A Recovery Blog

This blog is about my continuing recovery from severe mental illness. I celebrate this recovery by continuing to write, by sharing my music and artwork and by exploring Buddhist ideas and concepts. I claim that the yin/yang symbol is representative of all of us because I have found that even in the midst of acute psychosis there is still sense, method and even a kind of balance. We are more resilient than we think. We can cross beyond the edge of the sane world and return to tell the tale. A deeper kind of balance takes hold when we get honest, when we reach out for help, when we tell our stories.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

All Human Beings Are Mentally Ill

Imagine that we are not alone in the universe as an intelligent species.  Imagine that there are other species who have evolved spiritually far beyond us to the point that they are highly aware, highly intelligent, well organized, dedicated to health and balance and peace.  Imagine that they have found us years ago and have chosen to remain hidden from us.  What would they conclude after watching us all across the globe for only one day?  They would see the devastation of war, hunger, poverty, disease and addiction.  They would see violence in the home and outside the home.  They would see overpopulation and pervasive pollution.  They would see mental illness in the forms of neurosis and psychosis.  They would also see effective intelligence, the ability to be empathetic and great creativity, but they would see a world of human mammals in a state of spiritual crisis.

The greatest spiritual crisis is to be out of balance and we are deeply unbalanced and unhealthy.  The manmade climate change we are experiencing is a huge symptom of this.  The earth itself is trying to get our attention, to force us to acknowledge that we are sick and irresponsible due to our collective sickness.  We are destroying our very home, yet so many of us stay hiding in denial.  If all of us were healthier, we would see that one of the first things that would need to end is war.  There is no way we can all join together if we continue to try to dominate each other.  The solution lies in effectively coming together to solve common problems.

Most of the world’s population is not doing much about climate change.  It is still predominantly  business as usual.  But there is an illness that is pushing individuals all over the world to face up to the fact that they are indeed very ill and in need of much support in order to recover.  That illness is the illness of addiction.  For most addicts if they continued business as usual in acting out in their addictions they would find themselves incarcerated or inside a psychiatric ward or dead.  Once inside an addictive lifestyle it tends to spiral downwards to some kind of bottom.  Hitting a bottom is a call to action, an opportunity to cultivate enough awareness to find a way to change.

I encountered the 12 Steps after one of my bottoms during an on going abusive relationship with an alcoholic.  I live in a poor, rural community with not a lot of services, but one thing I could find was an AA meeting which led me to an Al-Anon meeting.  My impression now of 12 Step groups is that there are many of them in the US and possible many of them in the world.  Awareness of these groups have found their way into popular US culture in books, TV and films.  A lot of rehabs model themselves after the 12 Steps or at least include 12 Step meetings as treatment.  There are those who swear by these groups and those who attack these groups.  Just how effective 12 Step groups are in treating addictions is yet to be found.  Because these are anonymous groups anyone can be a member who acknowledges that they have a serious problem with a substance or behavior, but there are no dues, you don’t sign up or register and there is no official count of all the members.

I did find out through a google search that out of the 196 countries in the world Alcoholics Anonymous have groups in 181 countries.  That's quite a large number considering the diversity of countries and cultures.  And yet one page of statistics I found, the only one I found, made the number of members worldwide out to be around 5 million.  I find that to be a unlikely assessment.  Another statistic I found was that approximately 6% of the world population is addicted to the internet which comes to about 420 million for internet addiction alone.  Now there are many types of addiction and the true numbers of how many are addicted from all those groups is not easy to find.  My impression and assumption right now is that addiction is a major health/spiritual crisis all over the globe.

My other impression and assumption is that 12 Step programs are solidly helping a fair number of those who seek out the programs' help.  Of course it seems as if the majority of addicts are caught within their addictions and not reaching out for any kind of help.  There is still a lot of stigma around being an addict and most people don't advertise their particular addictions.  But those that do go to 12 Step meeting often identify themselves as addicts as a form of greeting.  They face their illness head on and do not continue in shame but stay open within the group.  They fight shame by acknowledging that they are not bad people, but sick people trying to get well.

People within these groups are perfectly aware that we live in a addictive world and that there are challenges in the form of temptations all around them.  The reason the 12 Step program has left a mark on my spirit is because it has helped restore my sense of integrity.  I have come from several places of despair to a place of much greater contentment and balance.  It's been about 24 years since I went to my first Al-Anon meeting and in all that time I have not gone through all of the 12 Steps.  It's only recently that I found a sponsor and I don't go to meetings a lot and yet I have been faithful to reading 12 Step daily readers and other recovery literature.  I have cultivated a daily spiritual practice because I have been influenced by the 12 Step program at key points in my life.  There's a group slogan that reads "Progress, not perfection."

That could be a slogan of what we need on this planet.  A spiritual crisis can lead to that if we set aside denial and admit that we are all sick and in need of help from each other.  People in recovery have a lot to teach about overcoming illness day by day, about creating a support network, about having a daily spiritual practice, about learning to love and respect themselves and about being of service to those in need, especially other addicts, of which there are many.  It's called living a life in such a way that you practice peace.  Health and balance, there can be no overcoming the devastation in the world without them and the greater the number of individuals who embrace the practice, the greater chance we can stop this world from dying.
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