The Most Important Relationship Is With Yourself
I want to share two stories to help those with drug problems — or those with loved ones who have drug problems — see how addiction works and how it can be overcome.
My clients, Belle and Bob, were both addicts. Belle managed to dig herself out. Bob did not. At the most basic level, these two people had bad relationships with themselves. It really all comes down to that. Improve your relationship with yourself and you can get better. Continue to hate yourself, and the ending can be very bad.
Belle, a 23-year-old woman working as an actress in Manhattan, was using Oxycontin and Adderall. She had gotten to the point where she was staying up all night, going to bed at 6 a.m. and waking up at noon. She had been very attractive, but her drug use had given her acne, a sickly skin tone and damaged her hair.
She looked like a drug addict and her life had become totally disorganized. Thankfully, her family recognized that Belle was in trouble. They brought her to a treatment center in Florida where I work and had an intervention with her.
Belle’s Family Intervenes
Belle did not come into treatment because she wanted to. Her family, who had been supporting her, had threatened her that they would cut her off if she didn’t.
Belle would tell you that she had a successful acting career, but she was actually making no money. Her mother was sending her a check for $6,000 every month.
When her mother threatened to withhold the money if she didn’t go into treatment, Belle had a rude awakening.
At the intervention, Belle’s parents gave their daughter a box of letters that they had collected from every family member. In the letters, Belle’s loved ones told her that she had a drug problem and that she needed to get treatment. Belle’s parents made it very clear to her that if she left treatment, they would no longer support her. They told her that they loved her and they left. She decided after a few hours that she was going to stay for treatment. She didn’t have much choice.
Belle’s Time in Treatment
After talking with her, I found that she had been using Roxycodone, three 30 mg. a day, everyday for the past year and she had been snorting Adderall for the past seven years.
On her second day of treatment, she came to me and said everything was fine and she was feeling great. I told her that might be so, but there was still a problem as she was testing positive for Adderall and Oxycontin. She argued that her body had a slow metabolism, and made other excuses as to why she was still testing positive. On the third day, she was still positive and I told her that she must be using in treatment.
We had searched her room the day before, and had found both Roxycontin and Adderall. She looked me in the eye and said, “I’m sorry. I didn’t tell you the truth, I’ve been using the entire time I’ve been here.”
She became angry, then apologetic, then angry again.
Addiction Hurts the User and Nobody Else
I told her to stop. I explained that she was acting as if she had let me down, or had done something bad. “You didn’t do anything bad,” I told her. “You did something to yourself. Your addiction — your use of Roxycontin and abuse of Adderall — hurts you and nobody else.
“The only issue here is what is going on internally with you, and your relationship with yourself. You let yourself down, and the process of letting yourself down after you committed to stop using, undermines your confidence, your self-esteem, and your self-worth. What you did doesn’t have an external focus. It doesn’t involve the treatment team, your therapist, or me, your doctor.
I also pointed out to her that she no longer took care of herself. Her acne was worse. She had stopped dressing nicely and no longer groomed her hair and nails.
The Circle of Self-Hate
I told her that she just doesn’t like herself anymore. The drugs had taken over. Since she had withdrawn into a world of drugs and self-hate, she had lost all her self-confidence and believed that she did not have the power to stop. Her ability to hold her head up high and face the world were totally undermined.
The continued relapse, in spite of her knowing we were going to drug test, just showed how out of control she really was, and how she had given up.
Our relationship with ourselves is of utmost importance. People addicted to drugs need to say, “I’m going to stop doing drugs,” and just stop using. If they don’t, everything is undermined and using drugs hurt their physical body, too.
I explained all this to Belle, and I also told her about another client of mine who was a drug addict. “I went to his funeral about two months ago, and this individual overdosed on heroin and died. I was sickened by this funeral,” I said. “This happens when you use opiates, like heroin and Roxycodone.”
I also explained to Belle that this man had done this to himself, just like she was doing it to herself.
“At the end of the day, all you really are is a junkie,” I told her. “You are not an actress. You are not a daughter. You are not a girlfriend. All you are is a junkie because that is the only thing important to you.” “Because you don’t admit that and you say everyday you are going to stop and don’t, you despise yourself and feel you are incapable and weak. Every day that you continue to do this, you hurt yourself more.”
This was a lot for Belle to understand.
I told her all this to make her understand that it was pointless to be angry with the people who wanted her to stop using drugs – her parents, her boyfriend or her therapist. Ultimately, the problem was within herself. She needed to make a decision to stop using drugs and then to follow through by stopping.
The fact that she kept relapsing every day in spite of wanting to stop undermined hope and leads an individual to despair. Should she continue to use drugs, depression and anxiety follow that decision, and her thoughts, her body and self-esteem deteriorate.
Here’s a message all of us should take to heart — The most important thing we have, as individuals, is our relationship with ourselves.
Basically, we must love and take care of ourselves. If we spend our days filled with self-hate, it is not going to work out too well.
Belle Commits to Stop Using Drugs
I worked with Belle for two months, helping her gain insight with the battle that waged within her. She calmed down after she realized that she – not her parents, boyfriend or therapist – was her own worse enemy. She came to the realization that she was in a battle with herself and nobody else.
She committed to stop using Roxycodone and Adderall. She did relapse a few times, which we caught with urine drug screens. Eventually, she did stop. She’s back in New York now pursuing an acting career.
Unfortunately, not everyone gets the message so well. Here’s Bob’s story. His hatred for himself grew because he continued to use and relapse. He had complete disregard for his health and his own safety.
He was in treatment for three months and had three suicide attempts. One attempt was on Clonodine, which drops blood pressure. He took 30 capsules, which landed him in ICU. On his second attempt, he overdosed on Roxycontin. On his third attempt, he overdosed on heroin.
Bob hated himself so much because of his addiction, which made him feel like a worthless human being, who didn’t deserve to live.
That is a dangerous place to be. If we are in that place, and messing with opiates or Xanax, our death is a high probability.
Bob was a sad case. Eventually, he ended up taking a lot of Xanax and had a seizure. He was in a coma in the hospital for two weeks. Now, he has brain damage and is mentally slow. He can’t calculate. He talks slowly. He eats slowly. He walks slowly. I do not believe he will ever be able to work, as his IQ is in the range of being mentally handicapped.
Our relationship with ourselves is more important than any relationship in our lives, and until we get it right, dealing with issues of addiction will be very difficult.
It is of utmost importance to get this message and make the commitment to stop the cycle of self-hate and start nurturing and caring for ourselves.