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They Tried to Make Me Go to Rehab and I Said: We Found Love in a Hopeless Place

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I didn’t even notice her the first day. She was in the bed and I was…well, terrified.

On the second day I saw her. I was smoking, still feeling really isolated. Trying to figure out my place amongst non-peers 15 years younger than me with no fucking clue the opportunity they were passing up. I know, because you couldn’t tell me shit as a 22 year old tweaker.

Black beanie. High-tops. Hoodie.

Smoking PallfuckingMalls.

(Oh, I wrote down words about it, but this one is from my memory.)

Swagger underneath a heavy cloak of insecurity. Chiseled cheekbones and clear hazel eyes. Really, they aren’t always hazel and I couldn’t even see them in that moment anyway.

In detox with me. The only other queer woman so far as I could tell, not that it would have mattered because I picked her.

I.Picked.Her.

In any other normal scenario I’d have been sidled up next to her at a bar, or making obnoxious googly eyes at this bad bitch hidden by the drums.

*look at me! look at me!*

I settled for an out of tune piece of shit guitar.

I don’t even know. I just knew she was the only person I had any interest in spending time with in that place. To find out that those feelings were reciprocated was the greatest gift I could have ever received there, besides the strength to stay sober. She was (and is) part of that strength.

When she has a moment of happiness, her face is the pure, innocent and unabashed joy of a child. Like wonder and excitement and newness all come together. She sparkles.

Of all the times I’ve ever wished someone could see themselves through my eyes, this is the most profound.

I found love and trust and companionship in one of the most hopeless places I’ve ever been in and it was one of the most ebullient experiences of my life.

Written by thelittlepecan

April 30, 2017 at 10:57 pm

They Tried to Make Me Go to Rehab and I said, “What the Fuck is Up with All this Gendered Sexist Bullshit?”

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I’m sitting on a sofa in the upstairs room newly outfitted with IKEA living room furniture, a sign on the wall that reads “HUMBLE” in the style of an old gas station advert and a weird looking clock that is impossible to read which is really fucking annoying…I had to have my husband ship me a watch because TIME IS OF THE ESSENCE.

I am waiting for class to begin.  And by class, I mean a 22 year old young middle class white woman who is triggered by Trap Music (the genre, not T.I.’s album with a ‘Z’) is going to speak to me and a room full of other women aged 19-40 somethings about…what?

Ah. Relationships with women. When we are in full blown addiction we will find women to be bitchy and take our boyfriends. I am not straight, but okay.  I never found my friends to betray me in that way, but…

Now we are learning about addictive behavior and…clothing?

I shit you not.

Stop wearing short skirts and Holy Respectability Politics, Batman! Dammit, girls, if you’d just dress like a lady, you probably wouldn’t shoot up so much and get facedownplasteredinthecar.

I bet you’re surprised that there’s research on the gendered ways we deal with addiction, just like there are racialized and sexualized ways…and those things intersect. Insert shock and awe here please.

Cis/straight/middleclass/white men are the bulk of all addiction treatments from AA to Passages. They are overwhelmingly run by that same demographic. And women, who raise the bulk of our children, suffer far greater instances of domestic violence, need assistance (that is often tied to drug testing or treatment completion) from the social safety net more often and experience sexual assault related to drug or alcohol misuse and abuse at astronomical rates are often completely left out of conversations about how best to deal with very specific issues when it comes to addiction. Well, unless they are being drug tested and having their babies taken away by DFCS. Wait, only poor women and WoC?  Okay.  Then we talk a lot about it. Mainly about taking them to prison and chaining them to beds if they are pregnant.

But our skirts, yeah?

In the US, the ‘‘good woman’’ is a gendered construct characterised as one who upholds exceptional moral standards; the good woman embodies an image of sexual purity, trustworthiness and innocence (Harris-Perry, 2011; Raddon, 2002; Thetford, 2004). Some scholars articulate that these images are also racialised, placing white woman as the hallmark image of the ‘‘good woman’’ – a mutually reinforcing construct of sexual and racial purity characteristic of societal ideals of whiteness (Anderson, 2001; Harris-Perry, 2011; HillCollins, 2000). Though scholars have long critiqued these societal ideals of femininity as discriminatory and unrealistic, the good woman image persists as a cultural identity that both women and mene spouse (Hill-Collins, 1990; Raddon, 2002; Thetford, 2004).

