Drug and alcohol abuse is taking a huge toll in the world today. Increased stress and anxiety, financial crisis, high-unemployment, disintegration of families, constant exposure to violence in the media, movies and games, and an increase in climate disasters all contribute to increasing difficulty of day-to-day life. Today, I helped a friend try to get a social security card replaced. All of his ID’s and documents were washed away in a flood. He has never had a photo driver’s license. To get a birth certificate, a social security card replaced, a driver’s license or a passport requires an officially issued photo ID. So if you have no photo ID but need a photo ID to get the photo ID required to get the photo ID, well, you get the idea. Jumping thru insane hoops in our society has become a nightmare adding to extreme stress in daily life.
Help for substance abuse sufferers comes in the form of rehabs, AA (Alcoholics Anonymous) and NA (Narcotics Anonymous) meetings, and a string of counseling sessions. Unfortunately, alcohol abuse counselors report surprisingly few successes, success being defined as total abstinence from non-prescription drug use and alcohol use for the sufferer.
The source of substance abuse rests with psychological problems such as unconscious fears and feelings of anxiety and despondency which create a strong desire to numb out. The traditional approach of help available is hopelessly failing many sufferers. A new approach has to be considered.
The AA/NA approach only works if someone:
1. Can readily turn their power over to a higher power
(difficult since our society has many confused ideas of a “higher power”)
2. Desperately wants to be sober,
(not too common)
3. Are ready to face their unconscious issues head on
(quite over-whelming!), or
4. Can substitute coffee, meetings, and self-deprecating “addict” labeling for alcohol and or drug numbness.
The majority of AA/NA attendees are there by force not desire, making it more difficult to find those who can offer genuine help. It is a bleak picture of the help available in our society. The rising cost of health care has created a situation where jails now serve as our institutions for those suffering from mentally debilitating conditions that lead to substance abuse. We have a crisis in our society and therefore must try new approaches.
Fortunately, the rise of awareness in holistic health practices combined with a reawakening of ancient eastern philosophies of healing have provided an alternative perspective.
The alternative approach:
1. Use self-awareness and self-discipline to change behavior
(Allows one to find strength within)
2.Take small steps toward recovery
(Drastic changes are more difficult to maintain)
3. Substitute good habits in place of bad habits
(abruptly dropping a habit can leave an uncomfortable void thereby creating another difficult situation to deal with in a time of crisis)
The AA/NA model of recovery focuses on relinquishing control and stopping immediately whereas the holistic approach works to gradually replace bad habits with good habits and build a sense of self-awareness, self-responsibility and self-empowerment. The current approach is to label addiction as a “disease.” When we have a disease, we are encouraged to relinquish personal responsibility and obediently follow “doctor’s orders.” With this view, addicts feel even more helpless and hopeless. A recovering addict needs to increase self-awareness, be hopeful and motivated to become capable of making healing choices. They need to feel that they can accomplish their recovery goals.
In her book, The Benefits of Marijuana – Physical, Psychological and Spiritual, substance abuse counselor and holistic health practitioner, Joan Bello, discusses her experiences using marijuana therapy to treat alcoholism. Marijuana was used as a catalyst for change.
I remember a father of an18 year-old-girl, devastated by her recent death due to a heroin overdose, say to me, “why couldn’t she just smoke pot?” Those words have stayed with me. I thought maybe marijuana therapy might have kept her alive long enough for her to start figuring things out.
Substance abusers are looking for a way to feel better, or at least to fell less pain. Many alcoholics and drug abusers have used marijuana therapeutically without realizing it. Addicts have been taught to view marijuana as one more “bad habit.” This propagandized image painted by our society may be very far from the truth.
In Joan Bello’s practice, alcoholics in recovery used marijuana in place of drinking at specific times, not all times. This had the effect of raising their awareness of the reasons they drank excessively. Marijuana was used to substitute a good habit for a bad habit allowing the addicts to take small, manageable steps towards healing. An added benefit was the easing of withdrawal symptoms that can be devastatingly overwhelming.
Joan encouraged marijuana use every so subtly. She says if she had to do it over she would encourage marijuana therapy much more directly. Marijuana had the effect of awakening the existence of the inner potential of her patients. It allowed them to see a dimension of life that is deeper than the material. It helped them increase the self-awareness necessary for their healing. This reconnection with the essence of their deeper self had a very therapeutic effect.
Addiction has been viewed as a sickness of the soul. It requires a cure for the soul. Ancient medicine considered marijuana “a gift from the gods.” Perhaps marijuana is the soul cure that many are looking for and can benefit from. The pervasiveness of the addiction epidemic in our society demands that we look closely at all possible solutions and ground-breaking therapies.
Medical marijuana therapy may be “just what the doctor ordered.”
Written By: Brian G.