My name is Jean-Paul, and I am in treatment for PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). Hearing me say that usually elicits one of two responses in people -- abject pity or recoiling fear. I want you to know that I understand where you're coming from, but allow me a few minutes to see if we can change this dialogue.
Within the literature of Alcoholics Anonymous, the word "recovered" comes up at lot, and come to think of it, why wouldn't it? Many an addict latches on to that idea as a desperate lifeline of hope. I, on the other hand, have grown to embrace the fact that until the day I die, I will be a recovering alcoholic. I long ago decided to make peace with this disease, but that in no way makes me immune to feeling frustrated and angry by the circumstances surrounding my relationship with the addiction.
People often assume that the main problem of addiction comes down to an addict's lack of willpower or commitment. Although it may appear that way from the outside looking in, I would suggest the complete opposite is true. I say this because the addicts I've met in recovery are some of the most tenacious, resilient, and creative people on the planet.
I believe that deep inside, all of us have something that eats away at us, something that just doesn't sit right. Maybe it's some trauma from your past, or hurtful words that still resonate, or even some "dis" ease you are currently living with. For me, it was coming to terms with sexual abuse in my childhood.
I believe that bullying is an addiction. We use addictive behaviours to mask what we feel --generally about our own low self-esteem and dissatisfaction about our lives. Anything can become an addiction if we are using it for that purpose: drugs, alcohol, food, TV, smoking, gambling, excessive spending, gaming, sex, co-dependency in relationships -- the list goes on and on.
Even though I've been clean and sober now for almost 18 years, without a doubt, I continue to move through life with the mind of an addict. For me, learning how to "soften into things" means learning how to quiet my ego, the presence that convinces me that in order to build myself up, I need to tear someone else down.
Mental illness is one of the biggest predictors of inequitable access to care in this country. We know that having a mental illness means that you are far less likely to get the healthcare you need than someone without a mental illness and that mental illness is a bigger predictor of poor access to care than low income.
If I look at a snapshot of my life 18 years ago, I see a young man ravaged by a spiraling alcohol and drug addiction, a man fractured in spirit desperate to claw his way out of the darkest hell of a deep depression. Shortly after entering a treatment program to deal with my addiction issues, I took my first tentative steps into the world of running. Before I knew it, I had found my "people." I had stumbled upon my "tribe."
When patients get into trouble with highly addictive pain medications, their family physicians may not know where to refer them for help. To make matters worse, the prescribing habits of some physicians -- such as giving too high a dose of a drug -- can contribute to patients becoming addicted to painkillers.
The death of comedian Robin Williams last month sparked a worldwide discussion about suicide, its underlying causes and how it might be prevented. And, with World Suicide Prevention Day taking place Sept. 10, the subject is certain to generate more debate as people seek to understand this important health issue. Having spent 10 years researching the subject while working as a professor of psychiatry, I believe there are things we can do as a community to tackle this problem. With that in mind, I thought it might be helpful to reflect on what researchers have learned over the years about strategies for preventing suicide.
The moment a celebrity or somebody takes his or her life we, as a society, are all over it. It makes me think if we talked about suicide this much when it wasn't in the news due to something like Williams' death we would be better off. In addition to talking about Williams let's also talk about the thousands of other "normal" people who also died of suicide today.
For the series It's About The Words & Conversations, BJ Thomas talks about that special night he heard Jackie Wilson sing "To Be Loved" and how thankful he is to have been exposed to those lyrics. They have stayed with and supported BJ through the pleasures of launching a career, falling in love, starting a family and battling addiction.
I believe the most crucial thing we need to teach digital natives is how to be alone. Every communication technology -- from papyrus to the printing press to Pinterest -- brought us great gifts; they also led us away from earlier frames of mind. And, in the case of the Internet and smartphones, that may leave us with impoverished interior lives.
In the case of someone like Rob Ford, he may have very little control over his cravings for alcohol, and this is where he deserves sympathy. In a culture where everyone has something -- coffee, cigarettes, marijuana, shopping, alcohol, need for approval, etc. -- it shouldn't be too hard for us to sympathize with someone dealing with a dependence problem. However, as a man who has good financial resources and who is capable of accomplishing significant person goals, he has considerable, personal influence over the treatment of this problem.
Only by calling food addiction by its proper name can we begin to speak frankly about how to help one another recover. Until then, food addicts like me will continue to struggle to control that which cannot be controlled. Many will keep trying, and failing, to "eat like a normal person." And many will decide, like I did, that their inability to change is simply a sign of weakness.