whitney houston 22:13:31 on Sunday, February 19 2012

I had an interesting dialogue on that infamous social networking site of which I am a regular contributor - constantly adding status updates, keeping in touch with friends, picking up gems of knowledge and endeavouring to use them, and my own thoughts, ideas and photographs to brighten somebody's day. 

The dreadfully sad loss of Whitney Houston was behind a status update I posted last Sunday.  As follows:

It saddens me that in this day and age there is still SO much ignorance around mental health issues and a lack of awareness of what Addictive Disease is. Having worked with addiction and eating disorders for over 10 years, I've heard and handled most reactions - and ignorance, arrogance, denial and fear seem to continue to colour - taboo - and poison - any understanding of the way forward. We will not give up though, we'll keep chipping away, one day at a time.

10 friends "liked" this particular comment, and then a discussion began.  I am sharing it with you now not because I want to say "I am right" or any such thing, far from it, but because for me it gave me plenty to think about and I hope it might do the same for you too.  I respect and appreciate all opinions, I am open to listen to all of them, and draw my conclusions only once I have fully heard, listened too, and considered the opinion of another, and reflected on my own thoughts.

So, once I had posted, I got the following response from, let's call her *friend L*

Oh Al you do such great work keep going. I work for a mental health project and we have a lot of stigma around mental health, I have learnt so much from people with mental health. I am so lucky to have great wellbeing. but others are not so lucky. We need more people like you Al working to raise the understanding of this condition. Lot of Love *friend L*

I wrote, Much love to you *friend L* We don't even know what the cause of the awful death of Whitney Houston was, but within seconds people were jumping in with their naive crass remarks about her drug use. Yes, when you have an illness you have a responsibility to address it and treat it - but when denial and fear are at the root of that illness, it's like living with a poison in your brain that you desperately don't want to be there but haven't found your means of getting free from. I am not excusing or justifying - believe you me I am not - but there is a BIG difference between use/abuse and addiction. Most addicts I have known, know, etc, are massively wise and creative people, high acheivers and kind, but overwhelmed with a suffocating fear that comes out sideways as anger, resentment, substance abuse etc etc ... If they could choose NOT to be addicts, they would. xx

Several people seemed to agree and "liked" the above. Including, let's call him, *friend B*

Then *friend B* added into the discussion: Agreed with alot of what you say. Addiction in itself is not a healthy thing in general but when it comes to something as illegal drugs which feed the ongoing chain of criminal activity at any given stage of the process from production to consumtpion, there must be someone to take responsibility. That person has to belong to the individual who CHOSEto undertake such a habit. I've been offered stuff before over the course of many years and have had the basic wherewithallto refuse. Drugs kill the user and destroy the lives of others nearest to them, whether the user is conscious of this or not. Whitney Houston was a user which makes her responsible for all the negative consequences that befell her as a result. She was a BRILLIANT artist but, I think, an awful role model in recent times. They DO need help but this must be administered regardless of their consent FOR THEIR OWN GOOD......xx

I appreciated this, it's always good to reflect on opinions as I say.  Another friend remarked "Interesting debate. Al, now you.."

So I thought about things, and this was my conclusion....

Hey *friend B*, likewise I agree with much of what you say, absolutely I do. Esp with regards to the ongoing chain of activity that is so wicked, dangerous, damaging & corrupt. Indeed, one of my main leads in the work I have been involved in is trying to pick up the pieces with families & friends who have been so damaged by the actions of an addict. The ripple effect of use & abuse is beyond devastating - addiction doesn't simply destroy addicts, it tears families & friendships apart. Focussing for the moment on the particular individual, I don't deny that we all, addicts included, have a duty of care, a responsibility to face the consequences of our actions. Of course we do. What I do believe though, is that just as many of us cross roads on a daily basis, confident as we can be that we won't be hit by a bus, so too do many people take other risks (rightly or wrongly so) that at first they believe to be in control of, and yet pretty soon (if they have the genetic predisposition, & social & psychological triggers) they get hooked into a spiral of self-destruction. Addiction is soul-sickness - sometimes self-worth is so low that any mood-altering substance or behaviour is a means of escapism from self/life/reality/inner-demons. Sometimes, self-worth is so low that addiction is triggered by a desire to conform to the behaviour of others around (fellow-users) & once that trigger is pulled, it's a downward spiral. Often, mostly, in the case of an addict, the abuse of a drug or a behaviour is a control-mechanism - that quickly or slowly spirals way out of control and ultimately controls the individual. Yes, I know that having said all that, addiction can be treated once it is recognised and it's the responsibility of the sufferer to receive, accept & embrace the treatment that is available. Easier said than done. (Hence the massive relapse-rate). I do think that the people around the addict can play a huge part in putting up boundaries to help the person to want to get well - when in the grip of the addictive cycle, the user can't see, think, do, the next right thing. I also am maddened by the media idiots who glamorise, criticise, fantasise, and put a smoke screen around the facts. They big-up the pressure they put on people, and then they big-up the images of peoples downfall. It is degrading, it is irresponsible, it is archaic and it is sick. Whitney Houston, Amy, and so many others are not bad people who need help to get good - they are sick people who needed help to get well. Addiction kills, because it is emotional, physical, spiritual sickness - and fame and money don't make you any less vulnerable. What bothers me the most is the ignorance - in this day and age. xx

Friend G........ Well put..........x

Friend J........... With you all the way Al. X

Your opinions are entirely up to you.  Just wanted to put this out there.....  More blogs to follow.  I promise.  Lots of 'em!

Al

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