Possessed by drugs

If you get caught with drugs, you are charged with possession. But I believe it would be more accurate to say that you should be diagnosed with possession. You are possessed.

You don’t do drugs. Drugs do you. They act upon you quietly and insidiously. They end up taking over your life. They don’t enhance it – they take away from it.

Perhaps if we saw drug use as possession we would be able to actually treat it for a change. We would no longer see it as a lack of willpower but as a dangerous force that takes up residence inside you and makes you do things that you wouldn’t normally do.

It is important to understand that this doesn’t start off as a passive action. You, sober, make the first move. You, sober, are the one who first starts using drugs. They don’t have a hold of you at that point. So you have control at the beginning.

This is the same as with possession.  You have to allow that demon into your soul for it to harm you.  Once you do, you are in big trouble.  Just like with drugs, you’re in over your head very fast.

Poem – becoming sober

Becoming sober is like
doing surgery
on yourself.
Everything hurts,
because the things that you used
to run away
from the pain
are the very things
you know
you can’t do
So you have to sit down
with yourself
and dig deep
and uncover
all the pain
that you ran away from,
no matter how long ago,
no matter how it happened,
with no anesthesia.

Nobody can do this work for you.
Nobody gives you the tools.
You can watch others
with their struggles
and pick up an idea or three
of what might work for you,
but you’ll only know what works
when you try.
It might work that week,
but not next year.
You’re a different person then.

When we drink or smoke
or do drugs or overeat or
blame others or make excuses
we put up walls
around ourselves
so we don’t have to feel.
We become divorced
from our bodies,
from our lives.
We become immune
to the day to day feelings
of being alive.

Being sober
isn’t just about
stopping using
whatever it was that you used
as a shield,
as a crutch,
as anesthesia.
Being sober isn’t about
the past or
the pain either.
Being sober is about
being alive,
and facing your past
and present reality
with courage
and love.

Addiction and creativity

Back when I smoked pot, I was very creative. I actually got to the point that I was afraid to quit smoking for fear I wouldn’t be creative anymore. That, of course, is silly. Pot doesn’t make you creative. I was already creative. Pot just gave me an excuse to be creative.
I knew someone who smoked pot and thought that music sounded better when he was high. He listened to an album that he’d listened to many times and heard parts of it he’d never heard before. That music was always there. Pot didn’t bring it out. He just expected that things would be different, so he was paying more attention. The music was his focus, instead of in the background.
I knew a guy who had learned how to play the drums while he was stoned. He said he couldn’t play when he was sober. This, too, isn’t true. It is something that he had taught himself to believe. Pot just made him relax and not think about things too much. Or rather, he thought that it would do that. It is all a mind game. It isn’t the thing you use, it is what you think it will do that does the trick.

Learned helplessness – victimhood and the Siren song.

Learned helplessness is a terrible thing.

Thinking you are a victim makes you so.

Blaming others for your sad state of affairs keeps you trapped there.

Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t, you are right.

I knew a lady who once complained that there was a roach in her house. She was concerned about how filthy and dirty they are. She said that she was so upset about it that she had to have a smoke. I told her that the cigarette would cause her far more damage to her health than the roach. She got very angry with me and then told me that my saying that made her have to smoke even more.

It has to be terrible to live your life like a puppet.

I did not make her smoke. I did not force her to do anything. That was her choice.

Look at the Nazis. They said they had to commit all those atrocities because otherwise they would be killed. But it is better to die clean than live dirty. They made their choice.

To smoke is to commit an atrocity against yourself.

I knew a guy who weighed over 500 pounds. He said that he couldn’t help it. Everybody in his family was that large. If everybody in his family was as inactive as him, it makes sense. He even had a free membership to the Y and spent his whole time either drinking coffee or floating around in the pool. There were many opportunities for him to get healthy and he chose to not take them. He ate terribly, he refused to exercise. He acted as if he had no choice in the matter. That too was his choice.

It is all about choices. Sometimes people make bad choices. Then there are repercussions. It isn’t fate. It isn’t being unlucky. It is a direct correlation to an action or inaction.

You reap what you sow. If you don’t sow anything, you don’t reap anything. Simple.

I knew a guy who said that he wanted to quit smoking. And then he took another puff of his cigarette. If you want to quit smoking, quit smoking. Really. You are the one buying the cigarettes, lighting them, and bringing them up to your mouth and inhaling. These are all conscious acts. It is all something you are doing. It isn’t something that happens to you. It is your choice.

Whatever you want to be, you have to do. If you want to be healthy, you have to do the things that healthy people do. You have to eat healthy food. You have to eat a reasonable amount of it. You have to exercise daily. You have to get enough sleep.

You can’t wish it into being. You have to do it.

To get jealous of someone who has something you don’t is to paint yourself as a victim. It is in fact why you don’t have what they do – because you have given your power away. You have said that you can’t do it. You have chosen that.

