When stupidity is tolerated, ignorance turns into hate

While I do think that people are entitled to their opinions and I respect everyone’s right to express those opinions, what I don’t support is ignorant beliefs that interfere with people’s health.  When I hear people say things like, “Addicts are losers” or “Gay people are going to Hell” or “Anybody with a mental illness is just crazy” I can’t help but think that there’s something sinister afoot.

Ok, maybe sinister is a bit strong, but I do think that when stupidity is tolerated, it grows into a mass of ignorance that causes people undue stress just for being alive.  Someone who’s addicted probably faces struggles and challenges as a result of his or her addiction, but those struggles should be seen as limiting factors that can be transformed and overcome.  Someone isn’t a loser simply because they’re addicted.  If we, as a collective community, continue to allow judgment of those with addictions, we are creating the very environment in which Addiction as a disease prospers.

When we hate anyone for any single reason, we really only hurt ourselves. Right now, there’s a huge anti-gay bias that appears to be gaining momentum. This bias is no different than any other judgmental attitude. But for me, the topic of sexual orientation is as personal as a topic can get.  I don’t want ANYONE asking about my bedroom behaviors and I really don’t want to know about anyone else’s.  Whomever someone chooses to share physical intimacy is his or her choice.  I don’t care much about the argument of whether or not someone is “born that way,” all I care about, ultimately, is that someone lives to the best of his or her ability.  If anyone has to live with the idea that there’s something wrong with him or herself because of whom he or she is interested in sexually, then that idea is nothing but an unnecessary interference.  Plus, I don’t want to hear what the Bible says about the topic of homosexuality; the Bible also says that if a girl is proven to not be a virgin, she can be stoned to death.  The last time I checked, I think we’d all frown on women being killed for not being virgins.  The Bible shouldn’t be used as an excuse for hatred when really, there’s no excuse to limit a person for any reason.  We are all worthy to love and be loved.

Also, the idea that mental illness just means someone’s crazy is especially irritating to me.  Mental illness is diagnosable and treatable condition just like any other illness.  Mental illness can have biological and/or environmental bases, but it’s real and we as a community of people should seek to understand the way mental illnesses function so that we can share the resource or humanity with anyone who is struggling with something that he or she may not understand.  I struggled with Depression and sought to learn its nature and I continue to learn about how to best teach others how they can overcome it.  People may say I’m crazy, but that label hasn’t ever really worked for me and I’m certain all it does is make whatever mental or emotional illness a person faces much worse.

In the end, people will hold on to whatever stupidity they need in order to justify their hatred for others.  I pray for those whose ignorance breeds hate; I hope that God’s true love and light enter their calloused hearts because that’s the only way they’ll see that we are all worthy of love and respect and no one deserves to live in a world that hates them


Parental attitudes towards substance use impact teens


The Metlife foundation recently sponsored and released a study about teen’s drug and alcohol abuse patterns.  The key finding in this study is that Hispanic teens are forty precent (40%) more likely to abuse drugs/alcohol than their Caucasian and Black peers.  The study attributed two (2) things to this increased likelihood: 1) Hispanic teens are less afraid of drugs than their peers; and, 2) Hispanic parents are less likely to monitor their teens; activities than other parents.  The study goes on to say that its findings place a heavy burden on Hispanic parents to become more engaged with their kids and provides some links aimed at Hispanics about drugs/alcohol.

Now, whether or not this study is right, I think it only makes sense to understand the culture of all teens.  Really, all teens tend towards being heavily influenced by their friends.  Really, belonging is  such a strong need during adolescence…

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Can a substance abuser be the scapegoat for a family’s dysfunction?


One of the frustrating things about working with substance abuse is a scenario that appears to repeat itself.  There might be different people filling the necessary roles, but certain themes present themselves over and over again. For example, there’s usually someone filling a “hero” role, someone filling a “good cop” role and, the one I see within substance abuse treatment, someone filling a “scapegoat” role.

Often, families come to need the substance abuser to continue using.  While it may sound strange, it’s a pattern that I do see and I think it’s rooted in the fact that, while the substance abuser is actively abusing substances, the individuals within the family can focus their attention on the substance abuser and not on themselves.  The substance abuser can become the scapegoat, of sorts, for those families whose relationships are toxic.  That is, the substance abuser is seen as the problem within the…

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2 things that everyone should know about addicts

Talking with someone struggling with an addiction can be frustrating. Not for the reasons that you might think, but because they’re so mired in self-hate that almost every thought he or she utters is a projection of that self-hate. So, as I’m talking with someone I remind myself of two (2) things that I think we all should know: 1) An addict has no real clue as to how to change; and, 2) we all tend to apply rational thought to a situation that is anything but rational.

