Many persons affected by bipolar disorder turn to the use and abuse of substances. This is a catch-all term for anything with psychoactive properties, whether it be alcohol, street drugs, over-the-counter and prescription drugs, caffeine, or nicotine. Often substance use is done in an attempt to self-medicate, where one tries to manage the highs and lows with the use of non-prescribed substances.
This can easily slip into the abuse category, if one is not careful. Once a person has started down the slippery slope of substance abuse, it is easy to get lost in the recesses on one’s mind. Psychological dependency is much more prevalent than physical dependence. When someone has established a pattern of behavior, it is often difficult to break.
As one of my literary heroes, Wm. S. Burroughs, has said, “once a junkie, always a junkie.” Relapse is a really grave problem for any person diagnosed with bipolar disorder, especially for those dually diagnosed as “chemically dependent.” I have difficulty with being labeled as chemically dependent. I freely acknowledge that I have substance abuse issues, but I am not, nor have I ever been, physically dependent on anything.
My wife believes it is not even an issue of being psychologically dependent, but rather an issue of behavior that can be controlled. I am often driven by my primitive, or “lizard,” brain. The part of the brain that controls the pleasure centers is not the cerebrum, or higher brain functions. Driven by primitive desires, or the libido, I seek instant gratification, which for me is accomplished by getting high on marijuana.
Being a junkie is something I have to guard against every day of my life. I do not wish to return to those behaviors again, ever. Most days are easier than others, but I know it is something I will always have to deal with. I have casually used alcohol and marijuana, every once and a while, but I know that it is a dangerous proposition. I choose to use, but I do not choose to abuse. It is a very fine line, a tightrope that I do not wish to tempt myself with very often.
I know that my views on this are not popular, especially with fellow addicts, but I can only speak from my experience, which is unfortunately vast. I am not a big fan of twelve step programs, for many reasons, but they do have a place in the treatment of bipolar disorder. I do not like the fact that some individuals seem to substitute meetings for drugs, often going to several meetings a week, or even several meetings per day. However, when faced with the alternative (drinking or drugging), I guess it is preferable. Some groups, like some chapters of Narcotics Anonymous, are against all drugs, including prescribed drugs used for the treatment of BPD.
Wm. Andrew Turman (Zen Daddy T)
Monday, September 26, 2005
Biography and Artist Statement
W.A. Turman was an “Army Brat,” and that explains a lot. Man of no accent, but also of every accident. Life has not always been easy for the artist and writer we affectionately call “Zen Daddy T.” A gonzo journalist along the lines of Hunter S. Thompson, an artist well-versed in the school of Ralph Steadman, including favoring beers from the Flying Dog Brewery, Andrew is an acquired taste. His abstract expressionist works bleed protest and contentment. His recent series, “Art for Airports” has drawn critical acclaim. Here are his stats: hospitalizations—77; medications—46; suicide attempts—5; ECT treatments—61.