Author:Yeshaia Blakeney

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Focusing on Wellness…Are We Missing Something?

Living in Los Angeles in 2020, one of the things that I am really aware of was that we live in a time where there is a lot of focus on individual wellness. There are whole sections of Los Angeles that are all juice bars, yoga, spinning classes, and Pilates. 

I was like, “What are people doing? Do they have jobs? They are just drinking juice and running all day.” Oh, it is beautiful, I like both juice and running, I have nothing against it.

LA is very health-conscious…but I do not think it is just LA. I actually think the United States in general is more focused on health. There has been more consciousness around nutrition, physicality, and working out. 

The Shift Towards Healthier Living

It was not like that even fifteen years ago. I mean, just as an example, I got sober seventeen years ago. At that time, there was a gym in the Tribute program where I got sober and only 2 or 3 people actually worked out in the gym. There are a hundred people in the Tribute program, but very few people went to the gym. It just was not that popular thing back then.

Same thing with eating. The food was fried chicken patties, rice, and beans. There was no vegan or special menus. But that rapidly changed. 

The clients that we get now say, “When am I going to the gym? When will I work out?” Almost all of them ask for this. I’d say, 80% percent of clients are very health-conscious. Whether they are struggling with it or whether they have a good routine, they are really conscious of health and that is just the reflection of what is happening in the larger society. 

Why are We Obsessed with Diet and Nutrition?

I sort of think back whenever I see something has changed at a social level I am like, “What is going on?”

I have talked about it in some previous videos. They kind of break down tradition and cultural containers and that we live in a time where everything is up for grabs. Meaning, we got to interpret things how we want and kind of do what we want. You cannot really decide how to be in the future based on how people were in the past because everything has changed so rapidly.

I think one of the responses that people had to the insecurity of our reality is to look at different places–new places–for salvation. 

Is Wellness the New Salvation?

Salvation is a religious word. Generally, ‘salve’ means they kind of heal. Salvation also means to be safe in some sense. Religiously, the salve came from service, salvation came from giving yourself to God. It came from a certain way of living. 

We no longer have the same kind of religious consciousness, at least not nearly as powerfully as we used to. We look for salvation in different areas. I think a lot of people look for salvation in the gym.

They think, “If I can just get my body to a certain place, if I could just eat the perfect food, if I can just get everything clean and pure inside, if I can become a pure vessel then I will be safe.” 

They may not be consciously thinking that way but their behavior is speaking in that language. 

On the one hand, I am a fan of being healthy, I am a post-modern man living in Los Angeles in 2020, I ride my bike, swim, wake up to green juice. I do all of this stuff. At the same time, I have this double consciousness where I am like this and I am just still going to die. Still, I got to be a good person, it is just this kind of obsession that we all live with. And there are worse obsessions to have.

What’s Missing in this Equation?

When it comes to how that interfaces with the recovery, I think we have got to be wise. I think we need to know that not all problems can be solved in the gym or what we eat. Exercise and diet can solve some problems and sometimes those things are connected to how we sleep, feel, and cope. 

But there’s more. Some of the stuff we are working on in treatment is in the domains of morality. Some of the stuff we are working on is in the domain of character and integrity.

You can be a really fit person that eats really healthy and have no integrity. You can also be a really fit person who eats in a very healthy manner but has a tremendous amount of shame. Often, sometimes, I actually think that we are also ashamed about how selfish and narcissistic we are these days. That we are working doubly hard for salvation, to walk around guilty saying, “Something is not right here.” There is some kind of different way of being.

On the one hand, I am pro-health because I would be insane not to be pro-health. On the other hand, I think we have to be wise and make distinctions about what is actually happening with us and what is motivating what we are doing. And is this the actual way to meet the need, the existential need that we have as humans for salvation and to heal?

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Adapting Treatment During A Pandemic…What’s Next?

It’s been a little over a year since COVID-19 has become a harsh reality changing the course of all our lives.

The pandemic presented inconceivable challenges and altered the way we reach those struggling with substance abuse and addiction.

During this uncertain time, Recovery Integrity adapted and created protocols to ensure the safety of our clients and staff.

We’re entering a time where there is a light at the end of the long, dark tunnel. Restrictions are cautiously being lifted. Vaccines are becoming more widely available. Life as normal may not be within reach…but we are getting closer.

