Tag Archives: thought

Dear Methylenedioxymethamphetamine…

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rave

Dear Methylenedioxymethamphetamine,

You lips were bitter like a gourd but your kisses left me speechless on countless occasions.  You made my heart beat faster, my eyes widen in awe and my jaws clench in excitement. You made me impulsive, you made me deceptive and you made me provocative.

From the start I could tell you were a sinister man. You would always show up to the party early, manipulating yourself through the crowd, never passing me up to say hello. The first night we met, you introduced me to one of your friends. You pressured me to stay the night with him and even though I really didn’t want to, you convinced me that I should. You were so pleased when you saw us together, you seemed proud of your work—a brilliant self-proclaimed matchmaker but you would never admit it. You would joke how it was inevitable and claim that it wasn’t your doing. I knew that it was but I still tried to shove down my immediate feelings of regret to embrace my new life of love and drugs. I reluctantly welcomed your charm whenever I saw you, forcing a smile and saving you a dance. We eventually got closer as my ignorance dissolved any apprehensions.

I was still with your friend after sometime but that didn’t stop you from expressing your fondness of me. I even think that he noticed you making moves but decided not to do anything or even care. It’s like he didn’t mind sharing me with the man who arranged a young, pretty, foreign girl to play house with him. I tried to look past this, accepting the reputation I had built for myself: American slut. I took a week off to travel and escape you both. After several days I became bored so you came out to visit me without my lovers knowledge.

We spent some time with other travelers on the vast onyx beach one night and one thing led to another. Before I knew it, I had just cheated on the man I had been living with for a month with two people (not including you). While I should have been ashamed of myself, instead I felt exhilarated. I had a sense of pride for my promiscuity. You encouraged me to stay with you again and I told you that, “if it will be, then it will be.” And so it was. For days I kept my mouth sealed as we snuck around together every chance we got. Together, we stayed up for days, starved and drove ourselves mad.

Eventually I had to go back to the home. You told me you would come to see me and you did. We acted out the same scene we left on that dark night on the beach. Only now we were surrounded by ravers in a massive stadium covered in flashing lights and melting colours. We walked through the crowd together and danced around the beautiful people. When we sat down you welcomed a stranger by my side and told him to kiss me behind my ear. You lead his hand up my thigh and lay me on the grass surrounded by hundreds of on-lookers. You had done it again. You had me put out again.

Your presence slackened my body and made my mind weak, I lost sight of right and wrong. My moral standards were clouded by the sudden urge to lose complete control. You’re malicious and manipulative— you’re the definition of a psychopath. Don’t you see how sick it is to find such pleasure from someone in such a state of senselessness and vulnerability?

I don’t have any regrets for what I’ve done. I know that it was all because of your influence. I would never repeat what I have done with you but I am not ashamed of it anymore. I know that if we ever saw each other again, you’d try and bring me down to that level of pure, passionate idiocy and I dare you to try because this time it’s different. I have respect for myself now and I know that I deserve so much better. I deserve real love. Not these temporary fixes that were set up on a high.

I won’t miss you.

Goodbye M.D.M.A.

No regrets,

Robyn

 

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Dear Lysergic Acid Diethylamide…

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Acid

Dear Lysergic Acid Diethylamide,

I sit here in the shadow of the night, watching the darkness play tricks on my eyes and it reminds me of you. Only you never played it off as a joke. It’s as if you enjoyed watching me grow increasingly more puzzled, dazed, and confused with every embrace. The world around me became blurred as you dizzied me with admiration. Everything I saw, everything I heard, and everything I felt transformed into a sensation of profound heightened clarity. I had never felt this way before. I was amused by your presence but I was not convinced that all this newfound beauty was the influence of only your love. I know you must have had some resentments towards me because I spoke so poorly of you, telling everyone that you were worthless and useless. But that only lead you to pursue me even harder, as if you had something to prove. You tried and tried, again and again but I insisted that you were never enough for me. You began to taunt me, somehow persuading me to try my luck with you. And I did— admittedly, so willingly. After a week of timid romance, I finally surrendered all self-respect as I gave myself to you completely. I will never forget that night and when you defiled my soul. I was already so weak, growing increasingly more dependent and entirely delusional about you. I would wonder when I would see you again and fantasize about what we would do. I wanted to feel your embrace and push the limits of our love. I wanted to see more than just the earth dance. I wanted to feel more than just the vibrations of every sound. I wanted to understand more than just the ease of every silence. I wanted to trip out… bad.