You will either find a way or find an excuse.

Look at what you can do and do it.

I used to be obese. I used to smoke pot daily. I used to smoke clove cigarettes. I wallowed in my helplessness.

I remember one time I decided to at least slow down on my pot smoking. I put the supplies in a plastic bag and sealed it with rubber bands. I put it up in my closet. I had to get a chair to pull it down. It took me quite a bit of time to get to it.

Then I’d climb up there and pull it all apart, and smoke anyway. All along I felt helpless, in the thrall of my desire for that drug. I’d feel guilty and upset and angry at myself. But I’d seal it up again, and it would slow me down a little. That step alone was a step towards getting free.

No change happens immediately. It is all made of little steps.

I even moved two hours away from the person I bought pot from so that it would be harder for me to smoke. I had to drive a long way to get pot. I did that on purpose, to make it harder for myself. That too was a step.

Lao Tzu says that the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. And then there is another step. And another. You just have to keep walking towards your goal, one step at a time.

I remember one time I was making a rosary. I worked on it a little. Then I put it aside. A lot of time went by and I didn’t work on it. But then when I came back to it I realized that all the work I had done was still there. It hadn’t lost anything. So I added to it.

Positive actions towards a goal are the same.

You don’t abuse drugs, or food, or sex, or whatever. You abuse yourself. You are insulting your soul. You are abusing the gift that God has given you.

Look at Ulysses. He wanted to hear the sound of the Sirens. He knew that hearing it might drive him insane. He told his men to put wax in their ears so they would be safe, and to tie him to the mast so he couldn’t jump into the sea and drown.

Our addictions are like the Siren song. They draw us away from our rational selves. When we are sober, when we are free of the pull, we have the chance to make a decision to make it harder on ourselves to succumb.

My putting the supply of pot further away from myself was my lashing myself to the mast. It slowed me down and made me think. Ideally, yes, I would have thrown it away. At times I did that too, and I just bought more. At that time, I thought I could control it. Just like Ulysses, I wanted to hear that Siren song, just not succumb to it. It is a dangerous game.

Jesus says in Matthew 5:29-30 (ESV)
29 If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. 30 And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell.

Sometimes we have to make hard choices in order to get healthy.

It is hard to be addicted, but it is still a conscious choice. The addiction is like nothing else. It consumes you. Ideally, it is better to not start. I don’t think anybody will ever tell you that smoking cigarettes, doing drugs, and eating junk food is good for you. We all delude ourselves when we think we can do these things and not get hurt. But if we do succumb, and fall into that pit, there is a way out.

It is step, by step, by step.

But first you have to stop being a victim.

I knew a guy who abused prescription drugs. They weren’t even his drugs. It wasn’t an accident. He didn’t develop an addiction from taking a prescription drug that was for him. He voluntarily and soberly took the first pill or four. He wasn’t an addict when he started.

He knew the risks. He thought it couldn’t happen to him. He thought he was special.

He ended up going to rehab twice. His wife left him. His brother started abusing drugs along with him. His father got sick from all the stress. And then he actually had the nerve to say “Why does all this bad stuff keep happening to us?” and “Why does God hate us so much?”

This passive attitude was the reason he was in that mess. He was the cause of all that mess, not God.

We are the cause of our own problems – not others. We are the solution too, not others.

The end of suffering.

1) Acknowledge the pain.

2) If you can do something about it, do it.

3) If you can’t, then accept it by giving thanks for it.

Further on this –
1) Acknowledge the pain.
It does us no good to ignore pain. Pain is a sign that something is wrong. Ignoring pain doesn’t fix it. It prolongs it. Pain, when ignored, will often come out in very unhelpful ways. This is the source of self-abuse and addictions. Drinking, drug use, overeating, and other addictive behaviors are maladaptive techniques to deal with pain. They are a response to pain. They are a symptom. Any addiction is a repetitive, albeit misdirected, attempt to cure a problem. If you address the root cause of the problem, then the addiction will go away. Addictions just delay the cure.

Pain can be in many forms. Pain doesn’t have to be physical. Pain can result any time your needs are not being met. Grief is a form of pain. Any loss can cause pain. Not being respected, heard, or understood can cause pain.

2) If you can do something about it, do it.
Address the pain head on and see what the source of it is. Dig down to the root of it. Then dig down further. Often our first answer to “what is wrong” is just a surface answer. Keep going deeper. How do you feel? Who made you feel that way the first time? Is it the situation, or your reaction to it that is the cause of the pain?

Is there something you can add or subtract from your life to change the situation? Even if it will take a long time to get there, just getting started is good. Every step towards your goal is one step further away from your problem. Are you frustrated with your job? Look at transferring. Start taking classes. Do you feel that your needs aren’t being met? Is part of the problem that you aren’t telling people what your needs are? Is part of the problem that you don’t know yourself?

