Tuesday, October 22, 2019

One addiction at a time? Not necessarily

Addiction and Recovery


By Bob Gaydos
      Once upon a time, not that long ago, you used to be able to find an AA meeting by looking for a church with a cluster of people standing outside and smoking. That’s still possible, but the clusters have grown smaller. More significantly, as people in recovery joined much of the rest of society in quitting smoking, the air in the meeting rooms cleared up and ash trays disappeared from the tables.
      But it wasn’t easy. Many people in recovery say snuffing the cigarettes was much harder than putting down the drink or the drug. Until recently, that belief, supported by research, meant recovery programs focused solely on the alcohol addiction and left the nicotine addiction to be addressed at a later time, if the person so desired. It was too hard to do both at the same time, the thinking went, and the primary goal was to address the substance abuse.
      This, even though statistics showed that: 1. more than 80 percent of clients in rehab were smokers; 2. people with addictions to alcohol (or other drugs) were significantly more likely to be smokers than those without an alcohol abuse disorder (17 percent of adults); and 3. people who have been treated for alcohol problems were more likely to die of health issues related to tobacco than to alcohol, since they have a higher risk of heart disease and cancer than non-smokers. Also, non-smokers in recovery live longer than smokers in recovery.
      Time and research have changed the treat-one-addiction-at-a-time philosophy, at least to the extent that more rehabs are now offering stop-smoking programs as well as traditional alcohol/drugs programs. This may have something to do with the fact that surveys have shown that a sizable majority of smokers in treatment for alcohol or drug addiction say they also want to quit smoking and that they think it is better to do so within six months of stopping drinking or using drugs rather than waiting until later.
      A primary motivator for quitting smoking early in recovery from alcohol abuse is the strong connection between smoking and drinking. For many alcoholics, the two activities went hand-in-hand. In direct contradiction to previous thinking which said quitting smoking would make it harder for people new to recovery to stay sober, some treatment specialists today say that continuing to smoke while not drinking can be a strong trigger for relapse. Nicotine stimulates the brain’s pleasure receptors, feeding the “need” for more.
      No one says it’s easy to quit smoking and drinking at the same time, but it’s often suggested to use the motivation and strategies used to stop drinking to also stop smoking. That means, for certain, not trying to do it on one’s own, but rather, being open to a variety of help from behavioral therapists to nicotine replacement therapies, to encouragement from friends and family, to online and in-person support from groups such as Nicotine Anonymous (https://www.nicotine-anonymous.org) and the American Lung Association (https://www.lung.org/stop-smoking).
       Ideally, recovery from alcohol or other drugs means adopting a healthier lifestyle including exercise, proper nutrition and emotionally or spiritually rewarding behaviors. Smoking doesn’t qualify.

Bob Gaydos is a freelance writer. rjgaydos@gmail.com
  

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Smoking can lead to premature death