It is these gendered understandings of morality that get in the way of good sobriety, of good treatment and of trauma healing inside a facility. Already treatment is viewed as a moral failing, a neo-liberal understanding of individual responsibility with little biological/medical understanding of addiction (See Dr. Carl Hart’s work on addiction) and a pseudopsychologic/sociologic misunderstanding of social and psychological behavior.  Basically, you are bad and you should feel bad.  Jesus can help. Go to another meeting.

And it did make me feel bad. Even though I knew it was bullshit.

I watched girls, young women really, but barely old enough to be out of my Mama range, who had been violently assaulted or engaged in sex work (for which they had no reason to be ashamed) or engaged in sex for reasons they felt ashamed of (for their own reasons that I would honor) already be further shamed by talks delivered by completely unqualified techs with nary a background in women’s studies, addiction treatment, sexuality, sociology…or social work.

We are nowhere near being able to distinguish the brains of addicted persons from those of non-addicted individuals. Despite this, the ‘diseased brain’ perspective has outsized influence on research funding and direction, as well as on how drug use and addiction are viewed in society. Dr. Carl Hart

Even though:

Your risk of experiencing intimate partner violence increases if you are:

  • Poor
  • Less educated
  • An adolescent or a young adult
  • Female
  • Living in a high-poverty neighborhood
  • Dependent on drugs or alcohol

I sat and listened to this talk and then an activity whereby a fictional woman on a fictional island is fictionally coerced into having sex with a man with more power and resources than she in order to go to the other fictional island where her fictional fiancè is located, who proceeds to abandon her and shame her for her rape and she is then rescued as a distressed damsel by a third man all while her mother encouraged the entire scenario.

I later found out that the worst person in the story according to the LICENSED ADDICTION COUNSELOR was the woman–for a lack of integrity.

These two instances happened on the same day, back to back.

I’ve been sexually assaulted in the context of addiction a number of times. I’ve been coerced into sex in the context of addiction a number of times. I’ve been RAPED UNDER THE INFLUENCE A NUMBER OF TIMES.  I’ve also been violently assaulted by a loved one in the context of addiction and I’ve had my mom counsel me to “carefully consider my options” when it came time to probably leave. I’ve had horrific and shameful encounters with women friends in the context of addiction. I’ve been blamed for all of these things as a woman and as an addict/alcoholic by any number of people throughout my time in that world.

So. Yeah. Triggered. Sobbing.  And attempted to make some kind of headway with the head of program direction…but, you know, as an addict/alcoholic my word really didn’t mean shit. As a victim. As a survivor. AS A FUCKING SOCIOLOGIST.

“What can you do to gain knowledge in these situations?
Honestly, I dunno you ignorant fuck, what can you do to protect your clients from further trauma and respect the knowledge we have as experts in our own lives and hey these degrees that are costing me three times your fucking yearly salary?  Yeah?

Okay no then.

I heard the words slut, bitch, and whore more times than I can count and I don’t mean in a take back the night wild hairy underarmed feminist kind of way either.

I listened as male clients inspected the bodies of female clients, who touched them inappropriately, who bragged about having sex on property with young women who were clearly vulnerable and had limited opportunities for non-sexual physical contact (more on that and the rampant queerphobia later).

I know of at least two women kicked out for what amounted to specifically labeled gendered behavior that was not allowed and women shamed for not being ladylike and women who relapsed immediately after their discharge.

There was only one group who regularly “succeeded” and I’m not even sure we can call it that.

Source Material

A. J. Gunn & K. E. 2015. “Intra-group stigma: Examining peer relationships among women in recovery for addictions.” Drugs: Education, Prevention & Policy. 22(3): 281–292.

Babcock, Marguerite L and Connor, Bernadette. 1981. “Sexism and treatment of the female alcoholic: a review.” Social Work. 26(3):233-238. 

McKim, Allison. 2014. “Roxanne’s Dress: Governing Gender and Marginality through Addiction Treatment.” Signs: Journal Of Women In Culture & Society 39(2): 433-458.

Written by thelittlepecan

April 25, 2017 at 11:16 pm

They Tried to Make Me Go to Rehab: And I Found All the Racism

So, apparently the white racial frame and the pressures exhorted on Asian Americans to assimilate (including the damage done to the psychological welfare of those trying to gain whiteness) is apparent in the micro-interactions of a small residential addiction treatment facility in North Georgia. The space is overwhelmingly white, upper middle class and male. The second of two, an Asian American resident was repeatedly subjected to the pressure of the white racial frame described in Chapter 5 of The Myth of the Model Minority during my time there (Chou and Feagin 2015).

