The Craving Experiment By Cortland Pfeffer and Brian Francis

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Family members, non-addicts, normies, or anyone else interested in how the addicted mind works, this one is for you:

Are cravings real? What does addiction feel like? Is it a choice? Try this experiment in its entirety then you decide for yourself. Only 2000 words.

If you really want to experience a craving like an alcoholic or addict you must truly imagine the following scenario. After reading the scenario, and you want to physically feel the experience, please feel free to do so at your own risk. It may give a greater understanding to the power of craving.

But first, let me try to explain the word craving. It is highly overused and vastly misunderstood. This happens with many words, used in an exaggerated sense over time, and the connotation of the word slowly loses its true meaning.

In sports, we reference war, “It’s a battle out there,” “football is war,” “down in the trenches.” To those who were on the ground in battles such as this find this highly offensive. The word “war” has become so common, that we don’t blink an eye hearing a word that describes violence, death, and destruction.

“I am seriously craving chocolate right now.”

I’m sure we have heard that one before, perhaps we have even said it. But, that is just a desire. It is on your mind and you would really like some chocolate. But a craving is much stronger, your mind perceives it as a need. It would be more like, unable to function until you have chocolate.

Below, I’ll explain the experiment, followed with a more scientific look at craving and the brain.

This is how it works:

Make plans with someone real important to you. Make the plans definitive and someone that you admire and would not want to disappoint or let down in any way.

Now, comes the fun part…

Pig out all day before this event! And it can not be healthy food, it needs to be the good stuff, the greasy food. The next step is to have a few laxatives such as miralax or another stool softener.

Seems insane, right? Well, here comes the part where the experiment gets interesting. You are not allowed to use the bathroom, you need to hold it in no matter how significant the “desire.” At this point, you are doing everything in your power to prevent yourself from an embarrassing uncontrollable bowel movement with your pants on.

This is not longer a desire, this is a need. You really cannot hear anything else. You only see places in your mind that will allow you to go to the bathroom. You are in survival mode, and the only thing that matters is finding any possible solution in which you can release the pain.

I’m sure most people can relate in some sense, think about a long road trip when you are in the middle of the country and the “urge” to go is so great that you can not think of anything else. Or you are stuck in rush hour traffic, maybe a snow storm, or accident, and the pain is building up and there is nothing you can do to escape.

All you are doing is screaming “god! I just need to go to the bathroom!” It is intense. You can’t think about anything. You will be fine, after you go to the bathroom. The car next to you looks at you like you are psychotic. You give him the finger and scream profanities at him as if it is his fault – you don’t really care about the consequences because your priority is finding a restroom.

He gets on his phone as if to call the police on you to report your insane behavior. Further irritating you and putting you into a panic. But in some sense, it doesn’t matter, as long as you can use the restroom everything will be ok.

Finally, you can get to an exit ramp, wait at a few red lights, speed into the parking lot and sprint in the gas station. Only to find a line of customers with an old lady at the front using what appears to be 73 coupons. You are pacing back and forth, sweating, shaking, about to burst, even yelling, until you just run up to ask for the bathroom key.

More dirty looks from everyone, only for you to fire back and justify your behavior because your pain is so intense. Once survival mode kicks in, the rational part of your brain slows down tremendously. I think anyone has felt this scenario to some extent.

Then, the clerk tells you, “it is occupied right now, you will just have to wait.” There it is, within your reach. You just need a few more minutes and you wait, and wait, and wait. Start pounding on the door and you just hear a voice that says, “Almost done, just give me a few.”

You’ve had enough. You can not be late for your appointment.

But, this person is important to you, so you try to do the right thing and give them a call and the conversation goes like this:

You:       “Hey, I’m running late. The damn bathroom guy, gas station, traffic. I seriously could kill somebody right now!”

Friend:  “Woah buddy, it’s all good. I just got here. No worries. See you when you get here.”

You:       “Fine, whatever.” Click. Hang up and back to screaming mode. Why is your friend making it seem like this is not a big deal. How can you calm down?

Then, your GPS has led you somewhere incorrect! Now it is that damn GPS’s fault! You are punching the steering wheel screaming out loud. And then your phone rings, it is your buddy. You try to calm down.

Friend:  “What’s up man? You lost or something?” (With laughter)

You:       “Yeah the stupid GPS has me someplace I’ve never even seen.”

Your friend is cool with it, laughs it off, gives you directions and then starts to share something that is very important to them. Take note of how difficult it is to listen to anything they say, you are just thinking about finding a bathroom. You really want to listen, but could care less. There is a new priority.

Likely they would say, “What is your problem? You are not yourself? Don’t you even care, you are acting very selfishly.”

You try to justify it blaming it on traffic, gas station, GPS, etc. Then you try to manipulate it and turn things around on your friend. You do not have time for their stupid story, you just want to get to a bathroom.

“Well dude can’t you just wait until I get there!” you yell back, “Why are you being so impatient, I just need to focus on the road now. You always do this!”

Your good loving day has gone wrong. People are looking at you like something is wrong with you. Now, you are mad at your friend, start thinking about all their flaws and imperfections and wonder why you even want to see them.

Another gas station comes up, ok this has gone on long enough. You park, sprint in, sneak through the door past a little kid. When his father says something to you, you lash back quickly. Then, another line! AS the clerk wishes “have a nice day,” to customers all you can think about is how there is no possible way this day can be good until you use a damn bathroom!

You are being rude, impatient, and angry towards everyone. That is not who you are, this is your brain using its most primitive area – the amygdale responsible for survival.

Suddenly, another worker comes up and says, “Man you really need to use the bathroom. Let me show you to the back and you can use the staff restroom. I know that feeling, man. There is nothing worse.”

Now, picture an identical situation but this second worker tells you, “You are a grown man/woman and need to learn to control your bladder. Every other customer was here first, when it is your turn we will get to you. The world does not revolve around you.”

Quite a different reaction in the two scenarios, I would imagine.

You finally get to go and now you are relaxed, you come down, and feel like yourself. The first store clerk gives you a dirty look, the dad with his kid pulls his child closer and makes some remark as you try to explain your situation. Try calling up your buddy and he tells you to just forget it, this is why he stopped talking to you in the first place.

The whole day was changed because of this. Everyone has seen you as a bad guy, manipulator, and selfish punk. Then you start to believe it, which causes depression, anxiety, or other mental problems. This leads to isolation and secrets because you no longer want to hurt anyone. You are trying to protect them from the hurt. All this time alone, you build up more and more shame and guilt. This cycle continues until your depression increases, so you drink again to ease the pain.

At this point, anyone who has been severely depressed understands. You could win the lottery, and really not care at all. Nothing can change how you feel inside.

This is a true and real craving. It is living from a survival point and no one else understands the true torture you are going through. There is no way to help someone by judging them, or locking them up for their behavior. That does not work.

We can teach addicts, but in order to do that, you first need empathy.

A craving is much like this experiment of having the urge to go to the bathroom. Or if you are starving, all you see is the food places on the road and you miss the beautiful trees and the people. That is what an urge is truly like.

The human brain develops from the bottom, back, and inner part and works its way to the front. The most primitive functions take place here in the amygdale. It is responsible for two main functions; survival (fight-or-flight), and emotional learning.

Our brains are designed this way to help us survive. This goes back to the caveman days before they could even talk or communicate. Man gets attacked by a Saber-tooth Tiger and his heart races, starts sweating, heavy breathing, muscles tighten, and his focus is intensified. He escapes to his cave and slowly his heart rate slows down, breathing slows down, and his body adjusts to normal. The brain knows it no longer needs these survival tools.

After this experience, the brain learns that A) Saber-Tooth Tigers are not kind and B) In the future, I will stay away from these things. In addiction, similar structures of your brain develop these same pathways. You are looking to change your mood/emotion, you take a substance, and it works. You learn that A) this substance makes me feel good and B) In the future, when I want to feel this way, I will take this drug.

Substance abuse is about relying on a drug to alter mood/emotion. This can be to increase a positive feeling (euphoria, excitement, motivation) or remove an unwanted one (depression, anxiety, shyness). Over time, these pathways in the brain are created. This is especially true during the adolescent years in which are brain is developing. The female brain does not fully mature until about age 21 and the male at 25. This is the major reason why the legal drinking age was increased to 21. There is mass amounts of research and studies that show the increased rate of addiction if one starts using as a teenager. That is because the brain is going through it’s most significant learning period, the prefrontal cortex is developing, and neural pathways are being created while others are being pruned away.

If you want to feel it, I mean this not as a joke. You can really do this. You will know what a craving feels like. Then see the nasty looks you get and judgment’s, and see how much that helps.

Then, you feel the physical, emotional, and psychological pain of a craving. A craving is something that is required, needed, and a problem that requires prompt attention.

The end

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Celebrating Genocide: Christopher Columbus Conquest of America By Brian Francis

 

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“In 1492, the natives discovered they were indians, discovered they lived in America, discovered they were naked, discovered that the Sin existed, discovered they owed allegiance to a King and Kingdom from another world and a God from another sky, and that this God had invented the guilty and the dress, and had sent to be burnt alive who worships the Sun the Moon the Earth and the Rain that wets it.” Eduardo Galeano

 

 

A good friend of mine, a member of the Republic of Lakotah, has a meeting with her first grade son’s elementary school principal. Apparently, her six-year-old is defiant in classroom.

 

His defiant actions? Well, upon his teacher explaining Columbus Day and honoring the courageous and brave sailor who discovered this land in 1492, he had a couple of questions for the teacher. He wanted to know how it was possible that he discovered a land in which his ancestors had lived for 30,000 years, he wanted to know what happened to all the people who lived here in 1491, and he wanted to know why the man responsible for invading his native land and slaughtering his ancestors was being honored.

 

I would love to just be a fly on the wall of that meeting with the elementary school principal.

 

 

Christopher Columbus did NOT discover America.

 

There, I said it. The first thing we have been told about in our early childhood is a complete fabrication of the truth. But, that is only the beginning of the secret atrocities that shaped our nation that we know today.

 

The Spanish Conquest of the Americas, preceded by Columbus’s “discovery” resulted in mass assimilation, raping, slaughtering, enslaving, and intention to wipe out all evidence of more than 100 million indigenous people to the land.

 

Forced hard labor, abducting and selling children into the sex trade, mass raping of women and children, offering cash rewards for the scalps of men, women, and children as proof of murdering, consistently breaking agreements and treaties (U.S.A. has broken all 370 treaties signed with the Indian nations), removing them from their land and forced to small reservations with unlivable circumstances following a march of thousands of miles, public execution of those who do not follow orders and label them as resistant savages for not giving up all they own, celebrating mass murderers as heroes that sweep through villages while killing unarmed communities, systematically taking their children away and forcing them to boarding schools in which they are molested, beaten, forbidden to speak their native language and brainwashed into becoming “Americanized,” not entitled to citizenship, practicing their religion, or equal rights in the land they lived in for thousands of years, the mocking and ridiculing of their traditional lifestyle in mass media and in the classroom, and changing history to ignore and deny the truth for centuries.

 

These were the policies of our government, the United States of America. This wasn’t done by aliens from outer space; No, it was done by aliens from the East. Entered illegally into an occupied land with force to subjugate and exterminate the civilizations that had existed for 30,000 years.

 

Thousand-mile death march, concentration camps, forced assimilation, mass killings by starvation/disease, forced to change culture/beliefs…this all sounds familiar.

 

In John Toland’s book “Adolf Hitler,” he comments on the Furor’s admiration of the American Genocide:

 

Hitler’s concept of concentration camps as well as the practicality of genocide owed much, so he claimed, to his studies of English and United States history. He admired the camps for Boer prisoners in South Africa and for the Indians in the wild west; and often praised to his inner circle the efficiency of America’s extermination—by starvation and uneven combat—of the red savages who could not be tamed by captivity.

 

He was very interested in the way the Indian population had rapidly declined due to epidemics and starvation when the United States government forced them to live on the reservations. He thought the American government’s forced migrations of the Indians over great distances to barren reservation land was a deliberate policy of extermination. Just how much Hitler took from the American example of the destruction of the Indian nations is hard to say; however, frightening parallels can be drawn. For some time Hitler considered deporting the Jews to a large ‘reservation’ in the Lubin area where their numbers would be reduced through starvation and disease.

 

But, that is kind of a harsh reality to teach children in grade school. So, we could probably soften it up a little…or change it altogether.

 

 

Discover, Invasion, or Conquer?

 

Discover is defined as finding something in the course of a search. Invade is identified as an armed force or its commander entering a country/region so as to subjugate or occupy. Conquer means to overcome and take control of a place or people by use of military force.

 

Discover technically could be applied as something was found, but the problem is that something already had belonged to someone for 30,000 years. For perspective, it has only been 2,014 years since Christ was born. That means the first indigenous people reached the Americas 27,986 years ago; whereas Europeans have only been here for 522 years.

 

The most interesting part about the definition of invade is the word subjugate and the fact that Columbus used this exact word upon his first encounter with the Taino people:

 

“They … brought us parrots and balls of cotton and spears and many other things, which they exchanged for the glass beads and hawks’ bells. They willingly traded everything they owned… . They were well-built, with good bodies and handsome features…. They do not bear arms, and do not know them, for I showed them a sword, they took it by the edge and cut themselves out of ignorance. They have no iron. Their spears are made of cane… . They would make fine servants…. With fifty men we could subjugate them all and make them do whatever we want.”

 

“With fifty men we could SUBJUGATE them and do whatever we want.” Interestingly enough the term subjugate is defined as bringing under domination or control, especially by conquest.

 

Conquest is simply the act of conquering, which is interlocked with our final term. It is indisputable that the place and people were taken control of by military force. In fact, the exact term in history is labeled, “The Spanish Conquest.”

 

Clearly, Columbus’s voyage may have initially been a “discovery,” but upon his first impression of the people of this island it quickly turned to an “invasion.” Following his death, Hernán Cortés and Francisco Pizzaro carried out the tasks of conquering the Americas.

 

Now, before you disregard this article as a wacky conspiracist nut, anti-American post, please understand that this is more about seeking the other side of the story. It is about viewing the landing of Columbus’s ships on May 12, 1492, from the occupants of that land – the Taino and Arawaks perspective.

 

 

Columbus Early Life:

 

Born as Cristofor Colombo (Italian name; Spanish: Cristóbal Colón; Portuguese: Cristóvão Colombo; and American: Christopher Columbus) was born in Genoa, Italy, in 1451. He grew up working on ships and began sailing at age 10. Upon delivering goods to northern Europe in 1476, upon his return his ship was burnt by a group of French sailors and he swam to shore in Portugal. He remained in Portugal and started working for the kingdom, which had the finest fleet in the world at this time.

 

During the middle ages, the kingdoms of Europe made their wealth by trading with Asia. But in 1453, the Turkish Empire cut off all land routes and the race to find a sea route to Asia had begun. Columbus sailed along the coasts of Africa, trading with the colonies and learning of the currents and wind patterns of the Atlantic. In 1487, a different Portuguese sailor, Bartholomeu Dias made is way around the southern tip of Africa and discovered the eastern coast and giving strong belief to a quicker route to Asia by sea.

 

Columbus had already believed the world as the common-held belief. Once Dias’ made this discovery, Columbus’s desire to sail west intensified as he had been seeking sponsorship for a trip across the Atlantic as early as 1484.