Addiction and Recovery


By Bob Gaydos

“The cigarette is a very efficient and highly engineered drug-delivery system.”
      The sentence appears on the web site of the National Institute on Drug Abuse. With its sheer bluntness, it says all you need to know about why more than 50 million Americans smoked a cigarette last month despite massive campaigns detailing the health risks of smoking, despite the fact that many of those risks are printed right on the cigarette pack, despite restrictions on smoking in public areas, and even despite the increasingly high cost of smoking because of taxes placed on tobacco products.
     Nicotine delivers endorphins, euphoria, dopamine to the brain with each puff on the cigarette. A pack a day is about 200 “hits” of good feeling. Stop puffing, it goes away. The brain doesn’t like the change in mood. Withdrawal can be unpleasant.
     “Cigarette smoking harms nearly every organ in the body, and smoking is the leading preventable cause of premature death in the United States.”
    That sentence also appears on the NIDA web site (www.drugabuse.gov) and the two statements taken together are why it’s important not to ignore the addiction health threats staring us in the face — or assaulting the senses of non-smokers — amidst the daily serving of headlines on drunk drivers and drug overdoses. 
    Nearly half a million deaths annually are still attributed to smoking and, despite significant progress in reducing the number of smokers, according to NIDA, “if current smoking rates continue, 5.6 million Americans who are currently younger than 18 will die prematurely from smoking-related disease.”
    Nicotine is addictive. Smoking kills people before their time. 
And yes, a lot of people have gotten the message. Surveys show smoking rates for people 18 and older continue to go down and the rate of smoking among those under 18 is at historically low levels. That latter is key because tobacco is often the first substance adolescents use to emulate adults and often leads to other substance use disorders. Research also suggests that nicotine has a strong impact on still-developing adolescent brains, making it more difficult for those who want to quit when they are older. And nearly everyone who smokes has tried to quit. Some succeed. Some have a hard time.
   The jury is still out on e-cigarettes as a replacement for cigarettes. They remove the chemicals that, when burned, are responsible for the various health risks attribute to cigarettes, leaving vapers to go for the nicotine rush. But some research suggests other possible risks, especially for young users, so it’s buyer beware.
    Significantly, for the focus of this column, research shows a strong connection between smoking and persons with alcohol or other substance dependence and a prevalence of smoking (65 to 85 percent) among persons in treatment for all substance use disorders. Addictions often go together, but quitting one doesn’t always mean quitting others is easier. The next column will report on what some people with alcohol or other substance use disorders have experienced as they tried to quit smoking.

Bob Gaydos is a freelance writer. rjgaydos@gmail.com

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

I finally got to Woodstock. Peace.

By Bob Gaydos
Turning on the lights at the Woodstock 50 celebration.
Turning on the lights at the Woodstock 50 celebration.
By the time I got to Woodstock, I was 78 years old and walking with a cane. I fit right in.
And it was fun.
Unlike the ill-fated Woodstock 50 concert that was apparently planned with the same “whatever-I-think-of-next” model Michael Lang used 50 years ago, the Woodstock 50 celebration at Bethel Woods, site of the original festival in 1969, was a well-organized, enjoyable tribute that attracted fans of all ages, although it definitely trended geriatric. The gray-haired easily outnumbered the tie-dyed, although some were both.
