There are many drugs found in nature including opium poppy (used in Heroin, Morphine, Codeine), Blue Agave (used in Tequila), Coca leaves (used in Cocaine), Ephedra Sinica(used in Sudafed and Meth), Psilocybin mushroom (used in Shrooms), Sassafras root (used in X), and Marijuana. God clearly saw that we may need some relief from the trials of life. It is man that misuses these substances or creates synthetic versions of them that may not be helpful to us.
This article was written with the intention not to condone or condemn drug use, merely to address the judgments we may have about those who use, abuse or become dependent on drugs. I am someone who actually benefited from those "Say No to Drugs" campaigns from the 80's and I know many who have benefited from programs like DARE, Al-Anon, AA, NA and CodA. I am about as square as they come. I've never smoked a cigarette, never tried marijuana and at most, have drank a full wine cooler in a single setting. The idea for this article came to me as I was under the influence of laughing gas while getting a root canal at my dentist's. The pain was so sharp and so intense that I could feel it despite the laughing gas and a few shots of Novocain. It was one of the few times in my life that I felt great compassion for those who may struggle with drug addiction.
Another time was when I was prescribed Vicodin after surgery to remove a cancerous tumor along with several inches of a rib from my side in 2004. The pain was so great that I preferred the Vicodin to eating. It seemed that it was the most important thing in the world to me at that time. I was in so much pain that I had to sleep sitting up. Only Vicodin made sleep possible. Thank God I had a really good surgeon and recovered well from that surgery and was able to wean off the Vicodin. Not everybody is that lucky.
That short experience was enough for me to develop compassion for those addicted to or dependent on substances. I would say that I am a food addict and may be addicted to Candy Crush but I've never had to experience the judgment and ridicule that substance addicts have to contend with. It is true that being obese or overweight in American society brings it's own brand of judgment. Everyone thinks you are either lazy or lacking information. Everyone becomes your personal trainer or your dietician.
Reading books like In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts by Gabor Mate', The Afterlife of Billy Fingers, books (Journals) or songs (Come As You Are) by or about (Heavier Than Heaven) Kurt Cobain have also helped to educate me on drug abuse, alcoholism, compassion and acceptance. Kurt had a rare and painful stomach condition that he sought medical care for repeatedly to no avail. As a young child, his mother tried to get him help for his hyperactivity and he even saw a counselor as a teen. Thank God his creative genius was left intact because his music and lyrics and presence in the world has made a lasting and positive impact. He obviously dealt with demons too mostly related to his father's rejection, humiliation and bullying of him starting in early childhood.
As a medical social worker and mental health counselor, I've worked with many people in physical, emotional, psychological, relational, spiritual and mental pain and something that I've learned from all that exposure and from my own trials and tribulations is that pain specialists, Western medicine, and the mental health care providers are all ill equipped to deal with and cope with and respond to the needs of all those people in pain. We are trying our best to meet those needs but so much more is needed.
One of the things needed most is more compassion towards those with drug or alcohol addiction. Most of these people have a history of trauma, whether physical or emotional, that has yet to be treated. The drugs or alcohol may be the only thing that keeps them able to live with such pain. Therefore, many of them do not mind the thought of dying of an overdose or of their addiction because this may be preferable to living without the thing that just must numb them out enough to live without being in a state of complete anxiety, agitation or pain.
Sure, they could seek out a psychiatrist or receive psych meds through their primary care providers but those drugs may not be enough, might have too many side effects or those in need may not have access to healthcare or mental healthcare. Even under the care of a psychiatrist, it can take a while to find the right combination of drugs that will work for someone's physiological make-up. Even if it does work, it may not be long before they are triggered by past trauma and/or relapse for whatever reason. According to biographer Charles Cross, Kurt Cobain attended 12 step meetings, spent at least 5 separate stints in rehab centers and private doctor clinics in order to try to come to grips with his Heroin addiction.
Our judgment on drug abusers is a worldwide problem. In his article Why "Crazy Like a Fox" Versus "Crazy Like a Crazy" Really Matters, Michael Tansey writes that President Trump has "congratulated President Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines for dealing with his country's drug problem in the "right way" with the vigilante slaughter of nearly ten thousand people merely suspected of using or dealing drugs."
Why do we feel the need to judge people? True, it can be frustrating to be the loved one of a user who has lied to you, stolen from you, manipulated you or betrayed you. But we are all learning something from others in our journey in this life whether the lesson be self-love, boundaries, self-care or compassion. What does judging help? Nothing. What we judge in others we are judging about ourselves. And if we cannot overcome our judgment of others, we will be led to do so by circumstance entering our lives in the form of teachers who may be thrust upon us if we insist on holding fast to our judgments. May we open our hands to release the judgment on ourselves and on others.