LWC Podcast Episode #3: How Northern NM’s Historical Trauma Killed My Grandmother and Created the Region’s Heroin Problem

Welcome to the Lamb in wolf’s clothing podcast. My name is Juan Blea; I’m a writer and addiction counselor from Santa Fe, NM. In this episode I will be discussing how the treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo killed my great-great grandma and created the conditions from which Northern NM’s heroin problem emerged and what we can do about this historical wrecking machine.

Guadalupe Hidalgo isn’t a person, it’s actually the place in Mexico where the US’s war with Mexico ended with the signing of peace treaty named after that location. Now, while this treaty ended the war, it did so by giving Tx, NM, AZ, and California to the US and allowed the United States to colonize that entire area. But, it wasn’t simply a matter of land, it was also a matter of the people living there who almost overnight, went from being Mexican citizens to territorial assets of the US. For the life of me, I can’t imagine what that was like; however, when I was in grad school, I took a Psychology of the Family class through which I learned about genograms, which are basically a family tree that shows any dysfunction the family members faced. What I saw within my own family was a pattern of depression and alcoholism that reached back for generations.

One of my ancestors really struck me though, and to this day, I still search for the truth about how and why she died, but without much luck. Family legend has it that she hung herself; however, the few documents that I have been able to unearth seem to indicate that my great-great grandfather may have killed her. He spent time, in the months before she died within the state mental hospital for what their records indicate was “exhaustion.” It appears that exhaustion was a precursor to what we know as PTSD and I suspect, strongly, that he had something to do with my great-great grandmother’s death. But in studying her death and the circumstances surrounding her death, I see that the treaty of Guadalupe hidalgo was more to blame than my grandfather because, my grandparents, like many other people in Northern New Mexico lost their land to a US initiated lawsuit and had to move and learn to function in a system that used English, while they all spoke Spanish…

Fast forwarding from those days of early statehood when hundreds of people lost their land to lawsuits and their language to a new system of government and what we’re left with is a whole group of people who had to develop a whole new identity in order to assimilate within the US cultural experience. While many families were able to become Americanized, many were not. Those that could not, seemingly live as though they were in fact traumatized, even though they haven’t really experienced any trauma directly. What’s more, almost every person I’ve worked with who’s addicted to heroin can meet criteria for either PTSD or Generalized Anxiety disorder, or both. And so, from my research into my grandmother’s death and my current work with people addicted to heroin, I am convinced that social and genetic programming in this region has created a community containing “embedded” traumas. This community seeks relief from this embedded trauma through an unconscious drive towards unhealthy behaviors, including heroin abuse. Also, this social and genetic programming has led to generational poverty, which contributes to the region’s struggle with opiate addiction.

And so, I believe with all that I am that the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo with all its consequential losses of land, language, culture and identity have allowed the perfect storm to emerge:


In her book, Chiva: A Village Takes on the Global Heroin Epidemic, Chellis Glendinning describes the path heroin took to get to Espanola and so I’ll leave it my listeners to read that book, but the reality is that the Perfect Storm exists in Northern New Mexico and has led to a real problem with Opiate Addiction and we need to first wake up to this reality and then we all need to come together within our greater community to disrupt this perfect storm.


I tend to look through the lens of empowerment to find answers and one concept that I teach over and over again comes from attribution theory and is called locus of control. Simply put, locus of control describes the way a person approaches life. According to attribution theory, people believe either that they make things happen and rely on their own actions (in which case they are internally locused), or they believe that things happen to them and rely on luck or some other external mechanism to get things done (and they are said to be externally locused). Because people lost so much to the treaty of Guadalupe hidalgo, I believe that whole communities became externally locused and passed on limiting beliefs to subsequent generations. Basically, people came to believe that there isn’t anything they can do to affect their lives, as they were just living their lives and lost everything. What’s worse is they developed GAD and/or PTSD and then passed those genes on. And so those limiting beliefs were passed on socially and became genetically entrenched..