I missed the original festival of peace and love, even though I was within striking distance, working as city editor for The Sun-Bulletin in Binghamton at the time. It was about an hours’ drive away and I’ve kind of regretted the missed opportunity as the Woodstock mystique grew. As I vaguely recall, we didn’t think it was worth the time (and money) to send someone to a hippie fest on a farm for three days.
Anyhow, the Middletown paper had it covered and, as the fates would have it, I wound up working for that paper (for 29 years), living and retiring in Sullivan County, not far from Bethel and Yasgur’s farm and available as an emergency fill-in for a friend with an extra ticket who called and said, “Want to see Santana at Bethel Saturday?”
Which is a run-on sentence on how I got to Woodstock.
I said yes. Honestly, not because I’m a big Santana fan, but because of the history and the quiet hope that it would be an event to remember in the spirit of the original. It was
The Doobie Brothers as an opening act did a great job of loosening the crowd of 15,000. Women danced, beach balls bounced, the Doobies rocked and everyone sang. The early rain stopped, the later lightning went away. No rain.
Also no arguing. No loud drunks. No fights. A faint aroma of pot from time to time. “A mellow Woodstock,” a tie-dyed Social Security recipient strolling by said to no in particular.
Which was what I was hoping for. We are not a mellow nation at the moment. Nor were we 50 years ago when nearly half a million mostly young, many stoned individuals brought traffic to a standstill, then enjoyed and eventually survived an utterly unprepared event thanks to the kindness of countless strangers. Peace and love.
It’s what Santana talked about when he come to the front of the stage to welcome the crowd: “Unconditional love. Compassion. Peace.”
3739CADA-6E0A-4831-BC48-EDE613FDD2A5That’s what this anniversary concert was about, he said, and in my mind I agreed with him that, at least that’s what this concert ought to be about.
He had only gotten a few bars into “Turn Your Lights On,” when the hillside came alive with thousands of swaying lights, as cell phones added a new dimension to the song, which for me had a message of hope for trying times: “There's a monster living under my bed, whispering in my ear.” But also: "There's an angel with a hand on my head. She says I've got nothing to fear.” I used to doubt angels. 
The moment was special, but it was his version of John Lennon’s “Imagine” that cinched the deal for me:
“You may say that I'm a dreamer 
But I'm not the only one 
I hope someday you'll join us 
And the world will be as one ...”
The words came easily and knowingly from thousands of voices, young and old, across the Bethel landscape and I uttered a silent, “Please” to myself.
Santana rocked on quite a bit longer, there was more dancing and there were fireworks to seal the deal, but my (good!) friend and I left early, more than satisfied with Woodstock’s golden birthday. Many others came early and stayed late, also happy to have been there. The people who run Bethel Woods had the event planned to the smallest detail. Traffic control, the biggest concern, was no problem.
Also no anger. No fighting. No name-calling. Just music, dancing, singing, peace, love and respect for all, for one night at least, on a hillside in Upstate New York. Just what I hoped it would be. Sure, you may say I’m a dreamer, but I did finally get to Woodstock.
Bob Gaydos is a freelance writer. rjgaydos@gmail.com

