At Ease It’s Not a Disease!

Common parlance talks about drug and alcohol abuse as a disease, and labels these problems as “addictions” and “alcoholism”. This relatively modern lingo has entered our vocabulary in the 1930s, with the infestation of psychobabble.

Drug addiction has become an epidemic in our country, especially in Bucks County, PA. Drug counseling advocates have been calling for increasing places for treating this problem. The problem with calling it a disease is that it absolves the doper of  responsibility for his behavior. It’s to say it’s not his fault.

“Alcoholism” and “addictions” are simply sin. Wake up from your drunken stupor, as is right, and do not go on sinning. For some have no knowledge of God. I say this to your shame.” — I Corinthians 15:34.  “The primary problem is moral and spiritual, not medical, and cannot be addressed without that perspective,” wrote Franklin E. Payne, Jr., M.D. ,Associate Professor of Family Medicine at the Medical College of Georgia, in Augusta, Georgia.

The first step in the local 12 Steps Journey I participate in calls for people with drug, alcohol and other problems to own up to them:

“Step One- We admitted we were powerless over the effects of our separation from GOD-that our lives had become unmanageable.

I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. (Rom. 7:18)”

When we realize we have to admit our character flaws and seek God’s help, we are on the path to recovery.

Modern psychology doesn’t understand the real cause of behavioral problems and doesn’t know the right way to treat them. Dr. Payne explains “I have yet to see any patient’s chart with the diagnosis of ‘depression’ with reference to criteria that would fit any formal definition, such as the DSM-III-R. Yet, millions of patients carry this label and receive potent medications based upon this slipshod approach. Both the label and the medications have great potential for harm, as well as good. Further, such imprecision applies to virtually every area of medicine, not just psychiatric diagnoses. (A discussion of this ‘mal-practice,’ however, would require another paper in itself.)” 

All the King’s horses and all the King’s men, can’t put broken people back together again.

God can.

Defining drunkenness, drug abuse and other problems as a disease holds back recovery. If you have a true disease, such a sinusitis, you can take antibiotics. You can’t cure negative behaviors with dope.

The lyrics “Everything you think, do and say
Is in the pill you took today” in the 60’s song In the Year 2525 is not where it’s at, man!

Nor is Penndel Mental Health Center, which I’ve surmised apes the culture indicted in the song. Don’t go there or else you’ll wind up with PMS (Penndel Mentalhealth Syndrome).

Jesus is the great healer. There is hope when you confess your sins and seek His counsel.

Levittown We Have A Problem!

Drug addictions run rampant today, especially in Bucks County, PA, contributing to crime as well as ruining lives of individuals, their families and other loved ones. Alcohol abuse creates similar problems. Places to treat these problems are mushrooming.

There are other problems – road rage and other forms of anger, depression, anxiety, violence. People today are hurting. There is even an organization called No More Pain. http://www.nomorepaininc.org/ 

There is a common root to all problems, largely character flaws.  I regularly attend the 12 Steps Journey program where participants learn to deal with character flaws, such as anxiety, depression, and pent up anger and drug and alcohol addictions. http://www.12stepjourney.com/ Drug addiction is just one problem, which in places like lower Bucks County is now in the limelight.

There is a way out, if you are willing to make the effort, pursue healing, and submit to God.

I consider myself a recovering romantic.  If I had a theme song, it would be Robert Palmer’s Addicted to Love. “You’re gonna have to face it
You’re gonna have to face that you’re addicted to love

You might as well face it, you’re addicted to love”

And I’ve learned to admit to this and other problems and with God’s help, I shall overcome.

Addictions are described by Wikipedia as “a medical condition that is characterized by compulsive engagement in rewarding stimuli, despite adverse consequences…”  I’m not sure how much of the problem is biological, but it does entail flighty, compulsive behavior. Romantics are attracted to a person or an ideal, a fleeting feeling, which like a French Impressionist painting, immediately strikes your fancy but does not lead to further inquiry, as a Dutch 17th century landscape painting would do.

As a college professor told my class, Romanticism is an example of “the supremacy of emotion over intellect.”   The professor also said that the romantic would rather be there than here and in a different time.  Romantics tend to daydream.

William Wordsworth, one of the poets who helped launch the Romantic period in English literature in the late 18th and early 19th century, wrote “Poetry is the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings: it takes its origin from emotion recollected in tranquility.”

Romanticism was a rebellion against the machine age, materialism and the intellectualism of The Enlightenment. Romantics were against rigid rules. They went the other extreme and rejected rules in general.

Another professor said the Romantics were a prototype of the Flower Children of the 60’s, which led to adverse consequences. A documentary on the hippies illustrated how communal living, where everyone and everything was held in common, including partners. There were no families. The kids belonged to everyone. But, as the documentary showed, as this free love mentality played out, people got jealous of other’s temporary partners.

There is no power in the flower.

Recently, I met a woman said she was deeply hurt after a guy played her. She said that she may end up going back to him, as “I am a hopeless romantic.”  The problem is that emotion is the driving force, and not the intellect. Learning more about one another and working through the vicissitudes of life together and learning to respect and care for one another is the right stuff for a successful relationship.

20th century writer and critic T.S. Eliot rejects the romantic notion of Wordsworth’s “emotion recollected in tranquility.”  and argues that emotion and intellect should be synthesized, with the intellect driving emotion.  http://www.literary-articles.com/2010/02/how-eliot-refutes-wordsworths-concept.html

Emotion can’t stand on its own. In Mel Brook’s Robin Hood Men in Tights a young lad approaches Robin and his men screaming his head off. The Merry Men wonder why; nobody was chasing the kid, nothing was wrong.

In my blogs, I have knocked modern psychology. But cognitive behavioral therapy, as the word “cognitive” suggests, has some merit. It requires people to think, rather than rely on fuzzy romantic emotions and effervescent feelings. This psychotherapeutic treatment helps patients understand the thoughts and feelings that influence behavior.  Emotion is driven by intellect, knowledge.

The key to healing, being right is knowing that God is working for your good. God knows what’s best for us, and the way to be in your right mind is found in scripture. The power of positive thinking, just feeling good about yourself needs a basis. Knowing God loves us and He knows what’s best for us is the key to getting straight, whether the problem be addictions or other problems that get us out of whack.

The first step in the 12 Step program is “We admitted we were powerless over the effects of our separation from GOD-that our lives had become unmanageable.” This is a step in the right direction. I’ve witnessed people who follow this path straighten out their lives.

In God, there is hope, including for the homeless.

Sams Taking Down Levittown

Surface to air missiles, known as SAMS, were a problem for fighter planes in Vietnam. It was a SAM that took down then Commander John McCain’s fighter jet in Vietnam.

During the reign of President LBJ, when he ran the so-called war from the Whitehouse in an asinine manner, our GIs, including pilots, were unnecessarily put at risk. The idea that the war would be more winnable if the military, rather than the politicians, ran it is the subject of the movie Flight of the Intruder. Tired of having guys killed on useless missions, a fighter pilot and his navigator go on an unauthorized bombing raid on Hanoi to bomb a SAM base.

The flyers are court martialed but, after the policy changes, they are let off the hook. The Navy prosecutor who tries them, played by Fred Thompson, told them “it would be silly” to convict them for doing what the military is now doing, bombing Hanoi with everything they got.

http://www.movies.com/flight-intruder/details/m31986

Just as the politicians screwed up the war in Vietnam, the federal government is creating problems in Levittown PA by allowing the SAMS to endanger the community. “SAM” is a synonym for a druggie in lower Bucks County, just as “Krout” was a by-word for Germans during WWII.

SAMs have been bombarding lower Bucks County. Their base is the recovery houses, promoted and protected by the federal government. Like LBJ’s policy in Vietnam, these houses continue to grow like weeds, releasing SAMs on neighborhoods, the Levittown Public Library, and the rest of the community.

Crime has greatly increased in neighborhoods that recovery houses invaded. A couple years ago, the Levittown public library added a security guy, mainly as result of the druggies, mostly from the recovery houses.