So then, the short answer is that we must collectively build a sense of individual capability in our children, students, patients, or clients. It takes time, but there is hope.

Addiction treatment requires an addict to become aware of the situation in which he finds himself. In order to develop that awareness, we should not oppose the symptomatic behaviors within the addiction, but we should in fact seek to understand those behaviors. I recommend a program that includes reflective journaling in order to provide a mechanism through which a person can see his or her situation in his or her own terms and understanding. To do so, a person must name the situation; reflect upon its meaning, and then act to change the situation.

For example, when it comes to addiction, I propose that the addict: (1), first name the limiting situation or thought, then (2) he or she needs to reflect deeply upon its meaning and come up with a plan to eliminate the limiting thought and/or situation; and then (3), the addict must execute the plan step by step. Treatment providers through various modalities can obviously guide this process, but it’s a matter of developing the belief in personal capability. The battle against heroin may seem to be an external war, but in order to win, it has to be fought internally.

Admittedly, it takes time to build that sense of capability — and as an aside, art/music/creative writing are all great avenues of building that sense of capability – but when an entire region has lost its sense of place, then we all must act to rebuild that identity. I’ll continue to research and share ways and means of rebuilding and creating a healthy identity for my community. The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo and its subsequent and generational psychological occupation of this area will be eliminated some day.

That concludes this episode and I hope you found it valuable. Please do share your thoughts through my blog, jblea1016.com or you can email me at jblea1016@hotmail.com and please don’t forget to check out my award-winning book, 49 Tips and Insights for Understanding Addiction.


There is a link between anxiety and heroin addiction…

Shot in Times Square with a Nikon D3300

There’s this joke going around:

Q:”What do you call a heroin addict who breaks up with his girlfriend?”

A: “Homeless.”

Now, I don’t find the joke particularly funny simply because it’s all too true.  There’s a strong relationship between homelessness and opiate abuse and it’s a sad and troubling reality that heroin takes over a person’s entire sense of being to the point that nothing else matters.  Literally.  The only thing that matters to a heroin addict is getting and using heroin.

But, according to a clinic I attended today, there’s a third element to the heroin abuse – homelessness dyad: Anxiety disorders.  I’ve suspected for years that either (or both) PTSD or GAD are hugely contributing factors to developing an opiate addiction.  To me it’s always been clear: Anxiety is painful, opiates treat pain, those who suffer from anxiety disorders may then seek opiates to relive their anxiety suffering.  The data to support this theory of mine is overwhelming: According to the National epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and related Conditions, someone who’s addicted to heroin has an odds ratio of 4.27 that the person also struggles with GAD and/or PTSD.  What this means is that someone who is addicted to heroin is extremely likely to suffer from an anxiety disorder.  According to the clinic, there are three (3) probably reasons for this strong association:

  • Self medication of anxiety symptoms
  • Shared neurobiological connections
  • Genetic predispositions

While the first and third bullet are mostly self-explanatory, the neurobiology of anxiety disorders and heroin addiction are so similar that if someone struggles with an anxiety disorder, he or she is already wired for heroin addiction.  It’s like anxiety disorders lay the foundation for heroin addiction.

This data strongly suggests that, as I’ve often discussed, that treating heroin addiction isn’t a matter of focusing on the heroin use.  Really, it’s almost always about treating the underlying and co-occurring anxiety or PTSD.  In order to do so, clients need:

  • Education and coping skills training for both disorders
  • Behavioral interventions for the anxiety disorder (cognitive framing, exposure)
  • Relapse prevention for the substance use disorders

Furthermore, there are times when medication is needed and it appears that GABAPENTIN has shown to be effective for treating anxiety with a low risk of abuse.

