Pubdate: Sat, 04 Jun 2016
Source: Portland Press Herald (ME)
Copyright: 2016 MaineToday Media, Inc.
Author: Pat Walsh
Note: Pat Walsh is a resident of Portland.


Common Sense Should Say That Legalized Marijuana Isn't Going to 
Maximize Anyone's Potential.

If you use alcohol, nicotine or other drugs to help you cope with the 
challenges of your daily life, please read on. I wrote this for you.

I'm 71 now, with plenty of time to look back over my life and 
consider what I might have done differently, what I might have 
achieved, if I hadn't been hooked on alcohol and nicotine.

It will be 15 years this October since I finally had my last drink 
and last cigarette and embraced a healthy lifestyle permanently. I 
wish I had learned how to do it much earlier; I could have made 
better decisions, been more available to others and achieved my 
highest potential in both my career and personal life.

Instead, I learned early about the short-term soothing effects of 
alcohol. By my teenage years, I was already dependent on it. I added 
a pack-a-day cigarette habit in my 40s and by the time I was in my 
50s, I had chronic bronchitis and a drinking habit that was 
destroying my liver.

When I read about the legalization of marijuana, which I experimented 
with and found to be as mind-altering as alcohol, it worries me. We 
used to call it "getting wasted," and there's a good reason for that. 
It slows you down and makes everything seem OK, just fine, maybe even 
better and more fun than ever before  for a while. Who knows what 
it's doing to young brains? Maximizing their potential? I doubt it.


When I was living through my 20s, 30s and 40s, I didn't realize that 
the opportunities to be the best mother I could be, or the best 
friend, or the best employee were not always going to be there. I had 
some modest success in my career, but I could have achieved much 
more. My children grew up and moved out, my friends came and went and 
my relationships never lasted.

Now that I can think clearly about all this, I realize that I wasted 
the many chances I had to achieve lasting happiness, to be a positive 
role model and to create and participate in a more fulfilling life.

I thought my addictions were making it easier for me to cope. 
Actually, they made it harder for me to cope. All those years I was 
creating my own uphill battle, adding to my everyday problems and 
challenges by diminishing my ability to think clearly, cope calmly 
and make sound decisions.

If you are using a substance that you think you need to cope with 
life's ups and downs, now might be a good time to take an honest look 
at your habits and become aware of your usage and whether it is 
beginning to take over more and more of your thinking, blurring your 
ability to make good decisions, stealthily sapping your ability to 
thrive. This may be the time in your life to consider what you are 
risking: Your own future well-being and that of your loved ones. Is 
it worth it?

There are many ways to find help. Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics 
Anonymous help many, as well as local agencies and private 
counselors. I tried everything, but it wasn't until I worked with 
Portland nutrition and fitness counselor Mike Foley on a two-year 
writing project that I was able to overcome the constant cravings and 
feel, for the first time, what it was like to be clean and sober every day.


It didn't happen overnight. I made several attempts to drink like a 
"normal" person, until I finally realized that feeling healthy and 
strong every day was better than any short-term blissfulness that an 
addictive substance could give me.

A person using doesn't learn how to cope in a healthy way with 
whatever life throws at them. For me, learning to cope included 
healthy eating, regular exercise, meditation and awareness. Now when 
I face challenges and cope with them, I find courage and 
resourcefulness I didn't know I had.

Life's challenges don't magically disappear when we quit using a 
harmful substance, but finding the inner strength to cope with them 
clean and sober is satisfying in a way that seems magical. I hope you 
find it, too.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom