Telltale sign- you know it’s too good to be true

There is no one in this world, no matter how rich, how powerful, how prestigious, who does not have regrets. Every one has made mistakes, done things they should not have or not done things that should have been done. This simple fact leads to one of the easiest ways to spot a drug addict or alcoholics.

If you listen to a drug addict, you realize quickly that they can do no wrong, that they are blameless in all things. If you’ve ever argued with an alcoholic, you know how quickly you get exhausted by their endless circling. An addict will make great leaps and bounds to avoid taking responsibility for even the tiniest thing. Instead, these people will say things like, “that’s not how it happened,” or they will turn the conversation around to describe all the faults and flaws of the person they are talking with.

Normal, healthy individuals, know they have made mistakes and admit them. We might bring up our own mistakes as we criticize someone else to ensure them our criticism is heartfelt. In an argument, we might admit our mistakes and apologize and be frustrated that someone hasn’t let go yet. But we know we’re done wrong and don’t deny it. An addict is wholly different because an addict’s life is based completely on lies. An addict has to lie everyday in order to get money for his habit. An addict has to lie to cover up his habit, to explain where he has been or why he looks so tired. An addict will tell stories of hardship and heartache that require twenty dollars or more to help, and a great deal of misfortune falls on addicts because the addiction is demanding. So the addict builds up quite a wealth of lies, an existence that is totally false, dishonest and disloyal. They have built a house of cards. Any admission of wrongdoing, no matter how small or how long ago, will bring that house of cards down, so all mistakes are wiped from memory. Nonexistent.

I don’t have a relationship with my mom, but I run into her all the time. She hasn’t accepted my decision to walk away from our relationship, and will demand I answer for it. I know she hasn’t changed from when I was a kid, I tell her. I know she is the same person. She inevitably asks me what she did that was so bad. Well, I say, there was the lying and the stealing and the drugs. She admits to none of it. She apologizes for nothing. Instead she screams and yells, she brings up every bad thing I’ve ever done and every good thing she did that I didn’t mention. My mom still “borrows” money from relatives on a daily basis. If she admits to any wrongdoing, she is on a slippery slope to losing her source.

So if you ever meet someone who can always think of a reason or explanation why everything goes wrong but it never involves their own choices, beware of that person. There is a reason they cannot admit what every knows, that they are humans capable of bad decisions. Their bad decisions will outweigh every healthy person. If you find yourself listening to this kind of person, run, run away, before they suck you in.

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The Dangerous life of addiction

There are so many dangerous drugs on the street and in the community that people are naturally emotionally invested in the war on drugs, often time without a clear understanding of the facts. It doesn’t help that our government, who has a vested interest in maintaining the war on drugs or else they will look foolish, puts out all kind of false propaganda. For example, propaganda advertisements have put forth information that says people will become addicted to narcotics after using it only one time. That information is false, where studies have shown that recreational use of cocaine will usually take several months to turn into an addiction, while crack cocaine will take about three weeks. The more accurate information may not terrify people away from cocaine, but it will definitely scare them away from the much more potent crack.

Our government also over emphasizes the likelihood of people dying from drug overdose, when in reality more people die from taking aspirin than coke and heroine together. Again, the government tries to frighten people away from drugs, and again, the truth would be much more helpful.

Dying from a drug overdose is not the worst thing that happens to drug users. The worst thing is having to live with the addiction. Once a person is addicted, they have a life of suffering in front of them, a life where they risk disease, where they enslaved by a substance, where they care more about their next fix then their children.

My parents have been addicts for decades. They look haggard, aged far beyond their years. Their livers are damaged and they face chronic illness as a result of the abuse done to their bodies. In addition to their physical ailments, they have failed every person they are supposed to love. Instead of raising their children, they stole from our bank accounts and bedrooms, stole from siblings and parents, lied, and cheated. They aren’t like people, the decency drained from them in their desperation to get more drugs. They have several more years of this miserable existence to look forward to.

The misinformation put forth by the war against drugs robs us of the opportunity to warn people of the gravest danger. Our zero tolerance policy robs us of the ability to teach people to be responsible and guard themselves against the real horror of living with addiction.

