Heroin is no different than sugar. They both kill.

Philip Seymour Hoffman died yesterday, apparently alone in his bathroom with a needle in his arm.  I grieve for him, his family, and his close friends that must now face a reality that has been dulled by his absence.

His death, like many other Hollywood and music superstars before him, begins a new discussion about drug addiction and the struggle to get clean. Inevitably, there will be a large portion of the population that will view his drug use as a choice and his death, therefore, a decision. It’s often not said that succinctly, but if we tease out the underlying sentiment, I think I’ve nailed it down pretty well.

sugargreenLet me be clear on one thing before we begin: I am NOT, nor have I ever been, addicted to drugs or alcohol. I am NOT married to, been in a relationship with, or lost anyone I love dearly to the disease of addiction. I DO care a great deal about humanity and I mourn the loss of anyone to disease of any kind. I DO think it’s important to recognize addiction for what it is.

I don’t believe Phillip Seymour Hoffman had any choice in his addiction nor his death. The only way I can help you understand how I feel is to explain this in terms of sugar. Before you put me on blast for comparing a drug to a food, consider this statement from a report by NPR, “recent studies have shown that sugar can produce changes in the brain and behavior that resemble addiction.

Just like heroin, not everyone who tries sugar will become addicted and those that do become addicted to sugar will most likely not be able to stop without intervention.

Have you ever had an obese friend, family member, or acquaintance that expressed how much they would love to lose weight and live a healthier lifestyle? Have you also watched that same person continuously make horrible food decisions day in and day out?  They may succeed in losing weight for periods of time on any number of fad diets, but sadly return to obesity every time.

Each doughnut, chocolate bar, or big mac they consume inches them closer to death.  From the Surgeon General’s Office: There are around 300,000 obesity related deaths each year, with risks rising as weight increases.  These friends and loved ones know the risk, if not the actual statistics, but they do it anyway.

We humans love to judge others and their decisions. For those of us not addicted to sugar, it’s utterly confusing why anyone would choose to do something that destroyed their quality of life and put them at risk of early death. Those not faced with addiction will look at each and every meal as a choice. But that is precisely the point at which addicts are separated from non-addicts.

We make choices every day by using our brains to evaluate the risk/reward, cost-to-benefit-ratio, chance of success or failure, etc. Based on our experiences in the world, we have each finely tuned our brain to assign value to all things in life – people, places, activities, and so on.  Imagine for a minute if that powerful choice machine, your brain, decided to change the value of certain things without your input. No amount of pleading, thinking, or praying will sway the brain in its decision. It has decided to do a big chemical backfire, and there is nothing you can do about it.

That is how I see addiction. I’m not a scientist, doctor, or anyone with any letters after my name, but I am someone that believes addicts do not have a choice.

It’s easy to look at a heroin, alcohol, or even sugar addict and think it is a choice. Was it a choice the first time someone tried heroin? Absolutely. But that choice was based on their experience with the world and the value their brain put on the experience of trying heroin; the risk versus reward. The choice to try heroin was the product of experience, the addiction to heroin was the product of the drug itself.

The choice to eat sugar is not as complicated since most of us get introduced to it within a few moments of birth, but addiction to sugar is a product of the food (drug) itself. When we begin to learn more about the power of sugar as an addictive substance, I hope we also gain a better understanding of the disease of addiction itself. Sugar is something that affects all of us and harder to ignore and marginalize.

If you enjoyed this, please share. It’s love and understanding that will move us forward.

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If you are looking for treatment for you or a loved one, please call or email one of the resources below. It’s not a choice, it’s a disease that needs treatment.

SAMHSA – Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Association

1-800-662-HELP (4357)
1-800-487-4889 (TDD)

Food Addicts in Recovery Anonymous

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The Day I Risked My Daughter’s Life To Save Others

Just thinking about that day makes my stomach turn and my hands go sweaty.

It was an otherwise normal day. The morning was a blur of frenzy as I tried to get ready for work while entertaining a 1-year-old in a plastic, jumpy play thingy. I’ve never liked mornings, and this one was no exception. Two cups of coffee and I knew things would look better.

Baby Hands

Image Credit: Sias van Schalkwyk http://www.seepsteen.co.za

As I buckled my daughter into her car seat, a small thought began to nag at me. Voices of friends, family, and internet strangers started to swirl in my head as I made the 10 minute drive to the building that held my daughter’s fate. By the time we checked in I was frantic, although you would have never known from the outside.  When our name was called, I scooped her up and took her into the room that would make her cry and wail. I knew my heart would break.

When it was over, I watched her carefully. She seemed the same. Over the next few months, I looked for signs of sickness. In the end, we came out the other side unscathed.

