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Dog Days And Dilemmas

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Carol Bossard

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We are at mid-summer now; sort of half way between the summer solstice and the autumn equinox.  And we’ve had our share of “dog days” when even Freckles, our setter, didn’t move far from a fan.  We could use some moisture; often we seem to be in a little pocket where the rain goes happily around us leaving us out there doing our rain dances in vain.  We did get some thunder showers this week, and so things are growing fairly well and the state of the gardens is  good enough that my sensible thoughts of putting some of the beds to rest next year are getting resistance from a more optimistic (and foolish) part of my brain.

Speaking of the brain, we all have heard about the current overdosing crisis with opiates.  Sadly, we’ve had young victims even in our small community.  I had a related and interesting experience recently when I visited the pain clinic attached to the medical services I use.  I had no intention of requesting opiates ---- mostly because no pain medication I’ve tried has made the least difference.   Heat, topical applications, and specific massage were far more productive for jabbing nerves and spasmodic muscles.   But part of the procedure at this clinic was asking me to sign a document giving them permission to prescribe opiates if I agreed they were needed (really??!! Sort of a no-brainer I’d think!), and then there was a list of promises I had to make IF that occasion ever arose (the real thrust of the document).  None of the promises were objectionable, though a couple were ones I hadn’t previously considered.  I was just rather taken aback by the whole experience.  It definitely emphasized how seriously addiction is now being regarded and how much the prescription process has tightened.

My visit there led me to think further about addiction to substances or behavior and why it is so prevalent.  Truthfully, I think we all have addictions of varying degrees.   Our sons accuse us of being addicted to auctions!  Really!!   But there truly does seem to be an increase of serious dependence on drugs or alcohol, to gambling, pornography and other risky behaviors, to food, to video-game-playing, to the omnipresent I-phones, and OCD is addiction to process and procedure.  A desperate abyss of need leads to addiction of some kind.  When I’m feeling low, I often self-medicate with a cup of tea and chocolate, both of which, thankfully, are still legal and relatively innocuous.   But that same situational need could turn to addiction if I should become desperate enough, due to pain, either physical or mental.   Research has shown that some addictions or tendencies to addiction can be inherited, either genetically or by the examples we see growing up.   The dilemma comes in finding a way to quell pain, that isn’t illegal or destroying to our health and relationships.   Most of us are not stoics nor should we be!!  Pain is debilitating, and needs easing.  It’s just too bad that fresh garden peas or delicate green lettuce leaves don’t have the same pain-numbing effect that brandy, opiates or cigarettes have. Just think of the benefits if we could develop addictions to daily walks, evening meditation or kale smoothies.

  Many years ago, I was taking an anti-depressant.  When I decided that I didn’t really like its side-effects, I found that going off that medication, even with a doctor’s plan for weaning the body, gave me three quite uncomfortable months.  My mind didn’t really care, but my body surely wasn’t happy about it.  On the other hand, chocolate candies or salty chips are not bodily cravings.  The digestive system is quite happy with chicken, carrot sticks and cucumbers, but one’s mind and sense of taste create that yearning for salty and/or sweet and it is the mind that panics when the cupboard is empty.   So craving can be either physical or psychological, or both.

In the past two or three years, I’ve heard a variety of attitudes regarding the growing new programs out there for treating addiction to drugs or alcohol.  There are still people who think that anyone dealing with addiction shows a moral weakness that could and should be conquerable by a strong will, and they resent taxes being used for recovery centers.   This has probably been the prevailing, shaming attitude for decades.  It indicates considerable lack of knowledge on the part of those who think this.  They obviously do not understand how the body and brain work and probably have little insight into their own behaviors.   Some individuals voicing these uncharitable and unscientific sentiments are the same people who go through a six-pack every night, a half-dozen doughnuts or ten cups of coffee in a day.  Their addiction is more subtle.  Research and experience show clearly that serious addiction is a public as well as personal health issue that needs treating much as does diabetes or small pox.  And the support and love of friends and family is essential.

If we are honest with ourselves, we should realize that each one of us could find ourselves in an addictive situation unless we are, as I mentioned, stoics who seek no easing for any kind of pain, and go through life with a perennial stiff upper lip.  Jean Paul Sartre* said: “You are your choices”.  But it is also good to remember Alexandra Stoddard’s** assertion that “the power of choosing good is within the reach of all of us.”   Even against all odds!   Ludwig von Beethoven*** said “…the mark of a really admirable man {person} is steadfastness in the face of trouble.   And he should know!  No musician regards deafness with anything but horror------ but Beethoven wrote some very fine music through the pain of his disability.

I personally know two people who have done tough work in therapy, discerning why they were/are addicted to a substance.  They consider that they are still in recovery even after years of abstaining.  The process is never easy; it takes courage and starting over again and again.   But they are a shining light to anyone else who needs help on that path, and they inspire me.   Sometimes we find that our pain, whatever it might be, can be used to bring maturing and healing to ourselves and others.  I truly believe that nothing we experience is wasted if we choose to live in the Light.

And regarding light, we are now on the diminishing side of our daily light cycle (daylight) in this hemisphere.  But we still have lovely evenings for sitting on the porch or gardening.   I find healing for many kinds of pain, in just being in the garden, especially between about 7 and 9 PM.  There’s a peaceful atmosphere that quiets my soul often ruffled by the day’s turmoil.  Actually lying on the ground (on a thin sheet; must remember those cats, birds, and turkeys wandering our lawn) is healing to back pain too; something about the magnetism of the earth aligning with that of the body.

These mid-summer days are just right for hammocks, swimming holes, lemonade and thinking long thoughts.   Naturalist, Edwin Way Teale, reminds us to enjoy our summer days while we have them.  “Each year, during sweltering summer days, the same reflection occurs to me.  I remember, with a sense of wonder, how difficult it will be to recall my sensations in the heat of July when --- only six months hence ---- I am amid the cold and snow of January.” **** So take things easy and relax into summer.

*John Paul Sarte –1905-1980. French existentialist philosopher, playwright, novelist, political activist and literary critic.

**Alexandra Stoddard ---- American interior designer and lifestyle philosopher

***Ludwig von Beethoven --- 1770-1827.  German classical and romantic composer.

****Circle of the Seasons by Edwin Way Teale.  1899-1980. American naturalist, photographer and writer.

 

 

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