Lessons from the Handbook: What not to do if you’re a parent

Like most people, I have learned many lessons from my parents. Unlike most people, I didn’t learn the usual lessons. Cooking, making a budget, doing laundry were not things that I learned to do from my parents. These were things my parents rarely did, let alone tried to explain to me. They weren’t very interested in being parents, in preparing their children for responsible and productive lives. And since my parents were in and out of jail, battle consistently with addiction, have filed multiple times for bankruptcy, there certain isn’t anything to learn from example. Instead I have learned what not to do, which sometimes can be even more valuable. Here are the top three lessons I learned in what not to do when raising children.

  1. Never say “I don’t care.”

    My father said this to me all the time, but my mother did as well. This was their answer when I asked permission to go somewhere or do something. First of all, if you as a parent don’t care, why should the child ask your permission at all? You have become a pointless middleman and undermine your own authority over your children.

    Second, a simple yes or no answer is more respectful to your children that “I don’t care.” Count the damn syllables. It baffled me as a child to imagine my dad spending the extra time and energy to say three words to express his indifference to me, instead of just answering my question. It’s a passive aggressive insult that, again, does nothing but undermines you as a parent.

  1. Never make fun of your children.

    My mother didn’t approve of my weight. I was always heavy while my mom was borderline sickly. But she didn’t make me play outside, portion my meals, or invite me to go with her on a walk. She made fun of me. I believe wholeheartedly that parents are responsible for keeping their children healthy and at an appropriate weight, just like they are responsible for making sure they get an education and have good impulse control. Calling names or shaming a child for a behavior that isn’t healthy will never do any good though. Children need to learn through example and leadership. If a child is fat, it is the parents’ fault.

  2. Never hijack your child’s crisis.

Another way of saying, be a good listener, to avoid hijacking your child’s issue is to listen to them and their crisis fully and respond to it directly before placing blame or changing the subject. My mother found out I was hurting myself when my guidance counselor called her and told her. The conversation was brutally short:

Mother: Your counselor called and said you cut yourself. Show me.

Me: (shows her my arm)

Mother: Stop that. People are going to think your dad molests you.

Obviously, this reaction is so far below what is an necessary to deal with a child’s crisis, but it is also a terrible way to start a meaningful conversation that could possibly help someone. My mother showed me that she didn’t care about what I had been doing. She was not curious about why I was hurting myself, but like always, was more concerned with protecting her husband.

My sister pointed out to me that she had said something similar when her daughter told her she had hurt herself. As the parent, my sister was legally responsible for her daughter and could suffer consequences when she chose to do those kinds of things. I asked my sister if that was the first thing she said to her daughter. Of course not. I asked if that was the only thing she had said to her daughter. Of course not. That was afterwards, after comfort and caring, when she tried to use reason and logic.

This advice can of course go for less serious conversations as well. If your child is upset that the boy she likes asks someone else to the prom, it isn’t productive to remind them that there are people in the world with real problems, at least not right away.

These three lessons are really closely related. It comes down to respecting your children. Of course, your children must respect you. How can they do that if you do not show your children what respect is? You must respect their questions, their problems, and their needs so that they can actually learn from you and your examples.

Dr. Strangelove, or How I learned to stop worrying and give up on the drug war

From my youngest days, my parents had serious addictions that devastated my family. Violence, lying, stealing. My parents did lots of drugs. Marijuana, pills, crack. To me, there was no difference. I just knew that those drugs were why the fridge was empty. I hated drugs. I thought they were evil. I thought the people who did drugs were evil. I seethed in my despair.

One day when I was in seventh grade, my friend tom and I had a political discussion. He said our war on drugs was all wrong, and that drugs, all of them, should be decriminalized. I can’t describe how my stomach lurched when he said that, how repulsed I was by my friend at that moment. It didn’t matter what facts he stated or how is argument was laid out. He didn’t know what it was like to live with drug addicts. He didn’t know what it was like to have parents that would be gone all night. He didn’t know what it was like to never know when your dad would start lashing out. He just didn’t understand what I knew in my heart, that drugs were dangerous and had to be eliminated.

I was twelve when I had that conversation and that opinion. Years later, I met hundreds of people. Some who smoked pot and could still go to work and school! People who had smoked pot or did other more serious drugs when they were younger and walked away from them when they matured. In college, I minored in sociology. I learned about the drug war and addiction. I learned about poverty. I learned about how and why people turn towards dangerous paths even when they should know better.