Really, neither homelessness or prison or death have to be outcomes of heroin addiction.  The reality is that understanding the layers that lead to the addiction can go a long way towards treating the addiction.  Really, some people are “wired” for anxiety and addiction. The important thing to remember is that there are avenues to treat this insidious phenomena and those avenues usually require a deep understanding of the person who’s addicted and what he or she needs in order to find health.

Don’t call me crazy or lazy! PLEASE SHARE

IMG_3248I’ve given the first of two (2) presentations in support of the Santa Fe Community College’s Center for Diversity’s “Don’t Call me Crazy or Lazy” and i have to say, it went quite well.

Tonight at 6PM, at the Higher Education Center, I’ll be giving the second.  I do hope that people attend, as both my work and the panel discussions are informative and, really, transformative.


The slides are here Historical Trauma, addiction, student success: and I’ve included some pics from this morning’s session.  I’ll be discussing Addiction, Northern New Mexico’s history of trauma, and student success


Please join me tonight; I am CERTAIN you’ll be glad you did!!


Historial Trauma, Addiction, and student success podcast PLEASE SHARE

Hello — this morning, Emily Stern,the Director of Santa Fe Community College’s Diversity and Integrative Center, and I were on the Richard Eeds show which is broadcast out of Santa Fe, NM.

We discussed the symposium we are having at the Santa Fe Community College on Tuesday, April 5th. AS part of that discussion, I shared my views on the impact of trauma on both Addiction and student success.

Please check out the podcast here: Juan Blea and Emily Stern discuss SFCC symposium

Share as you’d like — Also, if there’s anything you’d like me to address during my talk on Tuesday, please either leave a comment or send me an email at jblea1016@hotmail.com

Really, the “heroin epidemic” is NOT Big Pharma’s fault. It’s all of ours.

Here’s the thing: There’s a mythology being propagated that suggests there’s a natural progression from pharmaceutical opioid addiction to heroin addiction. This mythology suggests that it’s Big Pharma’s fault that heroin addiction is “an epidemic.” But, and I say this with certainty, heroin addiction is a category all on its own and not even all heroin addiction is the same. While I do think that opioid prescriptions were way too freely written, I don’t think they’re the reason heroin addiction rates appear to be growing.

First of all, addiction of any kind requires several factors to come together in to a perfect storm. The most basic factor is a predisposition to Addiction. This predisposition is revealed through family history; that is, if a family has a history of addiction then there’s a good chance that there’s a genetic risk for Addiction. The next factor to consider is a given person’s emotional state. If a person has experienced trauma, either physical or emotional, and didn’t receive appropriate treatment, the trauma will create overwhelming emotions with which a given person may not cope well. Now, on top of the previous two factors is a factor that is often way too under-discussed: Whether a person is externally locused or internally locused. If a person is externally locused, he or she will believe that the source of events in his or her life is outside of his or her control. If, however, a person is internally locused, he or she believes that he or she makes things happen. Therefore, if a person has a genetic predisposition to Addiction, has experienced a breakdown in emotional regulation as a result of trauma, and is externally locused, then that person is ripe for an addiction to develop.

This is where opioids enter the equation. Exposure and access to an opioid can be risky for a person who presents as I described above. However, even if an opioid addiction develops, there’s yet another factor to consider: Economics. If a person has economic resources, he or she can maintain an opioid addiction and probably won’t delve into the heroin underworld. But, an unscrupulous dealer (and there are really no other kind) may present heroin as an option when opioid become too expensive. While there was a relationship between the opioid and heroin, it’s far too simplistic to suggest that there’s a “natural” progression.

Plus, the heroin underworld is wacky, in and of itself. In treatment, heroin smokers look down on needle heroin addicts. For that matter, opioid addicts generally look down on heroin addicts. The world of heroin and opioids is shady and heartless and consumes people who simply lack inner and outer resources to stave off its allure. But to think that it’s Big Pharma’s fault that this lack of resources exists is to refuse to look in a mirror and see our role in the creating the problem.

You’re invited to a VERY important symposium! PLEASE SHARE!!