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

A vocabulary for the Trump era


By Bob Gaydos
Vidkun Quisling ... his name has been revived recently in the U.S.
Vidkun Quisling ... his name has been revived recently in the U.S.
        In the category of nothing is ever all good or all bad (I keep trying), have you noticed a marked improvement in your vocabulary since the man with “all the best words” moved in to the White House?
        Seriously. It struck me the other day as I was reading the daily disaster report that people — not just reporters or TV and radio commentators — regular people were reading, hearing, using and even understanding words, many of which have never been routine in American conversation. It started with “narcissist” and “misogynist,” but the vocabulary lesson has expanded exponentially (see what I mean?) since the news cycle has become all Trump all the time. I mean, “quisling,” really?
      I started compiling a list of words that were previously not your normal fare in your daily paper, including some words I had to look up (using Wikipedia and various legitimate online dictionaries), and decided I might as well share them. Who knows, maybe an English teacher will see it and want to help some students better understand what the grownups have done to the world. If you feel daring, test your partner. Here’s my list (including examples), starting with the two aforementioned words, which are now household staples:
       — Misogynist. From Wikipedia: “Misogyny is the hatred of, contempt for, or prejudice against women or girls. Misogyny manifests in numerous ways, including social exclusion, sex discrimination, hostility, androcentrism, patriarchy, male privilege, belittling of women, disenfranchisement of women, violence against women, and sexual objectification.” It’s Trump’s middle name and now the whole world is aware of what misogyny looks like in practice. That’s a good thing if steps are taken to combat it, which appears to be happening (#metoo).
       — Narcissist. From Psychology Today: ”The hallmarks of narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) are grandiosity, a lack of empathy for other people, and a need for admiration. People with this condition are frequently described as arrogant, self-centered, manipulative, and demanding. They may also have grandiose fantasies and may be convinced that they deserve special treatment. These characteristics typically begin in early adulthood and must be consistently evident in multiple contexts, such as at work and in relationships. People with NPD … tend to seek excessive admiration and attention and have difficulty tolerating criticism or defeat.” Mussolini comes to mind or, well, you know.
      — Quisling. Turns out we’ve got a bunch of them in the USA. Vidkun Abraham Lauritz Jonss√łn Quisling was a Norwegian military officer and politician who was head of the government of Norway during Nazi Germany’s occupation of the country during World War II. Actually, he was a figurehead who collaborated with the Nazis in every way, including the killing of Jews and others. After the war, he was tried and convicted of murder and treason and was executed. His name became synonymous for collaborator and traitor. Until recently, there hasn’t been much call for “quisling,” but Trump, Mitch McConnell, Lindsey Graham, and the guy Trump wanted to run the CIA, among others, have given new life to it. I could have lived my life without wanting to get the history of this word.
       — Sycophant. While we have Lindsey Graham available as a perfect example, why not give a dictionary description of a sycophant: “A person who acts obsequiously (I’ll get to that) toward someone important in order to gain advantage. Synonyms:    toady, creep, crawler, fawner, flatterer, flunkey, truckler, groveller, doormat, lickspittle, kowtower, obsequious person, minion, hanger-on, leech, puppet, spaniel …” Add the entire Trump cabinet and staff and many Republicans in Congress.
     — Obsequious. Again, just dictionaries here: “Obsequious people are usually not being genuine; they resort to flattery and other fawning ways to stay in the good graces of authority figures. An obsequious person can be called a bootlicker, a brownnoser or a toady.” Our man Lindsay again and let’s add Mick Mulvaney, Trump’s acting chief of staff and bootlicker par excellence.
       — Nativist. “Relating to or supporting the policy of protecting the interests of native-born or established inhabitants against those of immigrants. Example. ‘He has made his nativist beliefs known through his divisive comments about immigrants.’” The Republican Party and MAGA hat wearers who are still waiting for the wall are perfect examples.
      — Xenophobe. “A person who fears or hates foreigners, people from different cultures, or strangers. A person who fears or dislikes the customs, dress, etc., of people who are culturally different.” The same folks as above. Stephen Miller to be sure.
        — Asylum. Here’s one every American should learn. “The right of asylum is an ancient juridical concept, under which a person persecuted by one's own country may be protected by another sovereign authority, such as another country or church official, who in medieval times could offer sanctuary. 
