Monday, March 9, 2009

It's Not Just A Bad Haircut

Anne Hathaway was recently nominated for an Oscar for her performance in "Rachel Getting Married". It is the story of a young woman battling addictions. A few years ago Sandra Bullock played a similar role in "28 Days". The makeup artists gave both of these beautiful women the same "look" to appear dissipated and beaten by their addictions. Their hair looked as if it had been cut by hedge-trimming shears, and they were pale and wan. I guess it would be easy if we could recognize people who are having difficulties with addictions, just by looking at them, but we can't. They are just like us, and there but for the grace of God goes any one of us.

I feel desperately sorry for people who have fallen into the trap of addictions. I think it would be very easy to do. When I was in high school, I had two close friends whose mothers had problems with alcohol. My friends' mothers looked just like all the other mothers, except they were not. They were altered by substance abuse. Who knows what caused it. Bad marriages, perhaps. Disappointment in life. Boredom. Who ever knows...

Neither of my friends could invite school mates home after school. They could never explain their mothers' bizarre behavior, and they were always ashamed.

I have had friends who have battled alcoholism or substance abuse and have managed to pull themselves out of it. One friend of mine just celebrated a milestone "birthday" of sobriety, and I was honored to be invited to her "cake celebration". I knew her "when" and I loved her then, as I still love her now. Just after she attained her sobriety, she paid me a visit to make amends for any of the things she had done to hurt me while she was drunk. I knew it was important to her, so I didn't have the heart to tell her that even while she was drunk, she had never done anything to hurt me. But some people can be very hurtful while under the influence of substance abuse, and often they're not aware of it until much later. Long-term alcohol use is one of the main causes of paranoia, which causes unusual behavior on the part of the addict.

"I said what!? I did what!? Oh, Gawd, why did I do that!?"

I think it's very important not to be judgmental of people who, for whatever reason, have become addicted to either drugs or alcohol -- at least until we walk in their shoes. It can happen to anyone. And it's not an easy thing to beat. Some people never do, while others are able to quit cold turkey. And alcohol withdrawal is second only to heroin withdrawal in its severity.

But don't look for their bad haircuts to try and recognize them. They're you and me -- they're us.

27 comments:

Miss_Nobody said...

Whoa yes,this is so true,but in some cases people,i mean their looks seem to waste away.I'm 19,and most people I have seen my age take drugs because they have the excessive pocket money given to them by their overindulgent parents,who,to compensate for the lost time with their kids toss them (a lot of) shiny coins.Others are forced into it by peer pressure,and I guess our job is not to ostracized them but to bring them back with as much love and patient handling as possible.

Andrea said...

You are right on with this. I too had a friend in school who was embarrassed by her alcoholic mom. I would say that was my first encounter with someone with an addiction. The woman just sat on the living room sofa and stared into space, occasionally ranting about something. Little did I know, years later, I would be living with an alcoholic. It's not a easy situation to figure out and it certainly drains those all around.

Cyth said...

Well, this opened a can of worms for me. I'm on the other side of the alcohol equation. My father was alcoholic , now no longer with us, though he'd been dead to me long before his physical death. And I can't even begin to tell you how living with that effected my life. And though , in my logical mind , I agree with you, in my heart, I still struggle on occasion and have a hard time being compassionate toward the alcoholic. Much work left to be done for me, I guess. For the record , they ( whoever "they" are ) say that the average acoholic affects 10 people in his/her world. That's a whole lot of hurtin'.

ivan said...

It was bad in the eighties in Ontario, Canada. Every schoolyard from grade school to high school had kids hooked on drugs. A local high school here, Huron Heights wasfast becoming known as Heroin Heights. Policing brought the drug use down, but it's understood that any kid in high school here today is probably using at least marijuana.
Oh Lucy and the Sky with Diamonds!

momcat said...

That also goes for abused wives caught in a marriage where they are being hurt by the person who promised to love them. They are usually unemployed and dependent on the abuser. Its easy to say 'why doesn't she walk away' but when you are there with small kids to feed and look after you will put up with a lot to protect them. Its not easy to get out of a trap even if you put yourself into it!

flowrgirl1 said...

Great post. I grew up in a very small town and it seems that those small areas really battle with addictions. I know many alcoholics and a handfull of people who have become addicted to cocaine. It only takes one person to introduce it to the population and boom!
It's sad to know that it is real and that so many people fall prey to addiction.

Kathy's Klothesline said...

Food for thought. Alcoholism is a disease, we have all been told and I believe it to be. Living with an alcoholic is like a roller coaster ride. If they want a drink they deny the disease. "It's just one beer and I am not an alcoholic, I don't drink everyday." However, when that one beer turns into a binge, they embrace the disease. "I can't help it, I'm sick." I tell my alcohlic taht disaster is just one drink away and in order to get the help he really needs he must 'own' the disease. Somehow my sage wisdom has escaped him.......

Polly said...

Very interesting post. I used to smoke and can imagine how easy it is to fall into a trap of addiction. It's painless and somehow just happens. And the hairdo does get worse when the addiction deepens... Polly x

budh.aaah said...

