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User Name Thread Name Subject Posted
blt Quitting with heavy drugs (25) RE: Quitting with heavy drugs 04 Feb 01


To all,
I've tried everything at least once and remained a very heavy pot user for about 20 years (meaning daily use, several times a day). I also was an up and coming meth and coke addict for about 5 years in my 20s. My first solution to the meth and coke, which was turning toward heroin when I became scared, was a geographical relocation, away from friends who seemed to be not only using/dealing drugs but suddenly selling guns and fencing stereos. This worked briefly. It was really my belief system, as well as the biochemical process involved with addiction that got me into the most trouble and proved to be the hardest to change.

I'm now a drug and alcohol counselor (for the past 6 years), working with adolescents and their families. It's partly a way to pay back what I put my own family through, but mostly it's about me facing myself squarely. I did not begin to counsel anyone until I had done a lot of work on myself, but still I am constantly seeing echoes of my own way of thinking about the world.

The neurochemistry of all this varies based on the drug, but in general, addictive "pathways" are currently thought of as being formed in adolescence, so that using nicotine beginning, say, at age 12, creates a series of patterns in how one neuron or brain cell communicates to another. This pattern, especially in adolescence, becomes a preferred pathway, one that the individual experiences as feeling "normal". In some cases, this can mean using drugs or alcohol to deal with either physical or emotional pain. Drugs/alcohol do several things: they mimic natural substances, they push the production/release of natural chemicals until they're depleted, and/or they block the transmission of natural chemicals. So, it is easy to see how the combination of emotional trauma, a misguided belief system, and a drug that manipulates brain chemistry can be incredibly powerful. In my case, the belief system had to do with isolation, individualism, and the right to consume whatever I wanted.

Education is very important, I agree. Dealing with cravings takes a willingness to ask for help, getting support from others you can trust who are not using, a willingness to try alternative health approaches (such as acupuncture), looking at your diet, talking with a biomedical physician honestly, and taking it slow. 12-step groups work for many people, yet not for everybody--I've found the steps useful when I've needed some very basic reminders of what's important, and I've taken a lot of kids to AA and NA groups.

Relapse is sometimes thought of as a typical aspect of getting clean, and I hear people talk about having "2 or 3 relapses left." Often, if someone has been using since their teen years and they're now in their 30s, they'll have tried to stop at least once--in fact, it's diagnostic of someone having a problem with drugs and alcohol if they say that they've tried to stop several times. However, relapse is not simply picking up again but all the thoughts and actions that preceed the actual use. This, I believe, is because the mind and the body cannot be separated--being able to recognize that the thought process is going on allows an entry point into changing the pattern of addiction. It is easier to access change the further one is from the action of using. So, learn all you can about what thoughts, feelings, and actions preceed using; be very, very detailed and observant.

This was long, and I hope it makes sense. One of my goals as a counselor is to be able to talk and write about drug and alcohol use in a way that's clear and accurate, as well as to be non-judgemental. My history of drug use meant that I didn't really begin to grow up until I was 35, maybe even 40. I'm still in school at 49. I made disasterous relationship choices, repeatedly. I got pretty lost, and although I feel that I've found my way back, I can't help but regret the time I've wasted. I just can't get stuck in the regret. So, I'm still learning.

blt


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