Of course, we can’t let our guard down. And we have to address the concerns, anxieties, and trauma caused by COVID-19.

Let’s face it: Some that had a solid footing in recovery at the beginning of last year may have regressed or suffered emotionally during this difficult time.

Social isolation, loss, lack of support, fear that any interaction may lead to a life-threatening infection…these are very real issues that affect recovery.

What’s the best way to move forward?

Recover Integrity believes this is a two-fold approach: addressing addiction and the trauma caused by COVID-19.

Prior to the pandemic, Recover Integrity offered trauma-focused care. After all, many individuals struggling with addiction also experienced trauma at some point in their lives.

Our knowledge of the effects of trauma on a person’s overall well-being allows us to address the emotional struggles many faced as COVID-19 disrupted our lives.

It’s time to process, regroup, and make efforts to move forward…while cautiously acknowledging the pandemic is still a reality.

We are all still learning to adapt. Recover Integrity is constantly evaluating our treatment model to be a beacon for those suffering from addiction during a pandemic.

Feel free to reach out to discover how we are helping those suffering with addiction during the pandemic.

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Addiction, Health Care, and Corruption in Treatment

It is no big secret that there is a lot of corruption that has happened in drug and alcohol treatment. I worked in the nonprofit treatment industry for twelve or thirteen years. I was not really that exposed to the wider trends of what was happening in drug and alcohol treatment and in mental health treatment. But as I founded my own place I started to be exposed more to the treatment industry as a whole. I do not even like the term.

Changes to Health Insurance

One of the things that happened was in 2009, Obama passed the Affordable Care Act. There were a couple of small but really important facts around Obamacare. One was, insurance companies were no longer allowed to exclude for preconditions. Before that, if you had cancer or if you had a history of “fill-in-the-blank”, an insurance company said, “We will not give you health insurance because of this.” They could no longer do that. 

The other was Parity Laws which meant anything that government healthcare decided to cover private insurance, on Parity, had to cover as well. So suddenly every insurance policy had to cover mental health and substance abuse. Prior to that period, most insurance did not really pay for treatment. You were either getting treatment at the community level or you had money or some really great insurance. 

The vast majority of people actually could not even get mental health and substance abuse treatment except at the community level…until Obamacare. And suddenly if you had a PPO plan  from Blue Cross Blue Shield or whoever, you could go to residential treatment. 

And because of the Parity Laws, at least in the beginning, it would cover full treatment. So suddenly, you could be a middle-class person from Ohio and you can get drug and alcohol treatment in Malibu on the beach. Unbelievable. You would not pay attention to it if you were not working in it. 

Enter Corruption, Greed, and Shady Treatment Practices

And it did a few things. Lots of people suddenly had access to treatment. But we live in a capitalistic society…so what happened was suddenly there is a lot of potential money in the system because now you have a couple of hundred million people who have these insurance cards in their wallet that now could be exchanged for money for treatment. 

Wow…that set off a very interesting chain reaction. So you have entrepreneurial-minded, generally narcissistic, people that somehow get this information. Maybe a very narcissistic client goes through treatment and instead of focusing on his recovery, he is counting how much money the treatment program is making. Then he goes to his narcissistic wealthy father and says, ‘I think we should open a treatment program’. At six months sober, an individual opens a treatment program. 

Then shockingly, because he is shady and he does shady marketing practices, it is successful and lots of people are going there even though the treatment is probably not very good. 

Then private equity and venture capitalists think: wow there is a lot of money in this treatment thing and they partner with the narcissistic owners of treatment programs. 

Next thing you know, you have five thousand treatment programs open up in Los Angeles between 2009 and 2020. Is it a surprise that a lot of them are not offering good treatment and are somewhat corrupt? 

For me, it is a very interesting story because I was supportive of Obamacare. If and when you asked me: Would you like people to be able to get insurance whether they had a precondition or not? I say, yes, I would. 

If you said: Would you like drug and alcohol treatment to be covered? I would say, yes that is great, and kind of calculate the full fallout of that kind of choice. 

Incentives Creating Barriers to Recovery: The Sad Truth

On the patient’s side, you have patients who have no money but possess an insurance card. They could live in the kind of house they never could live in without that insurance card, on the beach in Malibu. But they actually had to be pretty close to being loaded to be able to qualify to live in that house in Malibu. 