A lot of pain comes from settling for it. We are trained to be quiet with our suffering. This isn’t healthy. We are taught to say “I can’t do that” or “Nobody will listen to me”. Ignore those voices. They aren’t yours. They are the voices of a sick society that wants people to stay miserable. Get started, one foot in front of the other. Every step towards your goal is a step away from the problem. It is hard at first. It gets easier, but you have to keep doing it. Nobody is going to do this work for you.

3) If you can’t, then accept it by giving thanks for it.
Just like Jonah in the whale, giving thanks to God for your problems can be very healing. He gave thanks for God while in the middle of his problem. He didn’t say that he’d give thanks once he was released. He gave thanks right there and then. He was released just after that.

Sometimes the painful situation is temporary, but we just can’t see the end. Sometimes it is meant to slow us down long enough to see things from a different perspective. Giving thanks is what makes us human.

Recovering, not recovered. On addiction.

So what is the deal about the term “recovering” addict? You are never described as a “recovered” addict. It is as if you never get there. You are never home safe.

And really, you aren’t.

Even if you have been sober for twenty years, the fever is still there. Even if your last hit was so terrible that you ended up in jail and then the hospital, and you lost your wife and house over it, that fever is still there.

Because you forget. You forget how bad it can be. You forget how bad it was. All you remember is the high and the good times. All you remember is how it took away the pain.

You forget about all the pain it can bring, and did bring, to you and to everyone you love.

You say you are “recovering” as a sign to you and to others that there is no escape from addiction. You never ever are the same after you’ve been an addict.

You know what it tastes like, and you want it again. You forget the bitter and only remember the sweet. And you think that just because you were able to escape it then you can do it again. You think lightning can’t strike twice. You think you can just do a little bit of it and be fine. You think you are smarter than it.

It is the same as playing with fire. While fire can help, it can harm. It can light up the room and keep you warm, or it can burn down your house. It can be the difference between cooked food and raw food – it can also be burnt to a crisp and made worthless.

Drugs burn us up and make us worthless.

The trouble with drugs is the same as the trouble with fire – it can’t be contained very well. You think you’ve gotten it under control but really it controls you instead. You don’t do drugs. They do you.

When you forget, you’ll start doing drugs again. Just a little. Just to “take the edge off.” Soon you’ll be sneaking out to buy drugs. You’ll make up excuses. You’ll lie to your loved ones. You’ll call in sick to work. You’ll miss out on all the activities that you used to do for fun – because you are using drugs.

You think – that can’t happen to me. That is for suckers. That happens to losers. And I say to you – what makes you so special?

You aren’t special to drugs. You are another conquest. They are like a virus, eating away at all that is you. Slowly, slowly, you lose your fight. Slowly, slowly, it wins.

Quitting doing drugs doesn’t mean you are cured. You can’t get immunized against drug addiction. No matter how much you’ve done and how long it has been since you stopped doing it, you aren’t safe. You haven’t built up a resistance.

The only hope is to never let them back into your life again. The only way to do that is to continue to say you are “recovering” and not “recovered” as a reminder to keep that door closed and bolted shut.

Poem – How to get sober.

One moment at a time, not one day.
At the beginning, a day is too long
too stretched out,
too scary.

At the beginning an hour feels like an eternity
packed with uncertainty
and dread.

At the beginning of our coming
to consciousness,
of our coming
back to ourselves,
even an hour is too long.

That is why we got high, got stoned, got drunk.
The day stretched out before us with
more questions than answers,
more problems than solutions.

We are adults in name only.
We were shortchanged
on the skills
to be human.

We have to relearn
and unlearn
a lot.

It is hard, this being human.

It is why we ran away
for so long.

Just like a person who was born with legs
but never used them,
We have to be patient with the process.

We have to relearn how to walk
when we never learned in the first place.
We have to relearn how to live
when we never learned in the first place.

We have to be patient with ourselves.

Patience isn’t one of our strengths though.

We were raised by a world that taught
“Get rich quick”
“You deserve it”
And instant enlightenment,
no waiting.

So now what?

Go for a walk
Soak up the sun
or the cold
or the rain.

Be open to what is
right now,
not what you want it to be
not what you think
it should be.

This is a time of relearning
what it is to be


Just like a person who has spent
her life in a cave,
going outside is painful.
The light is too bright.
The sounds are too loud.
Nothing is familiar.
Nothing is comforting.

Don’t go back
to the cave.
Don’t go back
to being asleep.

Take a small step.

Take another
when you are ready.

No hurry.

You can sit outside that cave mouth for a long time.

You don’t have to go running
because if you go too far too fast
you’ll fall
and retreat
back to that cave.

Slow and steady does it.

A lot of getting sober
is unlearning.

You aren’t alone
in this process.

