Author: Justin Mckibben
As much as I love where I come from, Columbus, Ohio has been through a lot recently. Ohio in general has seen some of the worst addiction and overdose rates in its history, and the state was actually sited as being #1 in opioid overdose deaths in the country. So of course there are very strong opinions about the devastation caused by substance abuse. Having grown up in Columbus, it is sad to see how the community is suffering. It is even more disturbing to see how some are reacting. When I came across this headline and saw the comments being made, not just by the store but from people in support of their remarks, it disturbed me deeply.
Now many across the state are in an uproar about the controversy that has been brought on by one convenience store in Columbus, Ohio. The owners posted hand-written messages around the store that are appallingly indifferent to the pain of the people in their neighborhood.
The signs of stigma…
West Broad Street in Columbus is a side of town I’m pretty familiar with, especially while in active addiction, so I’m sure that plenty of people have seen these signs. The Save Way Mini Mart on West Broad Street displayed the two notes that they hoped would dismay customers from stealing, but some patrons have found it insulting and offensive.
One sign, near the front door, says:
“Keep bags up front. Don’t stink! Take showers. Take care of your kids. Stay sober don’t OD. Nothing is free.”
The second sign was placed above a shelf holding cases of tin foil. Some will use tin foil to cook whatever substance, often heroin but not exclusively, before smoking or injecting it. This one states:
“Attention junkies, go ahead and steal a piece of foil to get high. Just please make sure you OD. Thank you.”
Yes, let this all sink in for a moment. Not just the fact that the word “junkie” is so destructive, but the content that follows is callous.
First thing is first, this is inexplicably ignorant to the reality that is shaking the world right now. With more people across America than ever being hopelessly addicted to drugs and alcohol, and higher rates of overdose deaths than ever in our nation’s history, how can people still believe these kinds of stigma?
According to WSYX/WTTE, a local news source, the store’s management would not speak on camera, but they told the news station they meant no offense, but also said the signs will not be taken down.
Really, no offense?
What is wrong with this picture…
This is wrong on so many levels, and I can’t believe I actually have to explain to some people why, but just in case I’ll give it a shot.
These signs insinuate statements that are so incredibly wrong on so many levels. To sum it up, these signs say:
- All addicts stink/don’t shower
- All addicts don’t take care of their children
- All addicts are thieves
- If you are an addict, you deserve to overdose (OD)
These are all equally as stigmatic and offensive, but that last part is just disgusting. The amount of indifference toward those in pain must be pretty intense for someone to willfully wish overdose onto someone else. To mock the despair and hardship of some while essentially telling them, and promoting to others, the idea that addicts deserve to overdose. Shrugging off the death of people who battle an insidious illness every day because they are “junkies” is repulsive.
Beyond that, the fact is these signs ignore what statistics have been telling us about addiction being more than just something impacting a certain demographic. These stereotypes are a huge part of the reason why it is taking us so long as a society to move forward.
Not all addicts are homeless! Not all addicts are absentee parents! Not all addicts are poor! Addiction touches the CEOs and stock brokers the same way it touches the unemployed and criminal. When we make such harsh generalizations of people who need our compassion we marginalize people who already often feel chastised, misunderstood or hopeless.
To those who comment…
Now as I said, when I first saw this story, the signs themselves we incredibly shameful, but the comments it received in support of this message and ridiculing addicts only compounded the issue. People who say that people ‘choose’ to be addicts and that they ‘choose’ to do drugs and ruin their lives.
It is baffling how some people still insist addiction is a choice. Even when the medical community recognizes it as a medical condition, people adamantly deny that it is a disease; when many regard it as a brain disorder, consisting of various psychological and physical factors. Yet people still go on about how it is the addicts fault because they chose that life.
Sure, people choose to do drugs, but we don’t choose to become addicted. That isn’t up to use. How many people drink and do drugs in their lifetime and don’t become addicts? More than anyone will ever know. A lot of you have probably had your share of experiments. So count yourself lucky, you didn’t have to walk the path many of us do. Stop being self-righteous; try being grateful.
