Not sure if her writing is autobiographical, but Joan Larkin’s poetry on addiction is really powerful. A friend just pointed her work out to me today.
I wanted to share this poem.
incredible interview on why analyzing restorative justice practices in community response to sexual violence is critical.
How do restorative and transformative justice processes work in practice?
In April, the anarchist collective CrimethInc published a new pamphlet critiquing accountability processes and suggesting ways forward. “Accounting for Ourselves” is not an introduction to accountability processes, nor to the concepts of restorative or transformative justice, but an attempt to evaluate the current implementation of these concepts in political subcultures.
My interest in this topic has come from participating and supporting friends and comrades in this work over the last ten or so years. Accountability processes attempt to put many of my values into practice—mutual aid, respect, direct action, a DIY ethic, an acknowledgement that “crime,” safety, harm, and support are complex. Accountability processes haven’t been a perfect solution, however, and many of the participants I know have left these processes frustrated. At the same time, a lot of the…
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I got word recently that someone I cared about had health consequences which crept up due to his addiction. It occurred to me that when you are in recovery, and you are able to move away from addiction, you can feel a sort of betrayal for the friends you have that did not make it out of those throes. I never knew quite how to name it before.
Using is something people often do together. They share it. They bond over it.
You can want so badly for someone to join you in getting better, and you can still feel bad when they do not. I wonder if people who survive disasters or catastrophes experience this. It is a complicated and specific feeling.
I still have hope that this person and others can swim to shore. He is creative and always has been. I hope he can transmute that creativity into a strategy towards living. And fighting.
I struggled to find something that I could write about for this blog. I’ve never done drugs. I’m not an alcoholic. I’m not in any traditional recovery program. So, what do I have to offer this community? Then another severe attack from my obsessive-compulsive disorder kicks in, and I think, Hello, mind-crippling disorder. Goodbye, writer’s block!
You see, I may not have ever been addicted to any substances that don’t begin with Thin and end with Mints, but I believe that as I battle with OCD, it is creativity itself that I need to recover from.
Creativity is a drug, and it has symptoms.
I’ll never forget the day that I became aware of my OCD. I was walking home from high school- I was a freshman- and I came upon a stretch of sidewalk that was littered with twigs. It was Fall. They were out in force. Suddenly, an intense urge to snap every single twig took me over. And I did. As I walked along- Snap. Snap. Snap. I continued to do this day after day, whether I wanted to or not.
Now at 26 years old, I am still in a constant battle against such repetitive actions.
So, it got me thinking – is it possible to be addicted to creativity itself? To cross a line and succumb to its power like a mindless slave? I believe that the answer is a resounding yes.
To be creative is to be able to make connections between things that may seem really un-relatable. It was, after all, the creative mind that saw a simple round stone and created the wheel.
My mind takes this to a dark place.
When I flick a light switch, the bulb is illuminated. It’s a simple connection between two actions that make sense. In my mind, one flick of the switch might mean that one of my loved ones get into a car crash. Another flick, and someone has a heart attack.
Another, and even worse news. And another, and another, and another. Before I know it, I find myself doing the same action over and over again – all because I’m uncontrollably writing different scenarios with each flick.
In reality, of course, turning on light bulb isn’t going to cause some horrible event to happen. But creativity isn’t about reality. It causes you to imagine things that just don’t make sense.
OCD, or at least my version, is like writing and rewriting. It is being creative without control. It’s forcing connections between dissimilar things. It’s fun to sit down and imagine what wacky scenarios my fictitious characters may get themselves into. It’s not fun to imagine the tragic scenarios that my loved ones and I may get into. My creativity allows me to think of outlandish things, and it makes every nightmare scenario feel so possible. My OCD is like an editor revising the story over and over again to find a pattern that finally makes sense and makes me feel better…except that it never comes.
As science uncovers more and more about creativity, we see that there really is a thin line between creative and crazy. You’d be surprised at how close a creative person’s brain resembles that of someone with schizophrenia.
Every time I grab pen and paper to write, I feel that familiar paranoia take hold. I tense up. My heart quickens, as the compulsion creeps its way back in. It’s an unwelcomed thing in my life, but I love to be creative, and by doing so, I leave the door wide open for the OCD. So, like any addict that can’t quit the thing that’s so bad for him or her, I ask myself, do I give up the creativity, and, in turn, the OCD? Or do I keep doing the thing I love?
I would be lying if I said I never thought about taking some sort of illegal substance to ease the symptoms of creativity – to dull its constant voice. Ironically, though, I’m also a hypochondriac. And, believe me, if I were to ever do a drug, I’d convince myself that every damn twitch and cough is a sign that the drug did something fatal to me once I sobered up.