 

He was rejected funding from Portugal, twice in Italy, Spain, England, and France. However, upon the Spanish kingdom conquering Granada they were more willing to fund his voyage of three ships and 80 men. Struggling to find a crew, Isabella released prisoners early to join the voyage along with other criminals, conquistadors, pig farmers and former military men out of work following Spain’s recent capture of Granada.

 

For it was these men that did not fear dying at sea, as it would likely be better than what life had in store for them in Spain. And in August of 1492, after eight years of trying to make a voyage around the world, Columbus set sail seeking the riches of Asia.

 

 

First Voyage:

 

The first voyage to the so-called “new world” was highly unsuccessful, despite the credit and admiration it has received. After weeks at sea and a disgruntled crew of men, Columbus gave an ultimatum of finding land in the next two days or head back to Spain – dated October 10, 1492. As unfortunate fate would have it, two days later Rodrigo de Triana was the first to spot an island, which is modern day Dominican Republic. However, with a large payout at stake, Columbus claimed that he actually spotted the light the night before – hence, claiming the lifetime pension from King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of Spain.

 

Columbus claimed the land for Spain and renamed it San Salvador although it had been occupied for thousands of years by the Taino, Arawak, and Lucayans (all extremely hospitable per many written accounts). Early estimates believe there were up to three million indigenous people living in the Carribbean; whereas more recent studies believe that number to be closer to eight million.

 

As written in his journals upon his first encounter with the Taino:

 

“These people have no religious beliefs, nor are they idolaters. They are very gentle and do not know what evil is; nor do they kill others, nor steal; and they are without weapons.”

 

Columbus quickly captured a handful of Taino to help guide him to find gold, while putting many into forced labor and sent thousands back to Spain to be sold as slaves (although most of them died on the journey back across the Atlantic).

 

“As soon as I arrived in the Indies, in the first island which I found, I took some of the natives by force, in order that they might learn and might give me information of whatever there is in these parts. And so it was that they soon understood us, and we them, either by speech or by signs, and they have been very serviceable.”

 

 

 

Merry Christmas – 1492 Style

 

After a few weeks exploring around Cuba, Columbus made his way back toward Hispaniola (Dominican Republic). On Christmas Eve, the Santa Maria shipwrecked before making it to land. The Arawak Indians saw the men struggling and their chief ordered all his men to swim out to sea and help the settlers to safety – including the chief himself.

 

The Arawak invited the settlers into their home. Columbus wrote of the kind hospitality of the Arawaks:

 

“They are artless and generous with what they have, to such a degree as no one would believe but him who had seen it. Of anything they have, if it be asked for, they never say no, but do rather invite the person to accept it, and show as much lovingness as though they would give their hears.”

 

With not enough room on the two remaining ships, Columbus left 39 men behind to settle a fort in which he called La Navidad.

 

When Columbus returned to Spain, his stories of the new world impressed the King and Queen – Mostly due to his large exaggerations of the amount of gold present in the Caribbean. The Spanish royalty granted him another voyage, but this time with 17 ships, 1200 men, livestock, and weapons.

 

Columbus consistently wrote about the kindness of the people that he encountered on his first voyage and shared this with the Kingdom of Spain:

 

“They are so naive and so free with their possessions that no one who has not witnessed them would believe it. When you ask for something they have, they never say no. To the contrary, they offer to share with anyone….”

 

 

 

Catholic Conquest:

 

On May 4, 1493, the beginning of the Spanish Conquest took place with the approval of Pope Alexander VI. The Pope stated that any land not inhabited by Christians was available to be “discovered,” claimed and exploited by Christian rulers and declared that “the Catholic faith and the Christian religion be exalted and be everywhere increased and spread, that the health of the souls be cared for and barbarous nations overthrown and brought to faith itself.”

 

This became known as the “Doctrine of Discovery” and became the basis for all European claims in the Americas and continued with the United States western expansion in the 1800’s. As a United States Supreme Court case in 1823 states that “the principle of discover gave European nations an absolute right to New World lands.”

 

Basically stating the American Indians had no right to their land. And, it was not until 1924 in which “Native Americans” were allowed citizenship. I quote the term Native Americans to highlight the irony of not being granted citizenship to their homeland until 450 years after the Europeans tried to wipe out their civilization.

 

Following his first voyage, Pope Alexander VI granted the new world to King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella, claiming:

 

“We of our own motion, and not at your solicitation, do give, concede, and assign for ever to you and your successors, all the islands, and main lands, discovered; and which may hereafter, be discovered, towards the west and south; whether they be situated towards India, or towards any other part whatsoever, and give you absolute power in them.”

 

Later, as word of the mistreatment of the natives reached the Spanish Kingdom, Queen Isabella finally made a “Stand.” She proclaimed that the Natives shall be given the opportunity of converting to Catholicism before being forced into slavery.

 

But, claiming slaves of anyone non-Christian was not a new trade. Back in 1455, the Pope issued a statement allowing Portugal to enslave any non-Christians. Columbus got started in his slave trading back in 1480’s as he sailed along the West coast of Africa picking up slaves for the Portuguese kingdom.

 

And on his third voyage, Columbus was the first to bring African slaves to the new world in the Dominican Republic (Hispaniola) with his claim that “one African slave is equal to four Indians.”

 

By 1514, the Spanish Conquistadors carried with them an ultimatum entitled, “The Requirement,” in which the Indians were forced to accept, “the Church as the Ruler and Superior of the whole world.” The Requirement warned the natives the consequences for non-compliance:

 

“We shall take you and your wives and your children, and shall make slaves of them, and as such shall sell and dispose of them as their Highnesses may command; and we shall take away your goods, and shall do all the harm and damage that we can.”

 

 

 

Second Voyage:

 

The King and Queen of Spain were eager to fund a second voyage following Columbus’s reports of the first trip to the new world. In his largely exaggerated accounts he shared:

 

“Hispaniola is a miracle. Mountains and hills, plains and pastures, are both fertile and beautiful … the harbors are unbelievably good and there are many wide rivers of which the majority contain gold. . . . There are many spices, and great mines of gold and other metals….

 

Columbus returned in 1493 to find the fort at La Navidad burnt to the ground and all 39 men were killed. It was reported that these men apparently had “Misbehaved.” And, of course, by misbehave it is meant they raped all the women and children and tried to steal whatever they could get hands on. In hindsight, leaving 39 released criminals into a land with no rules and laws it should not have surprised Columbus.

 

The Spaniards retaliated and Columbus forced anyone age 14 or older to work in the mine fields daily searching for gold. If they refused, they were killed. If they did not meet quotas each month – they had hands and arms amputated. Many began committing suicide to avoid the tortures of the Spanairds, while others were buried alive for refusing to oblige to Columbus. The Taino were being killed by starvation, worked to death, disease, or murder. The women were all given to the Spaniards to do as they chose.

 

Columbus wrote of the innocence of the Natives and his intent to sell them into the slave trade:

 

“Naked as the day they were born, they show no more embarrassment than animals.” Columbus later wrote: “Let us in the name of the Holy Trinity go on sending all the slaves that can be sold.”

 

With not enough gold to return to Spain, Columbus rounded up the best 1,000 Taino he could find. He gave half to the Spanish colonists and took the other half to be sold to the slave trade in Spain. While 250 of the 500 died en route back to Spain, the conquistadors simply tossed them overboard. With much disorder among the colonists at this time, Columbus left his brothers in charge of the islands as he returned to Spain.

 

 

Third Voyage:

 

Upon his return, the island was in more disarray than when he left. Columbus embarked on daily beatings, raping, feeding infants to wild animals, and progressing the sex trade of children. Columbus began selling girls as young as nine years old into the sex trade as accounted in his writings:

 

“A hundred castellanoes are as easily obtained for a woman as for a farm, and it is very general and there are plenty of dealers who go about looking for girls; those from nine to ten are now in demand.”

 

As word got back to Spain, the King and Queen had Columbus and his brothers arrested and shipped back to Spain. At the same time, a man named Bartolome De Las Casas was aboard the third voyage with Columbus and was the first to speak out about the crimes against humanity in the new world.

 

While settling into Hispaniola in hopes of fortune in the new world, La Casas was a slave owner himself until 1509 in which he started speaking out against the crime. However, he still believed in converting those to Christianity but in a peaceful, non-violent way. While it was applauded by the royalty of Spain, it was simply not followed by the Conquistadors.

 

La Casas wrote of these atrocities:

“Endless testimonies . .. prove the mild and pacific temperament of the natives…. But our work was to exasperate, ravage, kill, mangle and destroy…

And the Christians, with their horses and swords and pikes began to carry out massacres and strange cruelties against them. They attacked the towns and spared neither the children nor the aged nor pregnant women nor women in childbed, not only stabbing them and dismembering them but cutting them to pieces as if dealing with sheep in the slaughter house. They laid bets as to who, with one stroke of the sword, could split a man in two or could cut off his head or spill out his entrails with a single stroke of the pike. They took infants from their mothers’ breasts, snatching them by the legs and pitching them head first against the crags or snatched them by the arms and threw them into the rivers, roaring with laughter and saying as the babies fell into the water, “Boil there, you offspring of the devil!”

 

Forgotten Parts of the Legacy:

 

Columbus was arrested, shipped back to Spain and stripped of all his land and titles of “discoverer.” However, he did find a way to be released and allowed to explore once again – with gold! He presented gold to the King and Queen and was pardoned and allowed a fourth voyage.

 

He passed away in 1506 always believing he had landed in Asia and no knowledge this was an entirely different continent. During the ten years of his four voyages (1492-1502) the population decreased from 3-8 million inhabitants to less than 50,000. By the mid 1500’s that number was reduced to just 500 remaining Taino.

 

A liar, crook, thief, rapist, pedophile, savage, torturer, genocidal murder, introducer of slave and sex trades, and conqueror did not discover anything besides a beautiful group of people who rescued him and welcomed him into their home.

 

The thirst for wealth, greed, and power wiped out generations within a decade. And for his “bravery”; we celebrate the day he invaded the land of the people that rescued him.

 

 

 

 

Thinking of suicide? Read me

“You see the giant and the shepherd in the valley and Elah and your eye is drawn to the man with the sword and shield and the glittering armor. But so much of what is beautiful and valuable in the world comes from the shepherd, who has more strength and purpose than we can ever imagine.”

 -Malcolm Gladwell

 

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I survived a suicide attempt, spent years in rehab centers, jails, psych hospitals. Now I have worked as a supervisor at these type of facilities.

However my friend, he did not. This is what suicide looks like. This is him after hanging himself, right before he died.

 

The difference is nothing. He grew up in a dysfunctional home, where the norm was drug use, and physical, emotional, and psychological abuse. They didn’t have money, we did. He went to jail, he stayed. I went to jail, I got bailed out. I got to go to treatment, he got to stay in jail. My crimes were worse. My crimes were DUI, assault, assault, disorderly. His crimes; possesion, possession,possesion. You tell me who should have stayed. The only difference was money.

When he did go to the M.D., he didn’t get to pick which one he went to, he went to whomever they told him to. The doctors, knowing this, did not have to negotiate anything with him such as what meds he liked and didn’t. When I went, I got to decide which doctor to go to, so they had to listen to me or I could go elsewhere. My mom had money and resources, his didn’t.

Some will say, he had a brother that grew up in the same home and did fine. That’s where the studies of innate temperament come in. We are all born with an innate tempermant. Low emotional reaction to things, normal, high, and extreme. The studies are numerous, and they all prove the same thing. Some people are more in tune with others emotions, and are more sensitive. This is not to say every emotional person is going to have issues. It is the combination of being super emotional and not getting any support on a routine basis that creates the mask. That is the cause of addiction and mental illness. We all know people who we think are more emotional and we are thinking “wow he really gets emotional,” and about things that we don’t think even matters. But the severe cases, the super sensitive people, they get hurt more easy, get scared, then if they get invalidated their whole life and told to be quiet or are ignored routinely, they have to create a mask that gains some sort of acceptance or some role in life that gains you love.

Then the labeling and judging for behaviors that the mask does only creates more shame. Its sad, we tell people to wear this mask, then judge them when the mask goes to far. So yes, it happens all the time that 2 people from same family have different reactions to environment. That’s because we all have different genetics.

He didn’t have a car to go to places when he had time, he had to go when he could get his ride. He had no options, no support. If he didn’t show up, no one would believe him as he is the “criminal,”  and I was the “patient.” Again, no difference except money.

He was the most sensitive, caring, loving person you could meet. However, that wasn’t acceptable by our culture or his culture. So he became the angry drug addict. That’s more acceptable. So he had his mask. While wearing the mask, his true self hides and he gets more depressed. This leads to more drug use, more crimes, more erratic behavior.

Why drug use? It’s something that blocks all the pain for a moment. It could be anything, drug use was acceptable in his world, more acceptable than the other forms. Other forms can be overeating , gambling, sex, anger, co dependency. It depends on what mask is acceptable to your culture. They are all of the same purpose, to run from your true self and emotions. Then, it gives us relief, so we think that is what helped. We have a surge of dopamine. So of course we go back to that thing again thinking it is relieving pain but in fact it is adding to it. Then we become so dependent on the behavior to relieve us from the pain, that we start doing it at the cost of anything. We do things we wouldn’t normally do to get the relief. Then others judge those behaviors, telling us more and more that who we are is a bad person. The layers of the mask get to be more and more, we despise ourselves we think. But who we truly despise is the false self we have created and society has helped us create.

So yes, kill yourself. But not literally, kill your false self. Thats how you heal.

No one reached out,  no one talked to him, or even knew how. Instead they saw the criminal, and the anger and they judged. This just added more shame and guilt and more layers of the mask.

I remember one birthday, I stopped by and gave him 50 dollars. He said “you are the only one who even remembered.” So we got mushrooms and got hi all week.

Whenever he had even 2 dollars, it went to other people. He was the kindest, most gentle, loving person you could ever meet.

He let me see behind his mask, because I let him see behind mine.

No one one in the field ever thought “hey this is a genuinely caring kid who has never gotten a chance to show himself and been accepted.”

Instead they saw him as the angry man, drug addict,  and the continuous offender.  Once he is labeled, everything he does is attached to that label. It goes in his chart, and everyone reads it before they meet him.  He’s the bad guy to them, which affects how they treated him. That affected his reaction, then they could say, “see, he just was not reachable.” When in fact I had done much worse, and I got to be a patient. “That poor sensitive kid needs someone to just love him.” That’s how I got treated.

The difference in outcomes is related to how the patients are treated; however there is no way to measure this because the asshole providers will deny what they do, but I see it everyday.

The problem is, in this field, if you start to spend time with the patients and try to reach out, you get in trouble for having poor boundaries. So,  you are told basically “don’t get to know them, however,  get them to trust you and open up without ever really becoming close to them.”  These patients have usually been in terrible situations, and they do not trust anyone and the staff is told “stay away, watch boundaries, but get them to tell you everything.” That’s why people do not get better, thats why people don’t learn.

The saying I love is “you can get anyone to tell you their secrets if you love them enough.”

It doesn’t matter how much you know if no one trusts you to begin with and you have no relationship with the patients. Yet, if you are good at building relationships you are scolded as a staff. We get sued for over restraining people, but thats the culture. People don’t get  better, they do enough to get out.

Like grades in school, no one is an original thinker. We are robots trying to take original people and make them robots like us. The kids that do well in school are not free thinkers , they are the ones that can repeat and paraphrase what the teacher wants. I heard  2 masters degree professors the other day say they asked their students what they think, the students didn’t know what to say. They asked “what do you want us to say.” That’s how we teach.