An addict has no real clue as to how to change

One of the saddest things in the world is when a grown person breaks down in tears over his or her sense of loss. When I hear the anguish, all I can think is that it’s not their fault, at least not entirely. Really, if people with addictions could change, I’m CERTAIN they would. They tend to reach out, hoping that SOMONE can tell them what to do to not have the issues they have. They want someone to tell them HOW to rid themselves of their addiction.  It’s painful to hear; I remind myself that, though, that they have no idea about what to do about the addiction.

We all tend to apply rational thought to a situation that is anything but rational.

People who don’t have an addiction or who haven’t experienced one in some way, tend to apply logic and reason to a situation in which logic simply does not apply. Most people behave, on average, within their best interests. However, people with addictions pursue substances and/or behaviors that appear contrary to their best interests. If fact, logic would dictate that a person who’s addicted to opiates, for example, should just stop. Really, it makes no sense to the non-user that someone would seek something that causes little more than pain and frustration and brings loss of money and friends and health. But, an opiate addict will obtain his or her drug through any and all means. This is irrational, yet is reality.

I think, though, that having some options available in light of the two (2) things of which I’m always reminding myself can help. Shoot, even just knowing those two things can shed some light in an otherwise dark situation.

Want to improve your life? Become a leader in your life…

It’s important to me that people develop enough confidence in their own capability that they can meet any challenge in their lives.  Part of what I’ve longed recognized is that people will accept one set of standards for their “professional” life and another for their personal lives.

For example, I write about leadership and I’m willing to bet that most assume that I’m writing about workplace performance.  I’m not.  Leadership is a real discipline that can be applied in any and all contexts.  I believe that if we all sought out to be leaders in every facet of our lives, we’d be a lot healthier and happier.

But, in my experience, people will operate one way at work and another at home.  They might be respected at the workplace, but then forego all of their strengths and leave them at the office.  To me, this dynamic of separate realities causes psycho-emotional harm because the split nature of their world can lead to real dissonance.

My definition of leadership is: The contextually appropriate, social distribution of power.  Who gets to distribute the power? All members within a context do.  I believe that if people can understand that power is mutual in almost every situation, they can become healthier.  The reason I believe this is that, if people apply empowerment principles, their relationships will improve and they’ll experience far less dissonance in their lives.

I think that in understanding leadership, people can improve their lives.  But, though I believe this and have seen the research to back it up, I also know that people tend to want someone else to lead them in some way or another.  I dismiss that desire: While there are people who are experts at certain things, it’s up to us to take any expert information and apply it in our own way.  We shouldn’t accept one ethic in one context and another in a different context, simply because we change contexts.  We should understand each context within which we exists in our lives, understand our role in that context, and then share in the development of that context.  We are whole beings who should never live split against ourselves.

We NEED to consider extended-release Naltrexone for treatment opioid dependence


A study published at the end of 2015 (please see this article summary) showed that opiate addicts benefited more from extended release naltrexone treatment than they previously had with Suboxone. It appears that naltrexone with psychosocial therapy significantly reduced the urge to use opiates when compared with Suboxone treatment. This and other studies (simply google: “extended release naltrexone for treating opiate dependence” for more) have also demonstrated extended release naltrexone’s efficacy in the long-term treatment of opiate dependence.

Naltrexone is an opiate antagonist that does not offer any “buzz” or addiction risks. It minimizes the impact of the effects of opiates and can also be prescribed for alcohol dependence. From my perspective, there are two (2) distinct advantages to naltrexone over Suboxone: 1) Any medical doctor that can prescribe medication can prescribe naltrexone, while Suboxone prescription requires a DEA license; and, 2) there is no risk of diversion with…

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Loss sucks, drinking won’t help


The other day, I ran into an old friend who has now been sober for quite a while.  He’s enthusiastic about his recovery and tries to help others get into twelve-step programs.  He said that he was talking to a mutual acquaintance of ours who had developed a problem with alcohol.  My old friend said that our acquaintance blamed his alcohol abuse on his wife’s passing.  My old friend told him, “Hey, you can’t drink her back.”