The miraculous thing is that I was already tripped out but I hadn’t fully realized it. I had tripped out after meeting you on the first night. You managed to steal more of of my time and I was curious to get to know you, only feeling disappointed by the end of the night— unaware of what you had done to me. That disappointment was irrational, I had made the mistake of unknowingly falling for you. You had me under your spell. I only just figured that out. For weeks I had tried to get a perfect trip, thinking all along that I had never actually had one (as though everything I experienced was real). I had left the confines of reality and I didn’t even think of looking back. I was losing it and eventually I lost it.

For days I was coming down from your high only to have you swing me up again in your charm as I would ignorantly insist that “we weren’t working.” You were so adamant to convince me and I was so naive to taunt you like I did. I had no idea what you were doing and what you were capable of. If I would’ve known that your seduction would have destroyed my mind for years to come, I would’ve never provoked it.

But thats a lie… I still would have made love to you.

And that’s why I am writing:

I never had the chance to tell you the truth: I am an addict. I was before I ever met you but I didn’t want you to know. I had already been with countless of other drugs but I never thought you would all be the same. Its true though, your all just as cunning, untrustworthy and frightening. You were the most devious of them all. The way you manipulated me is unparalleled and I will never forgive you for that. Even after months of our separation you were still harassing me. Using men to lure me back to you. Hypnotizing me with ideas of false admiration and recreational sex. Luckily, I didn’t fall for it so easily that time. Sure, I spoke of surrender but I never sought out any action.

I had a feeling you would come back for me and I know we might run into each other in the future. Thats why I want you to know that as much as I hate leaving you on a sour note, its for the better. We would never work. We would always be at each others throat. You would never be enough for me and I could never make you happy without going mad. I mean, I am still picking up the pieces from my last high… I thought torrent of insanity I experienced for months after we had last met would never end. While I eventually managed to collect my mind and find a sense of stability, I still experience some side-effects of our heated past. You are still with me in my mind. From time to time I see these vivid colours and flashing lights and I know that that’s remnants of your binding spell. I can’t believe that you have threatened me with these flashbacks, saying that I will have them for years to come. You blame it all on the length and progression of our relationship at the time, telling me that it was all my fault; “if you hadn’t doubted me, if you hadn’t belittled me…” All I can say is that I am sorry. It was I who instigated the relationship. My curiosity was convincing and my ego was big. I went in with greedy intentions but after all you have put me through, I think its safe to say that we are even now. You have hurt me enough, striping me of sanity and making me feel so helpless and vulnerable. You can chose show me mercy or remain cold and bitter. But I know that you have a heart somewhere to forgive me and I look forward to the day when you finally release me from your grip. For now, I wish you nothing but peace and solitude.

 

Goodbye L.S.D.

Your old valentine,

Robyn

Take Twelve

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This is about the time we begin to ask if she is still alive…

And she is!

And now we ask if she is still sober..

She is!

But is she still sane?

It appears so…

What a happy day! She spent three hours in total driving to and from the unbearably busy mall to get her computer fixed and while it does turn on, there are fuzzy technicoloured lines that remind her of tripping… no matter.

She has spent the past few weeks unpacking, painting and decorating her rooms in her new house. Her mom was kind enough to give her two little rooms to use as a massage room and a bedroom. She’s had fun placing all her nick-hacks and art work on her walls. But thats boring stuff! We don’t care about the day to day, we are curious about her head.