So you could imagine that there is a handful–and by a handful, I mean hundreds of thousands of people–who have gone in and out of treatment and continually relapse. They return to these residential and outpatient treatment programs. They have no money, they do not work, they just have this insurance card. 

I am sure some of them are doing it consciously–some unconsciously. It really is a story of bad incentives. It is a bad incentive for treatment providers that treat for profit–making money on people’s suffering. 

It is a bad incentive on the relapse end that if a client relapses, insurance pays more. Not for the insurance companies but for the treatment providers. 

And then it is a bad incentive for clients. I could just live in treatment, go to some groups, and do that for a few years. Then I just relapse. I can go back. I do not have to get a job. I do not have to go through the really arduous task of growing, learning, changing, and recovering. I can take an easy way out as long as I have an insurance card.

It is really problematic. It started to change, the government started to crack down and the treatment community. Obviously, it is not all treatment programs, but it is a really important lesson at the policy level that affects everybody in their daily lives, particularly those people seeking recovery and suffering from addiction.

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Mental Health: The Next Global Crisis

A while ago, I was having a conversation with a friend. We were looking at–this was pre-Covid–at the future. What do we think of the big crises that are going to happen? 

He talked about a possible war with China and kind of what we saw down the line for society. 

I said, “You know, I do not think it is any of that. I think that the world is so interconnected that it will not be some kind of us-against-them type of thing…I think it will actually be a global mental health crisis.

Mental Health Issues Are on the Rise 

If you look at the rates of anxiety, depression, and suicide–particularly in the US, but globally, too–they keep rising. 

And I actually do not have to look at the rates. I can watch my own mental health and well-being, as time passes and then go, am I okay? I know the amount of effort, work, and consciousness that it takes for me to feel whole and good every day. And I have support, privilege, and a lot of different things in my life going for me. 

And so there is this kind of huge question, why are people suffering so much with issues around mental health, substance abuse, and at its extreme… suicide? What is going on? 

Is Technology Taking Its Toll on Our Mental Health?

Very simple question. And I think that technology is a big component of it. 

We are probably taking somewhere between twenty to thirty-five percent of our conscious energy absorbed on our phones, computers, and televisions. That is a lot of energy and attention on moving pictures and content consumption. 

All different kinds of colorful information. Manipulated information to keep you on there. 

So there is the whole addiction aspect of technology. There is also the unknown of what it does to the nervous system…but I think we are starting to find out. 

We become addicted to instant gratification. We become addicted to looking at something. We do not know how to just be. We always need to be doing something.

So we create turning to technology as an option to fill in the gaps when we used to just simply be. What kind of energy and attention are we putting on our phones and our computers, etc.? And what is that doing over the long term to our nervous system? We have no idea. 

Smartphones have only existed for like 15 years. Maybe a little less, right? So it means we have no idea what that means but we are getting a taste of it.

So technology is one huge component that everybody focuses on. It is like to me technology is nested in this larger context of the age that we live in.

Is Our Lack of Consciousness Contributing to Mental Health Issues? 

I come from a kind of philosophical background, a historical background. And so I could tell a story about there was a period of time in the West when everybody had religious consciousness. People then were thinking about being a good or bad person. 

I don’t even know if people think about that anymore. Now, we are thinking, “Do I feel good or not,” or whatever we think. 

People used to think about am I good or am I a bad person in relationship to God. In relationship, if you are Christian, to heaven and hell, right? And in relationships as the idea of being saintly or God-like or Jesus-like, right? So for eight hundred years that is the way people walked around constructing their existence. 

It seems kind of foreign to us now, but that was quite recently.

It was up until, I think the 1600s, and then continues to transition. Back then you had the enlightenment come along in the 1600s with modern science. The beginning of nation-states, the idea of the self. Out of that enlightenment came an idea of psychology. 

We started to think about what is happening. Who am I? What is going on in here? It was not so cosmically God, religious focused. It was more about, who am I? 

Descartes said,I think therefore I am. And he opened up this Pandora’s Box about who are we and where we are from and maybe there is no God. And we entered into the secular age, right?

A New Era of “Enlightenment”?

