I wanted to share three (3) quotes from journal entries that clients within an inpatient treatment facility have shared with m. I believe that these entires may be able to provide clues and ideas to carry forward into other aspects of treatment. To me, addiction is layered and difficult to define. Those layers and difficulties provide obstacles to treating those afflicted with the disease. Plus, in looking at family and friends within the addict’s circle, the challenges grow factorally. However, in looking at writings of addicts within a residential treatment facility, it appears that maybe there are some common factors that can be filtered and organized. Also, if we look at addiction in terms of the dance between reasons to use and reasons not to use, in understanding the thoughts of addicts, we can better understand the reasons they use so that we can strengthen their reasons not to use.
I subscribe to the thought that addiction is a fight between the self and the addict. The addict is a deceiver who’s only aim is to hustle the object of his or her addiction. Eventually, the addict takes more and more control of the person until the self is lost under the weight of the object’s lure. I think people around addicts either don’t know or forget that the addict was once a person. I think they become confused and beg and plead with the addict, thinking that they are begging and pleading with the person he or she used to be.
It has always seemed to me that addicts live as half-alive and half-dead. theirs is a world where the landscape is bleak and doesn’t appear to be anything more than a playground through which they can get their score. This playground holds no laughter or smiles; it’s a real wasteland similar in structure to Dante’s hell. I don’t think anyone ever seeks to live in that place of of chaos and real suffering, but in time, they always do. How does anyone convince those for whom life is a hustle in a wasteland that life outside the wasteland is worth living? Theirs is a chronic suicide. They are choosing the land of the dead over the land of the living. But, what about those for who the wasteland is actually an improvement? What on earth would possess them to leave the land of the breathing dead and rejoin a life where there is nothing more than even more real suffering and pain and hopelessness. Aren’t their uses of drugs and alcohol nothing more than just common sense? We all realize the surface issues associated with drug and alcohol addiction, but does anyone really know how to change the greater circumstances that surround the addict? This “in-between” land almost seems better.
Even if an addict becomes clean and sober and leaves his half-dead life for a real alive life, there are thirty more addicts waiting to replace him or her. addiction is a series of waves that envelope everything in their path and consume souls that had no idea of what was coming for them. Then, the waves hit and send the person down the spirals of addiction. But, those unfortunate souls, unlike Dante, don’t have a guide to protect and guarantee their safe passage out of that land. While others may view addiction through more scientific lenses, I view it as a transformative disease through which a human becomes something different than human. Once captured in the waves rush, there is no escape. The human soul has to prevail and see that life is what it is, but death only gets uglier and uglier. The addict is a deceiver and a hustler whose soul becomes so muted that it no longer experiences the divine. Science is the tether that can pull the addict out of the wasteland. Addicts, as human, are all different and all walk different paths, but, addiction is the same. It starts off like this:
“Opening the bottle that first time was just a simple twist of the wrist. Pooring that first shot created the mild sound of liquid falling ontop of itself. Still after these two actions the direction could have gone one of two ways. She chose to bring that liquid to the injection site and drink it. Not realizing this one small act could impact her whole life. The effects of the warm liquid began to cause a feeling of joy and security. Never before had such a small action made feel so good so quickly. Within a matter of years this became the answer to all of her problems, joys, pains and happiness. That one twist of the wrist became all she longed for.” (Person A)
and ends like this:
“I am a grass hopper I jumped and jumped until I jumped in a pond of vodka. I codant jump no more, so I drownd and I was no more.” (Person B)
To me, those two quotes sum up the experience of addiction. People around the addict may still live in the land of the alive and want the addict to rejoin them, but the addict lives in a distorted world. The people live in photographic realism, but the addict lives in cubist distortion. The languages of both have little in common; there are few tokens to transfer. Getting through to an addict requires learning the fundamental language spoken in the land of the half-dead addict. Like Dante traveling down the spirals of hell, people like me have to learn the language and teach it to the people who beg the addict to change. This language is visual; as much as spoken word can be visual, It stands to reason that addicts are creative: they live in the land of hustle and so have to create their bullshit every day. If any good can emerge from the addiction wasteland, it’s that there are creative impulses that are a result of the hustle. However, once the waves are done and the addict completes his spiral into the wasteland, there is nothing; just black hopelessness. The addict who resides in the deepest recesses of the wasteland has squashed his or her own soul. To climb out of the wasteland from its deepest corners in nearly impossible.
I tend to forget that the language of the soul is the poetic. There aren’t linear words to describe the expanse and the enormity of the soul. The poetic gives the language and frame and mechanisms to code and decode the thoughts and language of those who live in the addiction wasteland. i can’t speak of that place poetically, though, because it’s way too real. I’ve seen face of the “internalized oppressor” that overwhelms the addict and I see that they have no place to go to escape their oppressor: the oppressor lives inside of them. The addiction wasteland transforms from an external state to an internal location. It stops begin something outside of a person and becomes a source of sickness. It begins small, one drink or:
“A dealer comes down and shoots – you up once, tells you first ones free, waits awhile, comes back and sucks you up dry of every thing you own.” (Person C)
There isn’t much surprise to the addiction wasteland; except to the addict who never saw him or her self being sucked away. As the internalized seed grows and gets bigger, the healthy self shrinks away. Once the addiction has grown and overtaken, the healthy self tries to attack the addict. The trouble is that it’s an attack against the self and if the addiction remains untreated, the addict will win.