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"No human being is ever beyond redemption.

The possibility of renewal exists so long as life exists.” I took this quote from the book In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts: Close Encounters with Addiction by Gabor Maté, a doctor who works with drug addicts and alcoholics at the Downtown Eastside Clinic in Vancouver, Canada. He brings humility and compassion to his practice since he, too struggles with addiction (not drugs or drinks though). He works with people whom many health professionals have given up on.

When I was twenty-one, I entered a program called Synanon–The People Business, where I lived for a year and a half. Though I was depressed and suicidal, they believed in my ability to grow. Before Synanon, I had institutionalized myself in a psychiatric ward, thinking a therapist would help me, but that was not to be. Fear and coercion ruled. The medical profession seemed to believe we were broken and could not be fixed; drugs would maintain us. I wanted no part in this system. Lucky for me I had friends who helped me leave and move to a place that believed in the power of human beings to not only change our lives but self-actualize.

Here’s another quote that really speaks to me: “From a medical point of view, addicts are self-medicating conditions like depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress, or even attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).” I believe that many people who are addicts are suffering from grief, trauma, crippling self-criticism, and confusion, the likes of which have trapped them. Some of them are survivors of infant trauma whether from childhood abuse or invasive medical procedures. I myself have been addicted to cigarettes, food, and suicidal thoughts that tied me up in knots so badly that sometimes, I could not function. Perhaps one of the causes of depression is an addiction to constant negative thoughts.

Last quote: “A hurt is at the center of all addictive behaviors. . . . The wound may not be as deep and the ache not as excruciating, and it may even be entirely hidden—but it’s there. . . . the effects of early stress or adverse experiences directly shape both the psychology and the neurobiology of addiction in the brain.” The wound, however, can often be transformed. As I make my career change, I am hoping to inspire others to gain faith in their own ability to heal. May I be an anchoring root as the plant breaks through soil into sun. Certainly, so many have done as much for me.

Leaping into My Future

Thursday, March 22 I handed in my retirement letter. I’ve been teaching almost twenty years in the Peralta Community College District in the San Francisco Bay Area, California; I have been so fortunate and learned so much from my students. They have gone through my various incarnations with me as I have gone through theirs… Continue Reading

Wind

I was walking late night, the breeze lifting my hair, lifting my hair from my forehead. I was walking late night, the breeze lifting a weight from my shoulders. A weight was carried for me. I was cared about by the wind, talking to me in the trees, the trees, tall black silhouettes, held air… Continue Reading

English 1A Students at the College of Alameda Read myincision

This is the fourth semester in which students read and comment on myincision. I am excited they are joining me here and thrilled as I anticipate reading their comments. Their assignment for this medical humanities unit is to read my first-ever post “Why Horseshoe Crabs?,” choose four other posts, and complete the following exercise: For… Continue Reading