There was a pretty solid religious tradition that we came from. Prior to that, it was more of a tribal and agricultural existence. It was pretty predictable. Each generation, the same as the one before, generally, not a lot of “progress”. 

Then suddenly you have rapid progress, you have the throwing off of religion and then eventually you have the enlightenment. Which says through rationale and reason, if we all can be reasonable, we all could figure out how to create a utopian world.

 It is not about God. It is about reason, universal reason. What is the truth? If we all know what the truth is: scientifically speaking, philosophically speaking, we all agree on it. Then we can all agree and we can have built a utopian society that we all agree upon. Everybody in the world. 

Then the huge backlash…postmodernism comes. What about black people, what about women, what about that? The biggest deal was World War One and World War Two. Wait a minute; I thought we are all reasonable. Suddenly, we just killed a hundred million people in the most reasonable society we ever had. And it started in the most reasonable culture, the German culture, which was the most “advanced” culture of the time. 

But yet that culture, at least in World War II, decided they were going to try to kill twenty million people. And so it just destroyed this dream of building the foundations of society on reason.

Cultural Containers Are Dissolving

So I am telling the stories but it is really to understand that throughout all of human history there has been what I would just call cultural containers. I understand who I am supposed to be based on what my parents pass on to me from the culture, from their parents and from the environment. And that that culture has been rapidly changing and no period has been faster than the last hundred years. 

And so the most basic things that were fundamental of our society like, I am a man you are a woman, we now question. Well, is gender even real you know. What does it mean to be sane? What does it mean to be insane? What does it mean to be good? Who can be president? What are the job qualifications there? I mean the most basic notions have fallen by the wayside or have been questioned and deconstructed and torn apart.

Now, if you are born into the world, you really have no idea exactly how you are supposed to be. You are very distant from ideas of morality and religion. You are very distant from when psychology was a living, breathing, brand new way of being in the world.

Now, it is more of a marketing everyday thing that everybody is doing and so where is the moral authority? Where is the ground of being? Where is the moral authority that exists in society right now?

Technology is Just a Product of Changing Times

So in my mind, technology is actually nested in the fact that everything has changed. And there is so much change so fast that there is no stability. And so everybody, of course, is going to be on their phones because we want to be distracted from the fact that we have no idea what the f— we are doing. 

We had an idea when we knew that we were going to go to heaven. We had an idea when we knew we are trying to build a utopian society, be good American citizens and do good for our country. All of that got wiped away.

What are we doing now? We are posting YouTube videos and trying to make a buck and hope that I can find somebody I care about.

 So I think there is a larger story here about mental health. I tend to be an optimist against my better judgment. Which is to say, I do view this time period as a transition. I do think it is going to get worse before it gets better. But I think it is a transition into something else. I could not possibly say what that something else is but we are living in a very rapid time of transition.

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The Stigma of Addiction: Pros and Cons

One of the things that has been a great concern to the population at large when it comes to addiction–definitely the media, definitely the progressive end–is how we think about the world of addiction and the people going through the suffering involved with addiction. It is this stigma that comes along with the word “addict” or “alcoholic.” 

There are a lot of campaigns I see online like End the Stigma and people talking about their sobriety and what they have been through. Generally, I do not know if I would say I am a fan of that…but I definitely like people to do what they feel is right, whatever makes you feel good about yourself.

What Actually Creates the Stigma of Addiction?

I think that there is a misunderstanding of where the stigma from addiction comes from. 

What I would say is that the stigma from addiction does not come from the word “addict.” The stigma comes from when your brother steals your car battery out of your car because he has an addiction problem, and it pisses you off. 

So, the reason why there is a stigma around addiction is because the behaviors that come along, not all the time, for all eternity, but a lot of the behaviors that come along with a lot of people that have addictions are horrid. You cannot trust people. They steal from you. They lie to you. 

You try to have an authentic relationship, but they are incapable of having an authentic relationship. It is a giant pain in the ass to have a relationship with somebody that has an active addiction. 

That is where the stigma comes from. It is not the word “addict.” You can change the words all you want, but the reality of it is until addiction is not a pain in the ass, there is going to be a stigma associated with it.

Can the “Addiction Stigma” Be Useful?