That was six years ago, less than a year after Jenny McCarthy became a vocal anti-vaccine spokesperson.

While the rational side of me KNEW that the MMR vaccine did not cause autism, I couldn’t help but be bombarded by her face telling me that I was wrong. The rational side of me did the research to the best of my non-scientific ability and I had concluded that vaccinating my children  was the right decision, but the loud roar of the anti-vaccination movement could not be avoided.

The day that I took my first born to get her MMR vaccination, I was scared. Six years later, I am mad.

I shouldn’t have been scared by a beautiful, eloquent spokesperson that refuted science and held up her beautiful son as evidence. Her son that, according to her, became autistic after receiving vaccines. The son that, according to her, recovered from autism through chelation therapy. The son with autism that, according to her, caused her divorce.  I know all of this because she was EVERYWHERE – on the news, on talk shows, online. I couldn’t escape from her if I tried.

Six years later, a report surfaced that McCarthy admitted her son was misdiagnosed with autism and suffered instead from  Landau–Kleffner syndrome, a common misdiagnosis. A week later she slammed that report refuting it’s truth, and all links to the original reports have been disabled (good job, lawyers). Regardless, it’s too late for me. Personally, I don’t believe her son had autism and was cured by an obscure therapy any more than I believe her claims that the MMR vaccine causes autism.

I do, however, blame her for my fear of vaccines. I also blame the media that gave her airtime.

A few weeks after my son was born in 2010, a newborn died of whooping cough at my hospital during a horrific outbreak in our state. The outbreaks were concentrated in areas that had low vaccination rates. Once again, I was scared. Not of Jenny McCarthy’s dire warnings, but of the thousands of children that were not vaccinated because their parents were afraid; a fear that may have been triggered by Jenny McCarthy.

This fear continues to be propagated by the anti-vaccination community that will sell you thousands of dollars in supplements and call the government and Big Pharma evil money-mongers despite contributing $32 billion of revenue to the US economy in 2012 alone.

That day, six years ago, I was told that I was risking my daughter’s life by vaccinating her but I chose to do it anyway because the evidence told me that these vaccines were more likely to save other children than hurt my own.

Please share this so other parents know that they are not alone in their fear. I applaud the families that vaccinate and thank them from the bottom of my heart for saving the lives of others with their decision.

If you are concerned about vaccinating your children, here are just a few excellent resources to consider. 

**A Population-Based Study of Measles, Mumps, and Rubella Vaccinations & Autism** please read this if nothing else

The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia – Vaccine Education Center

The History of Vaccines

HealthyChildren.org

At The End Of the Day…

End of the Day Blurb

Interpretation vs. Intention – Which is more important?

I was listening the the BBC’s “World Have Your Say” earlier this year, and they were discussing  a new ad campaign by Australian makeup company, Illamasqua. This image landed with the tagline, “I am not dreaming of a White Christmas.”

“I’m Not Dreaming of a White Christmas”

A company representative on the program insisted that their concept was one of juxtaposition, yin and yang. They make high pigment makeup and they wanted to showcase the intensity of their colors.

Others have taken offense to, what is to them, a blatant reference to the horrendous Blackface practice which began in the  minstrel era of 1830-1890, and mimicked degrading stereotypes of black people at the time.

“Blackface is more than just burnt cork applied as makeup. It is a style of entertainment based on racist Black stereotypes that began in minstrel shows and continues to this day.” – black-face.com

Based on this definition, the ad could be seen as not representing Blackface since the racist, stereotyped entertainment is not present. Others again disagree, saying the large, red lips are a direct reference to the blackface style.

Throughout the program it became clear that no one wanted to agree to disagree. They wanted admission of guilt, and wanted to be right.

So what is more important, Intention or Interpretation?

According to Illamasqua, the idea that this ad could be viewed as racist never even crossed their mind. They were trying to creatively show the deep pigmentation of their make-up which ranges from deep black to shocking white. They went on to say they have a long history of supporting and promoting all types of women, young, old, black, white and everything in between. They stand by their history of promoting the beauty of all women, and don’t think their ad should be viewed as racist at all.

But some do view it as racist.

If they have a long history of supporting all skin colors, is it possible that the interpretation of racism is simply wrong? Or does interpretation trump intention – making this ad a hideous representation of racism and one that should be pulled and apologized for?

And around and around and around we go.

Yes, I called the police when you said you were going to kill yourself on Facebook.

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

And I would do it again.