Smoking

She woke up— everyday seemed to be the same. Time was dragging on. It seemed like it was taking forever to get things done. Would she ever find a sense of normalcy again? She felt guilty for not going to the gym, for eating poorly and waking up only minutes from noon. She grabbed a bottle of water and went out on the back porch and find her mom rocking in a wicker chair with a cigarette hanging from her mouth. She sat down next to her and lit one up for herself.

“It’s like we’re here decorating someone else’s house and we’re going to go home when its all over,” her mom spoke softly.

“Yeah.”

“Theres just so much to do. The trip down here was so hard. So stressful. Everything is… so stressful.” A tear fell down her face.

“I know. Its a lot. I’m struggling too. I’ve tried not to let it out.” Her mom looked up at her as she said this, cocking her head to side suggesting to tell her more. “Its unpacking all my things… It all comes rushing back. I left it all behind when I came down here earlier to stay with Grandma and Grandpa. Living out of a bag for a month, it was like an escape.. But now its all back. Every little thing reminds me where I’ve been. What I’ve done. How I’ve hurt everyone…” She hesitated and continued, “I found a letter that Daddy wrote to me and hid in one of my travel documents before I left for India. He had so much faith… but so much fear. I could tell. It broke my heart.” She burst into tears. Together they sat crying.

“You know we love you. No matter what, we will always be here for you.”

Her throat knots as she writes this and recollects this moment of weakness. It’s always in the back of her mind but every second of every day she pushes it out. She has learnt to recognize when she is about to slip and quickly resists those feelings. She doesn’t want to break down. She does’t want to fall into depression and get lost in the past. But she remembers it all. The letters she opened on the plane to France from her parents, her sister. They left so much love in those few pages. So much hope for her future. She let them all down.koorg

She ventured into the depths of the messages that were sent from her parents while she was in India.

Tears are rolling down her face now. She could tell when she was going crazier and crazier. She can see the dates. The times. Those words. Those lies.

I have been catching up with time, got lost in koorg for those few days hanging out with my friend pooja —3/22, 10:52am (11:22pm India-time)

‘Getting lost in Koorg.’ Koorg was where it began. The unraveling of her mind. She remembers the trip that set it off. Physical and mental.

Right now its too hard to write about. Maybe later, she thinks as she tries to shove it off. She’ll probably post it, password protected, on her blog soon. Stay tunes I guess. 

 

Take Eleven: The 90th Day

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(A recollection of my last relapse)

This is the perfect time, she thought. The party her parents had thrown was winding down and there was only one guest left standing. Her dad was drunk, that was obvious. Her step-mom might have been a little tipsy…
Its been hard for her to find the perfect moments to steal booze from their butlers pantry for a while. Every time she took some, she took it from another bottle, switching off, hoping no one would notice. Sure enough, no one did. But this time she could get away with not only enough for tonight, but enough for the nights to follow. She took her first chance to grab the largest coffee mug and fill it to the brim with vodka. She made her way upstairs unnoticed. She rolled her eyes when she saw the new meds she had got prescribed earlier sitting on her dresser. She picked up the sample packet and read: “Do not consume with alcohol. May cause dizziness and poor concentration.” That doesn’t sound so bad. So she popped the pill in her mouth and held the mug to her lips. It went down her throat, burning, as she gulped down what she assumed was about 4 shots.
She made her way downstairs, making pleasant conversation, laughing, joking and flaunting her best wit. Then she dismissed herself to her room where she lay on her bed typing away.
It was well into the night and as she was journalling about her latest relapse. She cocked her head up and thought, if I’m going to relapse, I want to relapse on something hard. Something worth relapsing over. She got up, stumbling and made her way down the hall, tip-toeing and jumping from carpet to carpet. When she reached her parents room, she glanced in cautiously and then took a bolt to the medicine cabinet. She reach in pulling out an old dusty green basket. She slid each prescription up and read the fine print. Blah blah-pin, blah blah-izon, Vicodin! She opened it and examined one of the oval pills. Classic, she thought, I replaced these all with generic Aspirin… She shoved the bottle back in with the rest. But then, there it was; Tylonal 3’s with Codine. Codine, Codine, I know about Codine… She took the bottle and placed the basket carefully back on the shelf.
With the bottle on her desk, she lay her head on her folded arms, gazing dreamily at the pills. She smiled and knocked down every last one. She knew they were old, so they probably weren’t very strong and she knew she had a tolerance for opiates at this point.
The night went fast as she sat there embracing the tingling in her body. Her parents had gone to bed and after a few hours, all her symptoms had run out. She was bored. Not tired. Her mouth was dry. What now? She searched her own medicine cabinet and found a box of Benedryl and an unopened bottle. She never thought it would resort to this but she was desperate for a high. Her friend had told her about how hard he tripped once and she was intrigued. She had tried it once but it only knocked her out. She figured she didn’t take enough that time. So she quietly ripped of the aluminum seals and collected the pink pills in a pile on her bed. 20 pills. She went and got some water, forgetting about the alcohol sitting on her nightstand and swallowed them all at once. She wrote again:

20131203-174703.jpgEntry 17: August 25th, 4:45am

I feel it kicking in. First noises, are they real? Now flickering lights. O wee, I’m in for a trip! I took a shower and brushed my teeth. Put on some fresh clothes. Now i lie in bed waiting for the right moment to get up. Maybe daylight. Im kinda scared! Paranoid… Noises all over :S no one is up im sure. Ill type again if it becomes foo much. Ill pay attention to the time. It took about 50 min to feel this little feeling. Im parched and my lips are dry. We will see, we will see.

 

7am. So i saw my sheets fiddle about. Left for a bike ride. Everything spinning, beautifulllll, strrangegege. Things take form, illuminatingggg and all appears as something its not… It paints my reality in a stop-motion patterns >><<<>>>. Im so thirsty! Some nausea, shaking, memory loss. Zoning out….

20131203-174710.jpgThat all she has left of that day. That day she now sees as the one that changed her life. The day when she decided to give it all up and really try to get clean. She remembers lying in bed for another hour, her blood vessels in her legs were dancing, she thought they were going to shoot out through her skin. She got up and looked in the mirror. Her eyes were dilated so big she could only see a sliver of her iris’ blue outline. She looked closer at herself, her skin had dots all over it, was it peeling? She reached up and scratched it.. It was falling off! Her jaw dropped, her tongue huge with large pimples glowing. Her teeth looked yellow and decayed. Then, there was someone behind her. Her heart jumped as she spun herself around quickly… No one was there. She began to cry. Now the feeling that was in her legs was all over her body. Her blood wanted out. She was so afraid. She ran to her phone and called her mom as quickly as possible. Delirious, she sobbed quietly, begging her to not get mad. Begging her to listen and too please, please not get mad. She explained to her what she had done. She asked her to drive her to the hospital. Her blood was going to explode, she just knew it. Her mom hung up; shocked, pissed, but on her way. The girl ran to her parents bedroom. “Guys, guys, wake up. moms coming to get me—don’t get mad— I was stupid, Im so stupid. I took a bunch of pills. Moms coming to get me…” They were frazzled, sitting up in their bed blinking up at her. What? What was going on? “Okay honey…” was all her step-mom could think of.
She ran down the stairs and lazily fell into her moms car. They were silent. When she walked into the hospital they placed her on a bed in a room with no windows, chairs, nothing. Her mom sat there in silence. The doctors came in and out asking if she was suicidal. She promised she wasn’t, “I just wanted to get high.” After her mom had a long talk with one of the doctors she signed some papers and two buff looking women stepped in. They brought a gurney to the left side of the bed where she was resting and picked her up. Her mom came to her side and explained to her what was going to happen, “There taking you to a psych ward.”