Now, on the other hand, I understand what people mean because you want people to be able to overcome their shame of having addiction by being able to say, “I have this problem,” so they can get better. 

I agree with that, but on the other hand, you do kind of want some stigma against addiction. 

I am raising children in this world, and is it the worst thing if my kids think that to be addicted is not that great? 

I want my children to know addiction is not that great. So, I think we have a lot of confusion about what we mean when we talk about stigma, and even what exactly our goals are when we say “Bring down the stigma.” 

Does Changing Terminology Make a Difference?

Clearly, the goals are to be able to help people get better. I mean, that is simple, but I do not think we are going to do that by playing with language. 

I will give my funny example of this, “housekeeper.” It is an interesting word. To keep the house, I guess, is what it means. It is somewhat old-fashioned. It is not as old as “maid.” I very rarely hear people say, “Oh, this is my maid.” They say, “This is my housekeeper.” Now, the word changed somewhere from the ’80s and ’90s to now from “maid” to “housekeeper.” Prior to that, there was another word people used to use, it was called “servant,” right? Or the “help.” 

So, these words changed, but the reality of other people cleaning up other people’s shit for their whole lives is still the same. Do you want to reduce the stigma of the word “housekeeper”? Well, I do not know. Maybe we should take a look at whether it is cool that we have a society where a certain class of people, often of a certain race, spend their entire lives serving another class of people often of another race, if we really want to deal with the problem.

Is Language Distancing Us from What’s Really Happening?

I feel the same way about addiction. Addiction is a human phenomenon. People have been addicts and alcoholics for as long as people have been. 

So, yes, we want to acknowledge this is not a normal human part of life. We also want to acknowledge when it becomes a destructive addiction, it is not a good thing, and it should be somewhat stigmatized. 

There is another reason why I would not be so quick to get rid of the terms “addict” or “alcoholic”. 

We are in a time now with trigger warnings and people being very afraid of offending people with words–which is strange because we are in the most offensive times, in my opinion, that one could live in, but that is the hypocrisy of the time. 

So, people have a hard time identifying as: “Hi, my name is Shy. I am an alcoholic.” or “Hi, my name is Shy. I am an addict.” 

Whatever that is, and they go, “I do not want to identify because I am more than just an addict.” Of course, you are more than just an addict. I think everybody knows that, but what is the importance of identifying?

Well, in my mind, people are distancing themselves through language from the reality of what is actually happening. 

When I was in active addiction, it was not a thing that I suffered from, meaning it actually was in the realm of the anti-logical, of the being of me, not the just doing of me. 

I will give an example of this. My cousin Jason has been playing baseball since he was 5 years old. People that play baseball, people that really love baseball, could spot a baseball player even when they are not playing baseball. They go, “You are a baseball player.” Then he will go, “You are someone who often plays baseball.” “No, you are actually a baseball player. I see the way you walk, the way you talk, the way you wear your hat, in the ‘being’ sense of it is like a baseball player.”

I would say if you have ever met somebody who is a really bad junkie, it has invaded more than just their activity. It has to do with their being. There is something kind of almost essential there where you go like, “Man, the way this person’s posture is and the way he kind of looks up at me It is like, he is kind of an archetypal junkie.” 

I am not saying that is great, and I realize that is probably somewhat offensive to go, “No, actually you are a junkie.” But I think it is that realization that you have, “Oh my God, I am a drug addict,” or at least “I am becoming a drug addict. I do not want to be that.” 

Not: “I do not want to do that anymore.” 

I do not want to BE that. I want to be someone else or something better.” 

So, I think when we get rid of those words, we are sort of white-washing the situation. 

I have sat with people with sleeve tattoos, out of the penitentiary, and in addiction programs, and I am like, “Hey, what are you here for? What is your drug of choice?” 

They go, “I am opiate-dependent.” 

I am like, “Opiate-dependent? Okay, doctor. What does that mean, you shoot heroin? You shoot dope? You do opium, right?” 

 I am not saying that to be offensive, I am saying it to get that person to connect to the reality of where they are at, and what they are becoming.

Being Comfortable with BEING

So, I think that… Because we live as a psychological society, we think about everything psychologically. We think about everything in kind of this far distance. We actually move away from the actuality of the being. 

Like, “No, I am an addict.”

