Changing Our Conversation And Mindset Around Addiction

Changing Our Conversation And Mindset Around Addiction

That is one of the greatest fears of those in recovery - "a paralytic mixture of embarrassment and fear." The word "Again?" when you admit that you messed up another time feels like the end of the world.


On February 8, 2014, Emmett Rensin published a piece in the Los Angeles Review of Books titled "The End of Quitting" following the overdose and death of actor Phillip Seymour Hoffman. Six days prior to the publishing of the article, Hoffman was found dead in his New York apartment with a needle in his arm. A former heroin addict, Hoffman had been in a rehabilitation facility less than a year earlier, and died, like many former addicts, relapsing.

The article opens up with a quote from Dwight D. Eisenhower about his cigarette smoking: "I can't tell you if I'll start back up...But I'll tell you this: I sure as hell ain't quitting again."

It's a common and well-known fact, to anyone who's ever been addicted to anything, that quitting a habit is exponentially more difficult than starting it. After Hoffman passed, "embarrassment seem[ed] to be a major theme. Shame. It's a shame he had to go this way." But Rensin makes sure to follow up this point with a fundamental point: "we should remember that nobody would be more ashamed than Hoffman to see his own body, cold on a bathroom floor."

Rensin made sure, in this article, to note that this article wasn't an obituary about Hoffman's death - but rather a comment on the reaction and national conversation that happened, "about this old story we tell whenever someone dies this way." Himself a former heroin addict, all he can say is "I don't know why Phillip Seymour Hoffman was an addict. I don't know what demons might be to blame, but...I do know that the demons hardly matter."

As to why people start up opioids and heroin, Rensin says that it's not something that's very dramatic for most people, "it's just something to's just the mundane." He follows up this point to comment why people keep doing it after the first time: "Usually, it's just that heroin is the best you'll ever feel, and nobody feels that way once...You use. Then it becomes part of who you are." This is a major reason why the majority of heroin addicts relapse within the first six months of treatment, and most people in Twelve Step programs drop out during the first year. "Sure, meetings help. So does therapy. But those things cannot shake the memory, not really."

For Emmett Rensin himself, he admits vulnerability in still having a moment every season where a part of him just wants to get high, despite being clean for seven years. And he can't particularly put a label or term to what that feeling is: "There aren't words for the stubborn fits of that desire. Compulsion doesn't quite capture it. Addict does, but only in an obvious, unsatisfying way."

Following Hoffman's death, many well-intentioned people, who were never addicts in their lives, expressed a sentiment that we needed to "make sense of what happened [and focus on] what we should 'learn' from this." To Rensin, these well-intentioned outcries were far more frustrating than harsh ones. There is a whole brilliantly written paragraph detailing how ill-fated suggestions warning people not to take heroin because "it's bad for you" and "people will be sad" are.

"As if the thing that stands between an addict and sobriety is the intellectual revelation of the consequences, as if heroin users are operating under the misapprehension that it's good for them...What do these friends imagine? That somebody was about to do heroin for the first time, but a quick check of their Facebook feed prevented it?"

Although he doesn't want to invalidate the feelings of these people, Rensin claims that this mindset "contribute[s] to the very culture that kills men like Phillip Seymour Hoffman,' and only adds to the shame the addicts and former addicts feel. He finds the adage that "addiction is a disease" to be insufficient - what is more accurate is that "addiction is a fundamental trait of personality...Think of it as a nasty temper: you can learn to control the rage, but sometimes you can't help seeing red."

It's important to note that people in the middle of heroin addictions rarely overdose. But those that relapse, however, do. And people who relapse, like Hoffman, know the consequences, know it's not worth it, know that you're supposed to recover one day at a time. Rensin sees this culture negatively, in that it "drives so many - even those who sought help in the past - to die in the shadows. It's just too embarrassing to admit you did it anyway. Again."

Rensin drives the point home that all of us, no matter how well-intentioned, have limits to our empathy. Empathy always has a price, one we're not always willing to pay all the way. Although we love stories of recovery and addiction, "there's a limit to the repetition we'll allow. How many do-overs is too many do-overs?...Is it five? Ten? Twelve? When does that moment come when even those who know better write off a former friend as a screw-up, consigned to a bed of their own making?"

That is one of the greatest fears of those in recovery - "a paralytic mixture of embarrassment and fear." The word "Again?" when you admit that you messed up another time feels like the end of the world. Rensin, himself, five years clean, resorted to snorting painkillers one that fall because he felt it was the "only thing preventing a full relapse." And he, just a regular person, can't imagine what it would have been like to be someone like Phillip Seymour Hoffman, "who knows full well that another stint in rehab would curry a whole world asking why he doesn't know better by now."