At the very least, lower Bucks County needs to put a moratorium on recovery houses. They are revolving doors, where druggies often get kicked out and join the ranks of the homeless. Unfortunately, people associate non-druggie homeless with the druggies who have become homeless. This contributes to hobophobia. For those of you in Doylestown, PA, “hobophobia” is the unreasonable fear of the homeless.

Profiling druggies is legitimate. They  lie cheat and steal and will lower themselves to any level to satiate their expensive addiction. One SAM went as low as to steal a favorite purple coat and cell phone charger from a cancer stricken woman while she was sleeping.

To illustrate how low SAMS will go, here is an adaptation from Dr. Seuss’s Green Eggs and Ham:

“Sam I am, would you steal from someone on a plane?”

“Yes I would steal from someone on a plane,” said Sam I am.

“Sam I am, would you steal from someone on a train?”

“Yes I would steal from someone on a train,” said Sam I am.

“Sam I am, would you steal from someone in the rain?”

“Yes I would steal from someone in the rain,” said Sam I am.

“Sam I am, would you keeping doing drugs until it makes you insane?”

“Yes I would keep doing drugs until it makes me insane,” said Sam I am.

“Sam I am, would you steal from someone walking with a cane?”

“Yes I would steal from someone walking with a cane,” said Sam I am.

“Sam I am, would you sell your daughter to a pimp?”

“Yes I would sell my daughter to a pimp,” said Sam I am.

“Sam I am, would you sell yourself until you limp?”

“Yes I’d sell myself until I limp,” said Sam I am.

“Sam I am, will you steal from a sick old lady sleeping in bed?”

“Yes I would steal from a sick old lady sleeping in bed,” said Sam I am.

“Sam I am, would you pretend to be in love with a guy not to be in the red?”

“Yes I would pretend to be in love with a guy not to be in the red,” said Sam I am.

“Sam I am, is there anything you not do to satisfy your addiction?”

“I can’t think of anything I would not do to satisfy my addiction,” said Sam I am.

“Except I would not eat green eggs and ham,” said Sam I am.

Getting Straight

“Kicks just keep gettin’ harder to find
(Oh, you don’t need kicks, girl)
And all your kicks ain’t bringin’ you peace of mind
(You just need help, girl)
Before you find out it’s too late, girl
You better get straight”

— Paul Revere and the Raiders Kicks

http://www.bing.com/search?q=Paul+Revere+and+the+Raiders+Kicks+lyrics&form=IE10TR&src=IE10TR&pc=CPNTDFJS

Addictions are a result of a human character flaw. The only way to completely over come an addiction, as a recovering addict recently said, is by turning it over to the Lord. There are many other manifestations of character flaws as a result of the fall of man in the Garden of Eden.

As a former homeless man in lower Bucks County used to say, “we all have baggage.” To remove the garbage in our lives, we need a higher power than ourselves. In John Bunyan’s Pilgrims Progress, an allegory about the journey of the soul, the character “Evangelist” points up to God.

Not only do we need God to restore us to the way we are supposed to be, we need each other. There is no such thing as the Lone Ranger Christian.

“For just as we have many members in one body and all the members do not have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.”

— Romans 12:4-5

Whether you have a problem with excessive alcohol, drugs, anger management, resentment, anxiety, depression or any other malady, you are not alone. God wants people to help one another. He gave individuals various talents they can use to help their brothers and sisters.

Although Christians have a common bond, namely Jesus, we are not clones and are not alone.

Originally the disciples spread the gospel by word of mouth, much like the oral tradition of the homeless in lower Bucks County, PA. Fast forward several centuries when Martin Luther started, and Guttenberg facilitated with the printing press, the tradition where Christians read scripture and learn God’s Word for themselves. The gospel further went out and people became more personally accountable for their faith.

Today our society is decaying, as a result of people straying from God.

The church has always been in conflict with the world. It’s been a constant battle. This is why the apostle Paul, the letter writer to the churches and the boys visited the early churches to check to see that their teachings and actions were in sync with God.

Some people think they can become the way God wants them just by dealing with God on their own. Certainly, we all need a personal relationship with the Lord, but should not forgo the assembly of saints, as God has commanded for our good.