And: “Guess what? Right now, I am not an addict. I have been sober 17 years. My ways of being who I am in the fibers, over time working on myself…I have not used for a long time.”

“I am no longer an addict. I can identify as I am an addict in recovery.” 

Or, “I am Shy. I am in recovery.” 

That is part of my being, too. I am a person in recovery. I am not doing recovery.

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There is Something of Infinite Value Inside You

From a spiritual perspective, I think the person who sums up the philosophical depth of a spiritual approach to living is Mos Def. 

 

Mos Def is a hip-hop MC, he is pretty famous. He was signed to Rawkus Records in the late 90s. He also did some acting. I mean, really an incredible hip-hop MC, an incredible poet, and he just had an incredible spirit.

 

Fear Not of Man

 

Black on Both Sides, which was his first big album, was one of the best hip-hop albums of all time. The introduction to that album is called Fear Not of Man. He has got a line in there, I am going to try to recall it. I am going to paraphrase the line, but for me, the line in the song lays out how a person goes from being broken and lost to whole, to knowledge of self, to getting who you are and what you are supposed to be doing and what life is about. 

 

The secret of life – hip-hop is about the people

 

On some level, what I am saying is he lays out the secret of life, the secret of a human individual life in this song Fear Not of Man. It starts with this little piece where there is a Conga drum going and he has got some little keys and he is kind of talk rapping and he says “People ask me all the time where hip-hop is going and I said you know, hip-hop is about the people and so if you want to know where hip-hop is going, you got to know where the people are going, you know what I mean?” And he says “So, people then asked me ‘Where are the people going?” I do not remember everything that he said but he said something like “Well, you know, I know where people should go. 

 

People need to understand that they have value.” He says “People have to understand that they have value not because they make a lot of money, not because they got a fancy car, not because of who they are dating, not because of fill in the blank, but people have to understand that they have value because they are created in the image of God. And because they are created in the image of God, they have value. 

 

When you understand that you have value, then you get where you are going.” I may be butchering Mos Def, but the essence of what he says is that we are spiritual beings and that we have souls, and that soul mirrors the transcendent, you can call it God if you are comfortable with it. When you get that you have a soul and that that soul is a reflection of the transcendent, of that which is most important then you realize you have value, intrinsic value. 

 

Understand that you have value

 

So, it is this really incredible line but if you think about it, even here in the United States, our whole system is built on that notion, the notion of human rights, which is what allows all of us to function, is that there is something about you that is infinitely valuable. Because you are made in the image of God, therefore you have certain rights that I dare not transgress. So, from a religious point of view, from a spiritual point of view, from a political point of view, even from a psychological point of view, there is something of infinite value there inside of you. So, I urge all of you to go listen to Fear Not of Man then close your eyes, and get in touch with your own soul and find your own value.

 

 

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When Do We Acquire the Knowledge of Self?

So when it comes to the notion of authenticity, RZA is like “He is my guy.” 

 

RZA is a producer and also a hip-hop MC of a group called Wu-Tang from Long Island. I grew up listening to him.

 

And I remember being 13 years old smoking weed in my cousin’s bedroom, listening to an album called Liquid Swords. And it was like an alien had landed and delivered an album from another planet. 

 

We were like, “Who are these guys?” 

 

And it is because their hip-hop lineage–like where they got their sound from–actually was not other hip-hop artists. They got their sound from Kung Fu movies. So it is a mix of hip-hop, boom-bap drums from the East Coast, Kung Fu sounds, and the Soul samples. It was really amazing.

 

Anyway, I heard this interview with Rick Rubin and RZA, and, basically, Rick was like, “Man…” (kind of like me) “Hey man, you are like an alien, but you are making–you started making this kind of music at like fifteen years old. Like who are you? How did you create Wu-Tang?” 

 

And RZA goes…He has his phrase. I will never forget it. He says in the interview, “Rick, I had knowledge of myself at a very young age…like 11 years old.” 

 

And just the way that he said it…I am familiar with Wu-Tang, RZA, and hip-hop. The way he said, “I had knowledge of myself at a very young age.” For me, it was like a theory about how human beings develop in a way that I had never thought about it. 

 

So I give a lot of credit to RZA for this because I think about human development and psychological development. I actually know about stage development from Kohlberg and Piaget. I know about how humans grow, learn, and transform. I know the great thinkers on the subject. 