The stigma is killing us…
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently estimates that 91 Americans are dying of an opioid overdose every day! A true tragedy is that many people struggling with drug addiction never seek help because of the judgment they could face. They prolong their suffering as a result of blatant and baseless stigma, which can have a lasting impact. People are actually dying every day because stigma can discourage people from seeking help.
How many parents avoid getting help because of people who think addiction makes them horrible caregivers, or neglectful and absent? How many families are torn apart because the fear of how it looks to the world to be an addict? How many have died before they could get treatment?
Some people want to treat actions like this as no big deal. This writer thinks this is a pretty big problem. To suggest that a heroin addict, or any addict, deserves to overdose, or even die, for stealing tin foil… is insanely irresponsible and inconsiderate to the wellbeing of not just the afflicted individual, but the community.
Don’t let the stigma block you or your loved ones off from the solution. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free now. We want to help. You are no alone.
CALL NOW 1-800-951-6135
Author: Justin Mckibben
First thing is first- I whole-heartedly admit that I’m about as close to perfect as I am to finding a million dollars in Spanish doubloons… on Mars. I have no business being judgmental… yet, here we are! Not to say I judge everyone (out loud), but it is a natural inclination as a breathing person to form opinions based on assumptions. When it comes to clichés in recovery, I am especially picky.
It’s weird though, because even saying that clichés drive me crazy, I cannot in good conscience suggest that I myself do not use them. Some are just too catchy to pass up for that ‘right place, right time’ moment. Sometimes I cringe even after I say it, or preface it with “as much as I hate clichés…” in some lame attempt to sound more original than the last person I heard say it.
Needless to say, clichés in the rooms of 12 Step Fellowships of recovery are so popular because they make so much sense. Curse you logic! Metaphors and idioms are a useful tool of language, and in recovery our clichés can drive home a life-or-death ideal with subtle and subliminal accuracy.
So, as much as I hate to admit I like them, here are my 4 favorite recovery clichés.
“Not matter where I go, there I am”
This one seems pretty obvious, and the first time I heard it I didn’t understand. Still, coming out of a fog of drugs and drinking I thought, “thanks, Confucius!”
However, the longer I looked at it in early recovery the sentence made a lot more sense. I had spent a lot of time in active addiction trying to change my circumstances and outcomes by changing my surroundings. I tried different people, places and parties but found the same demoralization every single time. But I cannot out-run my problems! I have to let them teach my about myself and change from there.
It was in recovery when I started facing my personal flaws and patterns of destructive behavior that I realized it wasn’t about a location or other people. I discovered that it meant if I could not change my mind, I would only understand the world from an alcoholic perspective. No matter what place I’m in physically, I am still me and that is what I have to develop for my life to be any better.
“Everyone got the manual for life but me”
This is probably the one that I related to most in early recovery. Despite not having spent much time in the rooms, as soon as I heard this it made sense. My whole life had felt like a misinformed trial run. Any minute I was expecting a director to step in and call a cut to let me start over with a better script.
When I heard it at a 12 Step meeting I was instantly relieved to know I was not the only one who lived like that. It was an incredible catharsis to finally be given the gift of knowing I wasn’t the only one who has next to nothing figured out!
Thankfully, knowing this gave me some freedom to allow myself some mistakes while figuring out sobriety, and life.
“Comparing my insides to your outsides”
I actually have a lot of love for this one. It goes hand in hand with the last one on the list, but I like to single this aspect out an elaborate on it. When I was early in recovery I was constantly focused on the way people appeared to be. I didn’t put any energy into trying to understand what they may be going through or what they had to overcome to get there. I essentially assumed that anyone who had cleaned up nice was feeling good all the time.
This kind of thinking puts us in a position to be relentlessly critical of our own growth. We try to compare the struggles we are going through to someone who may look like they have their life together. It’s easy to think all these healthy and happy people could never understand your pain if you don’t even consider their insides too.
After a few years I know that even when someone looks pristine, they can be on the verge of falling to pieces. I’ve seen that guy. I’ve even been that guy. Sometimes I still am that guy. Recovery continues to teach me the book truly can’t be judged by the cover. If you won’t bother to skim the story, don’t make a synopsis.