Dont Call Me Crazy or Lazy_JPEG

On April 5th, in partnership with the Santa Fe Community College’s Center for Diversity and Integrative Learning, I will be presenting on Historical Trauma and how it informs mental health and addiction in New Mexico. More importantly, I will discuss how understanding the dynamics of historical trauma can improve student outcomes.

Please share this announcement and if you have any questions, please contact The Center for Diversity and Integrative Learning at 505.428.1467 or by email at thecenter@sfcc.edu. As usual, you can also contact me at jblea1016@hotmail.com.

Help spread the work by sharing this post and by posting the PDF of the flyer:Dont Call Me Crazy or Lazy

Treating Opiate Addiction requires a holistic approach towards HEALTH!!

The problem is that most people think that if opiates go away from someone’s life, all other aspects of their life will also improve. It looks like this:

conventional opiod tx

The reality, though, is that it opiates treat pain and the vast majority of opiate addicts suffer from either physical pain or emotional pain resulting from some form of trauma. I believe, then, that the BEST WAY to treat opiate addiction is to treat the underlying disorder while also working on other facets of life as illustrated below:

more holistic opiod tx

My bet is that if someone rebuilds relationships, for example, while also treating the underlying anxiety/PTSD, then the opiate use will diminish in time. In my opinion, if someone could be enrolled within a Suboxone program while also working on the PTSD/Anxiety, then all the better.

Opiate Addiction Treatment IS NOT about the opiates alone. I’ll probably repeat that message a million more times in my life, but I’ll do it again and again until it’s received and understood.

Treating Opiate Addiction requires a holistic approach towards HEALTH!!

Northern New Mexico’s regional trauma consciousness MUST BE accounted for within a treatment program

Why the hell am I doing this? I’ve asked myself this question several times over the last few days and yesterday may have shed some light on my reasons. I sat down with a client and as we talked about his current relapse (he’s struggled with heroin on and off for several years) and probation issues, he asked that I review some paperwork regarding his inheritance. He wanted to make sure that he wasn’t being fed a bunch of crap and that the paperwork was “legit.” I read through the packet of legal documents and after finding a couple of mistakes that appeared to be due to the recycling of a form letter, I assured him that the paperwork granted him his fair share of the inheritance and the packet was all legit.

Once we finished, I couldn’t help but see the irony in the situation: Here I’ve been spending a lot of time looking into the past to uncover the historical significance and relationship of the land and our current systemic struggle with opiates, yet here I was in 2015 discussing PTSD, heroin, and land. I was in a little coffee shop discussing the very things about which I’m researching and presenting. Again, I’m not much for coincidences; I can’t help but feel like there’s some spirit guiding my actions. Could it be that I’ve tapped into the vein of my destiny’s path? Maybe I’m reading too much into my work, but the simple truth is that I’m not as passionate about anything else the way I’ve been about this topic.

Plus, I was able to gather more information regarding my ancestors. Thanks to the archive researcher at the Behavioral Health Institute in Las Vegas (what was once known as the NM Sanitarium), I’ve confirmed that my great-great-grandfather spent time in the facility on and off between 1912 and 1913. What was interesting is that it appeared that one of his stays at the facility was court mandated. This new information has provided me with another avenue to research: I plan on reviewing Santa Fe court archives to see if there’s any record of his crime. Based upon the information recorded at the facility, he was in two other times, once for “exhaustion” and once for “paranoia.” I need to find to find out the context of those diagnoses. I suspect that they’re Freudian in nature, but I’d like to be certain of their historical meaning. Again, two other “coincidences” that I don’t believe aren’t really coincidences: 1) NM became a state on January 6th, 1912 and Jose Inez was listed as a farmer, and went in for the first time on February 13th, 1912; and, 2) Ancestry.com listed Maria Dolores’ death date as September 16th, 1913, and Jose Inez went in for his third time on September 30th, 1913.

