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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.

0 Responses to "No human being is ever beyond redemption.

  1. Hi Wendy,

    Interesting that we find more and more parallels in our pasts. I spent 10 years self medicating. I remember some of the first experiments with alcohol, and soon after marijuana, and the almost instant realization that here was a tool to use. It was years before i used recreationaly. To me, drugs and booze were first and foremost a medication. Pretty shocking in that i was 13 years old. I worked as a chemical dependency counselor for about 5 years. In virtually all cases i saw, chemical use was the primary symptom, but never the real issue at hand. Usually i could sense the base problems that people were struggling with. Other times all I could do was advise them to stay clean and dry and wait a year, and let the source of their dysfunction peculate to the surface, to be alert for it. For me the source was PTSD, and it took a almost a decade for me to truly identify and begin accepting it.

    Currently I am trying to help a loved one with a pretty severe eating disorder. I hope we are near the bottom. Having been there I really empathize with the frustration and confusion they feel so totally hating themselves, but also in utter fear of letting go and doing whatever it takes to start real recovery. I remember being in those shoes and it is not fun. Because I have been in those shoes I will stand by them as long as my presence and support is therapeutic for them, but it sure is NOT fun.

  2. Hi Wendy,

    Interesting that we find more and more parallels in our pasts. I spent 10 years self medicating. I remember some of the first experiments with alcohol, and soon after marijuana, and the almost instant realization that here was a tool to use. It was years before i used recreationaly. To me, drugs and booze were first and foremost a medication. Pretty shocking in that i was 13 years old. I worked as a chemical dependency counselor for about 5 years. In virtually all cases i saw, chemical use was the primary symptom, but never the real issue at hand. Usually i could sense the base problems that people were struggling with. Other times all I could do was advise them to stay clean and dry and wait a year, and let the source of their dysfunction peculate to the surface, to be alert for it. For me the source was PTSD, and it took a almost a decade for me to truly identify and begin accepting it.

    Currently I am trying to help a loved one with a pretty severe eating disorder. I hope we are near the bottom. Having been there I really empathize with the frustration and confusion they feel so totally hating themselves, but also in utter fear of letting go and doing whatever it takes to start real recovery. I remember being in those shoes and it is not fun. Because I have been in those shoes I will stand by them as long as my presence and support is therapeutic for them, but it sure is NOT fun.

  3. What amazing experience you have! You are able to help so many because you’ve been there and emerged into sunlight. More parallels: I drank starting at age 12. I joined a gang of kids and we’d drink almost every weekend and sometimes, before we went to school. I stopped at age 14 because one of my drug-addicted friends killed himself and two other friends were sent away, one to a prison for boys and another to a home for unwed mothers. I was invited to stay in Synanon as the first person admitted for depression and not addiction to drugs or alcohol. In any case, growing up, I was doing whatever I could to cope with the PTSD that I didn’t know that I had. You and I are in total agreement about addiction covering up a “source of . . . dysfunction.” I’m so glad that we’re in touch and talking about these issues!

  4. What amazing experience you have! You are able to help so many because you’ve been there and emerged into sunlight. More parallels: I drank starting at age 12. I joined a gang of kids and we’d drink almost every weekend and sometimes, before we went to school. I stopped at age 14 because one of my drug-addicted friends killed himself and two other friends were sent away, one to a prison for boys and another to a home for unwed mothers. I was invited to stay in Synanon as the first person admitted for depression and not addiction to drugs or alcohol. In any case, growing up, I was doing whatever I could to cope with the PTSD that I didn’t know that I had. You and I are in total agreement about addiction covering up a “source of . . . dysfunction.” I’m so glad that we’re in touch and talking about these issues!

  5. Thanks, Wendy, for revealing more and more of yourself and provoking others, like me to chime in. My story was one of lifelong anxiety and lack of self-confidence. A kind psychiatrist helped me for many years to try to see myself in a positive light and take on challenges, but I always relapsed into chronic self-doubt that had no name, leading to difficulties in graduate school and a failed early marriage. My psychiatrist really had no idea WHY I had these problems and ultimately I stopped seeing him and pursued regressive therapy in hopes of unearthing the source of my problems. Using a combination of primal therapy, bioenergetic analysis, and deep feeling therapy, I followed a long trail of emotional clues that led ultimately to infancy and long sessions of crying exactly like a baby. One day, completely unexpectedly, I re-experienced the sharp cutting sensations of circumcision. I was 60 years old and had never given circumcision a moment’s thought, but I soon realized there was a profound and lasting reservoir of repressed pain and feelings of loss and betrayal that underlay the entirety of my experience. This has led to an education concerning all that I lost physically as a result of this terrible experience . . . all that millions of men like me have lost but are unaware of having lost because it is hidden in the unconscious. It turns out, then, that my lack of self-confidence arose from one primary source: infant surgery without anesthesia. Like you, for much of my life I was self-medicating with alcohol and couldn’t see this so clearly until I found out the pain I was trying to treat. I’m still in the process of coming to terms with the implications of my experience by writing about it and speaking to others about this. It is amazing to see the extent to which my fellow Americans, including doctors, are astonished that such awareness is possible. I think it’s great that you and I and others are beginning to speak out and find healing through the process of revealing our stories to others, just as we’ve had to reveal them to ourselves. Let’s keep up this dialogue!