And I learned my heart was wrong. It is hard not to be emotional when people’s lives are being ruined in the most despicable ways, when children are neglected and abused because of their parents’ problems. Who wouldn’t want to do the right thing to keep people safe and clean? Who doesn’t want to keep drugs away from kids? It isn’t about what we want, but the right thing to do. Emotions are never a good strategy for building public policy. Emotions get in the way of thinking through the consequences of what do.

My first reaction to drugs was the same, to ban them, police them, make them go away. But they aren’t going away, are they? It’s just not that easy. People and their problems are so much more complicated than clicking your heels and making it better. People are stubborn, unpredictable, determined, unstoppable. I accepted the fact that I can’t make someone do what’s right. I can’t make my parents change their lives. I accepted that sometimes people do things they shouldn’t, no matter how much I try to dissuade them.

The drug war is a cure that’s worse than the disease, a travesty, a crime against American lives that accomplishes nothing but makes things worse. Drugs, like meth and crack, are more dangerous than imaginable. They turn people into dogs, into slaves. But a police state isn’t going to change that. We cannot save people from themselves. I have had to turn away from my parents because their problems are just too big for me to survive, but their problems started a long time before they started with drugs. Their problems were a big part of them turning towards drugs and spiraling out of control. Not every person who does drugs is like my parent or an addict. And all the addicts out there, like my parents, are not helped by the drug war. There children aren’t helped. I was not helped.

Seeing the horror of drug addiction from the front lines, I know exactly what kind of life a drug addict has to look forward to. I know how badly friend and family are hurt. So I know how important it is that we as a nation and a community do something about this. But we cannot do something that just makes us feel better. We have to do something that is effective, helpful, moral, possible. Something real. The war on drugs just doesn’t work. It’s wasting our time, and a lot of people’s lives. It’s time for us to quiet our emotions and think intelligently about what is really going on. Then we can really do something.

The Family Fixation

Family is necessarily the focus of life for every good and decent person in the world. Family is really all that matters, more important than brand name shoes, fancy cars, expensive dinners or diamond rings. Family is supposed to be the reason we work ridiculous hours and put up with absurd amounts of stress, all while crying out for more quality time with our family. It is good and right to be fixated on family.

But it doesn’t work out so well for all of us, does it? Not everyone gets to have a family that cares, nurtures and protects. There are people who do not have families at all. They are orphaned, given up for adoption, abandoned. There are people who are alone in the world, and who find the incessant babble about mother’s day brunch, and father daughter dances or family reunions to be strange, unfamiliar, unknowable occasions. Others have the kind of families they could easily do without; drug addicted fathers that react violently to the slightest error, co-dependent mothers who ignore their children to cater to their vicious husbands, vicious uncles who do unspeakable things. It is so lonely to have a mother and father that cannot be called for help, for advice, for comfort.

Thank god we get to make our own families. We choose a partner with which we make children who we can raise and love on our own. We can leave behind the wrongs that happened to us. We can learn from our experience all the things not to do, sometimes more than learning what should be done. We can imagine all the things we wanted, and want, and put those things in place for the people we love. Fixate on the family. Just make it a good one.

In the beginning, a mother and father have a child

My religion tells me to honor my mother and father. It is in the ten commandments, one of the oldest laws ever written. But even though I am commanded by my God to do this, I cannot. I really can’t. My parents don’t honor themselves and they don’t honor me. Their lives are marred with violence, addiction, and betrayal. To honor them is to dishonor myself and I am not willing to do that anymore.

I struggle with the idea that a commandment tells me to obey my parents but no such law tells them to care for their children, the innocent, the helpless. They are left on their own. But children best obey. It never made sense to me. But I suppose laws are written by the powerful, who want to protect their own interests. Parents who are violent, who name call, who blame, who steal, have enough power over their children without a hand from God.

People want to judge me because I have had to cut my parents out of my life, but I did it to honor myself. At some point, my life became my decision, and I had to choose what was best for me. My parents didn’t make that decision very much. Growing up, there wasn’t always food in the kitchen. There wasn’t always a working telephone. We didn’t always have running water. But we always had cable. My parents lied about me to borrow money from friends and relatives. My parents lied to me when they wanted my birthday money, or my babysitting money or if they just pawned my bike.

There are so many of us who know what it is like to have parents who just are not interested in being parents. We know what it is like to have drugs and alcohol tear our families apart and have nothing left but ourselves. If we can keep that together. I’ve struggled. We’ve all struggled. Taking my parents out of my life helped me to get better, to become stable and strong. I know a lot of people won’t understand that. But God understands. Of course He does.