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Jawbreaking Recovery


My first time in psychiatric treatment, I didn’t lie about my drug use.  Okay, I barely lied about my drug use.  Regardless, my psychiatrist came to the conclusion that I had a problem with marijuana.  I briefly hated her for saying that and repeatedly pretended I was having a trauma reaction when I couldn’t stop myself from crying about the prospect of giving up weed.  I finally agreed to not smoking weed for three weeks after leaving treatment.  I failed.

My second time entering treatment, about ten months later, it seemed more like they overlooked the issue of drugs.  I had been smoking less, but still at least everyday.  They were more concerned with my suicide risk, and the fact that I still was tempted to kill myself, as I’m sure is appropriate.  We did group therapy, somatic therapy, Dialectical Behavior Therapy focusing on distress tolerance, and equine therapy.  The focus was not on smashing the suicidality, but appreciating those good moments: the happy moments, the peaceful moments, love, and feelings of healing and getting better.

After the suicidality largely subsided, my treatment team focused on my traumas, the symptoms of which had in large part fueled my shame and suicidal ideation.  For the trauma we did Gestalt therapy, bataka work, psychodrama, a lot of processing, eye movement desensitization and reprocess therapy (which did not work for me, but people I know have had excellent experiences), and art therapy.  While I didn’t expect it, and most of the previously named treatments helped in little ways, what ultimately topped it off was a good Cognitive Behavioral Therapy regimen.  I wrote and recorded a narrative of my trauma and listened to it daily, and finally it worked.

I had been going to meetings for about six months as required by my sober livings, when it finally occurred to me how much these people’s stories sounded like mine.  It wasn’t just the substance abuse, it was despair, depression, anxiety, dis-ease within self, and trauma that led individuals to abuse substances.  It wasn’t someone else’s story, it was my story.  I got it.

I know I abused marijuana more than any other drug, but that didn’t make me different.  I was an addict.  My life was negatively affected, became a shadow of a life, for a number of reasons, and weed was among them.  I don’t know why it took me so long to realize, but I guess denial is a part of my story, too.  I was a marijuana addict, and there were no two ways about it.

Theoretically, let’s say that marijuana is just 10% of my problem, as a psychiatrist doing an evaluation I was moderately honest on once said.  The 12-step programs are going to be more than 10% of my solution.  The 12-step programs promote introspection, spirituality, ethical living, ridding oneself of shame, accountability, responsibility, and my favorite part having a supportive and loving community.  If substance abuse is 10% of my problem, the 12-step program is 70% of my solution.  I can’t be in intensive therapy for the rest of my life, but I can be in 12-step programs for the rest of my life.

The layers of my psychopathology are like a gobstopper or jawbreaker.  I’m several layers in, and at each layer, I knew there were more issues, but I didn’t know what they would be.  Each one is an unpleasant surprise I have to suck on for a period of time before I get onto the next major issue.  Like a gobstopper from Willy Wonka, this is an Everlasting Gobstopper of Life.


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