Chou and Feagin (2015:142) write that individuals of color are repeatedly made to bear ridicule, humiliation and exclusion. I met J***d my third week in addiction treatment. His mother and father brought him and they looked about as worn out and scared as every other loved one who brings their child, parent, sibling or friend to rehab. Certainly no white savior/white knighting was necessary from me, but after seeing the way the only Black resident was treated during my first two weeks there, I guess I was apprehensive on this new client’s behalf.

J***, the nickname provided to him by his white, male counterparts in treatment who seemed to have “trouble” pronouncing his name began attempting to find his place in this closed community after about two days. The name problem was a persistent obstacle to his assimilation and an unacknowledged tool to remind him he was excluded. Referencing Sue (2007), Jennifer Gonzales (2014) writes about the lasting impact repeated mispronunciation could have on students of color…or anyone of any age who has a name not classified as “white”. While white America has no problem with names like Galifianakis, somehow a man’s name with five letters is too difficult for credentialed professionals at a mental health facility to pronounce. Gonzales (2014) has a category for both the professionals and the clients who gave J***D his nickname in this instance-“arrogant manglers” who continue on with their mispronunciations after repeated corrections and “nicknamers” who just don’t care enough about another human being (because that person is seen as less than human) to say their name correctly. Both of these categories were evident as J***d’s name was repeatedly corrupted for at least the first week he was there.

J***d attempted on multiple occasions to gain entry to this overtly white space. He “excelled” at rehab (a condition ironically named “making an A in rehab”) by never missing meetings or groups, giving out cigarettes to anyone who asked, playing corn-hole with anyone who would team up with him and making conversation with his most ardent attackers. When overt racism was apparent, he laughed it off. This is explain by Lara in the reading, “ignoring the issues and always just trying to be better than the people around me so…they didn’t have anything over me” (Chou and Feagin 2015:145). It’s impossible for me to know if his attempts were propelled by a need to be a model minority in a facility that attract so many from the low end of social acceptability or he was just trying to survive that experience or both, but the outcome was the same.

Of course, outward humiliation and degredation were present as well. During large group meetings it was common for clients to respond to roll call with silly or inappropriate outbursts, rather than “here” or “present”. Several young, white men began to respond with “Allah Akbar”—nevermind that none of these men knew J***d’s religious beliefs or had recognized that he is not Middle Eastern (which is assumed to be the reason they did this. I am not sure they understood the vastness of the Islamic population worldwide or that, as a near Asian descendent it was just as likely that J***d is Hindu or Christian.) This outburst was followed by some garbled version of another Arabic phrase turned into a bludgeon to associate Brown persons from Persia, the Middle East, India, Pakistan, etc. with terrorism. “Rocking the boat” was not an option for J***d (Chou and Feagin 2015:169). In a closed environment where these same men were his roommates, small group therapy-mates and his cohorts in games, outings and social smoking activities, speaking up was not available. At least, not if he expected to get through the program. At one point he or someone else did complain. The talk in the rumor mill began immediately. Someone was “offended” and “they were just joking”. While the responses to roll call stopped, the same phrases continued, even escalated during smoking times or free times. These spaces were even more important than the roll call situation because this is where clients create relationships. Close relationships with at least one or two other people in treatment are considered especially important to successful completion. In other words, exclusion can literally prevent a person from maintaining sobriety and gaining the tools to finish the program. This is another example of how racism can impact health care outcomes.

Lastly, in the same way that Coates (2015) discusses at length the ways in which Black Americans have little to no rights over their own bodies, J***d was repeatedly humiliated either in secret or in person for his dietary needs-his autonomy over his own person. This is another example of exclusion, othering, unrealistic expectations and humiliation (Chou and Feagin 2015:142). Clients and staff believed that J***d should be expected to put his faith-based dietary needs on hold in order to accommodate the facility. If he did not meet this expectation, he could assume some backlash. On a Saturday while an outdoor activity was being held outside, I read on the couch in the common space. A man from admissions was speaking loudly to the nursing staff. He was complaining about religion and having to respect the beliefs of others. “Just because you being in some Big Sky Fairy shouldn’t mean that we have to accommodate your food!” There was only one resident who required dietary accommodations for religious reasons. When I mentioned that he was being very loud and others, including clients, would be able to hear him, the response was one of categorical disinterest. A moment later after a short discussion on appropriateness of professional behavior, I was told that I was “taking this too seriously.” A later conversation with the head of the clinical team ended with an instance of rescuing whites (of which I am quite possibly a part given my minimal attempt to do anything) since this admissions professional didn’t “mean to offend me” (Bracey 2011). It seemed to go over his head that I wasn’t the person who needed to be assuaged or apologized to, another occurrence of whiteness being the important factor. I was talked to, humored, and placated rather than any meaningful conversation about race and its intersection with religion and bodily autonomy in a facility touted as a spiritually grounded program.