You see, we are Facebook friends, which means on some level you have invited me to participate in your life. We knew each other as children, more moons ago than I am going to count. We haven’t had a direct message conversation, and the last time we spoke it was probably about our math homework or boys. My memories of that time are fuzzy, but I remember your face. I remember that I genuinely thought you were a nice person. When I accepted your friend request – or maybe I sent one to you – I invited you into my life, and me into yours.

Last night, at 1:30am you posted that you were going to kill yourself.

I found myself staring at the line, paralyzed. Surely a good friend or family member is going to respond on Facebook and tell you that they were on their way.

A few minutes went by, and the only response was a plea to not go through with it. The poster was thousands of miles away. As was I.

I called the police in the city where the post originated with my wealth of information. First Name. Last Name. City. Nothing else. The dispatcher said she would attempt a wellness check if she could find an address. I hung up.

That’s when I started to doubt what I had just done. I hardly knew you, had no idea if this was a serious threat,  What if it wasn’t a serious threat and you found out that I was the one that called? What if you get pissed at me, or what if I got you in some kind of trouble? What had I just done?

After my call, there was Facebook silence, and uneasy sleep.

When I woke up I searched for any news about your well being. Your “real” friends had since seen the post and were posting frantic messages of love and strength. I learned that someone else had called the police, and they had already done a wellness check because of an earlier caller. No information was received on how the check went. 24 hours later, and I’m still not certain of the outcome.

The only thing I know is that I made the right call, and I would do it again.

I can live with you hating me, un-friending me, even casting an evil curse on me.

What I couldn’t live with was doing nothing and finding out you meant it.

~~~

If you are thinking about suicide, or faced with a similar situation, here are some resources:

National Suicide Prevention Hotline 1-800-273-TALK (8255)

Reporting a Suicide Threat on Facebook

Life imitating art… if NPR is considered art (which I think it is)

I came across an interesting piece today. Actually, it was completely uninteresting to me since it is merely a reflection of my daily life.

 

Apparently NPR has apologized to this 4-yr-old little girl for covering the presidential election so much that it made her cry. Sweet. It was nice of them to make nice with a viral video sensation. But honestly, 4-yr-old’s cry about E.V.E.R.Y.T.H.I.N.G.

They are the mini embodiment’s of Goldilocks. Everything is too hot, too cold. Too loud, too soft. Too much attention, not enough attention.  If I apologized every time my 4-yr-old was unhappy with the world around her, the only words I would ever get a chance to say would be “I’m sorry.”

So I read the apology that NPR issues. It’s basically an apology for being who they are.

On behalf of NPR and all other news outlets, we apologize to Abigael and all the many others who probably feel like her. We must confess, the campaign’s gone on long enough for us, too. Let’s just keep telling ourselves: “Only a few more days, only a few more days, only a few more days.”

Really, NPR? Doesn’t anyone in your office have a 4-yr-old?

I look at NPR as the parent of the reporting world, offering content that is thought provoking, and at times moving, with a dose of kind admonishment of our sometimes misguided ways. All things considered, your apology was not only unnecessary, but a little annoying to this mom of a 4-yr-old. The presidential election is the talk of the nation, and I want to hear your reporting on it.  In fact, I want you to tell me more. In fact, I find your programming a breath of fresh air from the constant complaining in my car otherwise.

Letting go is often kinder than holding on.

We are putting our beloved 12-yr-old dog down tomorrow. It’s hard to think about, and weird to type the words. He is old, and tired. His back legs no longer carry his weight, and the sight of them dragging behind his 50-pound frame has reached the point of pain, both for him and me.

Deciding to help move him through his last phase of life with the gift of sweet eternal sleep has been difficult, but it has come down to two things:

  1. Does he wake up every day happy to be alive?
  2. Does he go to sleep at night having enjoyed the day?

In the morning, he no longer rises happily to greet the day, or more importantly his food bowl. He looks at me wondering why he has to move so far to get so little.

In the evening he is asleep on his bed, having only moved to eat and the occasional request for love at the end of my day. I relish the evenings when he shifts over for a love scratch. I can’t imagine the other 12 hours of his day have been anything but pain and boredom. His once exuberant life has been reduced to existence without joy.

So, tomorrow I will say goodbye.

He has taught me an incredible amount about unconditional love, and anyone who knew him when he first arrived will remember the anxious barking, escape attempts, broken windows, and chewed everythings. We went through training, medication, all the way through to a second dog, that we have aptly nicknamed Prozac. Eventually we found a solution; and a lesson in tenacity.

He also taught us about overcoming stereotypes. As a 60-pound pitbull mix, he desired to be the lick ambassador of his half breed. He melted hearts, and quelled the fears of first impressions.

And now he gives the final lesson.

I know in my heart that letting him go is kinder than holding him here.

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