Who knows whether things will be different in the future, whether our cure or panacea for addiction is truly coming, whether soon "overcoming heroin will be as simple as beating back strep.". But the main point Rensin wants us to learn is that our national conversation is not helping. Most of us reading this are the loved ones, the spectators, the people whose instincts are to ask "Again?" when people relapse. If we really believed that "addiction is a disease," and wanted to live and stay true to those words, we would follow these closing remarks from Rensin:

"Until then, it's little different from cancer, and you wouldn't tell friends locked in the grip of stage-four death to remember that 'it isn't worth it.' Remission doesn't work like that."

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5 Perks Of Having A Long-Distance Best Friend

The best kind of long-distance relationship.

Sometimes, people get annoyed when girls refer to multiple people as their "best friend," but they don't understand. We have different types of best friends. There's the going out together best friend, the see each other everyday best friend and the constant, low maintenance best friend.

While I'm lucky enough to have two out of the three at the same school as me, my "low maintenance" best friend goes to college six hours from Baton Rouge.

This type of friend is special because no matter how long you go without talking or seeing each other, you're always insanely close. Even though I miss her daily, having a long-distance best friend has its perks. Here are just a few of them...

1. Getting to see each other is a special event.

Sometimes when you see someone all the time, you take that person and their friendship for granted. When you don't get to see one of your favorite people very often, the times when you're together are truly appreciated.

2. You always have someone to give unbiased advice.

This person knows you best, but they probably don't know the people you're telling them about, so they can give you better advice than anyone else.

3. You always have someone to text and FaceTime.

While there may be hundreds of miles between you, they're also just a phone call away. You know they'll always be there for you even when they can't physically be there.

4. You can plan fun trips to visit each other.

When you can visit each other, you get to meet the people you've heard so much about and experience all the places they love. You get to have your own college experience and, sometimes, theirs, too.

5. You know they will always be a part of your life.

If you can survive going to school in different states, you've both proven that your friendship will last forever. You both care enough to make time for the other in the midst of exams, social events, and homework.

The long-distance best friend is a forever friend. While I wish I could see mine more, I wouldn't trade her for anything.

Cover Image Credit: Just For Laughs-Chicago

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How To Be A Good Friend, As Told By My High School Journal

Being a good friend doesn't change as we get older.


So I have been thinking lately about what it means to be a friend. I think the most important attribute of a good friend is loyalty. A true friend sticks with you when you are not acting like your normal self. A true friend sticks by your side even when you are hurting them or acting like a complete jerk. It is a really hard thing to stand by your friend when you see them making mistakes or changing into a new person right before your eyes. It sucks and it hurts.

Surface friends are friends that are only there for you on the surface of things. When they see that you are doing well and you have something that they want they become your friend. Sucking up and acting like they love you so much and how great it would be to be friends. As soon as what they want is gone or you start to have a rough patch they move on and leave you in the dust. THAT SUCKS. Why waste time with people like this? Friendships are so important and they need to be chosen wisely. You can always tell who your true friends are when things get bad.

Just from observing some of the friendships around me they really amaze me. It is crazy to me that some people let other people walk all over them. It is so screwed up and it makes me sad that so many people have so little self-respect to ditch the friends that act like that. Instagram likes or being at the right party doesn't matter. Most of the time the "cool crowd" is shallow and actually doesn't care about you as a person. They care that they are seen with the right people and that they are made out to be such a big deal.

None of that matters! Life is so much more than that.

Why waste time and energy working so hard to impress someone. Girls especially want to impress other girls and feel confident. I even see girls becoming friends with girls that are vulnerable and insecure just so that they can build themselves up because they know that that girl has so confidence. It's as if you saw a really hungry puppy and you wave a bone in front of it to where it wants to come near you. Just as the dog gets close enough to you and builds up enough strength to bite for the bone you pull it away. It makes me sad to see this happening all around me.

Think long and hard about who your friends are. If something terrible happened to you today or your "social status" dropped would they still be there? Are they in the friendship because they love you or are they in it for what material things you have to offer? It can be a very hard line to see and to distinguish. I have had this happen to me a lot and trust me it is no fun.

Basically what I am getting at is be a good friend and choose good friends. Love your friends even when they are so hard to love. Be in the friendship for the person and not for the material things. Bring each other up and be positive! Surround yourself with positive people that have your best interest at heart.

I hope that all of you have good friends that you know are there for you. Hold on to those relationships so tight and be so thankful for them. Good friends are hard to find but when you get them they are worth more than anything!

Be happy and do something nice today

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