They are monkeys. In Psychiatry, the poor staff want to create monkeys and they think deep down in their hearts that this is for the best, is for everyone to be like them, so that’s what they reinforce. So no one gets better and no one  ever will. Until we change the rules and the system completely.

Then there was me. I was the one he had. He would call we would talk for hours and hours. When he was in Arizona, or St Paul, it didn’t matter. He always called when he was in trouble, we were in it together. Although I got better treatment, he was the better man.

He was a boxer, loved it. We would box, he destroyed me. I watched him brag like I did, but he also had true humility when it mattered. He was a much better man than most people ever will be.

Then one time, he was in jail and he had no where to go. So he called as usual. He came to live with me for a while. I was far along in my recovery already. I remember Jenny making him spaghetti and him eating it like he hadn’t eaten in months. He said “this is the best food I’ve ever had.” I had become so selfish that it was nothing to me to even eat like that. It was just spaghetti, but to him, it was heaven. It shouldn’t be like that. I was no better than him, in fact I was less than him. Yet I got to experience this daily while he suffered, where is the justice in that?

Then the old friends of his started to come around. We had a 10 year old, I was recovering and going to school. We told him after some warnings, that “hey you can’t stay here anymore with all these people coming around my daughter, its too scary to come home seeing her sitting on couch with these guys.”

He said “I can’t control them,” he warned them and asked them to wait until he is home. They just come. Which was true, he just had a following. He was a truly good person and once he let you in, you loved it.

He had a son, Anthony, he was a little guy but was as fierce as his dad, you could see that. Joe and Anthony would box, fake of course. But you could see the love and it was special. He would come around, we would all go on walks. Joe would say “I love you buddy” all the time and kiss anthony.  I never saw a man kiss his little boy before, but that was cool.  I make sure I do that with my 3 year old son now. He loved Anthony so much, it was soo clear. Joe was a great man.

Anthony didn’t see the label of “drug addict, bi polar, criminal.” That’s the mask Joe had to wear. Anthony was a kid, kids are genius that way. They don’t see labels and masks. Anthony saw Joe as I saw him, an angel. A kind, beautiful human with some severe pain and couldn’t do anything about it. I loved watching them together, because I knew the feeling.

Then, I get a call that joe is dead. He hung himself. He didnt call me this time. I had kicked him out. The guilt is terrible. When people ask why I fight for patients so hard, this is one of the main reasons.  Just building that trust is important. Im sorry joe, and god do I  miss you. Again, the wrong one got treatment, and the wrong one is dead. I am no better, in fact I’m much worse than him. What else can I do, but preach love. I have to do something. I love you Joe.

The end.

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Wanted: Superhero for my Children! By Cortland Pfeffer and Brian Francis

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“The hero, it might be said, is called into being when perception of a need and the recognition of responsibility toward it are backed up by the will to act.” – Mike Alsford

Twelve-Years-Old; Here I am screaming, hitting, kicking, and throwing anything within eyesight. Filled with rage, I only hear the echoes of laughter from my amused audience of family members and a handful of neighborhood kids. It was a show to them, their entertainment for the evening, all while I am crying inside.

“He can not hurt you,” they cackled to each other.

Then the yelling and screaming turned to tears. That was the real pain, I was a hurt and confused teenager and expressing it the only way I knew; with anger and rage. More chatter and laughter from the enthralled crowd intensified my inner torture. While this was outwardly conveyed with more violence and destruction, I am slowly dying on the inside, scared, and lost.

I grabbed a baseball bat. It stopped being funny.

One person in that room saved me from killing myself, or perhaps others in that room. I’ll share exactly how this all transpired at the end of this article.

First, I want to tell you about the story of two boys. The story begins when they are around 7-8 years old. We will call them “Boy A” and “Boy B,” for simplicity.

“Boy A” awakes in the middle of the night with typical late-night hunger and heads to the kitchen to make a sandwich and accidentally cuts his finger on the knife. Scared, he rushes into his father’s room to cry and tell him something is wrong. The father responds by hitting him and telling him that he is, “too fat anyway,” followed by a couple more smacks to the face.

In childhood, we are trying to figure out if the world is safe or unsafe and it is our primary caregivers that give us this message. The message being received is, “you are a bad person, you are overweight, don’t come to me with your problems.” As these regular beatings continue, the neurological pathways are put into place in the developing brain reaffirming his perception of himself and the world. He fears the world, he is not allowed to cry or show emotions, and express how he feels. Everything is stored deep within his subconscious, but he has been trained that it is not OK to be himself.

His mask has been created.

Now, there is “Boy B,” at age 7-8 his father comes home and tosses around the football with him. He teaches him about football as well as life lessons associated with the game; such as being a part of a team, work ethic, discipline, sacrifice, fighting through pain, perseverance, and commitment. His mother offers warmth, kindness, compassion, along with unconditional love and support.

Encouraged to do well in school, treat others with respect, and do the right thing, “Boy B” receives positive reinforcement. He trusts the world, believes in himself, and his life is filled with meaning, purpose, and hope.

Back to “Boy A,” his father decides to get re-married and his new wife wants to start a family of her own. To her, “Boy A” is a reminder of this man’s past life and interrupts with her vision of a happy family. She takes it out on him by abusing him with electrical cords and whipping him with curling irons.

The same message comes around again, “I am a bad person, a jerk, and I am no good. I am getting in the way again.”

Already engrained in his mind and belief system, the same thing comes up again and only deepens his self-perception. During adolescents is when our personality is created as these neurological pathways are created, strengthened, or dropped altogether based on experiences and reactions. The teenager also acts first on emotion rather than on analytical thinking or rationale (due to the natural evolution of the brain) which naturally means more “acting out.” When “Boy A” acts out, everyone’s perception of he being a bad person or jerk is vindicated. Including his own perception of himself.

At the same time, “Boy B” is excelling in school while his parents are putting in extra time communicating with teachers and coaches to ensure their son is growing from child to an adult. The teachers see that they are involved and care about their son, and in turn, spend additional time with their child making sure he is successful. He is applauded for his extra efforts, given awards, and is generally liked by most people. He is free to explore the world on his own, views the world as a safe place, and optimistic about the future. Whenever he is in need, his family is there for him for any advice, assistance, or general support.

And, “Boy B” happens to be naturally gifted in athletics. Along with his revered genetics, he has been raised to work hard, study, and strive for greatness. As he gets older, he begins to receive specialized instruction from the finest coaches around the country. And while he has a burning passion for football and for success, if all fails in college he still has a loving family and community that will forever be supportive.

 

“Boy A” is now growing up with the negative labels connected to his name and any good act is ignored. Like the Hell’s Angles motto, “When we do right nobody remembers, when we do wrong nobody forgets.” Only seeking acceptance he acts goofy, outrageous, and spontaneous. This is the only thing that gets attention, and any type of attention is good for him. A beating is better than nothing at all.

He misses school and gets in different kinds of trouble. As the struggles progress, he becomes more scared, hurt, and alone with nowhere to turn. His father’s disgust for him hasn’t faded, if anything, has intensified. His father destroys gifts the child receives from his biological mother, not allowed to see his mother and is beaten and left outside the house all day on a nearly daily basis.

In school, he has no support. He is in fights, disrupting class, failing grades and the teachers only see a lost cause. Still seeking acceptance, he willingly puts on any mask for approval – the clown, rebel, etc. Anything that grants him the love that every person deserves, the love that he was cheated out of during his childhood.

Looking at the two stories of “Boy A” and “Boy B,” as adults they are souls from two different worlds. People who have been through abuse are living an entirely different reality, how are they supposed to just wake up one day and “just get it?”

This is why we need to look behind the mask.

The adult survivor of child abuse has altered brain chemistry. Early childhood development begins with the primitive structures of the brain known as the limbic system. This deals with emotional learning and survival. Our body has a natural hormone, Cortisol, which is sometimes called the “stress hormone” as it is released to help our body regulate stress. In childhood abuse, the system becomes altered as the child is under chronic stress which constantly sends cortisol throughout the brain and body. At this time, the brain is rapidly developing and the child is dependent on their caregiver for protection – which has significant long-term impacts on these primitive systems. And then as he ages into adolescence and young adulthood, these constant reminders that he is a “bad person” strengthens these already disrupted pathways.

Back to the stories, “Boy B” has graduated high school with honors, receives a football scholarship and has support from friends, family, and his community. He is well-prepared with education, specialized training, financially, and ongoing support and guidance. He succeeds again at the highest level of college football and is dubbed a “real life superhero!” He is strong, athletic, intelligent, handsome, and he pretty good at throwing a football and has a real possibility of becoming a professional athlete.

We call professional athletes, “real life superheroes.” I see it on a daily basis. In fact, just the other night Don Cheadle’s exact words on the Thursday Night Football telecast were, “these guys are real life superheroes.”

Then I watch my son put on his power rangers costume and he hits and punches. From day one we are told there are “good guys” and “bad guys.” We teach them that it is OK for the “good guy” superheroes to punch bad guys. We think it is cute. To me, it has been disturbing to see him enamored with these shows and then fired up to “get the bad guys and punch them.”

So I can bash the system which does no good or I can try to focus on the future. Which is what I am trying to do is to teach him about real life superheroes.

Back to “Boy A.” He escapes the abuse by finding a job and secretly saving money. Once he has enough he drives four hours to his Aunt’s house, which happens to be my home as well. He is confused, lost, lacks acceptance or any belief in himself. He has had a “bad guy” mask tattooed on his skull and has grown to believe that it is true.

Our house is crowded with five children, extended family, neighborhood kids, along with a number of chaotic pets. In the basement lives a 13-year-old child that is incredibly shy, but also remarkably intelligent. This is my older brother, he has basically withdrawn from the world at this point and is also scared and lost.

Then there is a 12-year-old boy who is angry, acting out, constantly in serious trouble, and recently expelled from school – this is me. Then there was another boy, much younger, and painfully terrified of the world, but also very loving – this is my younger brother.

And, now enters “Boy A” into this home. It is a frightening situation to the outsiders in fear that he is going to destroy this home and these kids. They don’t need a “Boy A,” they need a “Boy B.” A Super Hero!

Meanwhile, “Boy B” is excelling in the classroom and setting records on the football field. His fun-loving, down-to-earth, good-humored personality makes him loved my just about anyone who encounters him. He is a good man with true humility. He is not a bad person, we do not get to choose our family and whether or not we receive love and affection – he should not be hated for that. He is an amazing man and is an exceptional role model.

Right now, his biggest concern is where is he going to fall in the NFL Draft? What kind of offense do they run? Will he be able to start right away? Again, to him, these are true worries that create anxiety. It is not his fault, it is just his reality. But in terms of real-life trauma, trials and tribulations, tests of strength, willpower, or character are not likely as significant or battle-tested as “Boy A.”

“Boy B,” could be one of many quarterbacks we see each Sunday, such as Peyton Manning. Great man, good heart, hard-working, and humble. One of the best in the world in the history of his given profession – NFL Quarterback. He is often labeled, “A Hero.” In fact, quite frequently.

In researching a few different studies over the years, athletes and celebrities usually top the list of people we consider “heroes.” Currently, LeBron James tops the lists of a survey of 2,500 people age 16-35. From everything that I have read, seen, and heard, LeBron James seems like a wonderful person with an inspirational story. But a hero?

So, who is “Boy A?” This is my cousin, known to me as Little Jon, although his birth certificate reads Jon Kosiak. He enters this home, goes downstairs to the withdrawn teenager and shows him love and acceptance. He authentically cares about him, spends time with him, listens to his thoughts and interests, and gives him genuine love. He brings him out of his withdrawn sense, talks to him openly and honestly about things, and takes interest in his life. He teaches him not to be afraid of anything and befriends the kid who had all but given up on the world.

By the end of the four years that “Boy A” lived in our home, the withdrawn child is now brave and strong. He goes on to earn a master’s degree, has a family with three children and living an excellent life. He is smart, a good man, and an amazing father. At a moment in his life when he was in greatest need, Little Jon was able to recognize that and willing to act upon it. Not because he felt obliged to do so, but because he wanted to do so. And not because it was difficult, but because it was natural. Little Jon showed him not to fear the world, to love himself, and rise above.

And the younger, scared child is no longer scared. He ends up excelling at sports, receiving scholarships, and now works as a counselor. This is my younger brother. He has been transformed from a terrified child to a fearless leader. He is strong and smart, and at a time in which he needed to toughen up and face the world – Little Jon saw the perceived need, recognized it, and was willing to act.

“Boy B”, Peyton Manning, well he went on to the NFL and is called a “superhero.” He is idolized, loved, adored, and celebrated by people around the globe. He is a great man, with a unique sense of humor, oh and he can throw a football pretty well. But superhero? No.

However, I believe that Little Jon does fit that label. He spent four years in our home and molded us into better people. He was our hero.

And as for myself, well I was the angry little boy. My tendency was to smash things, threaten people, destroy property, and sabotage the entire house. People would either bail or they gave in to my demands in efforts to eradicate my behavior. But, I never was really angry. Anger is just a secondary emotion disguised as many different things – for me, I was sad, lost, and scared. It is an emotional response to an injustice (either perceived or real). That is the response, the rage is the reaction to the response. So the final product may be taking a baseball bat to a mirror, but deep down I felt an injustice creating pain and hurt.

In the opening story, we reached the climax of the action scene. Swinging around the bat, projecting anger, and spreading fear into those who have brought me pain. Then steps in the one person that changed the course of many people’s lives in that moment.

Yep, Little Jon is there. And he refuses to move. This pisses me off to the point that I grab a baseball bat and start smashing and destroying things throughout the house.

The laughter has stopped, the show is over. The bear had been poked one too many times and all hell was about to break loose. And when the bear breaks free of the den, everyone takes off, bails, and hides in the hills.

What would “Boy B” do if they saw something like this? He wouldn’t know what to do. That makes it tough to label him a superhero. We do not know who we are until we see how we handle adversity. When it comes to reading a zone blitz on a 3rd down in a playoff game, sure, Peyton Manning knows how to handle that “adversity.” So we know how he is as a football player. But real adversity, such as the situation above, can not be practiced or coached up.

This is the fight-or-flight system, the most primitive part of the brain. You do not have time to act on logic, you go on instinct, emotional learning, and survival. Nobody else in the room had the necessary tools to defuse the situation, they have not had the intense emotional learning he endured.

Most of the “Boy B’s” of the world have no idea what is going on inside the head of someone who needs love. They have never felt that and that is not their fault and does not make them less of a person. However, stop calling him a hero. If we keep calling him a hero and telling our kids he is the hero, then we have brainwashed them.

Little Jon did know what was going on in my head.

He said, “I am not going anywhere and you need to put the bat down.”

Everyone else is in fear, bailing out, and in full-blown panic. We got these two “messed up” kids about to go at it with a baseball bat and tempers flaring.

The crowd shouts, “Jon!! Jon!! Get out of there!! Leave him alone he is crazy!”

Little Jon did not budge. He said, “Listen, put it down. I know how you are feeling. It is ok Betsy.” (That is what he always called me, “Betsy.”)

I said “I am going to smash your face.”

“No you’re not,” He responded, “You just need love. Give me a hug.”

“No!” I shouted. Then, I started crying.”

The room is empty, everyone is gone into hiding or calling the police – or searching for the “hero.” But, the problem is that the hero was already in the room with me.