Nicely written Jo. I do not personally understand 'looking outside' for strength. I think we have a vast reservoir of that inside us. But because of various circumstances in life people look/turn for solace outside and when they dont find it they turn to substance abuse. Its sad, I wish people are more accepting/understanding and less judgemental but tis a harsh world we live in..

Katy said...

One of my good friend's sister died last year. She was clincly depressed and was an alcholic before she took her life.

She was really his step-sister. They were the same age, always in the same grade. In high school she was the tall skinny girl you would kill to be. Pretty and popular, she was nice to everyone. Everyone's best friend. She played vollyball and was a photographer for the school paper.

She did well in college. Had a great career as a free lance photographer, and a wonderful boyfriend who would move heaven and earth to try to save her.

Still she was plegued by insicurites and as you say, addiction is a desiease that can get the best of anyone. Even the poeple who look just like us. Better than us.

Thank you for this post.

Maureen said...

I'm a recovering addict and alcoholic who's been in AA for 20 years now. I still go to meetings, not everyday anymore, but usually twice a week. Because I need to. It doesn't go away. The compulsion has lifted, but the self loathing and urge to isolate are always there. Being in a meeting with other people who are dealing with the same issues is the only thing I know of that helps. And even though I realize that it's a miracle that I've been clean and sober for as long as I was using now, I still have some seriously bad hair days.

DUTA said...

Lately we've been hearing a lot about 'Credit Addiction' which could lead nations to a bitter end.

Lorna said...

Jo-- the thing is, whereas there are a lot of people who can hide their addictions, one giveaway is that they do neglect their appearance, including hair, hygiene, dress, etc.

But I understand and agree with your premise that a lot of them look like a lot of us.

Lorna

white crow said...

i tried smoking and drinking to distract my mind frm the hard times i was facing, but found out that those were harder after i puked in an attempt to inhale cigarette smoke... XD. I got frens who smoke and drink a lot, but believe me! they are very pure frm the heart. they stop me frm even tryin alcohols or tobacco, coz they don't want me to get addicted as they are. all i wanted to say is that they are just another individual like us, but who'z got into a habit of indulging in such narcotic substances. They aren't bad ppl.
But still, i am against any of substance abuse.

TheChicGeek said...

Yes, Jo, we must never judge a book by it's cover as we so often do. If we all had more compassion in our lives the world would be a much better place.
I did see that Rachel movie though and I HATED it....maybe hate is too strong a word....I didn't enjoy it at all!

lovelyprism said...

It could happen to any of us and you're right they are us. I believe my Grandmother is what is called a "functioning alcoholic". It doesn't seem to effect her life much so we've all overlooked it to a degree. I would never judge her though, she's a wonderful woman. On Wednesday I will post about her on lovelyprism-bewitched.blogspot.com to commemorate her 92nd birthday.

Leslie: said...

Oh so true...and that goes for any type of mental illness, too, especially in times past when there was no help like there is today.

Deedee said...

"Who knows what caused it. Bad marriages, perhaps. Disappointment in life. Boredom. Who ever knows..." I've had some experience with a loved one who suffered for years with addiction, but is now in recovery, and I have to say I think that some people are just genetically or physiologically predisposed to addictive behavior. It's just something they are prone to. I wholeheartedly agree that no one should judge someone who suffers from it. That would be like judging someone because they inherited the tendency for diabetes or leukemia. We are all children of God, despite our human failings.

Paula Slade said...

I once did a three part investigative article on eating disorders, which are crippling addictions for many people - men as well as women, and I was struck by the shame and self-loathing these people experienced. It is so sad to see lives torn apart from any form of addiction.

Mona said...

i've never been addicted to anything and i count myself very lucky...one interesting thing is that i've actually actively> avoided things that i know people get addicted to...alcohol, drugs, gambling, cigarette.

i believe people get addict to something as a way to deal with their uncomfortableness or pain and if they can find another way to deal with it in a more healthy way, they can turn their addiction to a positive thing...

sad that people feel so much pain...

Baby宝儿 said...

Thank you your warning. I don’t know who it is. When I open my blog yesterday, I found .But I have already deleted it. Thank you very much .After I hope this kind of thing will never happen!

introspection said...

Have been reading this post along with it's comments several times since yesterday. would have liked to agree with everything Jo has written. A well written post and as usual opens up strong thoughts /reactions.
why do people get addicted in the first place:
When people cannot handle responsibilty they go astray; and
when people have loveless childhood (broken homes, abusive parents, ill tempered parent) they turn to the bottle.
In India we have had a sudden social/cultural shock due to recent changes in our governments globalisation policy. The youth is turning to addiction while trying to merge with the mainstream, but cannot handle its repurcussions.

In my opinion (alcoholic) moms of school children have bigger responsibilty. These children are vulnerable and will unconsciously follow in their footsteps as soon as they face any issues.
Some one metioned that 1 alcoholic affects lives of 10 persons around. This is an eye opener, but I think the effect it has on lives of future generations is invisible, but far reaching.