      “The United States recognizes the right of asylum of individuals as specified by international and federal law. A specified number of legally defined refugees who apply for refugee status overseas, as well as those applying for asylum after arriving in the U.S., are admitted annually. Since World War II, more refugees have found homes in the U.S. than any other nation and more than two million refugees have arrived in the U.S. since 1980.”
       — Oligarchy. “A small group of people having control of a country, organization, or institution. … Oligarchy is from the Greek word oligarkhes, and it means ‘few governing.’ Three of the most well-known countries with oligarchies are Russia, China, and Iran. Other examples are Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and apartheid South Africa. Trump leans to the Russian and Saudi versions, although he admires certain things about the others. He would probably have been comfortable with apartheid South Africa.
        — Plutocracy. "Government by the rich or the wealthy class. Oligarchy is not necessarily just the wealthy. If a system of plutocracy and oligarchy occurred at the same time (government by a few wealthy people), it would be termed a …
       — Plutarchy. Again, I refer you to Trump’s cabinet, the Koch brothers, and various wealthy interests who have been able to buy power thanks to the Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling.
       — Nepotism. “The practice among those with power or influence of favoring relatives or friends, especially by giving them jobs.” Especially for which they are unqualified. Trump is a master at keeping it in the family (his own and Fox News) in the White House. Ivanka, Jared, Larry Kudlow.
       —  Emoluments. (Tell me you knew what this meant before Trump.) “The emoluments clause, also called the foreign emoluments clause, is a provision of the U.S. Constitution (Article I, Section 9, Paragraph 8) that generally prohibits federal officeholders from receiving any gift, payment, or other thing of value from a foreign state or its rulers, officers, or representatives. It prohibits those holding offices of profit or trust under the United States from accepting ‘any present, Emolument, Office, or Title, of any kind whatever’ from ‘any . . foreign State’ unless Congress consents.” Every stay at a Trump hotel, round of golf at a Trump golf course by the Saudis, the Russians, the Turks, the Chinese … goes into his bank account and he won’t share his income tax returns.
       — Exculpable. To exculpate is “to clear from a charge of guilt or fault; free from blame; vindicate.” The person is thus exculpable, something Trump claims Robert Mueller found him. Not true.
       — Propaganda. “Information that is intended to persuade an audience to accept a particular idea or cause, often by using biased material or by stirring up emotions — one of the most powerful tools the Nazis used to consolidate their power and cultivate an ‘Aryan national community’ in the mid-1930s. … the manipulation of the recipient's emotions in order to win an argument, especially in the absence of factual evidence.” Fox News and Trump and rightwing radio hosts spew it. Trump has even talked about setting up a government broadcast agency to counter the “fake news” of  mainstream media.
        — Brainwash. More commonly known, but worth putting in context. “To make people believe only what you want them to believe by continually telling them that it is true and preventing any other information from reaching them: Could it be that we’re brainwashed to accept these things?”
        Again, Fox News — 24 hours a day of fake news right out of George Orwell. Also, Trump’s pathological lying. Second definition: “A method for systematically changing attitudes or altering beliefs, originated in totalitarian countries, especially through the use of torture, drugs, or psychological-stress techniques.” The Manchurian Candidate, or, perhaps, Putin’s Puppet. Once a far-fetched idea.
       — Hypocrite. “1: a person who puts on a false appearance of virtue or religion. 2: a person who acts in contradiction to his or her stated beliefs or feelings.” Trump of course, but here we’re referring to evangelical Christian leaders who kiss Trump’s ring and conservative, family values-spouting Republicans who do likewise.
        — Penultimate. Nothing to do with Trump, just a word I like. “As both an adjective and a noun, penultimate means next to the last. (Penultimate is not more ultimate than ultimate.)” In other words, this lesson is almost over. Just one more paragraph and thanks for staying with me.
       — Dotard. Kim Jong-un’s name for Trump. “The insult is centuries old, appearing in medieval literature from the ninth century.” Searches for the term have spiked since Kim resurrected it. Merriam-Webster: “A state or period of senile decay marked by decline of mental poise." Side note: Kim didn’t say the word. The North Korean state news agency, KCNA, offered it as the English translation of Kim’s spoken Korean insult, which literally is “old lunatic.” Works for me in any language.
Bob Gaydos is a freelance writer. rjgaydos@gmail.com