We are all unlearning
and relearning
what it means to be ourselves.

You are beautiful. You are needed. You are loved.
And you can do this.

Addiction – on the death of yet another celebrity.

You just can’t understand addiction unless you’ve lived through it.

Yet another famous person has died of a drug overdose. It was an illegal drug but plenty have died of drug overdoses of legal drugs. This just highlights the tragedy that is drug abuse and addiction. Hundreds of people die all the time from drug addiction, legal and otherwise. They aren’t famous, but their deaths are just as tragic.

Even if you don’t die, addictions steal your life. You aren’t quite fully human when you are in the pit of addiction.

Just before you start in with the “But for the grace of God, there go I” line, think about it. Many people have addictions. They are just socially acceptable ones. You probably have an addiction and don’t even realize it. The best addictions just masquerade as habits. It is just something you do. You don’t know why you do it, you just do.

Gambling. drinking. Smoking cigarettes. Eating too much. Eating unhealthy food. Even being angry all the time can be an addiction.

Anything you do unthinkingly that is harmful to you is an addiction. It doesn’t matter if you think it is a problem yet or not. If you let an addiction have its way, it will slowly take over until the addiction is driving you. It will take over and use you like a puppet.

I remember what it was like to smoke pot. I smoked for ten years. When I started it was once a month. Then over time it was once a week. At the worst it was all day long.

I’d wake up and get stoned. When the buzz would wear off I’d smoke some more.

Meanwhile I was in college. I had a job. I was fully functional as an adult. All my bills got paid.

Nobody knew I was a pothead unless I let them know. The only people I let know were other people who smoked. We had a code between us. We kind of felt each other out, like Masons. There wasn’t a secret handshake, but there were still tells.

I remember one time I wanted to quit but I just wasn’t ready to go cold turkey. I told myself I could slow down. I didn’t want to smoke every day. I took my supply of pot and my pipe and I wrapped them up in plastic and sealed it with rubber bands. I then put it up on a shelf in my closet so I’d have to get a chair to get it. I figured this would make me think several times, way more than twice, about what I was about to do. I figured it would slow me down.

I remember time and time again going for that bundle, opening it up, and smoking, and the whole time wondering why I was doing it. It was as if I was possessed. I didn’t want to smoke, and here I was smoking. It was insane. Nobody was forcing me to do it, but I couldn’t stop.

I felt helpless.

And this is just pot. It wasn’t heroin, or oxycontin.

People say pot isn’t addictive. They say it is a gateway drug, that it leads you to other, harder drugs. I say otherwise. I know. There’s about ten years of my life that pot has, that I missed. This is why I’m opposed to the legalization of pot. Look how well we are doing (not) with alcohol. Look how many people’s lives are ruined by it.

A lot of people think they can’t become addicts. They can drink or smoke or snort or swallow whatever they want. They think “That can’t happen to me.” I say, why not? What makes you so special?

The only way to be special is to not do it at all. You can’t tame an addiction. You can’t do it half way. You can, at the beginning. Then it gets bigger and bigger and it will win, every time. There’s a honeymoon period at the beginning. It is all sweet and wonderful. It is your best friend, your lover. It fills in all the gaps. It makes the bumps in your life not so bumpy. It makes things warm and mellow. It makes life not hurt so much.

Then it gets harder, and it wants more. It takes more to make the warm feeling come. Then it costs more, and that has you bothered, so you do more to not worry about it. It spirals. It is a snake eating its own tail, but you are the one being eaten.

Every time you get near the edge of the abyss and you survive, you think you’re lucky, and you can do it again. There is always another sign telling you that you’ve gone too far, you should turn back. That car crash. The arrest. Your spouse left you. You got fired. There’s always something after the last road sign on the way to your demise. You think you can stop before you get to the end of the road. You’re enjoying the ride, you think. You can stop any time. But you don’t. You want to see how hard and how fast you can drive this thing. You don’t realize that the whole time you are the one who is being driven, and you’re being driven to the very edge of madness – and sometimes beyond.

Sometimes you stop. Sometimes you get off. But then there is still danger. The lure is always there.

The bad part is that even when you get clean and sober, the addiction is still there. You’re two years sober and the moment you forget how hard it was to get clean, you’ll try it again, and fall for it again even harder. There won’t be that honeymoon time like at the beginning, where you’ve got it under control. It remembers, and you’ll reset to how things were at the worst.

You can’t control it.

You aren’t special.

I could say “Just say no” but that’s naïve. The moment you tell some people to not do something, they are going to do it.

There is no simple answer to addiction. And there is no way of understanding it unless you’ve been there. If it was as simple as just quitting, nobody would be an addict. And there wouldn’t be any more overdoses.

Pray for peace for the addicts. Pray for strength to resist the pull. Pray for all those who haven’t heard that siren call to turn away from it when they do.