“Come here,” Said Jon as he approaches me with a hug.

Complete silence fills the room.

I drop the bat. I hug him and begin to cry and then the floodgates spring open and tears kept flowing. I have no idea what we talked about or what was said. I did not even know why I was so angry on that particular occasion.

But, what I do know is how I felt. Not alone. And loved.

He saw a need, recognized his responsibility, and was willing to act. Just like all other neural circuitry pathways in our brain, these continued heroic actions, develop into a habit, create character, and essentially define the person.

Little Jon has a tendency to bring this feeing to everyone he is around. He gives people that feeling of acceptance and love even though it was never given to him.

He is a true superhero. He is the one we should be telling our kids about, not Batman, not Superman, not Peyton Manning.

But, Little Jon. Jon Kosiak. That’s who I want to teach my kids about. He is a superhero.

It’s time to redefine the definition of a superhero.

Everyone thought Little Jon was a trouble-maker and a bad seed. He is not. He is a good man that gives love, despite the only thing has ever received is abandonment, emotional/physical abuse, pain, and suffering. Prominent motivational speaker/author Wayne Dyer states that the most difficult thing to do in life is to return love for hate. Little Jon exemplifies that without any effort, he does so because it is natural.

By definition, if he instinctively flourishes at man’s most demanding task (returning love for hate), is there any other way to accurately portray and define a superhero?

I Love You Little Jon.

thank you.

The end.

Construction Zone: Inside the Adolescent Mind By Brian Francis

“Common sense is the collection of prejudices acquired by age eighteen.” -Albert Einstein

What goes on inside the mind of a teenager?

Sex, drugs, and rock n roll. Right? Well, actually that is proven to be somewhat scientifically accurate as adolescent is the period between childhood and adulthood in which vast physical, psychological, and social changes take place. We all know that by observing, but what is actually going on with the biology of the adolescent brain? Or more importantly, what is going on with our attitude about the biology of the adolescent brain?

“You WANT to work with adolescents?”

“Welcome to Adolescent treatment…”

“I could never do that. I would go crazy.”

“Why would you want to work with adolescents.”

These are daily comments I hear multiple times for working with young people. People applaud me as if I just found a cure for cancer or taking on a terrorist network. They are just kids. Still innocent, still learning, still figuring out their true selves. Why are we shunning them and frightening others away from this demographic?

Most intriguing of all, is the immense importance of this time of life for psychological development of the mind and building of character and values. The teenage mind is unique in a number of ways as it is the period in which the brain is transforming from a child’s mind and worldview and into an adult.

This mindset turns the question around by asking, “Why would you not want to be involved with this age group?”

 

Biology:

 

What is Gray and White Matter?

Simply put: The gray matter consists of processing information and thoughts, whereas white matter is responsible for the speed in which these messages are communicated.

Gray Matter is a thin layer formed around the cortex of the brain which is made up of all the cells and the way they communicate with each other. It is made up of the vast number of neurons (brain cells) and synapses (connections). It is estimated to be more than 100 billion neurons in the brain along with over 500 billion synapses. It had long been believed that the volume of gray matter peaked in early childhood and then declined as the person grew.

At birth, the newborn has more synapses (connections of cells) than the adult brain. From that point they actually increase at a rapid rate for the first few months before declining in the first two years. This is a normal part of development and maturation of the brain. Biology, or genetics, plays a part in the decline of these connections; but it has also been proven that experience plays a role. That is, these connections that survive are strengthened, while others are cut off.

While this sharp increase and then decline in early childhood proves to have a significant impact on the developing of the brain (and our unique personality), recent studies have found that during the adolescent years the amount of gray matter reaches its peak.

So, if it is scientifically proven that the peak of our ability to learn, grow, and change is during the adolescent years, why do so many people so adamantly refuse to work with teenagers? We all know the importance of early childhood and the impact it has on us, we read a plethora of books on step-by-step as to handle infants and toddlers, but we dismiss teenagers and just label them as difficult.

But, when you really think about it, it sort of makes sense. Adolescents is the most meaningful period because the person is more consciously aware of experiences as the brain is more developed. In adulthood, our brain is fully developed and does not have as much room to adjust. But the adolescent is in a transformation stage from being a child under continuous watch into an adult that is free to make their own decisions.

It’s time to embrace these changes!

Ch-Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes:

More fascinating yet, is the areas of the brain which are under the greatest transformation.

Interests and Skills:

White matter also increases which speeds up the communication between different parts of the brain. This connectivity is based on growth in intellectual capabilities – or practice. You will find in brains of musicians or artists that they will have larger amounts of gray matter in an area known as the Broca.

Risk Assessment and Impulsivity:             

The brain develops from the back to the front. The most basic functions, such as the fight-or-flight system or emotional learning, takes place in the Amygdala. This is prevalent in all animals. During adolescence the frontal cortex (responsible for complex thinking, judgment, and rationale) is still being developed – as evidenced by the greatest amount of gray matter in a person’s lifetime.

For this biological reason, the teenager acts more on emotional response than using logic. This translates to more risk taking and impulsive behavior; Of the 13,000 annual deaths among adolescents, more than 70-percent are due to motor vehicle crashes, unintentional accidents, suicide, and homicide.

Emotional Response and Reward:

“I am so in love with him and going to marry him.”

“This is the worst day of my life.”

“Things are never going to get better. Things could not be any worse.”

Brain imaging studies show that the emotional response is at a heightened state in teenage minds. More than child or adult brains, the teenager brain has an extremely exaggerated emotional response to rewards.

“This is the greatest thing ever!”

As the brain changes during this period of development, neural pathways are made as part of the reward system. The intensity and urgency of the response in certain areas create and enhance these pathways. As the prefrontal cortex starts to develop, these patterns start to stay and the unneeded information is eliminated.

Thus, this is the time your brain is deciding your interests, desires, motivation, and what you think about all day! It is the most essential time to develop our personality.

Different parts of the brain are activated to response along with the urgency and intensity of emotional response.

 

 

Ability to Learn New Things:

As the information above would indicate, since these pathways are being constructed and other removed, this is the time to learn new things. There is no greater period in the human lifespan to try new things such as learn to play an instrument, foreign language, different sports and activities, different arts, etc. The brain is still a sponge, but it is slowly using the reward system to determine what it likes and dislikes – in an exaggerated response.

The mind of the adolescent has just as much power to that of an adult. The biggest difference is the manner in which they process information and make decisions. The adult brain processes information in their fully developed prefrontal cortex by analyzing and making precise calculations. Whereas the adolescent is still primarily making decisions based on emotional response and impulse.

I asked kids the other day, “Would you rather have me give you $5 today, or if you wait, in one week I will give you $10. What would you prefer?”

Interestingly, all but one immediately said $5 today as if it were a no-brainer (technically it was a no-prefrontal cortex decision). One girl stated she would wait a week and explained that it is more money, but once I told her this is obviously a hypothetical, but if you saw me give the $5 to everyone else right now, what would you do? Without blinking an eye, she changed her mind and would also go for the immediate reward. Not because she is a bad/greedy/dumb person, but only because that is the stage of her biological development.

 

 

Sleep Deprivation:

Those damn kids just stay up too late! They are so groggy in the morning!

Again, this is biology. The circadian sleep cycle is determined by how we respond to dark and light signals which takes place in the Suprachiasmatic Nucleus (SCN) within the hypothalamus. In the mornings, our body produces cortisol to help us wake up and at nighttime, melatonin helps put us to sleep. This explains how we naturally rise with the sun and get sleepy in darktime along with the changing of the seasons.

The teenage brain is also making adjustments at this time. Studies show that melatonin is only being naturally released past 11:00 p.m. in adolescents. The natural time in which the adult is most in need of sleep is between 2:00 a.m. and 4:00 a.m.; the teenager finds this same dip between 3:00 a.m. and 7:00 a.m. The problem, is that the teenager is often sleep deprived due to early school times.

This pattern of continued sleep deprivation leads to fatigue, depression, irritability, and of course impulse and delinquency.

The human brain develops from the back to the front, beginning with the most basic functions that are prevalent in every animal. It concludes by developing the most complex areas responsible for rationale, complex thinking, and judgment. The frontal lobe of the human brain is shown to not reach full development until the mid 20’s.

Back to the brain, the connections strengthen during times of sleep. We take in enormous amounts of information each day and during sleep the brain puts all these things together. As children and teenagers, each day is full of massive amounts of new information, making quality sleep a more essential part of learning and brain development. Our standards of getting kids up early to school, take away their innate biological ability to learn and develop, while enhancing their irritability and impulsiveness.

Psychology and Sociology:

 

Substance Abuse and Addiction:

 

The natural, biological laws of the brain’s development outlined above create a recipe for substance abuse and addiction in adolescents. Most people have heard, or seen firsthand, that using drugs and alcohol during the teenage years leads to greater risk of addiction. Now, the science has proven why this takes place – not because teenagers are defiant, immoral, punks – but because they are learning.

Natural Risk Factors of Being a Teenager (Biology):

  • Greater Impulse
  • Less analytical ability
  • Exaggerated Reward and emotional response system
  • Brain is developing what it likes and dislikes
  • Removing what it no longer needs
  •  Sleep deprivation increasing all of the above

 

Inhibitors (Psychological and Biological Risk Factor):

While not mentioned above, inhibitors (or inhibitions) are what block our neurons from releasing large amounts of dopamine and other neurotransmitters in the reward system. As one could imagine, these are not as prevalent in the adolescent brain. As the brain develops, these inhibitors (or locks) begin to increase as our ability to analyze risk assessment and judgment is put into place.

Last week, I shared how using drugs (I specifically explained marijuana) have a chemical that resembles natural brain chemicals. They attach to receptors in the brain and remove inhibitors which is what makes us feel good (or we “lose our inhibitions”). As the teenager is just starting to develop these inhibitions, removing them creates a more intense result in an already more exaggerated reward system.

This could also be considered psychological risk factors as the reward system is highly exaggerated and the teenager will likely seek out the same rewards. However, it does become biological once it effects the creation of inhibitors.

 

 

Social / Psychological Risk Factors:

  • Emotional Sensitivity and Response to other people (peer pressure) is being developed.
  • Self conscious emotion, physiological reactivity converge and peak in response to how they are being evaluated by others.
  • Social-evaluation situations: Greater importance to certain activities
  • Medial PreFrontal Cortex (MPFC) – responsible for this importance of activities
  • Striatum – Mediates motivated behaviors and actions
  • Adolescents show increased activity in pathway between MPFC and Stiatum when being watched or anticipate being watched which would trigger more intense emotional responses

 

 

Trauma:

It is extremely rare for an adolescent (or adult for that matter) to have no past trauma at some point in their childhood or adolescent years. A much more detailed entry can be put together regarding this topic, but I will highlight the basics.

Similar brain regions are affected by trauma including the amygdala (fight-or-flight, emotional learning), hippocampus (memory), and the prefrontal cortex (complex thought, behavior, impulse control). Trauma destroys the normal development and functioning of the brain and leads to incredibly high rates of mental health and addiction disorders.

While I would like to share more about trauma, it is too in-depth of a topic to share in this article. But it is important to realize that our natural brain development is seriously altered and effects everything that I have already mentioned in the first five pages.

Associated Behavior:

Very often, we see a teenager acting out, doing drugs, committing crimes, and our first response is to lash out at them.

“I hate teenagers!”

“When will they learn?”

But besides the biological laws that we all go through, most of these kids that are labeled as “bad” have had a traumatic event that alters this normal development even further.

There are no bad kids, and in fact, there are no bad people. We are all born innocent and pure and knowing only love. Our brains change on a daily basis, they are changing right now to you reading these words. And the greatest periods of change are early childhood and adolescence, meaning these kids are responding based on what they have been taught directly or indirectly about the world and how to survive.

Inability to develop healthy patterns to cope leads to defiant behavior, poor decision making, addiction, criminal behavior, unprotected sex, and repeated abusive behavior.

The opening quote by Albert Einstein sums up my 2,400 words in a precise 11-word-statement (perhaps why he is considered a genius). He states, “common sense is the collection of prejudices acquired by age eighteen.” While, it is more likely to be about age 25, as the gray matter in our brain decreases and the frontal cortex is slowly developed it becomes much more difficult to change how we think, learn new information, and change who our personality. What we consider “common sense,” is based only on what we have been told.

With so much at stake for our future generation, my biggest question to those going into fields of mental health and addiction counseling I can only ask, “Why would you NOT want to work with adolescents?”

A Tale of Two Physicians: The Best of Times, The Worst of Times

dickens

 

” .. Since I knew you, I have been troubled by a remorse that I thought would never reproach me again, and have heard whispers from old voices impelling me upward, that I thought were silent forever. I have had unformed ideas of striving afresh, beginning anew, shaking off sloth and sensuality, and fighting out the abandoned fight. A dream, all a dream, that ends in nothing, and leaves the sleeper where he lay down, but I wish you to know that you inspired it.”-    Charles Dickens

 

Every interaction we have matters. We may not see it, but it does

 

Here is a story of how one patient saw 2 different doctors. With the exact same problem. The reaction was completely different, and so was the result. You do not have to be a doctor or social worker or health care worker to have this impact. It is just this example. Every day we encounter people that as simple as it may seem, just a hello or a smile can make the difference. Sometimes, just knowing someone notices you are not doing well is a big deal.

 

Before I get into the story. Here is a study that I want to share that proves that it is not necessarily the knowledge or words we provide, but how we make the other persons feel that matters:

 

 

The University of Toronto’s Dr. Wendy Levinson is considered among the world’s foremost researchers on physician-patient communication. In a landmark 1997 study, she recorded hundreds of conversations between a group of physicians and their patients. Half of the doctors had never been sued, and the other half had been sued at least twice.

 

Levinson found that just on the basis of those recorded conversations alone, she could find clear differences between the two groups:

■The doctors who had never been sued spent more than three minutes longer with each patient than those who had been sued did (18.3 minutes versus 15 minutes).

■They were more likely to make “orienting” comments, such as “First I’ll examine you, and then we will talk the problem over” or “I will leave time for your questions.”

■They were more likely to engage in active listening, saying things such as “Go on, tell me more about that.”

■They were far more likely to laugh and be funny during the visit.

 

Levinson reported no difference in the amount or quality of information doctors gave their patients; the never-sued doctors didn’t provide more details about medication or the patient’s condition.

 

The difference was entirely in how they talked to their patients

 

 

Here is an example of exactly what kind of impact we can have good or bad. We do not see it, but I had the opportunity to see this, so I am sharing to show an example to anyone who chooses to read this.

 

Patient walks into Dr. D’s office. Patient is a 29 year old. He has depression, has a history of suicide, drug use, and addiction. He is in good physical health. He has not asked for help for a long time. He was in the psychiatric hospital as a teenager multiple times.

 

Dr. D comes into the office right at 8 am as the day starts. He gets his coffee, and asks for his first patient. He walks into the room and looks at the patient. He says “what can I do for you today?”

 

The patient say “I am very sad, I have low energy, and I do not feel normal.” The patient is shaking and is embarrassed to be at this point in his life.

The patient says, “I have struggled with drinking and drugs and do not feel good about myself. I am scared to talk to anyone about anything, but especially this. I am at an end, I have to get help or I am going to die.”

 

Dr. D says, “Ok, well let’s draw some blood. Have you ever been checked for diabetes, low blood sugar, or thyroid problems?”

