Culturally Acceptable Self-Harm

“Every addiction arises from an unconscious refusal to face and move through your own pain. Every addiction starts with pain and ends with pain. Whatever the substance you are addicted to – alcohol, food, legal or illegal drugs, or a person – you are using something or somebody to cover up your pain.” ~ Eckhart Tolle
In today’s news we heard of another talented person lost to drug usage. The list of the talented who have died from an overdose is long and diverse, and we shake our heads and say, “so sad.”  On so many levels, drug use is condoned in this country. It’s considered a personal choice, a way to relax, to be cool, to be countercultural, whatever. We expect our artists to use some sort of drug.  It seems to be considered their “right” as an artistic person.
I see young people watching the “cool” people do drugs, and they think, “why not”?  And it really is quite easy to become addicted.  Of course, for a lot of people, I do understand that drug use (or alcohol or food or sex or material goods) is a way to escape the pain of every day life. The stories I hear break my heart, but covering the pain is just a bandage. Replacing one pain with another, potentially fatal, pain is a poor choice (to make a gross understatement).
I’ve seen addiction up close. I’ve lost family and friends to addiction; I fight my own demons, so I do understand.  But I think what angers me the most is our culture’s casual acceptance of recreational drug use.  It has destroyed not just lives but communities, and we cluck platitudes, blame the addicts and move on to the next piece of news.
Actually this has been bothering me since Wednesday when I was teaching students about the Harlem Renaissance and the glories of Harlem.  The stark contrast between then and now is chilling.
I know full well that drugs take the pain away. I know that being high can feel good. I know that not doing drugs can make one a social pariah.  Remember when the people who did drugs were the pariahs and the “straight” people were the norm? If you’re under 45, you probably don’t, and there’s something wrong with that.  I do believe that as a nation, we have to stop making self-harm socially acceptable.
On the other hand, I do understand that no one decides to be an addict. And often people who are addicted to things deny there’s a problem.  But if you suspect you have a problem, please reach out. People are here to help you.
Here are some contacts:
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Admin (SAMSA) 1-800-662-HELP (4357)
TTY: 1-800-487-4889
The 24 Hour Addiction Helpline or 1-800-447-9081
Free Addiction Helpline  1-866-925-7411

About maggiec

Educator, writer, world traveler, bibliophile, theater devotee, cat lover, mother of an actor, adopted auntie to hundreds. Spreading love (and literacy), one day at a time.
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