I have several writes in my head, itching to get out. Perhaps I can combine a few threads together to get a cohesive whole...
I have been dealing with some serious issues lately, including my own behavior. I am entering an alcohol treatment program to address my substance abuse and what happens when I drink. This is something that is a long time coming. I had the disease a long time, before I ever used. You see, addiction, in my experience is most often a hereditary disease, fostered in childhood. The use and abuse of intoxicating substances has been a problem since man first evolved.
I have done a lot of research on this topic, over the years and recently. Since my last DUI, I have been doing at least four hours of research a day on the topic of recovery. I search the Interwebz, print and other media, to seek answers to my questions. Someone recently asked me what MY ideal recovery program would be, and I will try to address some of the key components here.
First of all, I need to unambiguously state that I do not believe that our judicial system can prescribe a religious-based program to address a mental health issue. That is like a doctor diagnosing you with cancer, and telling you to go home and pray about it. It just does not make sense. Yes, pretty much everyone needs some sort of spirituality in their life, some sort of moral code that gives life meaning, and makes sense of the absurdity of it all. However, I truly do not think that some sort of God-based program is going to solve the problem of addiction.
For some people, having that “come to Jesus” moment will be enough. Putting your faith in a higher power, “as you understand it,” can help one get their life on track. But, we are only human, and faith is not a constant. We are frail beings, and often succumb to temptation. In weak moments we turn to the things that comforted us in the past, reliving patterns of behavior that we learned along the way. Often these behaviors are destructive. The problem I have with Alcoholics Anonymous, and similar groups, is that I do not believe in the traditional concept of God. I am not saying that I am an atheist, but I am a Buddhist, and have been for the past 18 years. It is not a linear path, there are ups and downs, and sometimes I skid sideways for months at a time. There is a reason it is called practice.
So, I do not consider myself a Christian. I was, growing up. But, I was sexually abused in the church as a pre-teen, and that damaged my faith. I spent many years rudderless and as a teen I experienced a lot of angst, questioned my existence. That problem only intensified as I became older, until now, when I seem to exist on caffeine and hate.
I call myself “your angry buddhist” for a reason. Just because I am comfortable with violence does not mean I am proud of it. I am simply a depressive realist when I am not an manic idealist. The pendulum swings back and forth, back and forth, back and forth.
I do not find the philosophy of existentialism and Buddhism to be incongruent. I often idealize myself to be some nihilist, gonzo artist/writer, hustling hard and staying humble, just trying to make my nut each day. However, I feel something lacking.
I strive to be authentic in every facet of my life. You ask me a question, I will tell you no lies. I am upfront about my problems and my failings. I do not ask anything of people but loyalty. I don’t care if you love me, I don’t care if you are a little bit afraid of me, but you damn well better be devoted. Forgiving. As I am to you. People disappoint. That is the title of this write. It is an important point. Yes, people disappoint, but if you know that going in, if you keep your expectations extremely low, you will be able to roll with the punches and get by.
One thing I talk about is infrastructure, which can be defined as "the physical components of interrelated systems providing commodities and services essential to enable, sustain, or enhance societal living conditions.” And by living conditions, I am referring to quality of life.
What many people fail to understand is that the opposite of addiction is NOT sobriety. Rather, the opposite of addiction is connection. Social connection. I will venture to say that all addiction problems have their root in some sort of trauma. Be it war, medical emergency, financial or marital crisis, there is usually a triggering event associated with substance abuse, which unchecked, can lead to addiction issues, a medical situation that requires not a spiritual solution (although that could be part of it, as it pertains to social situations) but rather some sort of medical model. Psychology is certainly a part of medicine, and those type of theraputic approaches are ones I endorse.
Psychiatry is an more of an art, rather than a science. One could say, however, that these days, psychiatrists practice their handwriting more than they do medicine, and that some of them are not even good at that! The real work happens in weekly psychotherapy sessions with some sort of therapist, not in a fifteen minute med check every three months.
My father worked for the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration (SAMHSA) for twenty years. For the last ten, his work was primarily with the Center for Substance Abuse Treatment (C-SAT). This is at first glance, ironic, as his son dealt with mental health and substance abuse issues for most of his life. However, my father was just as devoted to me as I am to my own son. When I found out that my son would likely have special education issues, I changed my Master’s degree focus to Education of the Exceptional Child, specifically behavioral and emotional disorders. Because of our love, we made specific career choices, in hopes that knowledge would help the situation. Unfortunately, that was not always the case...
Today, it is almost two years since my father passed away in my arms. It has been five years since I have seen or talked to my son. My previous did not listen to my daddy’s dying pleas to see his only grandchild before he died. Much of the current noise in my head is due to unresolved issues with my son and first wife. I say this to refer to the trauma I have dealt with, and why I am having issues with using alcohol.
People need to be connected, to have relationships, in order to survive and function properly. That is what helps people with substance abuse problems become functional members of society. Sometimes it is merely the group setting that helps addicts in their recovery. This explains the success of organizations like Alcoholics Anonymous and similar groups. The friendships that are founded, the connections that are made, all contribute to recovery and the ability to stay clean.
An important message that I have is that relapse must be a part of any recovery model. It is simply unrealistic for anyone to think that a person will never touch another drink or drug until the day they die. As I have tried to make clear, people always disappoint, and people will also always be disappointed. Life never works “according to plan.” Shit happens.
What we need right now, all of us, is a better infrastructure. This should be undertaken on a national, literal scale, improving roads, bridges and other public works, but also on a micro, personal level. Each of us, in order to be come healthier, needs to work on connections, becoming active members of our communities. We need to stop burning bridges when we are in the middle of them, just to prove how desperate we are. We need to find purpose in our lives, make meaning, at the very least pretend that there is some grand purpose or design. We are greater than we allow ourselves to be. We will to power. #resist
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.