 

Patient says, in a trembling voice. “No. I don’t seem to have any of the other problems that would go with diabetes though. I work in the health care field.”

 

Dr. D says, “Well I am going to run some blood tests. I also see you once had a positive PPD test, so we will give you some INH.”

 

A ppd test is when you are tested for exposure to tuberculosis. If you are positive it usually means it is in your system but not active.

 

So Dr. D has the patients’ blood drawn and has given him the INH. The blood tests come back normal. No problems.

 

The clinic nurses call the patient and state everything is ok. Dr. D said to follow up if you have any concerns. They as a clinic have so many patients, they forgot why the patient came in the first place. They get a list of lab results, so when they see them come through, they never think of the patient. They see the results and make the call that they are ok. This is not their fault. They are completely overwhelmed with a huge volume of lab reports of patient’s to call.

 

This patient was anxious and depressed and afraid to ask for help to begin with. Now with this call and this response, and the patient is basically pushed aside, IF the patient wants help, he will have to make the call again and go through the embarrassment and shame of asking for help again.

 

Now, the patient does not go for the INH. He is now feeling hopeless. He never even went for medical problems, then when the results came in, the clinic never even thought that it was to rule out anything. The patient got lost in the pile of papers. Basically became a number, not a person. This is normal these days. They want the Doctors to see as much patients as possible, as fast as possible. So give them a pill and get them out of here. It is our medical system, and it is this that has caused the opiate epidemic that we have in the United States.

You go to the MD or the ER, you get a Vicodin because we need numbers, so get them out the door as soon as possible.

 

IN this case, the patient goes on another binge, and gets more depressed. If anyone has been through this they know any binge can result in death to self or someone else. Thinking again about suicide the patient calls up the clinic. The patient has lost hope in Dr. D. However the patient is afraid to ask for another provider.

 

The patient, using all the courage that they have, gets another appointment 4 months later. So at this next appointment, Dr. D walks in, and he does not recognize the patient. Treats him as if he is a new patient. Asks again if he has any medical problems.

This time. Dr. D says “let me draw blood for some things” once again. Checks his heart. He does not know the patients name, or occupation, or any of what had happened before.

 

The patient is a number, he now feels worse and is upset that he even came back. He gets his blood drawn.

 

The patient gets a phone call back. He is to come see Dr D again, he must come in to go over the results. They cannot tell him over the phone the results. However, there is also some hope. He feels that maybe they found a reason he has felt like this his whole life.

 

The patient is scared, he knows if you have to come in to go over results it is not good. Saturday morning Dr. D walks in as he is the on call MD this weekend. His eyes are bloodshot and red, Dr. D did not sleep last night you can tell. He does not recognize the patient, his name, or anything. He feels he is just seeing all emergency patients as they are the Saturday clinic this month and he is on call. Dr. D has no idea he is talking to his own patient.

He then asks the patient, why he is here.

 

Then Dr. D still not knowing the patients name says “oh yeah, well, looks like you have chronic fatigue syndrome and there is really nothing we can do. Maybe go to groups, or exercise.”

 

Just what the patient wants to hear right? You are chronically tired and out of luck. You are not depressed or any of that. Sorry, go to groups.

 

The patient puts his head down, that’s it. You can see him, the thoughts are something like, “I guess I never was depressed, I’m just tired,” that is what he is feeling.

Any of us can tell these things in watching people if we just watch and are truly present with them. If we take time for one another it is easy.

 

Then Dr. D says well I can give you Provigil to keep you awake during the day and trazodone to help you sleep. SO let’s do that and check back in a few months. We are now giving a patient with severe anxiety a pill that they used to give to pilots to keep them awake during long flights.

 

The patient gets the pill to stay awake. His depression and anxiety have still not been addressed. He has learned that this is what happens when you ask for help. The patient now feels hopeless, sad, anxious, and like a fool for asking for help. There is nothing they can do for him.

First they tell him he has tuberculosis, then its chronic fatigue. They spend 15 minutes with him each time because management wants doctors to see 4 patient per hour so they can bill for that. Then they make more money. Dr. D is considered more productive if he sees more patients in a day because he makes the clinic money then.

 

The patient then with this depression history, drug abuse history, has made his last ditch efforts to get help. It took everything he had to even ask for help. He was pushed aside, they didn’t know his name. He got lost as a number. Then he was told different things by the same doctor each time he went in.

 

Why would someone go seek help after this? Dr. D never even asked him about his depression or anxiety or his history. He was a number, and he pushed it off like it was not depression. Just give him a pill and get him out. I don’t blame Dr. D, this is our system. I have seen Doctors get scolded for taking too much time with their patients.

 

This patient would then go into severe depression and his drinking and self-destructive behaviors would intensify over the next few years. He had many near death experiences, he got a DUI and spent more time in jail. He got to a point in which he almost died and his family had given up on him completely. He was basically going to fade away to the world. You could tell, he had given up on himself and everyone else had given up on him.

 

If you ever see someone down, any positive interaction can help. Getting to know them, so you can give them a genuine compliment is crucial. A genuine compliment will change a person’s day and sometimes world. In order to do that, you have to get to know the person.

We all know a genuine compliment because it touches us and makes us feel much different than a condescending, fake generic compliment. We know by how we feel. If we like being around a person it is probably because they are genuine. We do not know why, we just like the way we feel when we are around them. That is the key to helping someone.

However, to give this kind of love, you must have the love in you yourself first. There is a story in one of Thich Naht Hahn’s books that I love to tell. It goes something like this; there was a father and a daughter who were homeless. They were great gymnasts. Every so often they would do a street performance and hold out one of those jars for donations. They would make enough to eat for the week usually.

However, one night, all the rich people were going to be there. The royalty, and everyone with money was going to watch. They knew this was their biggest performance so they could make enough money to eat for a year.

The father would always carry the daughter on his shoulders and she would do amazing tricks. So he said to her, “Tonight my dear, it is the biggest performance, we ca neat for a year if it goes well. So we need to look out for each other and watch each other.”

The daughter look at her father and says, “No, I cannot do that. If I spend all my time looking at you, and you spend all your time looking at me, then we will stumble and fall. The best way I can take care of you, and you of me, is to watch ourselves so we are the best we can be. Then we can be strong for each other.”

 

That’s it. Love yourselves. You have a lot to offer, we all do. Sometimes the hardest part is loving yourself. I know it is for me. Some days it’s much harder than others. You take a few steps back and a few forward. It is a process that is for sure.

 

 

Then you must also get to know this person so the compliment can be genuine. Sometimes we are too caught up in things that do not matter so we say we do not have time for this. That is when we know we are caught up in the world, man’s world. That should be a warning sign to slow down.

 

It can be a sort of psychological life support for someone. It can change the world and save lives. That may sound dramatic, but it is not. It is the truth.

The other day at work, we have a patient who no one has been able to handle at all. No one. This patient was about to have another episode in which she hurts staff and herself, then the staff, I will call her Madeline, she said something in a loud voice.

The reason I thought this was important is because the tone of her voice was one of confidence, One that was saying, “This is the truth, no doubt about it.” Madeline has these moments, she usually doubts herself and I do not know why. She is one of the most amazing providers in mental health I have ever seen. She gets to know each patient on a personal level and she is not afraid to speak up for them.

 

She says to this patient, “Look in the mirror, and look at when you came in. You have changed so much, you look like a different person.”

The patient, who is considered “dangerous” to most, is being yelled at by this staff with confidence. The patient says in a soft voice, “really?” Nothing happened with her for at least a week. That comment prevented disaster, the reason it was effective is because it was real and genuine. We need more Madeline’s.

 

What happens then is someone sees Madeline yell like this to the dangerous patient and sees it work. They then try it and get punched in the face. The difference is when she says it, it is truth to the patient because Madeline has spent hours getting to know the patient and the patient knows it is someone who knows her, and not someone repeating something they heard someone else say. It is real.

So back to this story about this patient. About 3 years later after Dr. D. This patient called the clinic. They said “So you see Dr. D, would you like to see him again.”

 

The patient has an opening and says, “No anyone is fine.” Simple stroke of luck.

 

The patient is set up with Dr Broeker. This is his real name he still practices for Allina. It is at the end of May. The patient has made up an excuse to go in he says he is having urinary problems.

 

He is in the clinic office in the room waiting. Dr. Broeker knocks on the door, he says, “hey XXX, I just want you to know I am running a little bit late but I will be in as soon as I can.”

 

The patient is shocked, Dr Broeker knew his name and just knocked on the door to tell him that he was running late.

 

Then during their meeting, the patient is comfortable, and feels at ease. Dr Broeker comes in and says his name, what his experience is and does not have a clipboard. IS not looking at the computer. He asks “what are you hear for?”

 

Dr Broeker then says “what else can I do for you?”

 

The patient starts to cry and says “I am anxious, nervous and afraid to ask anyone for anything. I hate myself, I cannot stop drinking and I want to get help for feeling depressed.”

 

Dr Broeker spent the next hour talking with this patient. It was amazing. He told him about life, Dr Broeker talked about his time as an MD and how he wants to get this right. He explains the depression scale, the anxiety scale and fills it out with the patient.

It was like this patient had been waiting years for someone to say, “It’s ok to be sad, let’s talk about it.” Finally after, years and years of internal torture. Dr. Broeker had released this man from his own internal prison. It was the most amazing thing. Words will never do it justice what Dr Broeker was doing for this patient.

 

It was supposed to be a 15 minute appointment. Dr Broeker knows the patient has been seen by Dr D because he read the chart, he says “why were you tested for all of this?”

 

The patient says, I don’t know that’s what he thought.

 

Dr. Broeker says “well, ok, let’s start you on celexa and come back in 2 weeks to make sure you are not having any side effects.” Dr. Broeker did not judge the other physician and was respectful and kind about what the other MD had done. When someone is truly great like this, they do not need to question anyone else. He is pure, there is no competition for people like Dr. Broker, he practices out of love, and he is a doctor for the right reasons.

 

The patient was so much at ease with Dr. Broeker that he was able to tell him everything and open up about the drinking, drug use and all other issues that he was facing.

 

Dr Broeker wanted him back in 2 weeks just to check on side effects. The patient felt he had a new lease on life.

 

Then in 2 weeks Dr Broeker pops in and knows the patients name. He talks to him for a while like they are old buddies and shakes his hand and is friendly with him.

This patient has had a history of no shows throughout his life, but never with Dr Broeker. Usually if we have a patient with no shows, we label the as non-compliant or as not really wanting to get help. But, could it be that the problem is in the provider and how we treat patients? Or at least say it is 50/50? In a few months the patient was in rehab, and able to look at people. Dr Broeker then eventually recommended therapy to this patient.

 

This patient was willing to listen because he trusted Dr Broeker. He believed in him. The same recommendation could have come from another Doctor and it would have gotten a different reaction. The difference is in the relationship, not in the knowledge. Dr Broeker took time, he did not care about the 4 patients an hour.

 

 

Dr. Broker is special, he is in it for the right reasons. He takes time. That is true productivity.
He saves lives, He saved this patients life.

 

I know this, I watched it. The patient was me.

 

 

The Doctor is Dr Michael Broeker.

He saved my life. He is one of the “fab 5″ that I refer to that changed my life. That is number 1. The magical Michael Broeker.

 

If it was not for him, I would not be alive today. The patients that tell me I saved their lives and changed them forever, my friends and family and everyone that I have touched, it is all not possible without him.

 

I almost died and did not want to ask for help ever again. He sat down and listened. And talked. He didn’t follow the 15 minute rule. In my moment, lost in the woods, he gave me the light and pointed me in the right direction. All because he took time to get to know me and did not judge me.

 

I am alive today because of him.

 

Thank you Dr Broeker.

 

The End

 

Just Say KNOW to Marijuana: Is It Good? Is It Bad? Brian Francis

The debate, the problem with the debate, and how to answer the “tough” questions from kids.

 

“Weed…the magical plant that gives you answers without questions. It gives the ability to think and dream with one hand, and takes away ambition and want with the other.”

 

I used to think that marijuana diminished motivation, creativity, caring, passion, memory, and focus. Until I started working with adolescents…that abuse marijuana.

You see, these kids are so determined to prove that marijuana is a magical drug that they go to all sorts of extremes. They have factual research based on real studies, come up with the most creative arguments, they really want to come up with medications to help people with AIDS, cancer, Parkinson’s, epilepsy, and other debilitating diseases. They are dedicated to improving the government and environment by searching for alternative sources for fuel, paper, energy, and other materials while also thinking of new ways to create taxes to fix the national debt.

But the problem is that all this energy and effort is being done so they can use a drug that takes all these things away. As great it is to see the energy devoted to their cause, it only proves the point of the psychological addictive thinking of substance abuse. These are very great extremes that kids are going to just to protect their drug of choice, defend its rights, and are so preoccupied with the substance that they are offended if anyone suggests that marijuana might possibly have negative effects.

As a freshman in college, I remember doing the same things. I did massive amount of research to put together a presentation as to why marijuana should be legal and why the drinking age should be lowered to 18 years of age – which both conveniently would also feed my addictions. As I always stayed aboard the Marijuana ship, it wasn’t until being clean from all substances that I realized what had happened.

Marijuana is the secret, sneaky, quiet addiction that hijacks your brain. It tricks you into thinking that there is no way it is a problem before a decade of your life passes in which you hardly remember. In the addiction field, we constantly hear the phrase “rock bottom.” Marijuana addiction is very tricky because the rock bottom is more of a parachute landing. You land at the bottom so softly, that you do not realize (or believe) that you are at rock bottom as your brain has slowly been hijacked by the drug.

After years of reading through various online sources, peer-reviewed studies, newspapers, documentaries, and speaking with medical health professionals, I have come to the following conclusions about marijuana:

  • Marijuana is not addictive; And Marijuana is addictive
  • Marijuana is not a gateway drug; And Marijuana is a gateway drug
  • Marijuana has many medicinal uses; Marijuana has only four percent medicinal use and the rest is for recreational use
  • Marijuana does not cause psychosis or schizophrenia; Marijuana increases risk of psychosis or schizophrenia
  • Marijuana cures cancer; Marijuana does not cure cancer
  • Marijuana does not cause lung cancer; Marijuana does cause lung cancer
  • Marijuana comes from a plant and is natural; Marijuana is currently being genetically modified to add to its potency
  • If legalized less people would be inclined to use; If legalized, younger people will be more inclined to use since it is legal
  • It does not impair driving; It does impair driving
  • It does not make you dumb; It kills brain cells
  • It helps with motivation and creativity; It makes you lazy and dull
  • It makes you more focused; It creates scattered thoughts
  • It helps you relax; It causes anxiety

So, how can this be possible? How can the same drug studied by the same professionals come up with such conflicting information? The answer is simple, neither side is right. It is not a black-and-white answer, there are positive benefits from the drug as well as harmful effects.

But to say something is all right or all wrong, is well, just wrong. And I want to get this right. So I have been listening, reading, and watching all sides of this notorious debatable topic only to remain just as confused as when I began. And while the good/bad argument is inconclusive, I have found an alternative solution which comes from asking a different question.

That question is “What does your relationship with Marijuana look like?”

What does that mean? I am more concerned with what role the drug plays in each person’s life. Is it becoming a higher priority? Are you relying on it to alter mood and emotion, to deal with stress or anxiety? Is it a huge part of your day? Do you defend the drug and blame anything else for consequences?