Jesus is the way, the truth and the light. This is really the only way we can be made right.

Personal problems, issues are a result of people not listening to God and living their lives according to his Word. God knows better than we do how we should live. He made us and wrote the manual for us — the Bible.

“Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding”

-Proverbs 3:5

I find that I am encouraged to keep the faith when I go to church and attend Bible studies. The church I attend encourages us to learn what God is telling us through scripture and to maintain a personal relationship with God through prayer, fellowship, songs of worship, and studying his Word.

The 12 Steps program, which uses a Biblical basis for the original program started by AA back in the day, has also been a big help in my healing process. I didn’t have a drug or alcohol addiction but my attitude and accompanying behavior was just as destructive.

http://www.12stepjourney.com/

Restoring us, throwing out our garbage, is an ongoing process. It’s a constant battle between my will and God’s, and like Gunny Tom Highway (Clint Eastwood) in Heartbreak Ridge, He will win.

God has made a covenant with his people. God’s covenant is not like a human contract, where if one party breaks a promise the other can back out. In God’s covenant, even if we mess up and break the contract, God still honors his covenant with us.

“I will never leave you or forsake you,”

-Jesus

You Cannot Save Everyone

Although I, as a human, with feelings of humanity, like to see people stop their destructive behavior, and I try to help them with this, some people are hell-bent (and this is where they are heading) on destroying themselves.  It’s like seeing some fool paddling a kayak about to go over Rapids that drop as abruptly as Niagara Falls.

This makes me as crazy as The Three Stooges at the mention of Niagara Falls.  “NI AG RA FALLS.  Slowly I turned, step by step…”

I just saw a photo by Bryant McGill that someone posted on Face Book that reads:

“You cannot save everyone

Some people are

going to destroy themselves

no matter how much

you try to help them.”

Recently, two drunks I know were kicked out of homes because of chronic drunkenness.  They had plenty of warnings.  One of them is homeless.  The homeless drunk had been drinking on an off yesterday.  He and other drunks continued a quarrel that had started the day before, only other people were added to the blow up.  I suggested making a video and sending it to Jerry Springer.  Maybe he would invite the people on his show.

Last night one of sober people in the congregation audio recorded the ruckus and played it back to the perpetrators to let them know how they sounded.

Some of the drunks last night messed up their glasses, and one of them received a summons for falling asleep drunk in the street.

In the words of the old folk song:

“When will they ever learn?

When will they ever learn?”

My friend who had a drug problem but then got a job and I believed got straight, which I reported in my last blog, fell back again, according to word on the street.

Addiction to smoking is also destructive behavior that, no matter what you do to try to stop some people on this destructive course, they still insist on poisoning themselves. I’ve been taking a friend for treatment for lung cancer and helping to feed her, as she looks like what author Tom Wolfe calls an “X-ray” person, and have been encouraging her to drink Gatorade.

Recent results from a CAT scan showed that the chemo was successfully fighting the cancer.  Yet she continues to smoke!  At the treatment center, I saw people who got treatment in the chemo room just outside the building smoking!  I felt like approaching them like a drill sergeant and yelling “what kind of stupid are you?”

My friend’s doctor’s assistant told her that smoking under minds the cancer treatment.  She told me I should continue to tell my friend to stop smoking, as will she.

I’ve been keeping my friend’s food stamp card to make sure she doesn’t trade food vouchers for money for cigarettes.  Still, when she’s not bumming cigarettes from friends and even perfect strangers, she scours the ground and ashtrays for used butts to smoke.  And when someone gave her money, she bought cigarettes with it.  On one occasion, when she started using found money for food, she lied and told me she was out of money and bummed money from me.  Later that day I found her standing in a store line to, what else, buy cancer sticks.

Addictions become so strong that addicts lose their moral compass.  One drug addict boasted “I am the King of the panhandlers.”  On one occasion, he panhandled at a community meal from another homeless person! Yesterday he was in a local laundry where he panhandled.