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

The sad truth: It’s all B.S.

By Bob Gaydos
Harry Frankfurt ... he knows B.S. when he hears it
Harry Frankfurt ... he knows B.S. when he hears it
  There have been times, like now, when I saw little point in writing about what the pretend president is saying or doing because millions of Americans don’t seem to care. At those times, I often wondered how the scribes who get paid to inform the world of the latest news — and even moreso, those who get paid to have opinions about it — find the energy to cover Trump day after day. It has to be depressing, I thought to myself. I’m depressed and I don’t have to write about it. Does a paycheck work as an antidepressant?
      Maureen Dowd finally answered my question. I admit to not being a religious, or even semi-religious, reader of Dowd’s column in The New York Times up to now. That’s changed since I read her May 25 column that carried the headline, “Crazy Is As Crazy Does.” Yes, it was about Trump.
     She begins by describing her waking thoughts as another morning arrives. About the talents of an actress and an actor she admires and their TV shows. About a book she has apparently just read or is reading. And then, abruptly, reality sets in: “Once I’m completely awake, a gravitational pull takes hold and I am once more bedeviled by our preposterous president.
        “I flip on the TV and gird for the endless stream of vitriol coming from the White House, bracing for another day of overflowing, overlapping, overwrought news stories about Trump. I’m sapped before I arise. …
       “My head hurts, puzzling over whether Trump is just a big blowhard … or a sinister genius …”
        Me too, I sighed. Glad to know I’m not alone.
        I’m also not alone in my belief in synchronicity. Serendipity, if you prefer.
      Coincidence? I’m with Carl Jung on that. The Swiss psychologist who gave us the word defined synchronicity as “a meaningful coincidence of two or more events where something other than the probability of chance is involved.”
       As in, what are the chances that, being shamed into participating in a decluttering exercise at home, I would “stumble upon” a slim book I’d never heard of that instantly uncluttered my mind on how to explain what in the world was going on in Donald Trump’s mind.
    It’s “Bullshit.”
    Literally.
    Some explanation is necessary.
    The house decluttering was precipitated by a prevailing notion that I had collected too much stuff (an occupational hazard, I believe) and some of it had to go, but we would find a safe resting place for the stuff that was worth keeping. One of the safe places was a lovely, old cabinet in which other stuff was resting. Old tapes, photos and books. Among the books was the aforementioned slim volume.
     I read the title: “On Bullshit.”
     The decluttering came to a momentary halt. Was this a joke? As it turns out, no. Oh, there is humor in this 67-page essay, but the author, Harry G. Frankfurt, it also turns out, is a distinguished philosopher, professor emeritus at Princeton University, which published the book. This was serious. In fact, the book was a New York Times best-seller in 2005 and Frankfurt discusses it on YouTube, which tells you something about my attention to literary news.
      But the point, and I’m finally getting to it, is that after months of trying to out-pundit everyone else writing about Trump and continuing to muse on why he does what he does, Frankfurt lays it out in a way that anyone, except maybe Trump, can understand — the man is a bullshit artist.
      It dawned on me as I read Frankfurt’s explanation of the difference between liars — which Trump has been crowned champion of all time by those who keep score — and bullshitters. (If the language offends you, I apologize, but Frankfurt says “humbug” is not the same. Also, the times have changed and I’ve already been labeled an enemy of the people for treating the truth with respect.)
     As Frankfurt explains, the difference between liars and bullshitters is that liars are acquainted with the truth. They have to be to maintain their lies. There is a discipline involved. Bullshitters don’t care. They make stuff up as they go along, saying whatever seems necessary to them at the time to appear to know what’s going on. It isn’t a matter so much of bullshit being false, Frankfort says, as of it being phony. It’s meant to convey an impression. It’s like bluffing. And too much of it can carry over into a general laxity about how things really are.
       As Frankfurt writes, “The bullshitter is faking things.” It’s not a matter of concealing the truth, because sometimes the bullshitter will speak the truth. It is matter of concealing “what he is up to.”
      Indeed. And those who are good at it seem to have no trouble attracting gullible believers. But that’s a mystery for another day.
      Frankfurt mentions patriotic politicians who, on the Fourth of July, give grand speeches extolling all the wonderful things this country represents, not that those things are false or lies or B.S., but because the speaker wants others to believe he believes in them and is a true patriot. There’s a good chance we’ll hear some of that this coming Independence Day, with Trump taking center stage at the Lincoln Memorial.
       I know in advance that I don’t necessarily have to write about it because it’s more of the same B.S. Instead, I can read what Dowd writes about it and focus instead on what synchronicity offers as a topic. Like the fact that Frankfurt and I share the same birthdate, May 29. Some stuff you just can’t make up.
Bob Gaydos is a freelance writer, rjgaydos@gmail.com
     

