Soft Drugs Are More Addicting Than Hard Drugs

Image from Pexels

Most people divide substances into two categories: the hard drugs like heroin, cocaine, and crystal meth, and the soft drugs like alcohol, tobacco, marijuana, and prescribed narcotics. Hard drugs are all illegal in the US, they are sold exclusively by underworld organizations, they are associated with the down and out, are socially unacceptable for most people, quickly lead to poor health, problems in the job, broken homes, and criminal activity as people will lie, cheat, and steal to get their next fix. Any dosage of a hard drug can get you high, whereas most soft drugs can be used without intoxication.

All this is true, but it is a mistake to assume that hard drugs are more addicting.

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Needed: Peer Reviewers

I’m in the final stage of writing, Meeting the Voices in My Head and Searching for an Inner Adult. The book examines the nature of the inner psychological world. I’m looking for peer reviewers who can read it on a pdf format within 3 months and answer a few questions I have about plot, characters, and concept. This will help me shape it to its final form.

To qualify to be a peer reviewer, you must be reasonably aware of what goes on in your mind.

If you are interested, please reply with this contact form.

Thanks,

Keith

Why You Don’t Take Care of Yourself


Woman on her knees cleaning by August Allebé

You care for yourself. You care whether you live or die. You want to prosper, thrive, and flourish. You have sympathy for your point of view. You defend yourself from those who would malign you. You are your own main guy, without whom, you’d be sunk. You may not be the center of the universe, but you’re the center of your own universe.

But do you take care of yourself? By that I mean, do you perform the maintenance, keep up with the upkeep, and make the choices it takes to function at a high level? If your body was a car, would you regularly change the oil, rotate the tires, and drive slowly over bumps? If your mind was a computer, would you update the program, defrag the system, and clear it of malware and bugs? If you’re like most of us, you probably don’t. You probably run your mind and body into the ground, as if it were a rental and you’d rather have a different model, anyway.

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Venting

Photo by PxHere

I lot of people mistake venting for therapy. They think that if they can say what’s on their mind, they’ll feel better and get that problem off their chest. They will, up to a point. If you have something you’re trying to figure out, or something you need to be honest about, then vent away. But, if you have already vented, and need to do so again and again, and nothing changes, then venting is not working. It may be making everything worse. You need to know the point of maximum venting effectiveness, beyond which there are diminishing, then reversing returns, and how to stop after you’ve crossed it.

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Burdens and the Peddlers That Traffic in Them

Image by Wayne S. Grazio

If the inside of my own head is any indication, we all carry psychological burdens. If that’s not bad enough, we try to trade one burden for another and end up carrying them both.


I got one of my burdens when I was about eight years old, riding the school bus. No one would sit with me. I was lonely, but I hoped no one noticed I was alone, because then they really wouldn’t want to be with me. No one likes an unpopular kid. It’s memory of a single moment of feeling sorry for myself. I’ve carried it around ever since.

At that moment, I experienced an abyss of loneliness, brokenness, meaninglessness, hopelessness, powerlessness, futility, emptiness, shame, and despair. Loneliness is very consequential for a kid. Young children left alone can soon be dead children. Kids know this and take loneliness seriously. By the time I attended school, being left alone was not a death sentence, but being accepted by peers was certainly imperative. It made the difference between a good day and a bad one.

It could have been the only time in my entire childhood no one sat with me. Other times kids were friendly, I was included, and people listened to what I had to say. I was not lonely in the bosom of family, in a safe and vibrant community, a citizen of one of the most consequential nations on earth, belonging to a race that enjoys widespread privilege. I had no good reason to conclude on the basis of that single memory that I was unlikable and friendless, but I did anyway. That’s the nature of a burden. Sometimes there’s a good reason a psychological burden will impose itself on you, but there doesn’t need to be.

That wasn’t the only time I fell into the Abyss. There was a time some kids teased me, another time I was forgotten, when I didn’t make the Little League team one year and, another year, when I did make it but let everyone down by striking out. Any kid can point to dozens of similar instances; they don’t have to mean anything.