 

One Word at a Time

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When I came back from India, where I hit my rock bottom, I wrote some journal entries and some poems. Grant it, I was still in psychosis for a month, so much of my writings are teetering on questionable madness.. but at least I have documentation of my unraveling thoughts. I have spoken to many people who see me in meetings jotting quickly —and mindfully— everything interesting that someone might say. They come to me after, questioning and prodding. “What are you doing? Why do you do this?” Inspiration, I say. For the future. To distract my mind all the while keeping it focused on the purpose of me being here. I reflect on these words somedays, these phrases that are jotted down in a penmanship only I can make out, it lifts my heart.

My journals on the other hand, don’t always do the same. People question me about this too, saying, “I don’t journal. I’ve tried. I just can’t get into it. Where do you start? What do you say?” I simply reply, anything. Everything. Theres no judgement but your own. Its just you and the paper/the keyboard, whatever. You just let your guard down and scream through the only words that come to your mind in that moment. You let it out. You get lost in the present as the words slip out of your hands and manifest themselves in front of you.

I find it healing. I also find it necessary to let go of all the thoughts that collect in the back of your mind. You make them real when you scribble them down. Something tangible that you can reflect on in the future. You start to realize how crazy you are. How human you are. You can map your progress, track your emotions and notice the moments in time that you let yourself fall and the moments you picked yourself up.

Its unlikely that I ever write on a good day. I am far too merry and cheerful and I often think I sound like a idiot. My ambitions are bloated and my head is held too high. I sometimes get scared when I observe this. It makes me think of mania… But its on those good days that I like to spin the clock back and see where I’ve been. Remind myself of the way life was regarded before I woke up with this smile on my face. I can see clearly that all things will pass. There is evidence of my mind when I felt I was stuck. Where time didn’t exist and the idea of life moving on to send me into the unknown was far from my imagination.

Today is one of those days to reflect. Not that I am in the best mood in the world; my thoughts have wandered here and there, sending me on a whirlwind of inspiration and thought provoking questions. After spitting out the ideas that were trapped in my mind (untangling them enough to make sense), I took a break. I shifted my attention to a long lost entry written when I got out of rehab, it read:

 

“Nothings doing it for me; running, Spongebob, Facebook, reading. Nada. Nope. I still feel like a heavy lump sits in my throat, a thousand butterflies wish to come up from my stomach, my body aches, my head spins, my eyes droop lazily on my clean face. I’m at a loss. I’ve been out of rehab for a few weeks now and plans of moving are becoming more official by the second. Halloween comes closer to reality. I just want to move. I just want a job. I want to go to school again. Some grandiose voice in my head tells me to study philosophy and be a professor. Write a bunch of books. Be a success. Be a success? Why am I always wishing for success? I can hardly handle failure. And I am such a great failure. The essence of depression wreaks from my veins today. Taunting me through every controlled breath. Gently caressing me, telling me things will look brighter. Don’t use. Don’t use, I tell myself. Moments like this, these receding moments that have lasted over 12 hours… they are the ones that make me want to use. Make me want to just pass out and sleep to wake up to a new day that has more purpose, more umph in my step. Where are those days? How do they come to me in my life? How do they even exist? I know that they have before, I can remember the ease of those days. Where did they go? What brought me here? I digress.”

Writing

As I sat there and read these lines I saw a glimpse of my past. Grateful to be here in the  future/present. Though I can’t say much has changed. I still get the occasional craving, though I try not to bother my mind when things are working out. I remove myself, not allowing my thoughts to unravel, revealing nothing but increased anxiety. Stop, I say. Don’t go there. You know how you’ll feel when you go there. And surely I do. You do to. You know how it is when your mind gets caught in a single thought. How it spins down, causing you to loose control, throwing you into a black hole. Thats no fun. Certainly counter productive. But its during these times that we have to remember to do only two things. Only these two things (from my experience) seem to work; prayer and journalling.