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

An addict by any other name, please

Addiction and Recovery

By Bob Gaydos
  What’s in a name? Maybe, recovery.
"New" me, at 73.
Bob Gaydos
Addiction — to opioids, alcohol, heroin, other substances or behavior — is a medically recognized disease, something for which treatment is available and prescribed so that the person who suffers from it can be returned as a contributing member of society. That’s the official, appropriately concerned line put forth by government agencies, the medical community and those who work in the field.
    Unofficially, which is to say, to much of society including members of the aforementioned groups, a person with the disease of addiction is commonly referred to as an addict. A drunk. A junkie. A cokehead or crackhead. An alkie. A pothead. A pill-popper. He or she is often regarded as someone who is weak-willed, immoral, untrustworthy, rather than someone suffering from a disease. A liar. A loser. Someone not worth the time or effort — or money — to associate with, never mind help.
   One of the major obstacles to persons seeking treatment for addiction is the stigma attached to the disease. It has been framed seemingly forever as a moral issue, a crime issue. Rarely — only recently — has it been framed as a health issue. We have waged a war on drugs as we tried to cure cancer or diabetes.
    Words matter.
    Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania lbast year released a study with the key recommendation to stop using the words “addict,” “alcoholic” and “substance abuser.” The study found the words carry a strong negative bias. Basically, the researchers said, they label the person, not the disease. Study participants not only displayed a reluctance to associate with persons described with those words in fictional vignettes, the researchers said participants also displayed “implicit bias” to the terms themselves when given a word-association task. They were subconsciously reacting negatively to the words.bbb
     If just the words can stir negative bias in people, imagine what an actual person carrying the label “addict” can arouse.
     The Penn researchers said their study was consistent with previous research that found some doctors, even mental health professionals, less willing to help patients who were labeled “addicts” or “substance abusers.”
     The researchers did not discount the fact that conscious bias against persons with addiction — for example, how involved one would want to be with the person described — is often based on personal negative experiences with “alcoholics” or “addicts.”  Family members, friends, co-workers have experienced pain and suffering from their connection to persons with alcohol or substance use disorders and a resistance to not just “calling them what they are” may be understandable.
      But, the researchers said, over time, adopting what they call person-first language (referring to a person with a heroin addiction rather than a heroin addict) — especially by public officials and the media — could help reduce the negative bias and stigma that keeps people from seeking and getting help for their disease.
       In 2017, prior to this study, the Associated Press, which publishes a style guide used by most news organizations, adopted a new policy on reporting on addiction. It recommends that news organizations avoid terms such as “addict” and “alcoholic” in favor of person-first language — someone with an alcohol or substance use disorder or someone who was using opioids addictively, rather than a substance abuser or former addict. Someone in recovery, rather than someone who is “clean.” Shift the blame from the person to the disease.
     This doesn’t excuse or absolve the person who is addicted from any damage he or she may have done, and it may be considerable. But it does provide an identity beyond the addiction and makes the road to recovery more navigable. 
     Earlier this year, the Philadelphia Inquirer and Daily News adopted a policy similar to AP’s.
      The concept is simple: A person should not be defined solely by his or her disease. When mental health professionals stopped referring to patients as schizophrenics, society started referring to people with schizophrenia. Similarly, there are people with diabetes today who once were labeled diabetics. It is often argued that alcoholism or addiction are different from other diseases because the person chooses to use the substance. But experience tells us no one chooses to become addicted and the nature of the disease is being unable to stop — or at least feeling that stopping is not possible. Negative labels can’t help.
       Government agencies have begun using the new language, referring to persons with alcohol use or substance use disorders rather then alcoholics or addicts. Some who have managed to face their addiction and overcome it have abandoned the anonymity of 12-step programs and identify themselves publicly as persons in recovery. The opioid crisis has spawned a program called Hope Not Handcuffs, which steers the person who is addicted to treatment rather than incarceration.
       An exception to the change in language is recognized for those who are in 12-Step programs who identify themselves as alcoholics or addicts at their meetings. These are people who don’t see the terms as negatives, but rather as an honest admission of a fact in their lives. Members of Alcoholics Anonymous have been saying, “My name is xxxx, and I’m an alcoholic” at meetings for nearly 84 years. It’s tradition. There’s no stigma attached, but rather a common bond that holds out the hope there is something beyond being labeled a “drunken bum” or “hopeless addict.”
      The groups recommending the language change say this is not merely “political correctness,” as some have said. Lives are obviously still being ravaged by addiction. If something has to change in approaching the disease, there is a growing feeling that how we talk about it might be a good place to start.
Bob Gaydos is a freelance writer. rjgaydos@gmail.com

