that people who are highly critical of others are hiding their own internal criticism. Imagine a parent always criticizing their child’s physical appearance while not providing unconditional love and acceptance. Underneath this veil of contempt and lashing out is the parent’s own highly critical dialogue regarding their own self. What is often done to us in early life can be easily passed on to our own children if we have not sorted out the falsity that surrounded us and decide we are not going to repeat those negative patterns. The same is true with addictions – we know that it often ‘runs in families’ – an environmental, social influence.
So, does each one of us matter? The answer is yes. However, this answer can be carelessly rejected by our own mind. It is so easy to accept our insignificance more than our significance. Are we not just one person in a world with billions of people – a minute cog spinning in the wheel of life? And, if we do not lay claim to any notoriety, fame, wealth, beauty or success – how easy it can be for one to begin to utter those self-destructive internal thoughts – “I don’t matter, no-one knows who I am, no one cares about me, I’m just a nothing.” Over time, these messages to ourselves become a pernicious habit. We can in fact, lay claim to an internal dialogue that creates our own adopted inferiority complex regardless of whether we are born into a family where every seeming benefit is laid before us or whether we are born into a family struggling to meet daily needs.
It is important to reject these negative messages about our own self. We do not have to lay claim to fame and wealth to find love for ourselves. Often those who have achieved much in the world, be it fame, success, notoriety, become chained to such accomplishments and rely heavily on their continuance. Their internal thought processes of determining their self-worth may have easily lost sight of the important value of seeing themselves detached and removed from those outer labels. Essential to living a healthy life, physically and psychologically, is the ability to balance our own egos with an honest integration of knowing who we really are and how we treat others and our self through the course of daily living.
One moment of contemplation about the magnificence of a single human being, in this case, our own self, will dignify what our creation is. This can be and should become our meditation about who we are. The miracle of a single eye, our heart, our brain, our lungs, the feelings we have, our memory, our ability to think – is this not something wonderful and amazing and truly uplifting? Isn’t the phenomena and marvel of a single human being – the body, mind and soul – enough to establish our significance in the world? It should be and it can be, if we allow it to be so. Our perception can open up to a renaissance of what we regard as valuable and important. Listening to the kinds of thoughts we have internally about ourselves and others is a beginning. Rejecting many of the self-destructive and highly critical thoughts we can possess in any given day is like breathing in fresh air and drinking fresh water. Allowing thoughts of love, peace, nurturance, and compassion for ourselves and others can become a positive practice that will eventually become a habit that will affect our entire outlook on life. Self-esteem, self-actualization and love gains force as we practice it.
In any given moment, when the negative messages start pummeling our self-concept, causing a mood swing towards being down on ourselves, or feeling that we do not matter in this world – take a deep breath and allow these messages to have their moment. Start a practice of accepting such negative thoughts as simply a temporary and habitual chorus that will take some practice and time to leave. Do not attribute any more to such negative thoughts. Then, with your full concentration, say something to yourself that is caring and nurturing. I particularly like when I utter to myself, “I am a loved creature in this universe and I can be happy in this moment. I deserve to be content and stable. I accept myself for who I am in this moment.” These are positive, concise, straightforward messages to one’s self. The only thing to remember is that it takes practice. Over time, you will find that those nagging, disagreeable internal messages will be replaced by approving, loving reflection. You must try at first to believe in the possibility of what you are pronouncing to yourself – there obviously has to be some element of truth to your internal commentary.
For instance, if you really are a nasty, disagreeable person, and you utter that you are a good person – well, suffice it to say, you can say this message to your own mind a thousand times, but will you really come to accept it? Of course not. Better yet, if you are an alcoholic and you attempt to dupe yourself by continuing to affirm that you are not an alcoholic – no amount of habitual, repeated dialogue will convince your inner self. Our deepest consciousness can discern truth from fiction. A person can develop and foster this pre-disposition to replacing old behaviors with healthy ones. In order to accept these newer, positive thoughts and forms of conduct, one simply needs to believe in their honesty and truthfulness and accept them as a new standard of how to live with yourself.
It takes patience and diligence to change the kinds of thoughts we have. Replacing the negative inner dialogue with positive, loving thoughts will bring forth a new you. Until next time . . . keep the inner dialogue positive! [PH2]