It’s not the incident that creates a burden. It’s your rejection of it. I couldn’t look at being left alone without seeing the Abyss. I called my feeling ugly and rejected it. Now, I carry it because I crippled it. I’ve been trying to get rid of it all my life, but it keeps coming back. Every time I go out to lunch and sit alone, it climbs on my back. There’s no shaking anything that’s been touched by the Abyss.

Peddlers in my psyche come along, bearing their own burdens and offer to take my Burden if I take theirs. I agree, take their burden, but they walk away without taking mine. One brings books. If I take that peddler’s burden, I must have a book whenever I sit anywhere by myself. The book will make it look like I don’t even want anyone to sit with me, but I do. I’ve read lots of good books because of it, but the Burden is still there. Plus, I have to schlep a book.

Another peddler carries a shell. I take his shell and crawl into it, acting introverted when I’m someplace new or with someone I don’t know how to act around. I fade into the woodwork and hope no one notices me. It’s a burden to have to act that way but is still doesn’t do any good. I secretly want someone to join me in my shell.

Sometimes I take on the burden of organizing groups and play the host. For instance, I have a group of therapists that meets once a month to discuss difficult cases. I also organize a pickup tennis group. In both cases, I’ve taken the initiative to bring people together. The therapist group, so I have other therapists to consult with; and the tennis group, so I can play. Do I still have the original burden? You betcha, I’m left to wonder if anyone would invite me if I didn’t do the organizing.

It makes no sense to me why I’m an introvert one minute, and the next minute I’m the host. Sometimes in my head, I’m debating between being an introvert and an extrovert at the same time. Perhaps that means I’m not truly an introvert or an extrovert. They’re both strategies I employ at different times. When I’m torn between the two, that’s me deciding between two peddlers. One is selling introversion, and the other, playing the host.

Another peddler says if I take on the burden of being a therapist, I can give him the burden of the bus. Instead of feeling sorry for sitting alone, he tells me to look around for others who are sitting alone and has me sit with them. I tell myself that I’m helping them, when in fact I’m helping myself. It doesn’t work, though. Everyone’s burden is their own.

Clients are always coming to me to share their burdens. They talk about experiences they had like mine on the bus, or worse. I feel bad for them. Sometimes I’m still troubled after they leave, but it’s ridiculous to claim I’m taking their burdens. They still must live their lives. It’s not like I can live for them.

Do I feel less lonely because I’m a therapist? My calendar is full, but nobody makes an appointment to see how I feel.

Sometimes I’m burdened with needing to check Facebook, Twitter, and the sale of my books. I’ve also been tempted to go on Instagram and TikTok. You might have a part of you that does that. The folks at Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and TikTok hope so. Taking on a social media burden offers to relieve me of the burden I got when no one would sit with me on the bus because I can point to the number of friends I have and all the likes and re-tweets they give me. It doesn’t help, though. I can always find someone on social media who has more friends, likes, and re-tweets.

I’ve tried being a loner. One day, I went to the movies by myself and started to feel self-conscious that no one had gone with me. That convinced me to go to the movies alone every day in defiance of that feeling. I even ended up seeing films I didn’t want to see. I’ve also gone hiking alone in the wilderness and traveled by myself in a foreign country, all to show myself I can do it. The burden of the bus still shows up even when I have dared it to come.

I could glom on to anyone who would have me or not be able to get rid of me. I’ve met people who’ve tried to do this. It doesn’t do them any good. For one thing, it’s inevitable that, despite their efforts they’ll still have to endure some brief moments alone. For another, there’s nothing that makes people want to get rid of you faster than when you try to make yourself adhesive.

I could take up the burden of having sex with everyone I can find. I could become an alcoholic or a drug addict to forget the burden of feeling lonely. I could become rich and famous, run for office, and have multitudes vote for me, but I have a sneaky feeling my burden will still be there. In truth, it doesn’t matter how many books I’ve read, how many events I plan, how many friends or clients I have, how much I stay in my shell or act like I don’t care, how much sex I have, alcohol I drink, drugs I consume, or notoriety I possess; I’ll still have my burden. I’ll take on new burdens but will never be rid of my own. Even when I’m an old, old man, doddering around in my nursing home, and have forgotten everything else, I’ll still have the burden I got on the bus to torment me. From what I’ve seen, it’s hard to be alone in a nursing home, but very easy to feel lonely.