Earlier on with my informal ministry with the homeless, I tried to help some alcoholics I befriended with their addiction.  They went off the deep end, especially two of them.  One of them took the attitude of Walt, the high school chemistry teacher in the AMC series Breaking Bad, who, once he learned he had cancer, started acting irresponsibly, and started making drugs and helping to push them.  The other one, a well educated woman with whom I occasionally had interesting conversations and at one point thought I was in love with, kept stealing, lying and manipulating as result of her character flaw that created such a drunk.

On one occasion, when I was trying to counsel the Breaking Bad character, when he was physically and figuratively outside the homeless gang I hung out with, one of them yelled out “Jeff, don’t waste your time with him” and added that there are other people out there who need help and are more receptive to it.

When these friends with addictions started heading towards the ash heap of history, I emailed a friend at the Advocates for the Homeless and Those in Need (AHTN), which also help the homeless, and told her how saddened I was that these people would not turn around.  She responded that when she first started working with the homeless she thought she could change the world but came to grips with reality.  She told me that you can’t make them change and all you can do is show them God’s love…

There’s a guy in the circle I’m in who is practically going out of his mind with alcohol fueling it.  He was treated and made a profession of faith but then started slipping.  A few months ago, when he sat next to me on the AHTN bus he said “Jeff, I need a follow up” of his treatment.  Recently, I sat next to him at a community meal.  He shared he felt there was no hope.  I told them there was an introduced him the concept of sanctification.  I explained that when you come to Christ and confess your sins and get right with God, this is only a start.  And I shared my story about overcoming hopelessness.

God continues to work with you to make you more like Christ, perfect.  Perfection was only achieved in this world by Jesus.  By studying the scriptures, praying, and fellowshipping with other Christians we grow in God’s grace and become more like Christ.

Jay Adams, pastor and counselor, said that Christians have mental problems because sanctification either slows down or even stops, and the key is to, as the apostle Paul wrote,  use the Bible for “disciplined training in righteousness” to keep us in sync with the one who wrote the book on how to be right human beings.  http://www.nouthetic.org/about-ins/our-faculty/8-about-ins/6-jay-adams-biography

I attend the 12 Steps Journey Program to help me with my pent up anger, anxiety issues.  Like my friend, I was about to give up hope until I returned to the Lord, and followed up with this program.  http://www.12stepjourney.com/

All we can do is to try to send people on the right path, as does Evangelist in John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress http://www.ccel.org/ccel/bunyan/pilgrim.html   and become God’s ambassadors.

“We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.”  — 2 Corinthians 5:20.

Please Mr. Wizard II

I’ve been living in my car for a few months now, and have been hanging with the homeless for a little more than a year.  This has taught me a lot about homelessness.

Shortly after I starting associating with the homeless who frequent the public library in Levittown, PA, I was challenged to spend a night on the street with some homeless people to experience what I was writing about.  After that outing, a homeless woman mentioned that spending one night on the street doesn’t give me the experience of what it’s really like to be homeless.  I realize that this was only a small taste.

Now that I’ve been living in my car, I can say that I at least completed Homelessness 101.

In the 50’s or early 60’s there was a cartoon with a moral called Mr. Wizard.  The cartoon is about a boy who wishes he were something else.  In one episode, Mr. Wizard turned him into a bird.  When a larger bird swooped down on him for a meal, the boy cried “please Mr. Wizard, take me back, I don’t want to be a bird.”

Likewise, I don’t want to be a homeless person.  I understand enough what it’s like to be homeless; I get it!  Please Mr. Wizard, take me back!

Homelessness is challenging, to say the least.  Some homeless escape through alcohol.  Less of them through drugs.  Most of the few druggies in the Levittown library circle are refugees from recovery houses (they got kicked out).  But the biggest escape, addiction in this community is tobacco.

There are two homeless drunks who are hanging out at a public place that has become a special place for the homeless to congregate, a virtual clubhouse.  One of them got arrested the other day for public intoxication and disorderly conduct, and was held overnight.  I think there weren’t any formal charges, and this guy is back at the clubhouse.  This same thing happened several months ago.

A homeless friend told me that the other guy, who got busted with him last year at this same place, brought a bottle of booze to the clubhouse.   Holy déjà vu, Batman!

