Life: A Balancing Act

Do yourself a favor . . .STOP! Stop everything.  Turn off the computer, turn off the television, and for God’s sake, stop playing with your smartphone.  The constant stream, of social media, pop-culture, texts and emails, and even the news, issuing from our technological devices can prevent us from ever being truly alone with our thoughts.  It can be extremely difficult to improve as individuals if we never take the time to examine our lives.

I’ve found meditation to be a helpful and versatile tool in self examination. It is not necessary to join a yoga studio, and you definitely don’t need to seek out the Dalia Lama to utilize meditation.  I regularly meditate, by simply finding time for silence.  I search for a place where I can hear myself think, a place without distraction, to calm my mind and contemplate my thoughts and emotions.  I don’t pray or hum to the Gods, I just sit in silence, and quickly find relaxation in reflecting on my thoughts and actions.

BalancePill As a young adult, I never stopped for anyone or anything.  Life seemed to be a race with no clear path or finish line.  These days, I’ve found that good old fashion peace and quiet can be a remedy that helps me avoid speeding through life.  Spending any significant time alone with my thoughts inevitably leads me to self-reflection.  Regular self-reflection is a tool I couldn’t live without.  It enables me to analyze my life, my flaws, and my relationships with others.  It gives me an opportunity to improve my outlook on life and become a better person.

Today, people seem to shy away from silence and self-reflection, preferring rather to jump from place to place, screen to screen, and conversation to conversation.  Like a newly clean junkie thrust back into the world, absolute silence can be unnerving for individuals that are accustomed to the never ending flood of media bombardment, but without it, we may find judging our progress as individuals to be a task equal in difficulty to strung out junkies attempting to pull themselves up by their own boot-straps.  How can we become better human beings, if we can’t take five minutes to think about what that even means?

Through self-reflection, I’ve determined my greatest life struggle is balance. This is true for many using and recovering addicts, but I suspect the same can be said for all the “normal” people of the world. We regularly juggle family, friends, dating, work, school, finances, exercising, eating well, while trying to predict what new obstacles will arise in the future. When the challenges of life begin to pile up it can become overwhelming, I seek silence so I can sort through my life to determine what is really important. I constantly attempt to refocus and calm myself. I’m always in search of better life balance.

I’ve met workaholics who define themselves through a career, but have lost contact with their family and friends.  I’ve met people who seem to need a significant other at all times, but have no idea who they are as individuals.  I’ve met recovering addicts and alcoholics who attend meetings twice a day for years, only to accomplish abstinence with no other goals in mind.  What’s the point of life, if we spend it constantly running, without real purpose, from one thing to the next?  How can we appreciate the people and moments that truly make life worth living, if we don’t stop for long enough to realize their importance?

Individual humans are inherently imperfect, but we can seek out the solace of quiet contemplation as a refuge for self-improvement.  Our imperfection gives us unlimited room to become better people, but on occasion, we must shut out the distractions of modern life in order to determine what is truly important.

“The best things in life aren’t things!”    -Art Buchwald-

Addiction: A Pop Culture Sensation

This is the age of sensationalism. Celebrities are America’s royalty. We want to know every move they make, we want to be them. We enter into reality television shows in search of lavish lifestyle in the public eye; but like them the important stories and issues sit in the background while we waste our time and thoughts on meaningless drivel. The ugly part of this transition is the sensationalizing of these pop stars falling from grace, their lives are made into media spectacle.

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Media Coverage

Think back to the media coverage on Charlie Sheen. I was in Chicago for St. Patrick’s Day two years ago, and all you could find were t-shirts quoting Sheen’s insanity, and people screaming those quotes all over town. Lindsay Lohan is vilified, yet constantly in the spot light for her drug problem. When Michael Jackson and Whitney Houston passed away, the media took full advantage, and it was the only thing talked about for days, even weeks.