I’ve come to accept my burden, most of the time, and it has become less burdensome. I’ve even come to cherish it, as I cherish other memorabilia from my childhood. I’ve also got a collection of old drawings and a story I wrote during that time. They’re all embarrassingly inept and childish. My conclusion that no one liked me because no one sat with me is just as inept and childish. I keep the old drawings and a story to remind me that I haven’t always been as I am now, as evidence of change. My burden serves the same function.

My clients have their burdens and accept many bad deals that result in taking up new burdens. Some of these are truly rotten arrangements. One will offer suicide as a solution. It offers to take your burden if you accept the burden of death. If you have a burden, I hope this article can help you recognize it, as well as the things you do to try to get rid of it.

As my burden becomes less burdensome, I have less reason to accept the bad deals that promise to relieve me. Nonetheless, I’m glad I became a bookworm and a therapist, even if it doesn’t make my burden go away. Sometimes, I’ll be reserved, or I’ll host. I won’t stop using social media and enjoying solitude. I’ll keep my attachments and enjoy sex. It’s one thing to have all that in your life, just as long as they don’t become a burden to me. I have burdens enough of my own.

It’s Not How Much You Use, It’s What Happens When You Use

Some Things You Might Not Know About Addiction

Image from Wikimedia

Grandma doesn’t drink much. She only has a glass of champagne every New Year’s Eve. But, boy, oh, boy, you should see what happens then.

Last New Year’s she danced on the kitchen table, fell, and broke her hip. The year before, she stripped off all her clothes in front of her children and her grandchildren, who had permission to stay up late that one night. It was not a pretty sight. Champagne seems to have that effect on her. The year before that, she broke her arm. I don’t know about before that, but there are whispers that she made out with her husband’s best friend one New Year’s while under the influence, but you never know.

Grandma has a drinking problem.

Yes, that’s right; she has a drinking problem, even if she only drinks once a year. Officially, her diagnosis would be alcohol use disorder, on the mild side, if she sought help. Simply defined, a mild alcohol use disorder is continued drinking despite problems. These could be social problems, health problems, legal ones, problems at work, whatever. For her, they are health and social problems. No one is taking her to court and she isn’t getting fired, but she is humiliated and things keep getting broken. She may have endangered her marriage. She has problems that wouldn’t have been there if she didn’t drink. She’s going to have to decide what to do about it.

She might stop drinking; turn down that glass of champagne. The New Year will come whether she drinks it or not. If she had stopped years ago, she wouldn’t have had all these problems; but she didn’t. She didn’t stop because she just couldn’t get her head around the fact that alcohol problems have little to do with the amount or frequency of alcohol use. They have everything to do with problems.

Let’s just say that one year she says, I’m not going to drink next year. I don’t know if I’m going to break my hip again, but every year something happens and it’s just not worth it. Next year, I’m going to be sober.

Let’s say she says that, but, the next new year, she drinks again. She wasn’t going to, but someone poured her a glass of champagne and it was there, so she drank it. Now she has a new problem. She lost control. She only drinks once a year, but she still loses control.

So, you see, you don’t have to be a skid row bum, sitting on the sidewalk, drinking out of a paper bag, wasted most of the time, to have problems with alcohol. You just need to have problems with alcohol to have problems with alcohol. You need to have problems and continue to drink anyway, even if it’s only once a year.

The guy drinking on the sidewalk most likely has a more severe alcohol use disorder. Grandma has it mild, but I say Grandma’s it’s still pretty serious. Serious as a broken hip.

To get to the point of an addiction like the guy on the sidewalk has, it’s necessary to use large amounts with some frequency. Addicted people usually experience increased tolerance for the substance; they need to use more and more to achieve the desired effect, or they need to go to stronger and stronger forms of the drug. The guy on the sidewalk does not drink Wild Irish Rose because he likes the taste. He drinks it for its high alcohol content.