The reason I don’t think either are coincidences are that, in the case of the first scenario, since Jose Inez was a farmer, and since Spanish families were being evicted from what had become a Pueblo in San Ildefonso, he no longer had means of providing for his family, as he no longer had land to farm. It’s consistent that he would suffer “exhaustion” based upon the stress of losing his life’s work. In the second scenario, if it’s true that Maria Dolores did hang herself and Jose Inez cut her down, then it’s also consistent that Jose Inez would have developed some form of emotional disturbance in the wake of what was a traumatic event.

So, to review: I meet with a client who suffers with PTSD and abuses opiates who’s poised to receive land in an inheritance on the same day I learn that my great-great-grandfather struggled with what could be PTSD and lost his land. He didn’t abuse opiates, but I’m willing to bet he drank a bunch of booze. Land, trauma, and substance abuse haunt Northern New Mexico much in the same way Maria Dolores and San Ildefonso haunt me.

This pursuit to find out what happened to my Grandma’s land and also what happened, really, to my great-great grandmother continues. I’ve spent so much time in the State Records and Archives center over the last few days that I could be named “Associate State Historian in Charge of Researching Ghosts.” The sad part of this research is that the story of Jose Inez hearing his wife crying in the courtyard is just that – a story that my Grandma told because there’s no record that Maria Dolores Quintana was ever at the Las Vegas Sanitarium. Perhaps it was the story of a delusional man, or perhaps my Grandma told it was a way to comfort herself. Maybe I shouldn’t have dug into the story, but I see its value and the possibility remains that she was in the facility, there’s just no record of it.

So, the question remains, why am I doing this? I’m doing it because I believe that social and genetic programming in this region has created a community containing “embedded” traumas. This community seeks relief from this embedded trauma through an unconscious drive towards unhealthy behaviors, including opiate abuse. Also, this social and genetic programming has led to generational poverty, which contributes to the region’s struggle with opiate addiction (Rio Arriba County has the highest per capita opiate-related death rate in the nation).

And the more I dig and the more I talk with people, I learn that I’m not the only one who has that belief. In time, I hope to be able to not only present my case, but offer enough evidence that this regional trauma consciousness MUST BE accounted for within a treatment program. If I fail, I will be doing an injustice to both the present day problem and to my ancestors who are not resting in peace because theirs was an unjust death. The frustrating part of this undertaking is that right now, I have more suspicions and ghosts than I do anything concrete. A hunch does make not a clinical case.

We traumatize others through our lawmakers

I was leading a Trauma Group a few years back.  In this group, people shared their stories about pain and loss and grief and expressed their ways that all that suffering played a role in their addiction.  One person, however, stood out to me because he didn’t say he was abused or that he watched someone die in war.  What traumatized him, and continued to traumatize him, was getting busted back to jail for drug-related offenses.  “I hate going back,” he said.  “And having to say goodbye to my family over and over again.”

Now, it may seem simple to hear his words and respond with, “Well, if you hate it so  much, quit getting into trouble by using drugs and alcohol.”  But, it’s not that simple.  We can’t tell someone who abuses drugs and alcohol that if they could just quit, all their problems would go away.  The truth is far more complex and layered and because our mixed up world has criminalized addiction, a complicated disease becomes more and more complicated.  When someone goes to war, he or she often comes home stricken with PTSD.  And while I appreciate military service and hold PTSD-stricken former soldiers  in my prayers, military service does end and no on has to go back to war when his or her service time ends.  For too many people, their addiction almost ensures that they continue to have to go back to prison several times.

A friend of mine has been busted back to prison five (5) times for dirty urines analyses (UAs) .  Heartless probation officers see a dirty UA and immediately call the cops for an arrest.  My friend has a family; his father is a hard man but can’t contain his pain when he sees his son behind bars.  There really isn’t an endpoint, either.  The terms of my friend’d probation stipulate that a dirty UA is an automatic violation.  What this stipulation means to me is that my friend will spend more time in prison than he will at his son’s soccer games.  What really pisses me off is that my friend’s a good guy who wants with all that he is to be a good father and husband.   But he can’t.  He can no more avid using alcohol than a cancer patient can avoid chemotherapy.

