This is quite a personal piece and it is a little bit dangerous for me given society’s attitudes to drug and alcohol addiction.
Just remember, if it’s not you there’s probably a junkie or an alcoholic in your family. Treat them with sympathy, not disgust.
[This piece was first published at Independent Australia on 11 July]
There’s a well-founded belief among recovering addicts and alcoholics that you have to hit rock bottom before you start to get better.
I certainly believe it to be true. I bounced along the bottom for quite a while between 2014 and 2016. I didn’t truly begin my recovery until I left behind the toxic circumstances of my employment.
I’ve been mostly clean and relatively sober for nearly three years. I’ve had a lapse here and there, but usually got myself back on track pretty quickly. I still go to meetings and I have regular sessions with a therapist, but overall, I’m definitely much happier, stronger and more stable than I was three years ago.
So, it was with some horror that I found myself picking up a narcotic a few days ago. Exactly what the substance was is irrelevant; suffice to say it exists in a grey zone of legality and is readily available in a certain kind of adult store.
I’m glad to say I had a really bad reaction to the stuff. After a few moments of delirium, I became violently ill. I hope I don’t do it again.
However, what I have learned about myself through three years of counselling and involvement in both NA and AA is that there is a cause for my lapsing and if I can get to the bottom of it, I’m less likely to do it again.
What caused me to pick up again?
So, what do I know about this week’s episode?
Well, the first thing to note is that I’ve been suffering writer’s block. This article is the first thing I’ve written since the federal election on 18 May. Outside of a handful of tweets, I’ve said nothing about the Morrison victory, or the disappointing postures adopted by the Labor opposition under the doubly-disappointing Albo. I have a book deadline looming, but I’ve been unable to write a paragraph, despite all the juicy media and journalism controversy swirling around us.
Having writer’s block is not normally associated with me having a lapse or finding an excuse to drink more than I should, but I think there’s something intrinsic to my situation that created this recent blockage and then began to spiral me down to a bust.
I know that my addictive behaviours are to do with feelings of powerlessness and situations where my deeply-held values are offended, and I feel helpless to do anything about it.
This sense of powerlessness is common among substance abusers and alcoholics, there is often some form of deep trauma associated with their initial interactions with drugs and booze and they usually occur in the early teen years. Mine was bullying over an extended period of several years.
We carry this trauma with us until we can find a way to excise it from our lives and exorcise it from our mental frameworks. It’s not easy and for many of us it can take a lifetime of hard and constant work to reach a peaceful space of wellness.
We have to constantly be on the lookout and guard against potential trigger moments too; particularly at times when we are vulnerable or at a low emotional ebb.
The return of Scott Morrison was my triggering moment
I have been in vulnerable emotional space since the election. Like many people, I was reasonably confident that Labor would have a comfortable victory. A Shorten government would not have filled me with joyous abandon, but I would have celebrated the demise of Morrison and his cronies with a certain glee.
Alas, we never got that happy moment. Instead, after a few days of uncertainty, we found ourselves right back where we were before the election. The COALition has a wafer-thin majority in the lower house and must rely on the votes of the bigots and lunatics to maintain its numbers in the Senate.
And Scott Morrison, the happy-clapper slogan bogan, is still the bloody Prime Minister. Worse, Peter Dutton has not been staked through the heart and continues pass himself off as a live human who takes cruel pleasure from his torment of refugees.
But, it’s actually worse than this. The rorting, nepotism and incompetence that Morrison’s front bench showcases is with us for three more years.
Compounding my despair, journalists have given up any attempt at critical distance from the Morrison gravy train. The Fourth Estate has all but abandoned any pretext of holding the powerful to account and, instead Australia’s political stenographers have happily joined the political and economic establishment in punching down and pissing on the marginalised, the dispossessed and the working poor.
For most of the last seven weeks or so, the blowtorch of political journalism has been mostly focused on attacking the Labor opposition and letting the government enjoy an undeserved honeymoon period.
The news media is also exhibiting the classic symptoms of Stockholm Syndrome too. Acquiescing to attacks on press freedom and taking on the role of supplicant rather than fighting for its future. The lukewarm MEAA response to the raids on Annika Smethurst and the ABC newsroom is one disheartening example.
The lack of resistance from journalists in the face of blatant attacks on the public right to know is accelerating the rightward shift in public discourse.
So too is the looming culture war battle around so-called freedom of religion. It is a phony debate and religious freedom is not under attack, but it provides a useful ideological point of leverage for the conservative forces who are giddy with the fumes of triumphalism following Morrison’s surprise electoral victory.
The claim that Christians are being persecuted and prevented from espousing their idiotic doctrines and faith is hollow, but it is a cover for the coming offensive against progressive social forces, feminism, the LGBTQI+ community and probably also the Islamic community.
There is no doubt that the culture war around freedom of religion will also embolden the nascent forces of reaction and potential fascism and that Morrison and co will use these useful idiots to push public discourse in the direction of Trumpian abnormality as the new normal.
I’ve also noticed that the working class is increasingly being excluded from the public sphere. The trade union movement is under constant attack and has been effectively driven out of political debate. This is not a new mood, it is the result of both neoliberalism and the failure of the union leadership to stand and fight – with one or two exceptions, notably the CFMEU. We know Morrison wants to ramp up these attacks in coming months.
I have been feeling disheartened and disempowered by all of this bad news and that’s why this week, I was looking for an emotional escape through the stupefying effect of drugs.
No more opiates for me!
I know that self-medication with dangerous poisons is not the answer and I have had that realisation brought home to me in no uncertain terms this week.
I have bounced along the bottom again since the election, but I am grateful that I have come to my senses now. My little lapse was the jolt I needed.
I have overcome my writer’s block and I’m planning a series to expand on some of the ideas I’ve thrown out here for your consideration.
I have also found some new determination.
I have overcome the effects of Morrison’s gaslighting; and I’m immune to his use of religion as an opiate for the masses as noted by Karl Marx:
Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people.
I’ve never been addicted to the opiate of religion, but Scott Morrison is not going to turn me into a junkie again either.
I’m a fighter, not a quitter and self-medicating with booze or narcotics is a symbol of defeat, not strength.
I intend to become more politically active, not less; and I also intend to live as closely as possible to this injunction from chapter one of The Communist Manifesto:
All that is solid melts into air, all that is holy is profaned, and man is at last compelled to face with sober senses his real conditions of life and his relations with his kind.