When people use large amounts of a substance, they get a hangover. When you have a hangover, you basically feel the opposite of the way you felt when you had that buzz. If the substance made you feel calm, you are jittery; if you are social, you can’t stand people and noise; if you are happy, then you are miserable. Your body is trying to get back into balance. It’s compensating to your having consumed so much and is trying to tell you something. 

Once you get a hangover, you have two choices: a) You can stop using the substance and let your body, over time, heal itself, or b) You can use some more and avoid the handover by drinking some more. Have some of the hair of the dog that bit you, as they say. Many people elect option b. Keep it up and eventually you may start to experience alcohol withdrawal. Withdrawal is more serious than a common hangover, but it’s caused by the same thing. The body is reacting to large amounts of booze. Many people who have severe withdrawal, must continue to drink or they will die from not drinking, unless they get some professional help.

In Grandma’s case, she doesn’t use enough alcohol to develop tolerance or withdrawal, but that doesn’t mean she doesn’t have a problem with alcohol.

Oh, and the same thing goes with other substances: cocaine, heroin, marijuana, tobacco, whatever. The frequency and the amount is not the problem. The problem is the problem.

What’s the Best Form of Psychotherapy?

Image from Pixabay

The easiest method of doing something is not always the most effective; but it is the easiest, so that’s saying something for it. Easy is more effective than the most effective if the most effective is impossible for you to do.

When it comes to treatment for mental illness, if I were to rank the forms of therapy in order of effectiveness, meaning how thoroughly and reliably they can solve your problems, I would put it like this:

  1. Group psychotherapy
  2. Individual psychotherapy
  3. Medication
  4. Reading self-help books (and articles in Medium)

But, if I were to rank them the easiest to hardest, it would go like this:

  1. Reading self-help books (and articles in Medium)
  2. Medication
  3. Individual psychotherapy
  4. Group psychotherapy

Group Psychotherapy

When you join a good therapy group, you’re among people with some similar experiences, maybe for the first time ever. It’s easier to talk about what you would never talk about elsewhere. You have a chance to play different roles; you can be a teacher, counselor, exhorter, listener, friend, as well as a sufferer. You can observe your own madness played out before you by other group members; but you learn to be accepting of them as they learn to be accepting of you. Most of all, a good therapy group provides positive peer pressure. Encouragement seems more sincere when coming from others who share the same struggles; you are more willing to be held accountable.

On the other hand, group is hard. You’ve got to find one, show up regularly, and learn to talk to strangers about the most private things. There’s the risk of confidentiality violations. You can find some difficult personalities. You must share.

Group is hard for the therapist, too. The more people in the room, the less control the therapist has over what happens there.

When I worked for a clinic that served hundreds of clients, I led many groups. I loved it. They were effective. Now that I’m in private practice, the only group I have is a group for therapists. I don’t do many groups now because it’s so hard to get people to attend and I have relatively few clients from which to recruit.

Group therapy can be found in different settings. If you don’t need a therapist to lead it, you can find a self-help group in AA or any of the other twelve-step programs. Almost every religious organization has at least one fellowship group. Then there are the weekly therapist-led groups that generally focus on a topic like DBT, grieving, or recovery from addictions. Not only do retreats, inpatient units, and residential programs have groups within them, you can think of them as groups themselves in which you live; a kind of total immersion in group. Then there are partial hospitalization programs which are almost as intense, but you don’t live there.

I would categorize family therapy or couple’s counseling, as special forms of group therapy. When family therapy succeeds, it succeeds for the same reasons group does; and when it’s hard, it’s just as hard. You can think of family therapy as a group that already has established norms before the therapist comes in as a newcomer to change them. That’s hard for a therapist to do, but when he can, it’s spectacular.