Here is a list of notable celebrity deaths from Wikipedia 

Shows like Celebrity Rehab and Intervention have grown in popularity, making addiction into a sad reality T.V.  joke.  Whether it’s celebrities or “normal” people, we are entertained by their self-destruction. These shows and stories numb the public to the seriousness of the issues. Americans laugh and gossip about the latest celebrity missteps, while addiction takes the lives of people we know and love. Families are torn apart, and all involved feel helpless.

Exceptions

Of course there are some exceptions. I recently watched an ESPN Films 30 for 30 documentary titled ‘Unguarded,’ the story of Chris Herren, a basketball star, who struggles with opiate addiction. Despite his celebrity, high income, and success on the court, his addiction eventually wins out, leaving him just as hopeless as every other addict. After reaching his bottom, he entered rehab and started attending twelve step meetings. Now sober, he now uses his popularity to spread his message to our military, families, and most importantly our youth.

Here is a preview of ‘Unguarded’ and an interview with Chris Herren.

You can purchase the full ESPN documentary ‘Unguarded’ on iTunes for a small fee.

Several other shows provide a more realistic perspective on addiction and drugs. Shows like ‘Drugs Inc.’ on National Geographic, ‘Curiosity: Your Body on Drugs’ on Discovery and HBO’s show ‘Addiction’ are on this short list. Unfortunately, the reality T.V. phenomenon doesn’t appear to be going anywhere. It’s doubtful, given the popularity of these types of prime time programs, that we will get anything different anytime soon. It would be nice if the news gave us important information, but for the time being, it’s up to us as individuals to educate ourselves.

Sources:

Wikipedia

ESPN Films

National Geographic

Discovery

HBO

Excerpt from TDDUP ‘Meet Ms. Heroin’


‘Meet Ms. Heroin’

My heart begins to race, the hairs on the back of my neck stand at attention. My body temperature rises. The decision is already made, the bill is in my hand, and there are no questions left to ask. I can’t stop the arousal I feel inside, my body eagerly awaits this new experience. My leg starts shaking, but Keith can’t tell.

I swallow hard, pushing any small skepticism deep down. Keith watches, trying to act casual, but unknowingly smirks in anticipation. I lean in halfway, before glancing back at Keith. He sniffles and says, “It’s fine,” waiving me off. I go in all the way, and strongly suck up the remaining half line. I turn my head from the dope, coughing uncontrollably, and fight off my weak gag reflex, before gaining my composure.

snort-a-skelington

Tilting my head back, I suck in one last time, then head to the fridge. I look back cringing, “Ugh,” shaking my head, “tastes like sssh-it!”

Keith follows, “Huh well, so do the pills, right?” his grin turns to laughter.

We high-five, but I purposefully smack his hand with much more force. “Ah, fucking asshole,” he yells. I grab a can of Pepsi, hand still tingling, and go to the back deck. The sun is already over the trees. My eye’s water, I sneeze, then sit down and lay my head back. My hands run over my pant pockets, finally pulling out a cigarette. I take a drag, feeling, listening, attempting to get a sense of this strange new substance now coursing through me.

My stomach starts to sway. In an instant, my eyelids get heavy, blood is boiling, and orientation off. I again bring the cigarette up to my lips. Keith comes out the side door, I sniff, turn to face him, and the chalky dirty heroin slides down the back of my throat. I lunge off the deck and expel my breakfast onto the lush green lawn.

Before I can lift my head, I am met by the comforts of my future wife. My unsettled stomach, relaxes. She wraps her arms around me. I feel safe, happy, peaceful. I slowly stumble back to the chair and plop down. All stress is dashed away; I’m floating on air. It feels like I can breathe for the first time in my entire life! The warm rays of the sun take me far away, somewhere deep in my head. Palm trees, waves crashing, birds overhead, calm, relaxed, silence.

“Tis?! . . . Urtis?! . . . Curtis?!” Keith shouts, finally bringing me back into reality.

I shake my head, “Yeah, yup,” my hand swings knocking the bottle of tanning oil off the table, before mumbling, “I’m here.”

“Pretty sick huh?” Keith asks, half laughing and completely high.

