What came first? The chicken or the egg? Quite a debate in the scientific world. At one point, science even declared that it must be the chicken as they found a protein required to form a “chicken egg” in one place and one place only — a chick ovary. If we agree with this theory then it is only because we are not calling the bird that created the chicken through its part in evolution a “chicken”. This could go on and on.
There is a similar question within the dual diagnosis world of Addiction/Mental Illness.
Yes, there are plenty of street drugs out there that can or will awaken a sleeping demon inside the brain of its user who did not know they had a mental illness and these symptoms are likely to remain even after the user stops using – so in this case, you can say the addiction came first. Or at least it reared its head first.
There are also plenty of individuals whose daily fight with their own mind became bad enough to warrant the search for self-medication to help control their symptoms but of course, control rarely takes place with dangerous street drugs so in this case – an addict is born from a mental health sufferer.
I deal each and every day with a beautiful soul who can clearly describe his symptoms. He can sit and explain to you where his thoughts go during many different scenarios. He can describe sensations that will not be known to many. He is extremely intelligent but is also very naïve to many dangers in life. Possibly because he does not have the same fear that most do. His lack of hesitation has been clear since he was a very small child. He can do more than some others but is incapable of doing some things that most children and teenagers find to be the easiest part of their day. Through many professionals and many years, we have learned that his brain is not wired in the way that the majority of the worlds brains are. In every visual way, he is an attractive, healthy, vibrant, funny and helpful young man but inside, his demons are very real.
Through our long and exhausting journey, we have found that there have been many things in his life that may have flipped a switch here and there which made his neurons possibly spark in a different direction creating a path of least resistance for that time in his life. At a time when his brain was still developing in a rapid way, his solution to certain problems (problems which most 2, 3, 4 and 5-year old’s DO NOT have to solve) could have molded his internal brain wiring in extreme shortcuts or simple survival modes. This too is a small form of evolution and not always a disability although we humans tend to brand what we don’t understand as a disability or a problem or a concern. Granted, his current thought processes are extremely difficult for myself, the law, teachers and superiors to deal with and it is a daily battle but I go on record with each and every “situation” that one day when the confinements of childhood loosen their grip and he no longer has to be measured by stereotypical childhood milestones that his “disability” has the making of genius and distinction…..
…given he learns the ability to PROPERLY AND SOCIALLY fit in and learns to harness parts of his mental awareness that he has “learned” to ignore.
I now jump to the dual diagnosis. It is a statistically known fact that more than 50% of all Americans inflicted with mental illness are also drug users or drug addicts. Research on all different levels supports this fact. An individual suffering from many types of mental illnesses can find it easier than ever before to get caught up in self-medication and instant (yet temporary) relief of their pain.
This is the side of my current life that is truly difficult to live with. I was already fighting a battle to keep my son alive as he fought the demons that were telling him that his life was just too difficult to live. We probably weren’t really claiming victory over very many battles, but I know we were winning the war! This new war brings with it chaos on all sides including mine. It’s difficult to continue “unconditional support” when every fiber in your being screams – “WRONG!!!”
The loss of trust, the judgments, the sheer anger gets in the way of every positive encouragement. It’s difficult to say thank you for continuing fighting when you feel deep down that they are not. It is so easy to condemn each and every screw up while not feeling guilty at all for forgetting to give necessary accolades for the positive efforts made on the internal wins. If you let it, you can become engulfed in the new negative….
– but isn’t that what the “evil” wants?
What do you fix first? The addiction that was created because of the pain or the pain that might, if destroyed defeat the addiction on its own? I am not saying that I will ignore the addiction or the need to fix the problem before it becomes an addition, but if I have to choose stopping one to concentrate on the other, my choice is steadfast in the same direction I have been moving for years. Those who just entered this game don’t know our history and they want to say “It obviously hasn’t been working”. But they also have not seen our progress.
Again – this is a never-ending debate within many arenas. But I am the power in this fight. I am the one who will stand or fall based on my choices. My family will eventually pay the ultimate sacrifice or will bear the most incredible fruit. I choose to understand the time frame. I refuse to let 5 years of hard work be destroyed by the drug, the victim of the drug or the victims within society and all of their opinions. History is filled with battle cry after battle cry. Generals who won their war after their unpopular order was carried out. I am confident in my fight although I am not sure why. It’s a gut feeling that I dare not question. There is adversity and judgement in every direction I look which could easily sway a weaker soul but that will not be me. I made a choice many, many years ago and I may be tired, but I am not ready to switch sides today!
When a toddler learns to walk, you start with small baby steps. You place items near to their beautiful tiny arms so they can hold themselves up as they learn. You move these objects further and further apart with each and every success. If they continue to fall, you might move the objects closer so they can start again from a place that they are comfortable but I would hope you don’t just continue to move them farther apart and scream at them to try harder? Sooner or later, your dedication and the trust within you that you have given to that child will be why 2 steps turn into 10 and why you will finally see them walk on their own.
This concept is commonly termed as enablement when it is used in the way I am using it and that might be. I myself am getting help for this to at least listen to an outsiders view and if they have a compelling argument, I can’t imagine that I wouldn’t adjust my sails. I have always been capable of compromise but until then, I just look at my world today as “not so calm seas”. God gave me this journey and he trusted me to be captain of this ship and my crew, who is ironically so incredibly precious. I won’t fail!