We need to take a step back from those winding thoughts and give them to our higher power to answer. “This too shall pass,” God most commonly replies. Then we have to let it out. Its no good bringing someone else down by removing them from their busy lives to complain and ramble on comically about nothing at all. At least, thats what we feel in these moments… So, instead of locking it up inside to save it for a rainy day, you got to just write it out and give it to yourself to listen to. Once its all down and you hand hurts from the process, you can read it over. Wow, you’ll think. Thats it. Thats me—right now.

You’ll feel better. Trust me. I know it may seem hard at first. Maybe time consuming. But it really isn’t. Once you lose yourself in the rapid collection of your thoughts, you’ll pull back feeling a weight lifted from your shoulders. You’ll realize that everything that had concerned you in those moments that were just vented seconds ago were actually real. There for you to decode and “digress,” as I say. Its out, your free. Free from those emotions that once felt like they were going to take over and drag you down so low that there would be no way you could get up. The feelings where you felt like you just wanted to give everything up, just to use, now seem like foolish memories. You thank God they’re gone.

I recommend to everyone I meet to journal whenever they are bored, alone or confused. Sometimes I find myself coughing up broken sentences and take those opportunities to write poetry. They don’t always have to rhyme, you know. None of that it matters. You have to keep in mind that these entries are for no one other than yourself. Of course, if your proud of your creation you can always share it, barring in mind that not everyone can or will relate. I certainly keep that in my mind every time I post a blog that is actually written by myself. I have never been trained in the art of English, but I enjoy it. I know that not many people (or no one at all) will actually read the things I put out there. I don’t let that bother me. And you can’t let it bother you. Let any shred of doubt be transformed into emotional release. Because writing is like a form of meditation; you focus your thoughts on present, reflecting on the things you feel and the anxieties that are stressing your mind — then you breath— and let it go; one word at a time.

 

 

Saying Goodbye to Your Drug

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“While I was in rehab, I cried, and cried, and cried. The first few days were nothing special, I was trying to get the lay of the land and understand where the hell I was. I had no expectations whatsoever and never gave any thought to what rehab might be like. But after I began to settle in, something happened. Something clicked inside and I just couldn’t pinpoint what I was feeling. Then one girl came up to me, consoling me and said ‘Your mourning…’ I looked up, confusion clearly painted on my face. ‘For your drugs of choice. Your starting to realize you are here to learn how to let them go. You will never be with them again.’ I stared at her, jaw dropped. Was she right? Is this why I was so depressed? ‘You should write a letter… to your drug… to say goodbye.’

It took me two months to gain the courage to say goodbye to my top two drugs of choice (I didn’t have one, so you could just write one letter. Or you could write a letter to every drug you’ve ever had if you feel up for it!). But once I did, an incredible sense of relief was lifted from my heart. My drugs were my lovers, my obsessions. I didn’t need anyone but them. When I realized that our relationship was toxic, I had to let them go.

Below is an article written by an addict named Kelli Athas. She does an amazing job outlining this therapeutic writing technique which is commonly used in treatment centers as a  coping skill. She also offers her own personal letter that she wrote which is not only relatable but incredibly moving.” – Enjoy, Robyn

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Many treatment facilities have clients write a “Dear John” letter to their DOC (drug of choice). A counselor will use this tactic of theraputic journaling in order for the addict to direct their anger at the real culprit, the drugs. Like relationships, many addicts have a love-hate relationship with their drugs. Moments of clarity will come about & the mind races on with the shame & control their addiction holds over them, They realize it is a miserable existence but the pull is so strong that they retreat to using to cover up those feelings & thoughts. Most addicts stay high 24/7 in order to keep the thoughts of remorse & guilt at bay. When they aren’t using they occupy their minds by thinking of ways & means to get more. These are the times that can be the most dangerous for an addict. Depending on what phase of addiction they are in they will do almost anything to get the drugs that literally controls their minds. That’s why an exercise such as this can be a freeing experience for an addict. And sometimes they realize some resentments & guilt they were harboring should’ve been aimed at the addiction itself.