The instances of racism in my time at residential treatment were many. Beginning with the fact that I only saw four people of color my entire time there. The only other Asian client was a Vietnamese woman who suffered much of the same racism J***d did, but dealt with it differently, by utilizing her woman-ness to create connections with other women and separate herself from younger clients. Still, slurs like “slant eyes” were heard during her tenure as well. It was suggested that it would be helpful to have people on staff with a more broad understanding of inequality and social factors that intersect with addiction, but these were, as most suggestions, brushed aside in favor of a “what have you done to escalate conflict” approach. This was an eye-opening experience in a number of ways. A disheartening example of how racism still works in medical and mental health institutions, an example of how this treatment may do more harm than good for those not of the upper-middle class, white, male populations.

 

 

Bibliography

Bracey, Glenn. 2011. “Rescuing Whites: White Privileging Discourse in Race Critical Scholarship” Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Sociological Association Annual Meeting, Caesar’s Palace, Las Vegas, NV, Aug 19. http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p506887_index.html Retrieved January 11, 2017.

Chou, Rosalind and Joe R. Feagin. 2015. The Myth of the Model Minority. New York: Routledge.

Coates, Ta-Nehisi. 2015. Between the World and Me. New York: Spiegel & Grau

Gonzales, Jennifer. 2014. “How We Pronounce Student Names, and Why it Matters.” Cult of Personality. https://www.cultofpedagogy.com/gift-of-pronunciation/ Retrieved April 6, 2017.

 

 

 

 

Written by thelittlepecan

April 22, 2017 at 10:20 pm

They Tried to Make Me Go to Rehab and I Finally Said Yes: A Series

I don’t know how to start a description of deciding to go into rehab. I’d had years of meth use behind me…working on my second decade of being clean. I couldn’t stop drinking and eventually I found myself handcuffed on the side of the interstate with my 10 year old precious boy in my car.

Seemed like I should get my shit together.  This was clearly beyond acceptability.

You should see my admission photo. I look like Bambi met a MACK truck on a dark Smoky Mountain road and truly had no idea which way was left.

So, I went right.

I’m not a wallflower. I’m anything but. But you couldn’t force me to talk that first day, though force me they did.

I was frantic to find anyone who seemed like me. On the inside. I was determined to take this for all it was worth and force myself to ignore whatever bullshit I heard.

And heard it I did.

Racist, sexist, ableist, queerphobic, antitheistic, antiatheist bullshit.

It was horrific and traumatic and beautiful and freeing and stifling and one of the greatest experiences of my life.

I stopped having panic attacks. I leaned on people very different from me. I learned just how deep my racial and class and educational privilege is and how far that shit would carry me at the expense of others.

I fell in love.

I fell in love with myself.

 

These are my experiences. These are my analyses. These are my words.

 

Hold on.  I think I’m back, Bitches.

Written by thelittlepecan

April 22, 2017 at 10:08 pm

I’m Allowed My Crazy, Too.

This entry is going to be intensely personal, probably not very profound and definitely clumsy. I apologize in advance.

Those of you who read my parenting blog (pecantheparent.com) know my family is really struggling. Those of you who read this blog know my issues with anxiety.

Anyway, I have a number of friends who are going through difficult patches; break-ups, make-ups, relationship working through-ups. Many of them also suffer from anxiety, some have PTSD and/or depression.

I have tried to be a good friend when my whole world feels like it is crashing down around me. I have invited friends to my home and tried to create a safe, but honest, space where issues could be discussed. I have a bad habit of taking on responsibility, pain, anxiety…that isn’t mine.

This week I knew, eventually, probably…certainly my own feelings were going to erupt. I tried to reach out and let my loved ones know that it was coming, it would be ugly and that I would be a hot mess.

My child is in a psychiatric facility and has been for a week. He assaulted me. He ran away for 24 hours. I haven’t run in 6 days.

