Thursday 15 December 2016

Substance Abuse, by W.A. Turman

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.

W.A. Turman can be contacted via his Facebook page and blog.


  1. I really appreciate your perspective. I first attended 12 step meetings in the late 1980's and then after some time moved away because I felt it was in my opinion for some people almost like another addiction, I wanted to get out of the boat when it got me across the river. With my mental illness I need to have medication. Period. I think the "no drugs" thing is an old hold back to when it was first founded and I can understand that. I know it is an individual decision, and really do not judge, but also want to be around like minded people. My experiences were that I recognized my thinking and behaviors much more in the halls of AA back then even though I came to it through Al-Anon. I recognize that the mental illness I have causes imbalances in the chemistry in me that cause me to want to stop the pain and the anxiety. So I always have to be aware of "addiction" and as you mention it is the psychological, perhaps and not even physical, but being trapped in one's mind is still not being well. A life long journey... and constant awareness and willingness to learn. Thank you for sharing this. So nice to find a place where one feels like there are people who understand.
    Thank you.

    1. Hi Kaileigh, thank you for commenting. I have let the author know, so he can take a look himself.

      "A life long journey... and constant awareness and willingness to learn." ~ with those words you have captured what I personally have learned, through my friendship with Fran. Every journey is as individual as we are ourselves. I am glad ours resonates with others - that is what it's all about really.


  2. I have definitely experienced the 'physical addiction' aspect. After three years of taking oxycontin I went through extreme physical discomfort when I quit, despite the fact that doctors replaced the oxy with methadone to 'bring me down'.

  3. Replies
    1. Thank you, Donna, and everyone. It is gratifying as a writer to receive feedback!