It is engrained in each of our brains to have healthy relationships. These natural relationships include with our family/friends, within our spiritual sense, with our self, and within some type of community. If our emotional needs are not being met, we often turn to things (money, material), activities (shopping, gambling), or substances. And with substances, the relationship is kind, predictable, and gives you control…sort of.

All drugs affect your body in an unnatural way. It does something that the body was not designed to do. An unhealthy relationship to any substance, activity, or person, can be damaging to the mind, body, and spirit. And Marijuana is not excluded…if this statement offended you, you may want to reexamine your relationship with Marijuana.

The remainder of this entry is information on the history of cannabis, the plant, medicinal use, recreational use, legalization, and effects in the body and teenage mind. I have also added in the most common arguments I have heard along with an informative, non-confrontational response.

The Plant:

Cannabis sativa is a plant that has been around for over 10,000 years, believed to have originated in India. The first documented use as medicine comes about 5,000 years ago in ancient China. Marijuana is made from the dried up flowers and leaves of the plant.

There are more than 400 known chemicals in smoking marijuana, the most prevalent is THC which is responsible for the intoxicating psychoactive effects. A natural plant will contain 2-4 percent THC, today’s average concentration of THC is between 10-20 percent due to genetically modifying the way in which it is grown (i.e., greenhouse effect heats up the plant which transforms THCa into THC).

The second most abundant chemical is CBD which is responsible for sedating effects, medicinal uses, and much less known harmful effects. A plant with four percent CBD is considered high concentration with most closer to 1-2 percent.

Pro:        “It is a plant. It is natural.”

Anti:      “Yes, it is a plant. And it WAS natural but it is not genetically modified to create a greater intoxicating effect. Every drug, at it’s core comes from a plant – including methamphetamine (from the Ana

 

Pro:        “Yeah, but man has modified those plants, Cannabis is natural.”

Anti:      “Just because it is natural, does not make it perfect. There are hundreds of plants that if eaten, smoked, or snorted will have fatal consequences. The Castor Oil plant contains ricin – the most poisonous plant in the world. Many different wild berries can be fatal within hours.

 

Pro:        “But Cannabis has been proven to be safe.”

Anti:      “The same for opium, comes directly from the poppy plant. It is just as old, used for the same reasons, yet nearly half the Chinese population was addicted to Opium for 200 years. It is about the relationship with the drug. And just like Cannabis, they continue to find ways to get more high off the drug such as smoking and injecting and making it more potent in forms of morphine and heroin”

 

Pro:        “The hemp plant can be used to make thousands of materials including rope, cloth, and paper.

Anti:      “Yes, it is a very valuable plant. But, do you really want it to be legalized so you can make rope and paper? Or do you want to get high? The legalization for mass production of paper does not change the stance on the long-term effects of THC on the brain and the dangers it can have on the adolescent brain.”

The Medicine:

The human body contains an endocannabinoid system which is responsible for many functions throughout the body. The cannabinoid receptors work as a lock and key to other cells. As the neurotransmitter connects to the cannanibinoid receptor it releases other chemicals such as dopamine, serotonin, glutamate, and GABA.

 

Anandamide is the natural key for these cannabinoid receptors which attaches to the cells. However, T.H.C. is very similar to the makeup of anandamide and is able to attach to cannabinoid receptors and these two begin to fight for the same spots.

 

Once attached, the THC lasts longer allowing the doors to be open for longer. This can have positive or negative effects.

 

Brain Stem: Anti-nausea effects which benefits cancer patients going through chemo. Certain chemicals attaches to this specific receptor which over-stimulates the communication to prevent nausea.

 

Hypothalamus: This portion of the brain is responsible for appetite. Chemicals from cannabis can bind to a receptor that increases appetite and blocks the function that tells us we are full. This is why people get the munchies and can be beneficial for those suffering extreme weight loss, such as AIDS patients.

 

Basal Ganglia: Responsible for starting or planning a movement. Chemicals from cannabis can over-stimulate this area for people with movement diseases such as Parkinson’s or Multiple Sclerosis by helping the brain regain control over movements.

 

Spinal Cord: Responsible for pain and cannabis stimulates receptors in this region that leads to pain relief.

 

Amygdala: The fight-or-flight region used for survival. People with extreme anxiety could benefit from having these fear messages turned off.

 

Nucleus Accumbus: Motivation and reward, could be helpful for people with depression.

 

Seizures can happen in any part of the brain and scientists are unsure about the effects of THC as it could actually trigger more seizures. They are currently working on testing CBD and the effectiveness of fixing imbalances in the brain for epilepsy patients.

 

But the beauty of all of this is that the scientists have found ways to break down the exact chemical needed for each specific disease and turn it into a pill form. Now you no longer need to smoke the drug and cause damage to the lungs and do not have to deal with any other associated negative side effects of smoking high potency marijuana. In fact, they have already created the following drugs from marijuana.

 

  1. Sativex: Used for patients with late stage cancer suffering from moderate to severe pain; helps with muscle spasms and stiffness caused by MS
  2. Dronibinol/Marinol: Used to treat nausea for cancer patients or appetite stimulant for AIDS patients.
  3. Nabilone/Cesamet: Treatment for nausea for cancer patients going through chemotherapy.
  4. Dexanabinol: Protects brain from damage after cardiac surgery. Helps regain high-level functioning following a traumatic brain injury.
  5. CT-3: Used for neuropathic pain in MS patients.
  6. Cannabinor: Used for chronic pain – specifically nerve pain; bladder control.
  7. Rimonabant: Appetite suppressant for obesity patients.

 

Pro:        “It is used for medicine. Sick people can use it to get better.”

Anti:      “Yes, that is very true and it is great we have discovered so many uses from this plant. What is even better news is that scientists are finding ways to synthesize only the parts of the plant that are useful for that specific disease and can make it into a pill. Then you do not need the harmful effects from smoking the drug.”

 

The Science (and Art) of Getting High

These are some great arguments above, but the high majority (excuse the pun) of those giving these arguments really only want the drug legal to get high. Recreational use is at an all-time high in this country, mostly due to the lowest perceived risk in the history of the nation. As with anything, as the perceived risk decreases, the likelihood of using will increase. Tobacco is going against the opposite curve. Perceived risk is at its highest, while the use is at the lowest.

Most commonly, we hear about marijuana’s effects on the lungs, memory, cognitive function, and motivation. But how does it all work? It’s simple. The same as above for medicinal use, with the exception of higher potency and changes in the brain’s natural chemistry.

In the brain, we have 100 billion cells which we call neurons. The neurons pass messages to each other throughout the brain. One of the chemicals that pass messages is called Dopamine. This is responsible for pleasure and reward.

Eat a hot dog – brain likes the taste – tells another cell that it should be happy – then remembers this.

The dopamine is locked in its cell by inhibitors. This is to prevent dopamine from being present throughout the body. Once we experience pleasure, our brain creates a chemical called anandamide, which attaches to the cannabinoid receptor – this serves as a key to unlock the dopamine.

Drop inhibitions? Ever hear that phrase? This is where it comes from. The inhibitions serve as a lock to our pleasure and reward system. The anandamide works as a key to remove our inhibitions and bring joy.

THC is very similar to the anandamide makeup, which means they fight over the same receptor sites. Once THC attaches to the sites, it also serves as a key to release dopamine, but THC lasts much longer which means the cell is unlocked for longer and more dopamine is released. The end result is over stimulation in communication pathways which creates the high.

This leads to all the positive effects that make smoking cannabis so appealing:

  • Euphoria
  • Relax (relieve stress)
  • Socialize
  • Motivation / Inspiration
  • Focus
  • Spiritual
  • Pain Relief
  • Creativity
  • Hunger

As you can see, taking a substance can either alter your mood by producing a positive emotion/feeling or by removing a negative one. As this happens over time it does two things; 1) Physically our brain is constantly filled with THC and therefore it stops producing anandamide. Without anandamide, the brain needs the THC to unlock the cells of the endocannabinoid system which gives us all the pleasures of smoking; 2) Psychologically we learn to depend on the substance to feel a certain way. Part of growing is learning how to change our mood and emotions in a healthy and natural way. If we rely on THC over time, we never learn how to do these things and never grow or mature.

 

The Ultimate Paradox:

So, we have this magic drug that makes us feel so many great feelings. But every single thing that it gives us, in the long run, it takes it away.

If you smoke to feel relaxed, the brain adjusts its threshold and does not know how to eliminate fear without the drug. This leads to an increase in anxiety and paranoia.

If you smoke for inspiration, eventually this motivation system is damaged the same way. You lose all motivation as the drug takes control in such a slow manner that you do not realize it.

Then of course, all those that smoke for that euphoric feeling often find themselves more irritable than ever before. Or as my college roommate once told me, “Man, I can’t believe it is 3:00p.m. and I haven’t smoked all day.” After a few rips, he came back happy as ever. At that moment, I started to change my mind about cannabis addiction or abuse. It clearly had control of his life and his ability to function. He developed an unhealthy relationship with the drug.

 

Part Two (Stress and Adolescent Smokers):

There is more to this topic -too much more. I want to conclude with this information for now and will post about the different types of smokers and the effects it has on the teenage brain. As my argument states that I am most concerned about the individual’s relationship with the drug, I am more concerned with the information being presented to adolescents as their brain is not fully developed and the increase in teenagers smoking weed on a regular basis with no fear of any consequences is a recipe for a future epidemic.

Marijuana mostly effects emotion, motivation, and decision making. As the adolescent mind transforms from child to adulthood, this is a crucial time to learn these tools necessary for life. In part two, I will discuss specifically how marijuana is dangerous to those who smoke to relieve stress and the adolescent brain.

 

The Frankenstein Society: Who Is Creating These Monsters in Professional Sports? By Brian Francis

richevil

“Rape is one of the most terrible crimes on earth and it happens every few minutes. The problem with groups who deal with rape is that they try to educate women about how to defend themselves. What really needs to be done is teaching men not to rape. Go to the source and start there.” – Kurt Cobain

 

In a small village, near a quiet river, a group of people lived the good life. One day a villager noticed a baby floating down the river. The villager quickly jumped into the river and swam out to save the baby from drowning.

The next day this same villager was walking along the river bank and noticed two babies in the river. He called for help, and both babies were rescued from the swift waters. And this pattern continued as the problem progressed. The villagers organized themselves quickly, setting up watch towers and training teams of swimmers who could resist the swift waters and rescue babies. Rescue squads were soon working twenty-four hours a day. And each day the number of helpless babies floating down the river increased.

While not all the babies, now very numerous, could be saved, the villagers felt they were doing well to save as many as they could each day. Indeed, the village priest blessed them in their good work. And life in the village continued on that basis.

One day, however, someone raised the question, “But where are all these babies coming from? Who is throwing them into the river? Why? Let’s organize a team to go up-stream and see who’s doing it?”

The logic of the elders countered: “And if we go upstream, who will operate the rescue operations? We need every concerned person here.”

“But don’t you see,” cried the one lone voice, “if we find out who is throwing them in, we can stop the problem and no babies will drown. By going upstream we can eliminate the cause of the problem.”

“It’s too risky,” argued one of the elders, “Plus it is not our responsibility to determine causes of all problems. And besides, if we solved the problem then what would we do with our days?”

 

The Parable of the River Babies above symbolizes the difference between addressing the symptoms of a problem as compared to tackling the source. The recent atrocities committed by professional athletes have caused uproar amongst the media and general public, but these suspensions are only serving as a small bandage on a massive global wound. When will we try to break into the backfield and tackle the root of this problem to inhibit future cases of rape, domestic abuse, or sexual assault from these “monsters” in which we have created.

Before going any further, I need to be perfectly clear that I am 100-percent in favor of removing Ray Rice and Adrian Peterson from the game. In no way is their behavior excusable, nor is this an attempt to deflect the blame. It is an attempt to look deeper into the situation and trying to figure out what is causing the child abuse, sexual assault, and domestic violence in this country. And specifically, the professional athlete demographic and the alarming rates of such incidents.

Like Dr. Henry Frankenstein, as a society we are attempting to create super-humans as professional athletes and celebrities. In professional sports, the players are getting bigger, faster, and stronger by the day. The games are more violent and the long-term significant injuries are becoming more-and-more prevalent.

A recent study claims that 30-percent of the current NFL players will suffer debilitating brain damage in their lifetime. However, this story took a backseat to the video and photos released of the victims of abuse from two of the NFL’s biggest star running backs, Adrian Peterson and Ray Rice.

Funny how just a few weeks ago, the average football fan was more concerned about Michael Sam (first openly gay player in the NFL) ruining the game of football than they are over abusing women and children. And somewhere in Washington, Daniel Snyder can sit and quietly use a racist nickname and logo without any media scrutiny until another dead-zone of off-field antics appears – because only then is racism serious in the eyes of the NFL and the media.

The NFL has an openly paradoxical view on the violent nature of their game. While glamorizing big hits, playing them over and over, with up-close still frames of the week’s most violent hits on display for purchase – at the same time enforce rules and fines for doing the same act in which the league noticeably profits. ESPN, forever one of the largest media partners of the NFL, hosted a segment on Monday Night Countdown entitled, “Jacked Up,” in which the crew would replay the most vicious moments of the week.

But it is not just the players that are growing in size, the wallets of everyone associated is increase exponentially. According to Forbes Magazine, the NFL grossed more than nine billion dollars in revenue last season with commissioner Roger Goddell hoping this can reach $25 billion by 2027. Most interestingly, the NFL has received tax-exempt status since 1942. In 1966, the IRS changed the wording of the IRC 501(c)(6) definition as follows:

IRC 501(c)(6) provides for exemption of business leagues, chambers of commerce, real estate boards, boards of trade, and professional football leagues (whether or not administering a pension fund for football players), which are not organized for profit and no part of the net earnings of which inures to the benefit of any private shareholder or individual.

 

That is the amount of power the National Football League continues to hold over everyone. The city of Minneapolis was recently “awarded” to host the 2018 Super Bowl, but it came with a 153-page document of city requirements. This included everything from 35,000 free parking spaces, free presidential suites, free billboards, and install NFL-preferred ATM machines in the stadium. But wait, it doesn’t end there, they asked for free access to top courses in the Twin Cities during the summer or fall prior to the Super Bowl, free access to top bowling alleys, and if the cellphone signal strength is not strong enough that new towers are installed at no cost to the league.

This type of money and power leads to corruption. And, if the insane list of requirements above is not considered corruption, perhaps the mishandling of player conduct will shed light on the league. This includes the covering up of performance enhancing drugs, concussions, and domestic violence. A USA Today study found that 1 in 40 NFL players is arrested in any given year, and 12-percent of player arrests since 2000 are for domestic abuse.

Arizona Cardinals running back Jonathan Dwyer was arrested last Wednesday on aggravated assault charges and deactivated from all team activities. In July, Dwyer allegedly head-butted his wife and broke her nose after she refused his sexual advances, and then punched her in the face the following day. He also allegedly threw a shoe at their 17-month-old son, who was not injured.

On August 28, 2014, Goddell created a new policy against domestic abuse that imposed a six-game unpaid ban for first-time offenders and up to a lifetime ban of second-time offenders. Three days later, Ray McDonald was arrested for felony domestic violence after his 10-week pregnant fiancé reported minor bruises around her neck and wrists following an altercation at a party. McDonald has recorded five tackles while playing both games for the 49ers.