Monday, May 20, 2019

The countdown to Woodstock 50 and 2020


Fans of Woodstock may have a choice of two 50th Anniversary concerts to choose from. Or maybe not.
Fans of Woodstock may have a choice of two 50th Anniversary concerts to choose from. Or maybe not.
By Bob Gaydos
A look at the news, by the numbers:
  • 7: The percentage of the United States Senate that is running for president (so far) in 2020. All seven are Democrats and four of them are women. The latest count of Democratic presidential candidates stands at 20, I believe, but I could have missed a mayor or state senator or part-time legal clerk who decided that, what the heck, since 2016 proved that anybody really can get elected president in America, why not me?
  • 53: The percentage of the United States Senate that is perfectly comfortable with having a president with no understanding of the Constitution or respect for the rule of law, not a modicum oe f empathy, who lies as naturally as others breathe, has the IQ of a hedgehog (sorry, hedgehogs)  and the curiosity of a Big Mac, is totally consumed with his own image and how much money he and his family can wring out of the presidency before he bankrupts it like everything else he’s touched. All 53 are Republicans. The GOP, of course, used to be the party of law and order, the party that preached moral values and respect for the Constitution. Today, not so much.
  • 311: Reportedly, the number of grams of food per day Kim Jung-un, North Korea’s leader, says will be rationed to each citizen as the result of the latest food crisis to hit his nation. A bad harvest left the country 1.36 tons short of grain. The bad harvest came on top of dry spells, abnormally high temperatures and floods, which exacerbated limited supplies of fuel, fertilizer and spare parts, all of which was punctuated by economic sanctions against the country for its continued nuclear weapons buildup. For comparison, the average amount of food a healthy person eats daily in a non-rationed nation is four pounds. That’s about 1,800 grams. The North Korea ration diet is mostly rice and kimchi (cabbage), very little protein. About 10 million people — about 40 percent of North Korea’s population  — are affected by the food shortage. Of course, not Kim and his friends, or those who have access to the black market.
  • 3 million: Number of North Koreans estimated to have died in that nation’s famine in the late 1990s, when the ration system collapsed. The question is whether Kim is willing to continue the family tradition of letting millions of  countrymen and women die rather than abandon his nuclear (also chemical and biological) weapons, hoping that Russia or China will come to the rescue. Or, to put it another way — are the rest of the nations of the world willing to let tens of thousands of people die of starvation while they try to figure out how not to nuke each other to death? History is not on the side of hungry North Koreans.
  • 1: The number of times the winner of the Kentucky Derby has been disqualified for interference. This year’s 145th Run for the Roses saw the first-place finisher’s number taken down for interference, and not even for interference with the horse eventually declared winner. Maximum Security, the favorite and clearly the best horse in the field, drifted to the outside, preventing War of Will, a legitimate challenger, from moving forward. After watching a video of the race for 20 minutes, stewards stripped Maximum Security of the win and named Country House, a 65-1 shot, the winner. 
  • $132.40: Payoff on a $2 win bet on Country House. Nice.
  • 1: Number of days it took for Trump to say ignore what you see on the tape, forget the rules, the storyline called for Maximum Security to win, so the stewards’ decision was — here comes the buzzword, cultists — “political correctness.” “Bad decision.” To him, all the world is a reality TV show for which he writes the script. 
  • 2: Number of Woodstock 50th Anniversary celebrations planned for August 15-16 this year. Michael Lang and Woodstock LLC,, had 50 years to plan the ultimate tribute to the iconic festival without the confusion of the original gathering, but just as the 1969 event got bounced around and suffered from a significant error in available crowd accommodation, Woodstock 50, planned for some reason for Watkins Glen, is a whirl of confusion. The event’s major financial backer, Dentsu Aegis Network’s Amplifi Live, said in a statement: “Despite our tremendous investment of time, effort and co mmitment, we don’t believe the production of the festival can be executed as an event worthy of the Woodstock Brand name while also ensuring the health and safety of the artists, partners and attendees.” Lang said his partners had no right to cancel the event and that it was still on, even though you couldn’t buy tickets on the web site. Jay-Z and Miley Cyrus are still coming, Lang assured. He’s suing Dentsu Aegis. Subsequent reports pointed out that, while Watkins Glen is noted for auto racing (the festival is planned for the racetrack), the community does not have hotel and bed and breakfast accommodations to handle the size crowd expected for Woodstock 50. Sound familiar? That means a lot of the space would have to be allotted for campers, which would then cut down on the allowable crowd space, which would then cut down on profits, which would then make Lang’s financial backers’ cold feet explanation more honest. Lang insists Woodstock 50 will be held in Watkins Glen, Aug. 16-18. Oh, that happens to conflict with another 50th celebration of Woodstock at the original site in Bethel. It’s called A Season of Song & Celebration and will be held Aug. 15-18 at Bethel Woods. Naturally, the state is planning major roadwork on the perennially clogged main road to that site during the time the concert is scheduled. Should be like old times.
  • Zero: Chances that folks who get to a concert at either of these sites will care about the mixups. Peace and love.
  • 50-50: Odds Trump will have something to tweet about Woodstock, which, of course, was his idea until Lang stole it. The 1969 crowd would’ve been huuuger if the Donald’s name was on it.
  • 30. It’s a journalism thing. Google it.
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