But, we don’t see the pain we cause when we pass laws that lock otherwise innocent people people away for behaving in ways that they can’t control.  We need treatment laws; we don’t need more sentencing laws that will treat drug-related offenders worse than rapists.  When we ask stupid and simple questions like, why don’t junkies just quit using? I think a better thing to do is look in a mirror and ask the reflection: Why are we all so stupid and blind?

We cause suffering through our ignorance.  We traumatize others through our lawmakers.  Stupid is as stupid does and I pray with all that I am we learn to recognize our stupidity and end the trauma-cycle of re-incarceration.

Addiction is the legacy of the Born Immmigrant

To many in the Southwestern United States and Northern Mexico, the United State’s enactment of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo was nothing more than a fancy smoke and mirrors tactic that allowed the U.S. to steal huge pieces of land from its rightful owners.

One of those land owners was my great-grandfather, Jose Inez Quintana.  He was born in Mexico.  His daughter and my great-grandmother, Geñoveva Quintana, was born in the United States.  Only, they were born in the same physical place: the San Ildefonso, NM. They didn’t own much land, maybe six and a half acres in total.  But, when the Judge for the First Judicial District of the United States ruled that they hadn’t paid enough taxes in the landmark case U.S. Vs. Filimino Apodaca et al, they had to leave the only home they had ever known.

They were not alone.  Across the entire Southwestern United States, hundreds of governmental bodies arose that challenged private land ownership claims in land that had previously been under the jurisdiction of the Mexican government (Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, California).  The vast majority of cases of property loss involved those of Spanish-speaking descent.  In California alone, approximately nine million acres of land was lost to the U.S. government in court cases similar to U.S. Vs. Apodaca.  The same tactics were repeated over and over again across the region.  Thousands of people became immigrants in their own land.

I’ve often wondered just how much the historical legacy of a displaced people impacts our current world.  Research within the field of epigenetics suggests that environmental cues trigger various genes to come to life.  It stands to reason that, if a group of people must survive through physical, cultural, and psychological displacement, then there’s a strong likelihood that the group of people would become traumatized and then pass the traumatized genetic profile onto their descendents.

Many times, I’ve tried to place myself into my great-grandfather’s shoes.  I try to imaging waking up one day and having to move to a whole other town because I really don’t own my home.  I wonder what I would do if I had to, overnight, try to negotiate day-to-day life in a whole other language and economic system.  It’s tough to even imagine, yet, it happened to my ancestors.

I gave a talk one night and I said that my great-grandmother was a born immigrant.  The audience laughed, as they thought I was joking.  I wasn’t.  In what amounted to a few years, the land under my family’s feet turned from Mexican to American.  After the talk, a man with a New England accent asked me about the “born immigrant” comment.  “What’s the big deal?” he asked.

I said, well, I think Northern New Mexico’s issues with suicide and substance abuse are a direct result of a whole group of people being born immigrants.

“Eh,” he said.  “Maybe you should try to get over it.”

He left on that note.  I was stunned.  Maybe I should just get over it and move on.  It’s not like anything can change.  San Ildefonso, NM is now San Ildefonso Pueblo (thanks to the Pueblo Lands Act of 1924).  English is the de facto standard language now (when Spanish used to be).  But, I can’t ignore the facts. New Mexico is a poor state and it’s dying.  To me, the genetic impact of New Mexico’s history has left this legacy of poverty, addiction, and mental illness.  Though I was born in the U.S.; I cannot ignore the fact that I, like so many others, inherited the legacy of the born immigrant.  I choose to understand that legacy so that I can do my part to heal the wounds that our traumatic history created.