But this has been 49ers policy under coach Harbaugh who has previously stated he will forgive a player for anything except striking a woman. In 2008, Ahmad Brooks was accused of hitting a woman (that he just met) in the face before settling for mediation in the court system – meaning private settlements and removing court dockets. While it wasn’t Harbaugh who signed Brooks, he has benefited from his 2013 All-Pro performance and had Sports Illustrated commending his turnaround while referring to striking a woman (with no relationship to him) as “past troubles.”

Here are a few comments from a Cincinnati Bengals message board following the 2008 incident:

“As long as it doesn’t equal suspension then who really cares.. I just hope Ahmad has the breakout season that he was on his way to having last year before the injury.”

 

I still think the whole situation reeks of gold-digging due to the delay in reporting events.

 

Also, if it really happened the way she says, the police would have been all over him immediately.

 

Hopefully he’ll get it over with and tally it up to a big lesson learned..It’ll probably cost him about $50K or so and hopefully the troublemaking lady (hey, I just think thats what she is) will go away and let him get back to concentrating on football.

 

Oh, those “troublemaking ladies,” always out to get those poor 6’5 260 pound men for punching them in the face following an argument in the street.

Then we have defensive end, Greg Hardy convicted this summer of assaulting his former girlfriend and threatening to kill her. Hardy is appealing, and the Carolina Panthers decided to play him week one much to the delight of Panthers fans picking up a sack, forced fumble, and four tackles. But, Carolina changed their minds and suspended Hardy following the public uproar this past week.

And then there are two of the games most recognized names, Adrian Peterson and Ray Rice. If not for technology and social media, perhaps their stories never make the news and the NFL tried to sidestep the latest of inexcusable behaviors to protect their product.

“This is bigger than football. This is a societal problem,” said NFL Hall-of-Famer Fran Tarkenton told Fox News, “And every living American knows it.”

While the suspensions, penalties, and fines are a good PR move for the NFL, it is not addressing the problem. Because, they have been covering up the problem for decades. The goal, as clearly stated by Goddell, is to increase revenue. That means protecting their assets (star players, brand, etc.). Even after the videos, images, and texts have been released publicly fans are still ambivalent about whether or not their favorite stars should play. And that is the fans with nothing at stake, besides an unhealthy attachment, imagine the owners of the league that have a billion-dollar investment on the field.

“(Owners) are looking the other way because in their locker room, we have people abusing kids and abusing women and they’re doing illegal drugs to make them bigger, faster,” Tarkenton told CNN, “Look at their bodies. They see it and don’t acknowledge it because it’s win, baby, win.”

And this is the culture we have created. Win at all costs.

This trickles down to the NCAA, high school, and even youth sports. The competitive nature and win-at-all-costs mentality goes against everything in which youth athletics symbolizes. Youth and high school sports are known as “extra-curricular” activities. Meaning, “extra” to the “curriculum.” An opportunity to learn life lessons in which they can apply to the rest of life. It is not about sitting a 12-year-old on the bench all season so your pee-wee team can have a winning record and you receive a 14-inch plastic trophy with your name engraved.

The message we have created is that you are above the rules, norms, laws, and moral obligations of the rest of society if you are athletic and can help the team win. Take a look at the last four Heisman trophy winners; Jameis Winston, Johnny Manziel, Robert Griffin III, and Cam Newton. All but Griffin have been involved in some sort of off-field situation/scandal in which they are proven to be above the law.

Winston bursts onto the scene as a freshman and brings Florida State a national championship and takes home the Heisman trophy last year. It was a great story, oh and he raped a girl (Shhh!). The city of Tallahassee, Florida State, the media, and the NCAA covered this up and it went under the table as his “triumphant” journey to the national championship led the headlines. Fans start to cry that it was a conspiracy, the media pretends it never happened, and this girl is left at home without ever being notified that the case was closed. Then she gets to sit at home and watch a nation of sports-obsessed, win-at-all-costs men glamorize the man who took away her innocence.

Some fans will go as far as to defend Winston, despite the facts that the night of the assault she had bruises, Winston’s semen in her underwear, a teammate partially videotaped it on his camera phone (which was never requested by the investigation), took two weeks for police to interview Winston and never asked for his DNA (it was a private investigator who got this part done). The first report was written two months after the incident and then suspended his inquiry without informing the accuser. And this is the “short-list” of the mishandlings of this particular case.

The most disheartening part about all of the off-field problems with domestic abuse and sexual assault is that society still finds a way to blame the victim. We focus on educating women on how to defend themselves, rather than teach men not to rape. As though we have just accepted sexual assault on women as a regular part of being a woman – which apparently is not far from the truth as one in four women have survived rape or attempted rape at some point in their lifetime.

According to a 1995 Los Angeles Times study, athletes who were charged with sexual assault were convicted just 31 percent of the time as compared to 54 percent conviction rate of the general public. The study also reports that athletes charged with domestic violence were only convicted 36 percent of the time, compared to 77 percent conviction rate to that of the general population.

But the demeaning of women is also done on the field. In April, the Buffalo Jills (cheerleaders for the Buffalo Bills) filed a lawsuit against the team – in which the story quickly faded away. The team required a weekly “jiggle test,” in which they assessed each part of their body to ensure they were “field ready.” Unlike the rest of the NFL which receives subsidies, the cheerleaders received a maximum of $1800 for the year (of the $256 million made by the Bills organization) were told how to act in public, how much bread they were to eat at dinner, required to pay up to $100 out of pocket to meet hair requirements for game day, must attend charity events without pay and finance their own travel in which they were required to dress in bathing suits to get dunked in tanks and sit on the laps of drunk men.

The San Diego Union-Tribune keeps a comprehensive database of all NFL arrests since 2000. The numbers show that since 2000, NFL players have 34-percent more arrests for violent crimes than the general public; 81-percent higher rate for DUI charges, and 324-percent higher rate for weapons charges. And these are just the charges, this does not include the unknown crimes that are never reported.

But this is how American society has always worked. Those who are in power get to glamorize the good they do, sweep the bad under the rug, and do damage control whenever exposed. And professional football is just a microcosm of our society (with the exception that most of society pays taxes), the product we see is just a reflection of society’s desires.

The monsters we have created have turned on us and we are not sure how to respond. Now we lock them up and poke at them just as Fritz did with Frankenstein’s monster until he broke free and killed him. Now, this is not suggesting a pardon for Rice or Peterson, but rather proposing we take a deeper look into what has created this society in which people are abusing children and women.

Remember, the Ravens did not suspend Ray Rice because they saw the video and the Vikings did not suspend Peterson because they saw the pictures. These suspensions were handed out only because YOU saw them, reacted, and then they made a response. If these images were not made available to the public, you would have never known they happened.

 

The Frankenstein Society Part 1 of 2

abuse

 

“Child maltreatment has been called the tobacco industry of mental health. Much the way smoking directly causes or triggers predispositions for physical disease, early abuse may contribute to virtually all types of mental illness and addictions.”

 

 

 

I am not a fan of physical abuse of children. In fact, I despise it and it makes me get a lump in my throat and get sick every time I even think about it.

You see the photos above. That is of a 4 year old in Minnesota that was killed from child abuse. After 15 reports were made. Nothing was done.

How do you think that boy’s life was? He was abused by his mother. Then he was moved to his father’s home where he was abused. None of the other children were beaten. He was. Repeatedly. Why does this kid deserve this while the kid down the street, same age, has a wonderful life? Why is it that one boy deserves that while the other doesn’t?

We will hear people say, “I never said that.” Well, then why do we allow it to continue throughout their lives? Why do we lock the survivors of abuse up in jails and asylums and have the people from the other side of the street treating them and judging their behavior?

 

This is what I am always saying. We all are co-responsible. I am not going to defend the act of child abuse ever. What I am going to do is tell you the way we are going about the problem is all wrong. We can take all the kids out of homes we want, it will not solve this problem.

 

The issue is the millions that do not die. They grow up, and are separated as the “lower class.” So you are born, you are beaten. You have no self-esteem or no skills except survival skills that no kid should have to learn. Then you may rob or steal to eat. You likely become a drug addict, you may be called “mentally ill.” Then you are locked up further and forced on medications that may likely not work. Just slow you down. Then we have staff at jails and mentally ill hospitals and group homes that were the kids down the street.

 

They do not understand how you can possibly just not “figure it out.” Why are you behaving like this? I hear staff call these patients that survive this stuff, “babies, manipulators, or control freaks.”

 

So why is it that these lives have to be this way? We keep it up, we like having this separation. We have to have a “lower class” in order for there to be an “upper class.” We then get people from the other side of the street and send them to a college where they do not learn to be free thinkers, in fact they learn how to repeat what other robots tell them to think.

 

I see it every single day. I read an article about this and I cry and I cry and I almost throw up. I get so angry I cannot take it.

 

That doesn’t help, attacking the abuser will do nothing. I work sometimes with patients who were abusers. It is a cycle. It is a cycle that much like poverty, we have the power to stop, but we are too busy, or too comfortable, or we just don’t care.

We must protect “our own.” When will we realize that “our own” is everyone. We all are connected. We cannot sit by and we have to change the cycle. The generational pain and the community lies have to stop. When this happens, there should be outrage. There is a little, but then it gains attention when a celebrity does it. So we have to use this as an opportunity and stop attacking and yelling and blaming. I would love to do that. It just will do no good. So I will not do that.

 

Now Adrian Peterson and Ray Rice because they are celebrities have brought it to light. We can hate all we want, but that will never solve the problem, only perpetuate the very thing it is against.

 

So what do we do?

This is about how we can stop this cycle of this Frankenstein Society.

I can tell you right now that in 20 years of working in the mental health and addiction field, I believe I have read about 100,000 patients charts. I took about 2 days to estimate that number. It is a pretty accurate number.

 

 

Not one time has there ever been a chart that I have read that did not include some sort of childhood neglect, abuse, or trauma. NOT ONCE. In over 100 thousand charts.

 

The key to mental health and addiction treatment being better in the future is something called “trauma informed care.” In 100 years they will be talking about how this changed the mental health and addiction treatment much like diabetes with insulin.

It is treating every patient that walks through the door as if they have been through a trauma. You treat the patient different if you consider the fact they have been through a trauma than if you treat them based on the behavior they are displaying.

 

The statistics say about 70 to 80 percent have been through a trauma, I believe that is not correct. I am sure it is 100 percent. The thing is when you go through a trauma at an early age the hippocampus, which is the part of the brain that is responsible for memory, shuts down.

The amygdale which is in control of the startle response and hyper vigilance is increased. So your brain does not remember the trauma, however, the body and stress response remembers the trauma, it is to keep you alert to danger, and your brain does not even remember the event.

 

So I am certain it is 100 percent of those with mental health /addition issues have been in a trauma and all of them should be treated this way. 100,000 charts, now some only briefly mentioned it, but after talking to the patients, it is 100% of those charts.

 

That’s not some study that is a real life number.

 

Now I want to tell a story of 2 lives and how this happens, then get to the solution. This is a true story.

 

1st is a young lady about 20 years old. She has a low IQ and is considered Developmentally Delayed at birth. She is born to a mother that has substance abuse issues and this may have contributed to her being born with this disability. Her name is Marley.

 

Then we have Mr. Olson, he is born about 30 years before Marley. Mr. Olson is raised in an environment with parents who have drinking issues, but they consider it normal to not talk about feelings. You are to “suck it up.”

 

If you have emotions in this family you are told to shut up, be quiet and you are hit and scolded and put in a room for the night. This Mr. Olson, when he was a child, he was very emotional, he was one who was a truth seeker. He speaks up, he yells, he takes his whooping’s and eventually he decides that his parents are right, something is wrong with him. HE starts hiding his true self and being the tough guy rebel as his false self. The false self is usually direct opposite of who you really are. He is sensitive, so he becomes the bad guy punisher bully.

 

Then back to the young Marley. Her mom cannot take her behaviors or the fact that she has a disability, she does not understand this. When Marley has behaviors that are not like the normal kids, she is hit and beaten seriously. All this time, she does not understand, she is a young lady who is lower functioning than others and is now being hit and beaten and she has no idea what is going on. She shuts down, she is lower functioning so she is more impulsive and aggressive now and reacts strongly to thing. She reacts because her brain and body has been hyper activated by the abuse.

 

Because she is now silent, she is a prime target for abuse. Her biological dad sexually abuses her and rapes her almost every night.

 

She is now silent about this, she is developmentally delayed and silent because she is afraid. So she does not know any better, she believes this is normal. So the physical and sexual abuse goes on until she is 12. Her brain is hyper activated and her startle response is high. Her impulsivity is high.

 

Mr. Olson is growing up, around ages 8, 9, and 10 he reacts, he starts to act out in school, and is always getting in fights. Then he gets acceptance. His world has given him the mask he is to wear if he wants love. He is acting out his shame and fear, He comes home and is beaten more. He acts up by beating kids at school and finding kids to pick on and he seeks them out and goes after them. That is what you see the kid’s and even adults doing, the body acts out what the brain cannot comprehend or make sense of. So in both these cases the acting out behaviors are what is judged, not the underlying issue. We decide to just judge the behavior.

 

In both cases, it would take 1 teacher, 1 social worker, of 1 stranger to notice this and speak up, but no one does. So the story continues for both.

 

When Mr. Olson was a child and bullying these kids, it is the only time he has control and so he hurts people. This is his world. His true self is shut down, He turns 18 and goes into the military He has no choice, everyone has told him he is a dummy his whole life and he will never amount to anything anyways. He believes this smokes, drinks, bullies. He has become his parents.

 

However Mr. Olson is a smart, caring man on the inside. That is now blocked but what was created by his parents and society. He is a sort of Frankenstein. He has become what is acceptable to his world.

 

He goes to the military, mouths off, and is kicked out after a while. He goes to rehab and treatment multiple times as he was forced for being this aggressive kid. His family laughs at him tells him he is just a wus. He believes it does what he has to get through it.

 

 

Young Marley is taken from her parents finally at age 12 or 13. She is in foster care and group home ages 13-18. She now has been taken away from her mother. The only home she has ever known. This is confusing and more trauma for her. She hurts herself, cuts herself, and explodes on people. She hits staff and foster parents. She acts up impulsively. Everyone that approaches her feels like she is just a “bad kid,” an asshole that needs to grow up. “She knows better.” Is what I have heard people say about her.

 

Really? She knows better? Has anyone ever looked beyond the behaviors and talked to her? Has anyone every showed her the correct way to act? SO we see the behaviors, judge her by them without looking beyond. We expect that somewhere along the line she is supposed to just figure it out? When is she supposed to just figure out how she is to behave? Her or him? We created them both. Then we all are up in arms when they go too far or do not figure it out.

 

Everyone is afraid of her and no one wants to get to know her. So she gets hurt, then acts up which creates more distance between her and the world, and creates more depression. She gets attention when she acts up, but not when she is good. So if she acts up, it gets her some attention. She still is lonely and afraid and scared so she yells and acts up a lot and is pushed form home to home. This is a kid with an IQ below 80 and extensive trauma. We are adding more trauma with every move and expecting her to just figure out how to behave.

 

She is labeled as trouble, explosive, violent and impulsive, which can be true. She is also a kind loving and caring young lady. People get reports on her coming to their facility, they read this. They are missing the important acts that create the behavior. It causes staff to act as if she is this bad human. This is what trauma informed care changes, it requires you look beyond this behavior. Or beyond the mask.