That statement struck me and has lingered in my mind.  My friend was right: Drinking alcohol won’t bring anyone back. Neither will shooting heroin or snorting cocaine or smoking crack.  I do realize and believe that the loss of someone, especially if suddenly, can cause trauma and I accept that trauma isn’t something that just magically goes away.  I also understand that sometimes, people cope with their pain and grief through abusing substances or behaviors.  Really, abusing substances and behaviors provides numbing relief from overwhelming hurt.  If we ignore that fact, then we miss the payoff mechanism involved in addiction development: Part of the payoff in drinking alcohol is that it eliminates the capability to feel anything.  When emotions are so strong that they cause physical pain, substances can be quite effective in removing the hurt.

Loss is hard; there’s no simple way to cope with it.  I often say that the pain involved in losing a loved one doesn’t ever really go away, we just get better at managing over time.  But, the hurt’s always there, weighing on us making us see that a part of us is now gone.

Still, no amount of substances will bring our loved ones back.  Really, what will happen with substance and process abuse is that we will lose ourselves and then we won’t be able to use our own way back.

I can’t express the sentiment any better than may friend did, though I do understand how much loss hurts: Hey, we can’t drink or use or loved ones back.  We can, however, remember them and carry them in our souls and honor them in all we do.  I really believe that a person doesn’t really die until the last person utters his or name.  Therefore, I for one, will utter my lost loved one’s names in my thoughts and prayers.  I won’t let them really die.

What drives someone to heroin from Oxys?

Tammy knew that she would never use heroin. Though she’d been addicted to Oxys for over two years, heroin wasn’t in her future. Really, she wasn’t one of those addicts – no way no how was she a junkie and although her hustle for Oxys sounded the same as any other hustle, there was no way no how she’d ever use heroin.

But then she lost her gig at Applebee’s. Turns out, employers frown on being late and calling in sick too much. She took the gig around the time she started abusing Oxys and before long, going to work became less of a priority. Hanging out with her Oxy-using buddies just seemed to be a better use of her time. The trouble was, the less she worked, the less money she had to spend on Oxys. She’d cut back on other things, like food and rent, but the less she worked, the less money she had for Oxys. But after getting fired, Tammy had no money for Oxys.

Her Oxy addiction cost around $400 a week. That’s $30 for each pill (approximately, this is in no way an attempt to set market value) and she needed a minimum of two pills a day. There were times she’d stretch them out, but withdrawal would set in and she could not handle being sick. When she first found herself without daily tips, she’d “borrow” from family and friends, but in time, her funding sources grew tired of hearing her stories and they stopped “lending” her any money at all.

Around this time, she first came into contact with heroin. Her connect turned her on to it, at least, he tried to turn her on to it but Tammy wouldn’t let herself become one of those addicts – she wasn’t a junkie after all. But, her connect did make sense: It would be a heck of a lot cheaper to buy heroin. Still, the fact was that Tammy wasn’t a junkie and heroin was just out of the question.

Days passed and Tammy was running out of ways to hustle for her pills and so her connect once again reached out to her about the simple economic benefits to switching to heroin. “You can smoke it, you know. You don’t have to use a needle.” Though Tammy still wasn’t interested, her resolute idea that she wasn’t a junkie was wavering. She had done things she wasn’t proud of, like sleeping with a girl just to score a couple of pills or blowing some dude for fifty bucks. “Fifty bucks could keep you in heroin for a few days,” her connect reasoned and Tammy was beginning to see his point.

Two weeks passed and Tammy was feeling withdrawal more and more and getting sicker and sicker. She needed her Oxys and could not handle being sick. “Let me help you,” her connect said and Tammy, goose-bumped and nauseous, didn’t have the strength to argue to point. She nodded and her connect emptied his rig, cooked up some heroin, and injected it into Tammy’s arm. Her 400 dollar a week habit was now a 100 dollar a week habit and that, Tammy reasoned, was something she could afford.

Turns out, Tammy was no different that those addicts after all….

3 options when you want someone else to change

In my day-to-day life, I have come to see and appreciate that I am an agent of change. Regardless of whether I’m wearing my project manager hat or my Addiction counselor hat, I am usually creating or monitoring a plan through which change will occur. It’s not really a surprise, then, that even when I’m not wearing either hat that people will simply talk with me about change.

Now, they may not realize that they’re talking with me about change. Usually, they approach me with some form of frustration about someone else’s behaviors. Maybe because of my professional and vocational work, I hear an underlying theme that screams, “How can I change someone else?”