I turn to respond, but doing so sends my stomach sailing. I quickly make it for the lawn, before vomiting again and again. On all fours now, spit and bile dangle from my mouth, my eyes water. I gain my senses, look up at Keith, and smile big, “This is awesome!” I say with an emphatic nod. My head hangs low, I spit the stray saliva and chunks to the side, and mutter to myself, “Awesome. Fucking awesome.”

Look in the Mirror

A monster has escaped the dark streets of the inner city. It lurks undetected in the suburbs now, preying on the souls of the innocent.

What picture comes to mind when I say,”Junkie?”

Do you see a scruffy unkempt man or woman in dirty clothes? Are they desperately begging for change or shooting up dope in some dark alley? Are they homeless or crazy? Does a foul stink follow behind them? Is the person wandering the street with an emotionless stare?

This is an image we’ve all carried with us since the D.A.R.E. programs were implemented in elementary school. Images and stories we get from the Internet or the local news only add to this belief. This is an image we need to shatter.

To see the new face of addiction . . . Simply look in the mirror.

lookinmirror

Addiction has infiltrated the security that the suburbs used to provide. A junkie might be your neighbor or your best friend. It could be your doctor, the lawyer, or even the judge. The monster, that is addiction, does not care who you are or what you do for a living. Addicts are getting younger and younger. Teens and young adults sneak into bathrooms and look behind the medicine cabinet mirror.

The middle class accepts pills, because a doctor is the drug dealer, therefor they must be safe. Pills don’t carry the stigma of heroin or crack. You swallow a capsule, as directed, and forget about it.  Drugs, in the form of prescription pills can be found easily in the suburbs, where healthcare is commonplace, as well as good jobs, and plenty of money.

You might say, “So what, pills are different.”

Research is now showing that prescription opioids are a key gateway drug for teenagers who begin to use heroin. The Center for Disease Control has reported that one in eight high school seniors will use painkillers without a prescription.

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, the number of teenagers between the ages of 12 and 17 introduced to heroin has grown by 80 percent since 2002. The number of heroin-related deaths has also more than doubled among young adults. The vast majority – close to 90 percent – of teen heroin addicts are white, and many reside in the safe haven of the suburbs.

This problem is two fold. The new gateway drug is prescriptions pills, which are almost exclusively found in the ‘burbs. Combine this with the outdated image of a junkie stuck in our heads, and we have the makings of a perfect assassin. One that could kill your brother, sister, son, daughter, or best friend, before you even know there’s a problem.

Today’s junkie may look like me – a tall, clean-cut, white man in glasses, wearing a button up shirt and V-neck sweater. He or she may smell nice, may have a good job, and pay their bills on time. Today’s junkie may have a nice house in a safe subdivision. They may never, at any point, appear to have a drug problem . . . Until it’s too late!

Sources:

CDC

Drug Use and Addiction in the Suburbs

America’s Candy

Americas CandyWe Americans are great at consuming things. We are wasteful beyond belief and devour our resources without a second thought – I fully include myself in this group. Still, I am blown away by the wild numbers of prescription pills we consume as a population, especially painkillers. Are we all depressed, anxious, unfocused, suicidal, or in pain?

The United States makes up only 4.6 percent of the world’s population, but consumes 80 percent of its opioids — and 99 percent of the world’s hydrocodone, the opiate that is in Vicodin.

Prescription painkillers are now the leading cause of accidental death in the United States, with deaths by overdose tripling in the last 30 years and overtaking car crashes for the first time.

These numbers are scary, and likely under reported. I wish we asked our doctors more question, and did more of our own research. I wish we all took more responsibility for ourselves and our children. Although doctors are at least partially to blame, we are allowed to say no. We are allowed to question the medications being prescribed. We are capable of tolerating pain. Why then, are we all prescribed or self medicating with something?

The numbers get worse, I will post some other figures on this topic in the near future.

Sources:

Painkiller Abuse

Center for Disease Control and Prevention

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