“The first step is the only step you have to do 100%”
The first step can draw a line in the sand that the sense of self isn’t willing to cross. There is so much ego, fear and stigma in the way people are afraid to find out what it means to stand on the other side. Admitting to being an alcoholic/addict frightens some because it means they have to commit to an image they don’t fully understand. That goes hand in hand with the second part of step one- admitting that life has become unmanageable.
I love this cliché because of the undeniable truth behind it. It lets me know I may fall short with other tasks when working the 12 steps. In recovery, I may try honestly and thoroughly to rid myself of character defects or resentments, but if I fail to do so perfectly am I doomed? This cliché tells me no.
As long as I am willing to admit that I am who I am; that once I start drinking or using I cannot stop; that running my life on my rules of ego, fear and self-will run riot will not serve my sobriety… I have an opportunity for a better life. As long as I keep in mind that there is work to be done, I have a chance to do the work. This cliché tells me that even when I forget my other responsibilities, if I can remember this first step I have hope. I fall short all the time. Luckily, I was given the perspective that I’m allowed to.
So when I judge you for using every cliché in the “recycled insight” catalog, we both have to accept that we aren’t perfect anyway.
The 12 Steps are a guideline for how to live life as a better person. It’s about being a positive contribution and growing as an individual. In these fellowships we hear clichés, and many of them are like everything else in 12 Step Fellowships- taught from experience. For many, part of the experience begins with effective treatment. If you or someone you love is struggling from substance abuse or addiction, we’re here to help, 24/7.
CALL NOW! 1-800-951-6135
(This content is being used for illustrative purposes only; any person depicted in the content is a model)
Author: Shernide Delva
*Trigger Warning* This piece discusses trigger warnings. Please avoid if you are uncomfortable with the idea of questioning whether or not trigger warnings should exist.
The use of trigger warnings has become more mainstream. Now, some are wondering if this generation has taken it too far. Are we overdoing the trigger warnings?
In case you do not know, a “trigger” is something that triggers a negative or uncomfortable reaction. “Trigger Warnings” work to warn people the content they are about to see or read could make them uncomfortable. Trigger warnings give people the option of avoiding content that could cause emotional distress.
Recently, many have observed that society has become more socially conscious or “politically correct.” Whether or not that is a positive thing is a manner of opinion. However, the use of “trigger warnings” have undeniably increased in use.
Initially, trigger warnings spawned from post-traumatic stress disorders. Those who suffer from PTSD benefit from these warnings because they are more sensitive to sensory input. Anything from a film or piece of media might trigger a person with PTSD and cause them to suffer PTSD symptoms. It could be as simple as a sound or smell, physical space, a particular object, or a person. Anything that reminds the mind of a past trauma can result in PTSD symptoms. A person with PTSD may find trigger warnings helpful because it helps them avoid situations that trigger their PTSD symptoms.
The problem with trigger warnings is that everyone is affected differently. Even arbitrary things can be triggering for someone. It is natural for people to be more sensitive to things than others. We all come from a diverse background and upbringing. The question is whether protecting people from possible triggers is beneficial. Everyone is different. If everyone has one, should they all be accommodated? Are we becoming overly sensitive to other people’s “triggers?”
Do Trigger Warnings Help Those With Mental Health Issues?
An article in The Atlantic thoroughly questions whether or not trigger warnings are beneficial to those who have mental health challenges like anxiety and depression. The author argues that trigger warnings create a “fortune telling” society in which people prepare for the worse every time they speak. The act of “fortune telling” involves “seeing the potential danger in an everyday situation.”
On some college campuses, students demand trigger warnings for classic novels like The Great Gatsby and Catcher in the Rye. They argue that the sexually explicit content, violence, and language of these books should come with a trigger warning. As an avid reader, I find the concept of this unusual. While it is true that some students will react more to the content than others, are trigger warnings helping or hurting these developing students?
PTSD and Anxiety: Do Trigger Warnings Benefit Them?
For those who suffer from PTSD, like Molly Miller, trigger warnings have prevented her PTSD episodes and have helped her live a more manageable life.
“Some people feel like trigger warnings coddle sensitive people. I don’t see it that way. I see trigger warnings as a common courtesy to help prevent sufferers of PTSD, like me, from reliving our trauma. I recognize it is not fail-proof, and getting upset by our memories is a part of life. But what is so wrong with making an effort?” She wrote.