The short and always unpopular answer is, “You can’t. Ever. You will never change anyone else’s behavior.” I know it’s a fact. I’ve never been able to change anybody’s behaviors. And I’m trained about as well as a person can be trained in the art of manipulating other people. That’s really what project management and counseling is all about: Getting people to behave in ways that will lead to desired and intended outcomes. However, the bottom line is that people will only act in terms of their own perceived best interests. I’ve been successful at getting people to act in ways that are consistent with a behavioral program’s purpose because they recognize that the behaviors will improve their own lives in some way. Really, they made whatever behavioral changes they made out of their own desire to accomplish something different. I did nothing to bring about change. The behavioral program’s value did.

Now, in both my roles of “project manager” and “addiction counselor” I hold certain power that can engage and almost prescribe a set of desired behaviors. In interpersonal relationships, however, power should be equal and if there’s a hint of one person holding more power than another, the natural response is going to be resistance. Therefore, when I’m confronted with the question, “How can I change someone else?” I no longer give the unpopular answer. Instead I offer three (3) things that the person asking can do:

  1. Do nothing: This is usually what people end up doing. It seems that it’s easier for people to complain about someone else than…
  2. Accept the current behaviors: This is really hard. We are imperfect creatures with deep flaws that can sometimes be hard for other people to death with. But, what’s even harder is dealing with other people’s deep flaws. I think the key to accepting someone’s flaws is to see our own and value ourselves anyway. It’s a good place to start. Now, I realize that there are certain behaviors that cause so much pain that they are impossible to accept. For example, if the change you want from someone else is to stop using heroin, then I could see that it’s pretty hard to accept (though not impossible) that behavior. So then, if you can’t accept someone else’s behaviors, then…
  3. Separate yourself from the relationship: This option can really be almost as impossible as accepting certain behaviors. Love is a strange bind and isn’t so easy to separate ourselves from people we love. Again, it comes down to valuing ourselves and realizing that the separation will lead to better circumstances for our own life.

Really, those are the three options. Regardless of our own hopes and thoughts and dreams, we can’t do anything to change someone else. Now, if that someone else WANTS to change, then there’s plenty we can do to be a resource for that change. But that’s a post for another time…

Are ‘Shrooms the cure for Addiction?

The Journal of Psychopharmacology published a study that indicated that the active ingredient in Shrooms (or Magic Mushrooms; to me they’re interchangeable terms), psilocybin, aids in the cessation of an addiction to nicotine. Basically, researchers administered psilocybin capsules to fifteen (15) smokers over fifteen (15) weeks and found that twelve (12) of the fifteen (15) smokers were able to abstain from smoking. The study left many things to be desired, such as a control group, but the findings are interesting. Authors concluded that, “The present study illustrates a framework for future research on the efficacy and mechanisms of hallucinogen-facilitated treatment of addiction.”

I have to admit, that the quoted line made me chuckle a bit. I envisioned a bunch of tripped-out people seeing kaleidoscope colors in the sky and hearing angels singing. Sure, they don’t want to smoke anymore, but as I saw them, they didn’t want to do much else either (except maybe trip some more). What’s more interesting is that the same journal found that psilocybin also aids in the expansion of creativity in 2011. Kinda makes me wonder if the Journal of Psychopharmacology has a corner on the Magic Mushroom market. Basically, according to the Journal, addicts can not only break their addiction, but they can also become creative people, both through the controlled use of the active ingredient Magic Mushrooms.

Now, I know that there are some really strong reasons for administering medicines. But, I don’t think that a hallucinogen is the answer for Addiction. Really, it makes sense that someone who’s tripping out, legally, wouldn’t want to do anything else. I mean, if an alcohol addict could chill and trip on Shrooms that his doc provides, then why would he drink anymore? Whatever the root cause of his addiction is, on Shrooms, it would just cease to be important. If we, as a treatment community, start using psilocybin to treat addiction, isn’t that basically just transporting the problem into an ethereal mindscape in which nothing else really matters?

Shoot, maybe I should encourage this route of treatment. I mean, it sounds a whole lot easier for people to trip out instead of having to work and reflect and confront their shadow. I could refer a client to a doc who’s willing to provide Shrooms and never have to worry about her health. Hmmm, maybe I should get a prescription for psilocybin; seems a lot easier than reading clinical studies and trying to separate the crap from the good stuff. Then again, I’d probably get bored; my mind already has its moments of, well, trippiness….

Eh, read the study and draw your own conclusions. For me, the solution for an addiction is reflection and learning. I don’t think there are any shortcuts….especially ones that Dennis Leary would approve…