I’m including an excerpt from an addict’s “Dear John” letter.  I’m fortunate  to share this with you…….because the letter is mine.

Dear Junk,

We’ve been together a long, long time. It started out casual & fun. Nothing serious. I thought I’d move on after high school or college….that maybe we’d even stay casual friends. BUT you led me on…showing me the fun, spontaneous side….showing the euphoria you could bring….Like many relationships everything changed, you even let my boyfriend throw me out in the rain (he was with you too & you wouldn’t let go) I was denying all you were doing: the weight loss, missing school, my disappearances, & lying. I was compromising all my standards. The euphoria you gave, it never would last & you never said what I’d do for it to last….I lost my child & my friends. My mom was the only 1 who fought, but you said she’d never understand so I couldn’t get caught…I was different before you came. I laughed & loved & cared about others. But I had to isolate so know one would see us & I now I had to have you just to feel right. I was sick of your control but too tired to fight. You had me roaming the streets, hardly having a thing to eat…..sometimes scared to sleep. You reminded daily of the shame I carried, so many times I thought it would be best if I was buried. I lost respect for myself & couldn’t look in the mirror. The devastation you’ve created can NEVER be forgiven…

I cringe to think of you now…waiting on your next victim. What ruse will you use to reel in this one?

BUT you didn’t kill me, as hard as you tried. God intervened, I faced my family & I survived. I’ve been given the strength & willingness I needed to tell you all I’ve been thinking…First get out of my life, STAY OUT OF MY MIND! You’re not welcome anymore…I’m learning about your kind! God saw it fit for me survive this addiction and NOW I KNOW I HAVE PURPOSE & MEANING!

Goodbye Forever,

Kelli

Those were the main parts, I edited very little. This was written about 7 years ago & I still get a freeing feeling just from typing it out again & I actually wasn’t intending on it rhyming like that…but I remember it poured out. There’s no format for something like this. It may be theraputic for many of you to write letters to a loved ones addiction or anything you’re struggling with. If anyone feels like sharing their own letter or  sending us a letter for feedback please submit a reply. Let me know if you want it published on our blog or want it kept private.

If you have any other comments, questions, or concerns submit them here or call us…night or day! And always remember to take care of you!

Sincerely,

Kelli Athas

P.T.S.D. And Childhood Trauma Linked to Addiction

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“This is a wonderful article that focus’ on P.T.S.D that can develop from childhood trauma and how it is linked to Addiction. I may not have experienced much trauma due to my up-bringing but I can fully understand the diagnosis of P.T.S.D after I was faced with the traumatic experience of an extreme manic outbreak while I was living abroad in India. Its hard not to think of something so dramatic everyday and live in extreme regret and torture from the memories. I hope your able to find as much appreciation for this problem and its connections to addiction recovery as much as I have.” -Love, Robyn

by Kevin VaLeu

We live in an addictive age. In the last five years of my life I have come across and counseled more people struggling with cocaine, marijuana, alcohol, anorexia, sex, and a whole host of other addictions then I did in the previous five years.

Are people becoming more immoral? Or is there something else causing people to turn to substances and sex. Perhaps these next statistics will shed light into what I believe is the underlying causation of our culture’s craziness.

1) The turn of our century (2000) marked the first time in American history that the majority of our children (over 50%) were raised without both biological mother and father in the same home.

2) Even if both mother and father are in the home it doesn’t mean they are in any better shape if they are being abused or neglected. 61% of all children experience some form of neglect.

3) Greater than 1 out of 3 girls will be sexually molested during their childhood or teenage years.

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What does this mean? We live in a day and age where children are experiencing trauma at unprecedented levels from molestations, abuse, abandonment, neglect, and dysfunctional or fragmented homes. When traumatized children slip under the radar of effective treatment they will find illegitimate, illicit and unhealthy coping mechanisms to medicate the long unforgotten pain.