On the contrary, author Samuel Barr described his experience with PTSD. At the age of ten, Barr was abused by an older boy. He was left emotionally devastated and suffered PTSD because of the experience. He talks about how he spiraled “downward into a deep depression.” Still, Barr does not believe his mental health condition should warrant a trigger warning. Until he learned to stop seeing himself as a victim and finally received helped, he was forced to tip-toe in society. He says he believes this trigger warning mindset is not beneficial.
“Trigger warnings are one of the latest fads in an ongoing cultural obsession with glorifying victimhood, and as a former victim, I can confidently say there is nothing glorious about it. Contrary to the noble intentions of its supporters, trigger warnings do more to harm people with trauma backgrounds than help them.”
Should We Embrace Them?
Furthermore, Barr believes people should face their trauma rather than run away from them. These warnings will only continue to get out of hand and affect those who produce content in the first place.
“If you start warning, for one thing, you have to decide which unpleasant thing is worth a trigger and which isn’t. That isn’t a position an editor should be in,” stated Jessica Coen, editor at Jezebel magazine.
Johnathan Heidt, the author of “The Coddling of the American Mind,”says we are entering a climate where we presume the worse about the fragility and vulnerability of others. He describes this as vindictive impulsiveness which is “ a culture in which everyone must think twice before speaking up.”
Does this help anyone? Once again, that question can be debated, however for some mental health conditions, it can cause more harm than good:
“According to the most-basic tenets of psychology, helping people with anxiety disorders avoid the things they fear is misguided,” he continues.
Trigger Warnings and Addiction Treatment
When dealing with addiction treatment, addicts who seek treatment come from all types of background and find they are more sensitive to certain things than others. Professionals in the addiction field work to help those seeking treatment develop the tools to lead a healthy life in recovery.
In treatments, clients learn what triggers could result in a relapse. When It comes to addiction, triggers are a very real thing. A person, place, event, or unresolved mental health are triggers in addiction. Therapists help addicts understand what their triggers are. Ultimately, each person has to decide whether to avoid all their triggers or try to overcome them.
For those early in recovery, facing triggers can be a very dangerous idea. Therefore, trigger warnings appearing before photos or content that could raise temptation might be helpful. However, years into the recovery, triggers may not be triggering at all.
Everyone should play an active role in helping others feel comfortable and safe. Sometimes it is good to be aware of how you affect other and what types of things affect you emotionally. You may have to navigate life avoiding triggers and paying more attention to the positives. In recovery, you learn the tools you need to succeed. Take it a day at a time. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135.
Author: Justin Mckibben
I’m an alcoholic named Justin.
I am also a writer, a cafe manager and a yoga teacher; a son, a brother and a best friend. I came to Florida from Columbus, Ohio with $5 in my pocket and a bag of dirty clothes. I am now an active member of my community, and this is how I believe we change the perception of who we are- we recover and we talk about it. We stand for the community we believe in and show our gratitude through the work we do.
This past weekend I came across something that gave me a sense of levity through inspiration, but also troubled me with the residual remarks it received. A friend of mine, one whom I had the privilege of attending treatment with that first time several years ago at Palm Partners, had made a bold statement in a group on social media specific to sharing information and stories relevant to the community in Delray Beach, Florida.
The page always has a vast variety of posts from job opportunities, community event announcements, new business listings and even tips on gas prices and dining out.
But every once in a while a story breaks concerning recovery in Delray Beach. Sometimes these stories are raising awareness on the state of national affairs concerning addiction or local initiatives to influence recovery, but other times they come across as nothing more than deliberately discriminating attacks on people some refer to as “rehabbers.” The young lady I know wrote a heartfelt testimony to her experience in recovery after coming to Delray Beach, Florida and shared her grief that so many people scrutinize the recovery community based on the actions of individuals. She admitted to having witnessed the shady side of it all, but challenged people to try and understand those who chose a different way.
