Thursday, January 5, 2017
The Master Within
People living with addiction are known by many names: addicts, junkies, dope fiends, crack heads, pot heads, meth heads, and the list goes on, and on, and on. These terms contribute to the stigma associated with addiction disorders.
People living with mental health challenges are also known by many names: crazy, nuts, whacko, schizo, psycho, freak, and the list goes on, and on, and on. These terms contribute to the stigma associated with mental health disorders.
Stigma has been present since the dawn of time. History has recounted a multitude of stories about the mistreatment of those who often times suffer from conditions for which, often times, they have no control over. As a result, those who are afflicted and untreated are forced to endure a life of misery and despair. It takes an average of ten years for someone with a mental health disorder to seek help. Can you imagine walking around with a broken leg for ten years??? As far as those who are dealing with addiction, many do not get the help that they need either.
And even if someone is getting help, there is no guarantee that they will be exempt from the mistreatment and abuse that comes from others who do not (or want to) understand the true nature of their malady.
So, what happens? The person living with an addiction and/or mental health disorder begins to internalize all of the messages they get from those around them: friends, family, co-workers, the media, and society as a whole. This results in self-stigma, which, in the end can be as, if not perhaps more, destructive than the stigma they receive from others.
Messages, such as, “You’re hopeless,” or “You’re a piece of shit,” can create a sort of self-fulfilling prophecy that can continue to the point of self-destruction. When one is in such a dark place it can often be difficult to reclaim what has been lost. I’ve been there.
When I was in my early 20’s I was hospitalized at the Buffalo Psychiatric Center. Not exactly the Ritz-Carlton. I recall the utter sense of fear and confusion I had and the murky and uncertain sense of what the future would hold. When I looked at the other men on my unit, many of whom were destined to be permanently institutionalized for the remainder of their lives, I asked myself if I would be like them. I had to fight hard not to give in to those feelings of self-doubt.
It was at this time, however, that I began to attempt to tap into the power of God. Mind you, I was having Messianic delusions at the time, but hey, whatever. Despite where my thinking was at, I still had a sense that by believing in the healing power of the Almighty I could regain the life that I had lost, and could even improve upon.
(side note: I have YouTube on as I’m writing and watching the Tori Amos video channel and what pops up? Her song “God.” Coincidence…hmmmm).
So, it was around this time that I began to “go within.” I began to realize that in order to truly become well, I needed to connect with a Higher Power to overcome my co-occurring disorders. Now before you go and say, “Hey, you just can’t pray away mental illness and addiction,” I’m not saying that. What I am saying is that by utilizing prayer as ONE of my recovery tools I could somehow improve my station in life.
But I also cannot understate the importance of how my faith has enabled me to face many of life’s challenges associated with mental illness and addiction and overcome them – one day at a time. You see, it is a process. I didn’t just wake up one day and say, “Hey God, fix me!” and POOF! I’m cured. If anything, I’m still relying on my faith daily to help me as has been said, “to live life on life’s terms.”
This process has been, at times, very painful. I recall occasions when I felt like I just couldn’t make it But, you know what they say about the mustard seed. A little bit of faith can go a long way. And it is through this faith that I have been able to manifest the life I have today.
Which brings me to the title of this post. In the mystical realm, the concept of “The Master Within” speaks to our awareness of the divine we all have inside of us. The process of prayer, meditation and self-exploration can help us to discover who we truly are. By discovering how to make that connection by going within one can raise their consciousness with the belief one can experience the mystical realm. This is the journey of self-awareness associated with many spiritual traditions that embrace these practices.
I must emphasize, however, one important consideration. While I believe that it is possible to develop a relationship with God by going “inside,” it is also important to remain grounded in reality. For those who may have experienced psychosis, and in particular delusions, there needs to be particular attention given to ensuring that one is not going too far out into the stratosphere.
That said, I do believe that it is possible to develop one’s sense of connectedness with God and reverse the negative impressions that have been thrust upon us by an uncaring society.
Over the last year I’ve been making more of a concerted effort to take time to be quiet, pray, and “go within.” And this has many benefits: mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual. By doing so, I am beginning to develop a better sense of who I am and my connection with the world. And with that comes a certain sense of peace and belief that, in the words of Bob Marley, “Everything’s going to be alright.”
So, whether you live with a mental health or addiction disorder, or not, it is still possible to make that connection. As it says in the Qu’uran, “Allah says, ‘Take one step towards me, I will take ten steps towards you. Walk towards me, I will run towards you.”