Writing Prompt: Addiction

Many of us have either struggled with addiction ourselves or know someone who has or is.  On that note, today’s writing prompt.  Write about a time when you (or your character) struggled with addiction or watched someone they love struggle with it.  Write about your (or your character’s) feeling and what you (or your character) did or didn’t do.

Little Girl Lost- Book Review

Little Girl Lost, released in 1990, is the memoir of 15 year old Drew Barrymore, who had, quite frankly, lived more than most of us ever will.  Written by Drew Barrymore along with Todd Gold, it’s her story of how she rose to fame and began struggling with drug addiction.

Even working in the field, it’s hard for me to come to terms with many of the things she writes in the book.  She had her first drink at 9 years old, started smoking marijuana at age 10, and used cocaine at 12.  It would be easy to blame her parents or her Hollywood lifestyle, but she does neither.  She admits that work was her salvation, and the problem was that she never felt good enough, something many children struggle with.

So why do some kids turn to drugs and alcohol while others don’t?  I think that we all find our answers in something, and sometimes those answers are healthy, while other times, they’re not.  More often though, they’re a combination of both.  None of us get a manual for living, and to be honest, how many of us would follow it even if it were given?  I wouldn’t have at that age.

This book is over 20 years old, but I think it’s still worth reading if you’re interested in the path of addiction in adolescents.  I think it’s an honest, raw account; it brought tears to my eyes at times.  Even though the book ends on a less than upbeat note, we can all see that Drew Barrymore eventually found more stable footing, and while not perfect, is living her life in a way that seems to suit her.

M is for Mental Illness

Readers of this blog will know that by day, I’m a Mobile Crisis Therapist.  By night, I’m a writer of the weird and wacky.  I have a lot of experience with mental illness, both in my job and with people that I know and love.

A lot of people I meet have a number of misconceptions about mental illness, and I’d like to take a moment to look at some of the more common ones I see.

1.  If you’re mentally ill, you’re “crazy.”-  Not true.  People with mental illness often have a chemical imbalance in the brain causing cognitive and emotional disturbances.  An estimated 46% of adults will struggle with some type of mental illness in the course of their lives(NIMH, 2005).  This can range from a temporary depression or anxiety to more serious disorders, such as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder.

2.  Most people who are mentally ill are drug addicts, and that’s why they’re crazy.- Not really.  Many people who struggle with mental illness do turn to drugs as a way of self-medicating.  They feel horrible all the time and need some way to escape it.  Because many people are undereducated about mental illness, it can be hard to know where to get help.  Families and friends often want their loved one to get over it, and they can’t.  Drug use can cause mental health like symptoms, but most people who get addicted to drugs started as a way to feel better.  And let’s face it, most people don’t do drugs unless they’re looking for an escape and a way out.

3.  If I take medication, that’s like giving up.-  So not true!  There are many people walking around right now who have struggled with depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, or an addiction, and you’d never even know it.  People take medication as a way to regulate their brain chemistry, and I believe it works best in conjunction with a therapist they trust.  It can be hard to feel better.  Let’s face it; most of us can’t afford a tropical vacation or time at a spa.  We still have to work, shop for groceries, drive on the road and not get killed.  Taking medication temporarily or permanently can be a way to manage those thoughts and feelings.  You’d take medication for high blood pressure or diabetes, wouldn’t you?

I’d like to see mental illness and addiction addressed in fiction.  Let’s face it, with 46% of the population struggling with a mental illness at some point, it makes sense that it would touch a main character’s life.  And notice, the term I use is “mental illness.”  If you’re ill, you can get better.  A mental illness isn’t a death sentence.  It’s just one more thing in life to deal with.

I’m done for now.  I’ve included the link of my source to the NIMH and for the National Association for Mental Illness, if you’re interested in additional reading.  Coming up in the very near future, I’m going to write a top 10 list about the best books about mental illness.