This time, there were only minor problems at the clubhouse.  The guy who brought the bottle knocked the hat off the other guy’s head and said “you’ve been wearing that hat long enough.”  The guy who had his hat knocked off told the other guy he’d better stop or he’d beat him up.  He complied.

The guy who brought the booze usually gets violent when he’s drunk.  In fact, at a community meal, he threatened to fight me.  As we sat waiting to be served the meal, he got mouthy, and made a veiled  threat to ambush me when we got back to the library.  But he couldn’t wait and he called me out. He asked me to step outside.  I had to use the bathroom, and as I approached it, he threatened to fight me on my way to the bathroom.  He came up behind me.  I turned around and went into a defensive position, waiting for the drunk to make a move.

One of the hosts got between us and broke it up.  The host thanked me for “keeping calm” and preventing violence.  After the meal, I stayed inside while the drunk bad mouthed me to another guy, who tried to reason with him.

Later that night, at the clubhouse, the guy was drunk again, and started badmouthing me.  I stayed between an obstacle and him.  Still, he threw a lit cigarette at me, and missed.  As I told others, if he hit me with the lit cigarette, he would have been found unconscious the next morning, as I probably would not have been able to keep my cool and would have laid him out, which would have been easy in his drunken state.

When I visited the clubhouse at one point today,  the guy with the booze wasn’t there but shortly returned.  He didn’t have the bottle with him but he seemed slightly inebriated.  He wasn’t belligerent.  In fact, he was very friendly, even thanked me for giving him rides to community meals and to his place in the woods.  I parted peacefully, not wanting to push it and to finish this blog.

I told him that we have to stick together and reminded him that I am in the same boat, although, as he said, “at least you have a car.”  That’s right, it’s tougher without a car, but even with one, it’s still tough. I think I aged ten years in the last few months, as I’ve been cramping up as a result of sleeping in my car.  Kava tea, which is a natural muscle relaxer, has mitigated this somewhat though.

The drunk who recently got arrested was gone, and I saw him heading off somewhere, I hope not to get  booze.

I mentioned the bad and the ugly, so now for the good.

* One homeless guy I met about a year ago had been taking odd jobs and saving up money.  He bought a car and got a job driving a school bus.  The job is part time, but the job has a future, and he’s moving on up.  By talking to him, as is the case with many others, you would never dream he was homeless.

* A woman who had been living in her car got a job and a place, after having spent countless hours on the computer looking for jobs and going to interviews.

* A guy who was thrown out of a recovery house and lived in the “library” homeless community, brought his drug addiction with him.  On one occasion, he almost got arrested when he walked around high as a kite.  When I lovingly confronted him about it, he got very testy, hostile with me but soon apologized.  He said that he knew that two other people and I really care about him.  Some time after that, I heard that he had gotten a job.  He had told his few friends that part of the reason for his addiction is that he is bored.  Holy idle hands are the devil’s workshop, Batman!  I didn’t see him for a few months until one day, he approached me and gave me an update on his life.  His demeanor seemed to improve dramatically.  He admitted he still has things to work out, and is still tempted, but he was on the right track.

I related the good, the bad and the ugly I’ve experienced in the homeless community.  I still think I’d like Mr. Wizard to take me back to a “normal” life.  God is keeping me in this situation for a reason.  I wrestle with his will versus mine.  As Gunny Highway told his unruly guys in the movie Heartbreak Ridge, it’s a test of their will against his, and they will lose.  Likewise, thy (God’s) will be done.  Like Gunny Highway, who had the best interests of his men at heart, the Lord knows what’s best for us.  We just have to have faith and persevere.  “Mr. Wizard” will take me back when he pleases.

“Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.”  –James 1:12

Although some homeless people have been able to move on up, and others are still surviving, we as fellow Americans should help our homeless neighbors find their way, starting with shelter.  Our project to supply the homeless with land, tools and materials to give them a chance to homestead, as our nation did in 1882 with the establishment of the homestead act, will give the homeless an opportunity to help the homeless become independent, productive members of our society.  You can help by going to http://www.gofundme.com/lq6sfc.  You can skip the ad after waiting a short awhile.