Link Between Trauma and Addictions

Research shows that 50-60% of women and 20% of men in chemical dependency programs report a history of childhood sexual abuse. When you include people that have experienced P.T.S.D. (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder) or childhood trauma the number can climb as high as 99% of them having substance abuse problems.

How Trauma Affects the Brain

In order to understand how trauma makes one more susceptible to addictions, we need to understand two types of memories at work in the brain: 1) Explicit Memory–this is a memory that we can deliberately call up or put away at any time. We have a sense of control over it and we know it is just a memory; 2) Implicit Memory–these memories have coded in them not only a picture of a past event but the resulting feelings, sensations, and emotional response that went with it. These memories happen outside our control.

These memories are adaptive or automatic, which means they can “pop up” or shoot into our minds involuntarily upon some stimuli or current event that reminds us of a past trauma (called association). This is why a current event can trigger a flood of negative emotions that are identical to the emotions we felt at the time of the trauma. In fact, this is why people with PTSD are continually being tortured from their memories because when something “triggers” their past they are actually reliving the painful past trauma over again. Its no longer just a memory they recall, its all the emotions, feelings, and sensations engraved upon that memory card they recall and relive in the present.

This is why many Vietnam veterans with PTSD experience such painful flashbacks. They aren’t just remembering the past, they are actually reliving it. The bomb they see coming at them in their memory is a real bomb coming at them right now.

In addition, as we grew up, all of our basic assumptions about people (e.g. can they be trusted), ways of relating, and behaving towards people are formed on these implicit memory cards. This explains why you get tense or tighten up at the bank whenever you run into a particular man that reminds you of your cruel step-father.

In order to successfully treat a person with PTSD they have to be guided to convert their implicit memories into explicit ones.

Trauma is Recorded in the Limbic System which sits on the Vegus Nerve.

An interesting physiological discovery is that our traumatic memories are housed in our limbic system. This might not mean much if it weren’t for that fact our limbic system is on top of our Vegus Nerve. When the vagus nerve is stimulated by pain, fear, other distresses, and at an extreme, fainting may occur since such stimulation of the nerve affects the pace of the heart. Such stimulation also causes nausea and cool, clammy skin.

Its now easy to see how memories not only affect our emotions but also our physical bodies.

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Emotional Disregulation & Tension-Reduction Behaviors (Addiction):

When an implicit memory is jarred the body automatically releases the hormones of cortisol and adrenaline to give it power or enable it to go into the “flight” or “fight” (emergency) mode. However, for a person that has experienced emotional trauma, there response mechanism is a bit different. When a person with PTSD has their “flight” or “fight” system alerted they experience the current stress at a visceral or guttural level (soul depth) and have to shut down the hippocampus. Similar to a computer that is slowed down by too many programs running in the background, the mind shuts down certain parts (in this case the hippocampus) because it is too difficult to run it while in emergency mode. Implicit memories can cause one to live in a constant state of being overwhelmed. Past traumas that induce implicit memories also damage mood regulation. It is easy to see how the extra strain on a brain from trauma would affect our ability to stay an even keel.

When the mind tries to remember what has happened during a traumatic moment a person experiences emotional disregulation. There are three coping strategies a person may employ in dealing with emotional disregulation:

1) Avoidance: A person doesn’t want to talk about the trauma, think about the trauma, or be around anybody or anything that reminds them of the trauma.

2) Dissociate: They disconnect from reality which, without realizing, turns off the integrative links connecting the pre-frontal cortex to the limbic system. This means one disconnects from their experiences, which on the one hand helps them escape from the painful anxiety that would normally come, but on the other hand is detrimental from an emotional stand point. You lose the ability to feel anything through this numbing process; even the ability to empathize for others. This is damaging to the psyche.

3) Tension-Reduction Behaviors (leads to Addictions): When trauma occurs the brain fires up, becomes overactive and makes a person feel they cannot deal with it without the aid of some type of pleasure to “settle things down.” This is the point where a person may turn to drugs, alcohol, sex, gambling, etc. It is here, at this stage of the process, that lends itself toward addictions.