She received a lot of empowering and positive feedback, which was so refreshing. Signs of compassion from both sides of the conversation came through. The reason I wanted to write about this today was simply because one of the many comments that I took notice to was:
“..but you are an exception to the rule…”
Now I don’t wish to argue statistics because I doubt there is any way of providing completely accurate, proof-positive numbers. Considering so many choose to remain anonymous and in the grand scheme of things “successful recovery” can be subjective to some. The reason this bothered me, the more I thought about it, has a lot to do with a conversation that stemmed from my friends response.
The Side They Show
This strong woman did not shy away from her convictions. She kept standing up for the recovering addict or alcoholic. She instead answered the aforementioned comment with,
“But I’m not the exception. Unfortunately negativity is much sexier than positivity.”
As much as I hate to say it, truer words could not apply to this context. Simply put- ordinary people just don’t seem to care when an addict or alcoholic finds a solution that leads them to pulling their life together in comparison to when someone goes to rehab, gets out and creates chaos. One comment stated:
“Do the needles jump into their arms? You say they can’t stay sober even if they want to? Come on now. Just take responsibility for your own actions people.”
Here again, we find stigma and the ugly side that seems to overshadow the reality of the disease of addiction. It seems many residents in the Delray area who have no first-hand experience with real recovery still think addicts and alcoholics are suffering from a moral failing or an inability to “take responsibility”- making them more likely to destroy and demoralize the community than they are to make a positive contribution.
Well, in part because the headlines are often generated to grab the reader with claims of controversy and corruption, and because people who don’t know the truth about addiction too often only see it in black and white.
Since crooked client brokers in Delray Beach recently became such a front-page problem there has been an increase in scrutiny on the recovery community. The spotlight was shown on people who were making money off of essentially human-trafficking. From there came very public depictions of ‘exposure’ crusades to take down shady body-snatchers, attempts to unearth unethical halfway housing and heated debates as local businesses incorporated changes in policy which many considered to be attacks directed at “rehabbers” or people in recovery.
The public and even the media has repeatedly gone on a rampage of grouping addicts together as a blemish on the community; so much so that almost every young person with tattoos at a coffee shop was practically labelled on sight as a no-good “rehabber” and subject to whole-sale condemnation.
Why? Just like she said… it’s a ‘sexier story’ to have drama and outrage than it is to support people who have committed to change.
Then as overdose deaths spiked all over the country in association with the opiate epidemic, it made it all the more disturbing to witness it first-hand in any community. But that is crucial to remember too- this is a national problem, and one facing neighborhoods all over Florida, not just Delray.
The Side We Know
We need to change the way our communities perceive recovery for many reasons- the most obvious being that discrimination of any kind is a terrible injustice. We alcoholics and addicts in real recovery- who have a solution and practice with diligence the principles used to shape the lives of freedom and happiness we never expected to have- strive every day to be of service; not just to each other, but to society and humanity as a whole.
True- it is up to us as active members of recovery to accurately represent ourselves to the rest of our community. However, our communities should also be willing to let go of and preconceptions they may have and learn more about us too. We have to meet each other half-way and raise awareness, while working to make real treatment and real solutions more available.
Every day more people come here to find help and every day even more people die because they never get that help. If we want to encourage addicts to be active in their community and to contribute to the lives of others we have to hope for a world willing to accept them for trying.
If every business turns us away, how will we ever help it grow?
If every neighborhood bars our entry, how will we ever build a home we want to take pride in and protect?
These new people coming to Delray Beach are not a threat… they are an opportunity for unity and change! Spiritual growth, new freedom and happiness, relationships and responsibility are possible. People have to be given compassion if they have any chance of change.
What They Don’t Know
This is the kicker… we are already here! We’ve been here all along! Long before me and long after me there will be addicts and alcoholics from all over America relocating to South Florida to be part of a beautiful community of recovery.
In case you didn’t know, we are EVERYWHERE! Not to freak you out and have every “normie” all paranoid, but that is the reality. In the words of one of fictions greatest counter-culture icons, Tyler Durden:
“Look, the people you are after are the people you depend on. We cook your meals, we haul your trash, we connect your calls, we drive your ambulances. We guard you while you sleep.”