Stronger family ties, parents' sacrifices, and continuous expressions of love to each other nurtures self confidence in life, and that in turn gives inner strength as you grow. Armed with this inner strength you can fight any addiction, I am sure.
In my humble opinion this issue is mainly about handling relationships; and must be addressed at grass root levels. This is not an individual's issue. It is a much wider one. Just like sex education has been introduced in institutions to inculcate responsible awareness in children, we should ensure that Handling Relationships (in different categories) forms a major subject in schools/high schools. We teach Math, history, geography, & computers to our children. We prepare them to face the big wide world by imparting the knowledge of world to them. But we do not teach them something they will need their entire life - to what relationships are. We have no faculty and we dont teach this. We leave them to decide for themselves how they should react when moms are in an abusive marriage and stay in it for the sake of children or whatever.
Moms play such an important role in lives of children specially in their formative years. Dads do too, but their role as parent begins a bit later I think ( you may disagree)
But the most impressionable mind of a child is when it is being cared for by moms on a daily basis.
I would like that Relationship Education be introduced in schools right from grade 3 or 4. The complicated relationship matters can be taught at a later grade - say high school. In fact I have started putting together a High school level (text) book that can be used in schools when published, hopefully some day. It may take a few generations to start benifitting from this education; as such things take their time turning things around, but I am confident it will help changing a bit of our social fibre about substance abuse etc.
Any inputs?

BeNC said...

Yes, indeed.

I have a couple of friends who have been into some weird activities lately.

Being a friend of theirs, it's very important for us to lend a shoulder or something to console them, to get through all the hard times with them.

People who are close to them, especially us, have to be really considerate.

If we don't , who will?

greenpanda said...

Terrible but true.

Jo said...

♦ Miss Nobody, yes, but sometimes it's hard to bring them back, isn't it? They disappear forever.

♦ Andrea, yes, it does drain all those around. And unfortunately, denial is the great enabler.

♦ Cyth, I would believe the alcoholic affects ten people in his or her world. I have seen it!

♦ Ivan, oh, gosh! That is my worst nightmare!

♦ Momcat, "Its not easy to get out of a trap even if you put yourself into it!" Oh, yes...

♦ Flowrgirl1, I agree. And once people fall into the trap of addiction, they think they are fooling everyone, but they are not!

♦ Kathy, I think the most frustrating position is sitting watching the alcoholic destroy their health.

♦ Polly, sometimes people can fool other people, though you know -- sadly.

♦ Budh.aaah, "But because of various circumstances in life people look/turn for solace outside and when they don't find it they turn to substance abuse." Yes, I think being addicted to alcohol or drugs would be very lonely.

♦ Katy, oh goodness yes. Yours is a good example of someone who was blessed with everything, and was still miserably unhappy. That is so sad!

♦ Maureen, congratulations on your 20 years of sobriety. I think it must be very difficult, but easier than the alternative, which just ends up hurting other people. Well done!

♦ DUTA, yes, I think shopping and buying can definitely be addictive. Thank goodness I don't have any money...! *heh*

♦ Lorna, a lot of them can hide behind normalcy too. I work with people like that.

♦ White Crow, LOL! Smoking is such a disgusting habit. I smoked for a while, but when I first started, it made me sick all the time. I wonder now why I ever did it.

♦ TheChicGeek, I guess it is hard for us to have compassion sometimes when we are on the receiving end of some of the behaviors caused by substance abuse. However, there but for the grace of God...

♦ LovelyPrism, your grandmother is 92? Well, God love her. I guess she is entitled to some mischief at this point, isn't she? :-)

♦ Leslie, yes. And there is help today and people should seek it out when they realize they have a problem.

♦ DeeDee, omygoodness, yes. None of us is perfect. I'm certainly not perfect. *heh* Far, far, far from it, in fact. But I try not to hurt people. Often people with addictions will hurt other people without realizing it.

♦ Paula, yes, I agree, self-loathing is behind a lot of addiction problems. It's really sad, because usually the people are very bright, interesting people.

♦ Mona, yes. I think we all have had things we have had to deal with at some time in our lives, and we all deal with those things differently. So we cannot judge people who have addictions.

♦ Baby, I'm sorry you deleted your blog. I would have loved to have seen more of your art work. :-)

♦ Introspection, what a great comment! Yes! "But we do not teach them something they will need their entire life - to what relationships are." I am to all intents and purposes estranged from my beautiful grandchildren. I live in the same city, but I am not part of their lives. I am basically a glorified babysitter, and that is all. Who loses in that situation? They do! It just makes me very sad.

♦ BeNC, it's not always easy, though, is it? But it could happen to any one of us.

♦ Greenpanda, oh yes...!

heartinsanfrancisco said...

I'm glad I read this post because I was considering getting a shag haircut. Obviously I don't drink enough to pull it off.

My husband Flip's mother was an alcoholic, and he was never able to invite friends over. She was likely to be passed out on the floor, or chasing him around with sharp implements.

My ex-husband was an alcoholic, too, and it turned him extremely mean. I feel bad for addicts, but I never want to live with one again.

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