Individual Psychotherapy

Individual Psychotherapy gives you some of the same benefits of group and can be hard in the same ways, but less so. You must learn to talk about your feelings, but it’s the easiest place to learn to do so. You can be encouraged and held accountable, but the encouragement and accountability are not as powerful as in group. You also must show up, but you can do more to pick your time. Your therapist probably hasn’t had the same experiences as you, but she’s seen others who have, so she’s not a stranger to it. You can’t observe your own madness played out before you like you can in group; but if you hear yourself speak, you can. You can play different roles in individual therapy, but you’re just pretending. There’s some positive social pressure, but it’s the pressure of just one. You get the entire fifty minutes of a session, just for you; but sometimes that’s not a good thing; sometimes the best thing you can do for yourself is to shut up and listen.

Medication

It is far easier to swallow a pill regularly than to go to therapy. You don’t have to talk to strangers except for your doctor and he won’t want to talk for long. Taking pills is unlikely to disrupt your day. You do have to deal with side effects and the whole seeing the doctor, getting refills, and going to the pharmacy rigamarole. Also, we often don’t know what the long-term effects of many of these chemicals might be. Then you often have to come off the medication someday or deal with withdrawal if you can’t get it.

If you have a severe condition, medication can relieve symptoms quite well; but if your ailment is mild, it might not do much good. Also, medication rarely, if ever, solves the underlying problem. But that doesn’t mean it’s worthless. Medication can help you reduce your anxiety, depression, psychosis, or anger just enough so that you can tolerate individual or group therapy, where the real change happens.

Reading Self-Help Books and Medium Articles

This is the easiest method of them all. You don’t have to make an appointment, put pants on, and show up on time. There are no side effects other than paper cuts. No one has to know except for your librarian, bookseller, the anonymous people at the Amazon warehouse, or Google. If you read online, you can clear your history or go to private mode.

Depending on your reading level, if you read enough books, you could end up knowing as much or more about your condition as the best educated therapist you can find; but if you have no opportunity to talk about what you’re reading, you might be getting it all wrong. If there is no person involved, sitting across from you, there is no encouragement or accountability. Also, most self-help books only espouse a single point of view. If your case is complicated or if you simply picked the wrong book, it might take you off track.

Nothing is easier than reading a self-help book. People sometimes say reading one changed their life; but they say that more often about therapy.

Other Options

I excluded many other options from my list that might help you. Things like meditation, yoga, weight lifting, getting a good night’s sleep, petting a dog, Reiki, acupuncture, and many others, too many to mention. Some might put smoking pot in the medication category or reading the Bible as a self-help book. For people with respectful, nurturing families, Thanksgiving dinner might be the best group therapy they can get. Talking with a good friend could be better than any therapist.

Good mental health is correlated with a willingness to entertain a multitude of options. If you want to find something that helps you, do this: try lots of things and carefully notice whether they help you feel and do better in the long run, or if they make it worse.

Which is best for you?

The question of which is best for you often comes down to how much therapy you can tolerate and how badly you need to get better. If your condition is relatively mild, then do what most people do: start with reading self-help books and work your way up the list if things don’t get better. The first thing you try may very well make subsequent methods easier. But, if you’re in a crisis, about to lose your job, a marriage, or take your life, then now’s not the time to fool around with lesser measures when you need strong medicine. Then it’s best to grit your teeth and start at the top with the things that are the hardest but most effective.

Shame and the Rebel

Part 7g of Meeting the Voices in My Head and Searching for an Inner Adult

Image by Сергей Корчанов from Pixabay

The Rebel regards my Feelings as entirely within the concept it has of myself, so it doesn’t have much of a problem with them; with one exception, the feeling of Shame. As far as the Rebel is concerned, Shame is a turncoat that’s gone to work for the enemy.

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The Rebel’s Constituency

Part 7f of Meeting the Voices in My Head and Searching for an Inner Adult

Ernesto Che Guevara – Graffito in the Harbour of Havanna from Pxhere

Like any oppositional leader, the Rebel claims to speak for the marginalized, in this case, the Innermost Child. If you remember, the Innermost Child is the original part of me, but it’s still there. It feels things that are not delineated by my Feelings. The Innermost Child has no voice because it has no language. The things it experiences is whatever cannot be captured by words.

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