For every “normie” that has a chance to read this, I promise you will interact several times today with people who have had to struggle one day at a time to have any stability and sanity in life without drugs and drinking. You probably know them by name. You might have small-talk every day, or you might work side by side with them. That person you respect and admire for their work ethic, determination and perspective might have been like me… dying in a dope-house basement wishing they could believe it was possible to live in a world that would believe in them.
So, people in recovery I challenge to find a way to live proudly in their sobriety. Sure- I respect anonymity and the need for privacy. But for those who are able to speak up, I challenge you to do so. I challenge you to lead by example either way! Yes… we can change how our community views recovery! If we are truly grateful for this community, let us make it a better place for everyone who has a home here.
Thankfully, I was given some help to stop drinking from some amazing people who genuinely cared about my future. Some of most amazing people I’ve ever met are parts of our recovery community in Delray Beach. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135. We want to help. YOU are not alone.
Author: Shernide Delva
In areas where bar crawls were once a standard weekend ritual, a new trend is taking over, and it does not seem to be stopping anytime soon. The trend is sober juice crawls, and millennials are flocking all over the country to celebrate. All this non-alcoholic fun has resulted in researchers pondering, is sober becoming the new drunk?
Juice crawls are only one of many booze-free events in the US catering towards millennials who want to ditch the booze for clarity. New York is a prime location for Juice Crawls. At one crawl in the big apple, participants forego alcohol shots in favor for juice shots with names like “Dr. Feelgood” and “Kalefornia.”
The Guardian highlighted this trend by visiting a monthly juice crawl event where participants hop from different shops and sample 19 flavors of juices in a 2 oz. plastic cup. This event is just one of many that have popped up in major US cities to cater to the millennials who are now saying no to alcohol.
The people who go to these events are not all recovering addicts. In fact, it is quite the contrary. These juice crawl groups are full of people who would rather engage in mindfulness activities and indulge in healthy juices then wake up with a hangover. While in the past, cutting booze would have been a significant social change, now events like these are more mainstream.
In addition to these crawls, there are now sober day races, alcohol-free bars, boozeless dinner, and alcohol-free dance parties. There is even a sober social network and a dating app for sober people that became so popular, it temporarily shut down.
In these tough economic times, many millennials are opting to stay away from alcohol. A recent study on millennials in five countries found that 75% of those surveyed drink in moderation when they go out at night.
Auzeen Saedi is a clinical psychologist that spends lots of time with younger patients. She mentioned in an article the biggest fear millennials have about the future is fear:
“I think the pressures are higher because [young] people see that even if you have a great degree, that does not guarantee you a job by any means.”
All of this uncertainty is due to the financial strains millennials have observed the past few years, and understanding that nothing is guaranteed upon graduation. Fortunately, mindfulness and yoga have become extremely trendy, and millennials often use these activities for stress-relief.
“Right now there are all these yogi Instagram celebrities with millions of followers … and they’re not drinking beer, they’re drinking juice,” she says. “Mindfulness, in a way, is the new church.”
Spirituality is becoming a big practice among millennials. Many are opting for meditation retreats to connect to something higher. The great thing about these retreats is that they reduce stress, and allow the ability to go on vacation with a purpose without fear of being intoxicated. The trend has saturated social media. On Instagram, there are celebrities with millions of follows. They are not drinking beer. They are not promoting the drunken party life. They are exercising, meditating and drinking juice.
Of course, not everyone loves this trend. Ross Haenfler became a straight-edge punk in the late 80s and was part of a group that embraced drug and alcohol in favor of political activism. Haenfler believes these new sober groups need to have a bigger message that fights more significant issues such as consumerism, homophobia, and racism. Otherwise, he questions the motive behind it all and whether or not people are participating in it due to the sudden popularity.
Overall, the clean healthy living movement is full of those who rather opt for glowing skin and yoga classes than party like it’s 1999. For most, it is far from a political movement. But regardless of the reasons people do it, more and more people are finding sober outings a more enjoyable experience for the mind, body, and soul than boozing up all night ever was.
The culture of drinking is changing, and more and more people would rather socialize through healthy activities than using drugs and alcohol as a conversation starter. If you are struggling, remember there is life after recovery. It is up to you to discover what that looks like. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135.