It is no surprise that so many writers, artists, musicians and creative people of all types turn to substance abuse. Creativity comes with symptoms that are hard to handle a lot of the time. It should come packaged in a bottle with a Surgeon General’s warning, or a list of the side effects written on the back. But dare we stop being creative because of this? Do we continue to indulge it by expressing it through the mediums we choose, or do we fight against creativity? Do we try to cure it? Could we give it up?
I can’t. But, then again, I’m an addict.
I recently went to the Museum of Sex with some friends. It was my first time there. I enjoyed a lot of it, though some of the placards had spelling errors, which I was not too crazy about. The exhibition that most surprised me, though, was that of Samuel Steward in an exhibit called Obscene Diary. I had never heard of this man, but became incredibly fascinated with his life.
Steward’s self documentation included a catalogue of every partner and sex act, illustrated through photos, diary entries, sexual record keeping, explicit drawings and erotic literary musings. He was a gay man who documented a number of his sexual escapades, was following avidly by Kinsey (sex researcher), and got involved in tattooing as a way to meet sailors. He was a documentary maker, and his life is incredible. Also, though, he shared a lot in his writing and work about sobriety and creativity. He expounded on sobriety as it relates to one’s sex life, as a creative person, and I found myself unable to read enough about his thoughts. He struggled with an addiction to barbiturates later in life, and had lost his father to opium addiction. Clearly, sobriety and addiction were heavily in his thoughts throughout his life.
He is a man worth investigating. Click here to check out a video of him and learn more.
This is a painful thing that happens when relating to addicts. People in recovery also have a lot of other people in their lives at varying levels of use/recovery, and and I think having discussions and awareness about this is important.
For a little insight into what gaslighting is, read this article.
Holidays are a hard time for folks who are sober. Here is a vote of love, confidence and courage as we hit the New Year!
Remember others are welcome to submit to this blog, anonymously and by name. Thanks for the feedback people have given – it has helped me realize that this is a vital forum and that people have a lot they want to say. I appreciate hearing people’s experiences even if they are not meant for public consumption, so I am glad for those who have reached out to me.
There are some incredible harm reduction organizations out there. For folks unfamiliar with the concept, there is a great overview of the idea behind harm reduction here. This process has also been referred to as harm minimization. The idea is to meet people where they are in their use, practice or suffering, and to attempt to provide safety and relief in baby steps. I first learned of this methodology because of the brilliant organization Helping Individual Prostitutes Survive in DC. Condom distribution is a harm reduction strategy. So is needle exchange. In Philadelphia, where I now live, there is a harm reduction-based organization Prevention Point.
People hold varying opinions on harm reduction as a public health and wellness strategy. While doing some research for another project, I recently stumbled onto this organization, dedicated to harm reduction in treating alcohol addiction. I hadn’t thought much about harm reduction in alcohol abuse. I can think of some ways in which it could work, but some of the greatest harm alcoholism inflicts, besides car accidents, violent incidents, and general health issues, are relationally based – domestic violence, emotional abuse, neglect, poor communication, sexual violence, infidelity (mixed in with dishonesty, confusion, and dangerously lowered inhibitions), boundary violation, etc. To this end, I don’t know how much harm reduction strategies could do unless they really encouraged low-level alcohol content consumption. For those hurt by alcoholics, even the idea of seeing them with a drink can be disturbing.
I am, however, interested in people brave enough to engage these kinds of dialogues. I noticed HAMS (Harm Reduction for Alcohol) had advertised this conference, from November 15-18, 2012 in Portland, OR. It is organizing by the Harm Reduction Coalition based in New York City, a group that also shares regular podcasts such as this one. Interestingly enough I had just heard about Gabor Mate, interviewed on today’s podcast, through my bandmate and best friend who bought a book by the Hungarian man on his work.
Interested in other people’s perspectives and thoughts.
I just had what I think is a pretty sound and viable realization.
For people who used to use, being around a person who is still using is almost like a sanctioned and supplanted way to use yourself. You talk to them, you interact with them – you FEEL drunk being in relationship with them (or high, etc.). A great friend and I once agreed that we were more experience junkies than sex/love/substance addicts. Sometimes addiction is about escape from the mundane, from the painful, from the scary. I have wondered why it is hard for me to pull away from people who have less resolve towards evicting substance use from their lives – but I am now thinking that my own predilection towards engaging personally and closely with folks may be its own addiction.
What keeps going through my head though is the phrase – talking to you makes me feel drunk.
I have never thought of this before.