  6. Thanks, Wendy, for revealing more and more of yourself and provoking others, like me to chime in. My story was one of lifelong anxiety and lack of self-confidence. A kind psychiatrist helped me for many years to try to see myself in a positive light and take on challenges, but I always relapsed into chronic self-doubt that had no name, leading to difficulties in graduate school and a failed early marriage. My psychiatrist really had no idea WHY I had these problems and ultimately I stopped seeing him and pursued regressive therapy in hopes of unearthing the source of my problems. Using a combination of primal therapy, bioenergetic analysis, and deep feeling therapy, I followed a long trail of emotional clues that led ultimately to infancy and long sessions of crying exactly like a baby. One day, completely unexpectedly, I re-experienced the sharp cutting sensations of circumcision. I was 60 years old and had never given circumcision a moment’s thought, but I soon realized there was a profound and lasting reservoir of repressed pain and feelings of loss and betrayal that underlay the entirety of my experience. This has led to an education concerning all that I lost physically as a result of this terrible experience . . . all that millions of men like me have lost but are unaware of having lost because it is hidden in the unconscious. It turns out, then, that my lack of self-confidence arose from one primary source: infant surgery without anesthesia. Like you, for much of my life I was self-medicating with alcohol and couldn’t see this so clearly until I found out the pain I was trying to treat. I’m still in the process of coming to terms with the implications of my experience by writing about it and speaking to others about this. It is amazing to see the extent to which my fellow Americans, including doctors, are astonished that such awareness is possible. I think it’s great that you and I and others are beginning to speak out and find healing through the process of revealing our stories to others, just as we’ve had to reveal them to ourselves. Let’s keep up this dialogue!

  7. I am moved to tears reading what you’ve written. Your words are so affirming, and our mission is so important. Yes, our dialogue is important and one of the first blog posts I am going to write as soon as I turn in my grades is a review of the astounding, brave, and brilliant article you’ve written about the cruelty of circumcision without anesthesia. The article is about so much more; it exposes the myths about circumcision period. I think, Robert, that there are many people like you and me who have suffered in deep ways without understanding why. We have finally realized what has happened to hurt us and we want to tell others so they can know what we know and perhaps suffer less. There’s so much to say. I am just so glad to be walking this road with you.

  8. I am moved to tears reading what you’ve written. Your words are so affirming, and our mission is so important. Yes, our dialogue is important and one of the first blog posts I am going to write as soon as I turn in my grades is a review of the astounding, brave, and brilliant article you’ve written about the cruelty of circumcision without anesthesia. The article is about so much more; it exposes the myths about circumcision period. I think, Robert, that there are many people like you and me who have suffered in deep ways without understanding why. We have finally realized what has happened to hurt us and we want to tell others so they can know what we know and perhaps suffer less. There’s so much to say. I am just so glad to be walking this road with you.

  9. You special friends who have come to know me will understand my deep feelings as I read Wendy’s post and the heart-rending comments. I respond with gratitude and complete agreement and understanding.
    I am so thankful for several reasons which have probably been responsible for keeping me from the struggles you have had with alcohol, drugs, deep depression and inadequate medical “treatment”.
    But when you mention some of the other “self-medication”, that’s me too: my inner turmoil, lack of self-confidence, self-harming, and sexual struggles are clearly common ground,
    Our opening up these pages of our lives is healing for us. I am sure this will also open the eyes and minds of many others, even if they are not (yet) able to self-disclose and write.

  10. You special friends who have come to know me will understand my deep feelings as I read Wendy’s post and the heart-rending comments. I respond with gratitude and complete agreement and understanding.
    I am so thankful for several reasons which have probably been responsible for keeping me from the struggles you have had with alcohol, drugs, deep depression and inadequate medical “treatment”.
    But when you mention some of the other “self-medication”, that’s me too: my inner turmoil, lack of self-confidence, self-harming, and sexual struggles are clearly common ground,
    Our opening up these pages of our lives is healing for us. I am sure this will also open the eyes and minds of many others, even if they are not (yet) able to self-disclose and write.

  11. I am so grateful to have a community of friends who really get it! You are a big part of the reason I keep writing and talking about these issues. We are helping each other heal. And yes, we are reaching people who may not be ready to come forward but are being touched regardless. Let’s keep reaching in and reaching out!

  12. I am so grateful to have a community of friends who really get it! You are a big part of the reason I keep writing and talking about these issues. We are helping each other heal. And yes, we are reaching people who may not be ready to come forward but are being touched regardless. Let’s keep reaching in and reaching out!

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