 

Mr. Olson, after the troubles, he finally gets married and gets a job. It is a type of security job at a prison, someone who monitors people and writes down how they are doing. He likes it and he gets acceptance for being a big bully and strong. He can keep things in order. He is actually very smart and sensitive. When no one is watching he is kind to the patients and they love him.

 

His reputation is that of a bully tough guy who prevents the patients from acting up. That is who he lets people see. When people are watching he is the tough guy. Who he truly is, is not acceptable to people in his mind. He has been told this his whole life and he has gained acceptance being the tough guy and the bully.

 

Now young Marley at age 23 destroys property and assaults staff that did not like her behavior and now she is in a jail. Mr. Olson happens to be working at the same jail, now 53 years old and a veteran staff member.

 

They form some kind of bond, they goof of and like each other very much. They are laughing and teasing a lot of the time, Sometimes Marley doesn’t understand but she likes him for the most part.

However tat times when she acts up he bullies her and she does not understand. SO in response she yells more and more. They both will yell at each other. However it is not their true selves mad at each other. Their souls get along, they each have this Frankenstein personality created by us, yes every single one of us. Their false selves do not like each other.

 

One day, she is told bad news, and she does not understand it so she acts up, yelling and screaming at everyone. People are trying to talk her down so she does not start hitting people or throwing coffee on people like she does.

In comes Mr. Olson, he sees all the people that are trying to calm her down and she won’t, he wants to be the hero and accepted. There is a big audience.

 

He has his audience, he has his history, who he is supposed to be. He screams and yells at her, she yells back.

 

Everyone clears out she leaves the room. He takes her by the leg and throws her on the ground hard and hurts her bad. It is caught on camera. What we all see on camera is this man, taking this 23 year old girl, and physically assaulting her. This is what we see.

 

Now we have MR Olson has abused a Developmentally Delayed 23 year old girl. She had bruises and she does not understand. She is scared. Who she is always gets beat.

 

Mr. Olson is seen on camera, he lost his job. The staff blame her and the people that fired Mr. Olson. Mr. Olson was actually very good at his job and loved by staff. He is now gone, he has no job, and his family has lost his financial support.

 

He learned this is how you treat people and this has been reinforced and swept under the rug his whole life. No one ever took time to educate or talk to him about this when he did this before it was ignored. It is accepted by many. So this is more than his fault. He has done this before and every single time it was swept under the rug, that person that did nothing was contributing to pain. People were afraid to talk to him about it, so they contributed to this. Everyone who saw his behaviors and allowed it, looked away, it is all on them that he now has been labeled as an abuser.

 

 

This is a typical abuse situation.

 

We like to get on one of their sides and attack the other one. You will hear the attacks on him and some people with attacks on her. The people attacking are judging a situation that they know nothing about. They are continuing the cycle. How does attacking either one of these people help change the situation?

Adrian Peterson, Ray Rice, any one of these situations. I can tell you they grew up like this. This has been acceptable and swept under the rug their whole lives. They are paid to be violent and taken out of the bad neighborhoods and told to bang into each other and be violent. Then they are good so their behavior off the field is swept under the rug, and ignored. Until we have video. Now they are attacked for something that has always been allowed and no one has ever educated them about. Now the people who are responsible for creating the monster Frankenstein, they all run away or they want Frankenstein to be killed. They are usually so adamantly against it because they are trying to cover up their guilt. Any person who is adamantly against something is usually covering something up. Like the senator against child abuse that was found to be a child abuser. Or the Idaho congressman who was adamantly against being gay who was found in an airport soliciting gay sex. The anger against something like this is covering up some sort of guilt.

 

When you attack one side, either Mr. Olson or Marley, you are no better and you are not helping the situation. How does that help? Even if you are telling the truth, it is your truth. It is not going to get anyone to change. So what is your intention? Is it to create change? Because violence in acting or in verbal aggression is not going to change anyone’s behavior.

The answer is to stop yelling and fighting and blaming and start educating.

If Mr. Peterson is attacked and yelled at that is fine, but is taking his money, locking him up, keeping him from his child going to help? How? If he is a perpetual abuser then ok. However to join in the witch hunt is not helping the situation. What we have here is generational pain and dysfunction. It takes 5 generations to break the cycle. Here we have an opportunity to help a family that has generations of abuse and dysfunction, and instead of that, we are attacking. This will create more isolation, isolation creates secrecy, and secrecy creates shame and more dysfunction.

 

The other option would be to look behind this issue, educate both sides, and have Mr. Peterson start a charity for abused kids. We can use this horrible moment to flip the script and end the cycle of dysfunction.

 

 

His child would benefit from his father learning how to discipline him, not by punishing him.

If this education happens to a person and they continue to abuse, then we have a different story.

 

Mr. Olson was violent with patients before and no one said anything.

 

 

 

In the case with Mr. Olson and Marley case. You see, it is not so black and white.

 

We are all co responsible for this. The taking sides and attacking only creates more pain.

 

That is why I say every action matters. If you see something, speak up, and do it in a way that people will listen, if you yell and scream, then your message is lost.

You could have the cure to world hunger but if you present it the wrong way it is lost.

We must stop the hate. Start to educate with love, that’s the only way.

 

Yelling and attacking does not create change. You know what helps, allowing people to be their true selves and encouraging that and encouraging love every single chance you get.

 

I do have to say, things are changing, there are great providers out there. If there wasn’t, I wouldn’t be here, We need to bring more out, and have them lead the profession, not leave it.

 

If your intention is love, you can speak from the truth. Then you can create change.

As Martin Luther King Jr said,

 

The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral,

Begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy.

Instead of diminishing evil, it multiplies it.

Through violence you may murder the liar,

But you cannot murder the lie, nor establish the truth.

Through violence you may murder the hater,

But you do not murder hate.

In fact, violence merely increases hate.

So it goes.

Returning violence for violence multiplies violence,

Adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars.

Darkness cannot drive out darkness:

Only light can do that.

Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.

 

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

 

 

The end.

 

Video Below from Brian Francis.

 

We have added a YouTube channel. Cortland Pfeffer (takingthemaskoff) and a Facebook page. Taking the MASK OFF.

I have also added another contributing editor, Brian Francis. He is in the field and has been a patient as well. He has come up with much of the titles, and has talents that I do not have. He will write part 2 of this series.

I think we will be looking for more partners soon. Everyone has different talents and can contribute to this fight.

We may be adding more partners soon. I appreciate all the comments and love I have received here. It not only has helped my recovery, but my interactions with patients. You have all been a gift. That is why I want to make this better.

 

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iokXV6WYJWw

The Hug Club: A story of Civil Disobedience

civil-disobedience

“By choosing to be our most authentic and loving self, we leave a trail of magic everywhere we go”

When I say recovery, I do not mean what most people mean. Most people talk of recovery of a time they stopped a perceived destructive behavior. When I talk about recovery I talk about recovery of your true self. This is a constant process that is always changing. A recovery date to me is a day you realized the truth and woke up. After that there are days you go back, sometimes weeks and months. I refuse to call them relapses as they are part of the awakening process. They also create shame and guilt, and sometimes going back to our false selves is the best reminder to us to keep the recovery going. So why call it a relapse, when in the end, it may aid your recovery. We have moments that the truth is revealed to us. When we start recovering, we must remember it is a journey, not a destination. You do not get to a mountain top and say, “I am recovered,” because that is a set up. The following is of a story in my recovery of self-process.

Everyone keeps saying do what is right. I always say it. How do you know? How do you know what is right?

I always wondered, how will I know? When the time comes will I be ready? I have to accumulate all this knowledge then when the time is right, I will know.

That’s what I thought, then I drove myself crazy with everyone’s words, my own words. Everyone else’s ideas. I overwhelmed myself with thoughts about what is right.

The truth is, we already know. The “knowledge” we gain is the problem, not the solution.

We have it in us, we have to tap into that. The secret is not to gain knowledge, it is to drop knowledge. Enlightenment is not a process of gaining wisdom, but of losing perceived wisdom.

I want to tell you of a time that I realized this. I was working as part of the management of a rehab facility. It was my first job as a supervisor. I was very nervous. I had recovery under my belt and that was helping me.

We had a patient, she was a 55 year old schizophrenic. She was about 5 feet tall, 300 pounds. She did not shower much, she smoked a lot. She talked in a raspy voice. She had short curly hair that was dark brown or black.

I remember meeting her, she had a smile and a personality that no one could match, and she stood out more than just about any patient I have ever dealt with.

She had so many meds, and no one wanted to admit her because of all the medications. We, as a system, gave her meds, to slow her down. We like to think that it’s not on us, we are not the ones prescribing the medications. That is false, we are all Co responsible for each other. If we keep placing blame and not speaking up, things will never get better.

What these meds typically do is slow down those with strong minds and in slowing them down, makes them hungry so they eat, and they are sluggish so they don’t exercise. That explains the weight gain for most of these patients. We do not mind, because then they do not challenge us.

Those with the strong minds sometimes give us the moist difficult time. If we do not want to work or be challenged, we turn a blind eye to the drugging up of these patients. I hear staff still today say, “Let’s snow them.” Snowing meaning put them out so we can do our paperwork. These patients are the gifted ones, they challenge us and make us work, so we turn a blind eye as they are chemically restrained with meds.

This is something that you cannot understand if you have not taken them yourself. It seems inconceivable that we would give someone meds for any other reason than to help them. That’s where I benefit. Not only have I been a provider but I have taken loads of these meds in my time. I know what they feel like, I know their benefits and their side effects well.

So we have this lady who has gotten all of our attention. She is always running at people trying to give hugs. This is so “dangerous,” to our system.

We have this long talk about “boundaries” do not hug her, she needs to stop it. She doesn’t understand our boundaries, we need to teach her. That is the talk amongst the staff.

She is attempting to hug everyone, or grab them. Anything she can. Then we have other patients that she is going after.

What we have is a “hug crisis.” The staff is up in arms. No one knows what to do. She is going to get taken advantage of. We see guys at the street corner when she goes to the gas station walking with her and giving her cigarettes.

We have a group of 20-25 year old staff right out of psychology school and they are reading their books and going through policies and they are all at a loss. They are all certain that their books say this is unacceptable and they have to stop it. All the theories their teachers told them about are not working.

“What are we to do? She is going to get raped or taken advantage of. We have to stop this.”

We have this emergency “hug meeting” is what i called it. We had to find out what to do before she got killed or taken advantage of.

We are going around the room, we have the 23 year old going to psychology school to become a famous psychologist say how it is wrong. We have all the professionals saying, “This is unacceptable, this is not ok, and it is against the rules.”

What I call professional is playing grown up house. They put a word on it, they call it: “being professional.” Really what that means is dressing up, acting a certain way. Like grown-ups playing house. Being professional is not for the patients, it is for the staff. It gives them a chance to act superior. It is like boundaries. It is a chance for people that cannot build relationships with patients to put a name on it so they have an excuse. Then they call people unprofessional to stop them from doing so well with the patients.

We pretend and we wear clothes that cost money to make us look all grown up and special. We drive fancy cars, and that is the mask. It is the trying to look acceptable and good and it becomes a contest.

I had one supervisor tell me once that those who dreSS up perform better. I said “that is a nice study, but all that means to me is those that play dress up well are robots following the system so they get rewarded and promoted because they are good at being fake, not at being real or actually good at their job.”

I got fired from that job. Fired 2 times. My brother is starting working in this system and he got fired his first job. I told him “that is good. If you haven’t been fired in this business, that means you aren’t fighting for the patients hard enough.” So for him to get fired right away means he is going to be an agent of change. He will be great.

People in these meetings are always trying to one up each other. They try to be the one using the bigger words or bigger phrases. I watch and I can see who they are right away now, they are trying so hard, they use words that are from textbooks, repeat theories they learn. They dress up and are trying really hard to be this “professional” and it is sad. They think this helps the patient. These people never help patients, they are not real.

The genius of this program director we had was she allowed everyone to have a voice, she knew when to stop it and when to step in, she was letting this meeting play out.

I am watching this unfold at out “hug meeting,” all the theory’s, all the staff are all chipping in about this as we go around the table.

I am going to say nothing, which is my plan at the time. I am just going to watch and see what happens. I start to get disturbed by this. You know that feeling in your gut that says “this is not right.”

I’m thinking about all this knowledge I have gained. I think about the books, and what can I say here. Nothing comes to me at all. Because it’s not real and it is hard to come up with something when it is fake.

I do something as I sit there. I drop all this knowledge, and I go to the truth, like what I did with Sammy from a previous post I have written. The stuff you learn in books is ok at times. However when it’s time to make a difference, that stuff is not found in books, it is found in your soul.

The man made knowledge must go away in times like this. It is something we all have hidden somewhere. We can find it if we chose. Some of us have It hidden much deeper, but it still exists in all of us. It is the truth, we all possess it.

In this meeting, I then just blank my mind. I think what “the truth.” is what is that in this situation. What is really going on?

The first step is knowing the truth, which is easy. The hard part is then knowing the truth in a room full of people who are not able to see it and going against them when it may cost you. There may be social punishment, weird looks, eye rolling, and there may be laughter. You may lose your “status.”

What I can tell you is that there are many people who are silently thinking the same thing, and when you say it, you will strike a chord with them. It sometimes only takes one person to speak the truth, and magic happens. When you speak from the truth, it resonates with people. Everyone at their core knows the truth, so when it is spoken, it hits them.

I decide to speak the truth, and I had a supervisor that gave everyone a voice. So I say this with all the eyes on me as a new supervisor “she is 55 years old, schizophrenic, and has been rejected her whole life and had people run away from her. She was abused and had no family her whole life. She has been treated like a leper he whole life. Everyone runs. When do we think the last time she had human touch was? Why can’t we touch her and maybe do a hand shake or a half hug or a fist bump?”

The look on some of their faces was priceless. It was silent. Except for the genius program Director at this place.

I have a “fab 5” It is a group of 5 people that changed my life. She is number one the list. I am not sure if I am supposed to give her name. So for now I will not do that. If she reads this, she knows who she is. If she allows me, I will release her name someday, because I have much more to say about her and the impact she had on my life. She encouraged this talk from me.

The room went still. I heard sighs, but it is like they were all stopped in their tracks. How can you argue with the truth? You can’t. So the “professionals” in the room had nothing to say.

There was an old lady sitting next to me and she wrote on a piece of paper “you are going to be good.” She had a tear in her eyes. She was silently telling me that she agreed.

Then some other truth tellers who were normally silent spoke up and we came up with a plan to touch her without breaking rules. We told her that we can do fist bumps, handshakes, even half hugs at staff discretion.

She never went to the street corner looking for hugs from strangers again. For the 90 days at our rehab center, she was loved and safe. That’s right, loved. I love the patients. That’s another no no. I will tell you in my truth, I love all the patients, and we all loved her.

This was a while ago. Of course time when on and she passed. But she taught me alot. To speak from truth. One of my best lessons from life came from this 55 year old schizophrenic. I will carry it on, her life meant something. It changed mine. Now everyone I can impact starts with the lesson she taught me. It all works together.

Sometimes it’s not about answering the questions, but it is about questioning the answers.

Sometimes all it takes is for you to drop all you think you know and go back to the truth. It is never to late to tap into the truth. Try it.

I will quote another one of my fab 5 who saved my life once again.

What he always said to me was this:

‘”If what you do you do with love in your heart, you can’t go wrong”

Live from the truth, and you will be amazed.

Thank you.

The end

addiction mental health stigma

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