Last night, at a party, it all came to a head…I was verbally abusive to my spouse when I became over stressed. I had a minor altercation with a new friend. Then, my attitude towards my husband became too much for him.

Needless to say, we left. On the way home, the badness ensued and I’ll spare the details…but the most painful thing of the entire night was being told I treated someone I care about like shit.

Not told. Berated.

Not my husband (who I had actually treated badly). But someone who has needed my friendship recently and I have provided that in all the ways I know how. If those have been inadequate, that moment was not the time…and anyway, I HAVEN’T been inadequate. I have been selfless. Yes, I’m going to give myself some props for that.

Because I’m ALLOWED that. It’s okay to say “I am a good person. I have done a good job.”

I’m not perfect, but I am a good friend and in my time of crisis I put my own mental health aside to be there for others. I’ve been yelled at (because I can “take it” apparently) at least three times by stressed out friends, I’ve been yelled at for not wanting to talk before I was ready, I’ve been told to calm down, to chill out, to “just breathe”.

Well, no. I told everyone my day would come and all my shit would surface and it would ugly and I would need that support. It came, it was ugly and instead…I got whatever last night was.

I am fortunate to have the spouse and many friends I do who have reached out today.

But, I will NOT apologize for something that not only did I not do, but even if I had done would be completely forgivable, given my current level of personal crisis and the number of times I’ve allowed others to work through their own crises with me.

Fuck. That.

I’m allowed a little bit of crazy, too.

Written by thelittlepecan

June 30, 2013 at 9:15 pm

Mental Healthcare Reform Isn’t an Option: A Cross-Post from”Pecan Does Parenting”

I write this blog to vent my frustration, provide support for other parents in similar situations and to chronicle my experience parenting a child with pediatric bipolar.

I’m a political person; loud, opinionated and a die-hard liberal. I don’t intend to make this a political blog, but today I am fuming mad.

Yesterday, we had an appointment with a psychiatrist who specialized in pediatric psychiatry and mood disorders specifically. An hour long appointment cost our family $300. A price well worth it to get our son stabilized.

The doctor is out of network and even though she is a MEDICAL doctor helping our son with a brain disease, his care by her is considered “mental health care”, whatever the fuck that means.

Our “regular” healthcare is adequate. A reasonable copay and when “out of network”, the percentage paid is realistic.

Our “mental health” care (in-network) has a $2000 deductible. So, even if we choose the doctors our insurance company has approved…it will never be reached unless he is hospitalized and even then, it may not be.

We used the Cigna approved doctor. What we wound up with was a BPD kid put on anti-depressants at first. Those of you with BPD or have a loved one on that spectrum know that this is a powder keg scenario. I knew my child was not depressed…at least not in any normative way. But, I trusted our physicians advice.

Then, Seroquel. 25 mg once a day which did nothing but put him to sleep, which he did not need. We went back, saw an incompetent nurse practitioner who AGAIN attempted to put him on ADs which I rejected. Another $100 wasted.

After that, we were rarely able to get in touch with the office, couldn’t get a change in medication on the phone and were rebuffed for asking for a refund for the clusterfuck appt.

My son got worse. He began having auditory hallucinations, panics attacks and more instances of depression along with manic raging.

I called EVERY pediatric psychiatrist I could find. The ones in our network could not see us for months.

Living with a child with bipolar is a minefield. Everything is met with defiance, annoyance, overreaction. It is IMPOSSIBLE to provide healthy family life for other children and spouses or partners. There is no “wait until 2 months from now”. Help must come NOW.

I got ONE call back. A pediatric psychiatrist, a specialist whose office manager met my frantic call with “oh, no, that medication is wrong. We will help you fix it.”

Finally someone who thought I wasn’t “overreacting”.

So, I made the $300 appointment and called my insurance company.

“We’re sorry, your out of network deductible is $4000. Can I help you find someone in network?”

“There is no one in network.”

My son needs MEDICAL CARE. He is not crazy, he has a disability that should not have to define him. I should be able to get him the care he needs without worrying if, after we have FINALLY gotten our sea legs financially, we will be broken and scrambling again.

Mental health care IS medical care. To treat it as something that is somehow fundamentally different from other types of health care is to break the finances of families and individuals, to stigmatize those in need and to deny treatment to those who desperately seek it.

Get it together, America. My son deserves better.

Written by thelittlepecan

April 18, 2013 at 9:00 am