 

But for me, my favorite right now is RZA…because there is not a category in developmental psychology that says, “When do we get knowledge of self in the way that he is talking about?” 

 

Because he is implying that he knew who he was supposed to be and what he was supposed to be doing at 11 years old.

 

This idea is so crucial. I am raising kids and I have expectations about how they are behaving in the world but they are also individual and unique souls. One of the things I want to understand is: when does this kid have knowledge of self? 

 

Because at that point, I have to trust what they are doing. I mean, I do not know if RZA’s mom, when he was smoking weed and watching Kung Fu movies was like, “Well, he knows himself and he knows exactly what he was supposed to be doing. So let me let him do his thing.” 

 

The other thing that struck me when he said that…For me that experience happened much later. I got sober at 21 years old. But if you were to ask me in the way that RZA was implying–or at least my interpretation of what RZA was implying–when I had knowledge of self, I would probably say not until my 30s. 

 

It was very interesting. So it is interesting to think about that as a category of being and how it relates to a notion of authenticity. How can you be authentic without having knowledge of self? Without knowing who you are? 

 

And I do not mean that in some complete sense. I just mean that in some sense where you wake up and you kind of just know who you are and you know generally what you are supposed to be doing and how you are supposed to be. 

 

It is not some fancy academic concept, but I think it points to something so important and so real about the human journey and the human soul.

 

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Being and Acting with Authenticity: What’s the Difference?

There are two ways I look at authenticity. I look at general authenticity as a state of being. I want to be an authentic person when I wake up every day in my life as a ground and as a foundation. 

 

So, that is one journey of authenticity. 

 

Then there is, “How am I authentic in the interpersonal realm?” Meaning how am I truthful or expressing honestly where I am interpersonally?

 

And so, let us start with the second, because I think it is more complex. 

 

I do not walk around with a great concern for being authentic in many areas of my life. So for instance, when I am getting in the elevator to go to work–to go up to my office–and somebody else is in that elevator. I do not go, ‘Oh my God. Am I being authentic when I say hello? Do I mean it when I say have a great day?’ 

 

That is called decorum. Those are little social games that we play. It is not necessarily wise to always be authentic there. 

 

You do not have enough time to be that authentic at every relationship that you have. In that sense, I am not interested in being authentic in a lot of interactions in my life. 

 

But, with my wife, children, friends, coworkers, and, often with my clients–if I am an artist–I want to find some authenticity. 

 

As I am speaking here with you, I am hoping to be touching upon something authentic inside of myself while I am doing that. So in that sense, there are a couple of things that I need to be able to embody. 

 

One of them has to do with clarity. Do I know who I am and what is happening with me? Am I aware of that? Because if I am not aware, how can I be authentic? I know who I want to be or who I don’t want to be. 

 

I want to be compassionate, kind, caring, thoughtful, strong. I mean, I have these descriptors. The idea of the person I want to be that I am shooting for–and I aim towards that in my being, right? And am I authentically moving towards that ideal in my interpersonal interactions? 

 

That, for me, is probably one of the most important parts of being authentic. My friends and the people I want to be around have some ideal of authenticity that they are shooting for, and, obviously, that ideal also has its own particular, cultural, and individual dimensions to it. So, my authenticity, although we might share the idea of wanting to be compassionate, kind, strong, loving, etc., also might be: 

 

  • I like to play and have fun
  • I would like to talk shit
  • I like jokes 
  • I am very musical
  • I like to walk a certain way and that is my spirit

 

There is my spirit of authenticity

 

Then there is the platonic ideal of what I am shooting for in my interactions. The other category which we talked about first–which is my general desire to be an authentic person. And I really just think about that as feeling whole and complete. Intact and having a core self. 

 

Then, obviously, being that core self in the world.

 

 

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The Potential Fallout of Suboxone Treatment

 

What to Expect:

 

  1. Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT) uses prescribed drugs to help individuals struggling with opioid addiction manage their withdrawal symptoms and stay engaged in treatment.
  2. Suboxone (or Subutex) is popularly prescribed to save lives and reduce the harm of opioid addiction.
  3. What are the potential long-term effects of Suboxone in an individual’s overall quality of life?

 

Understanding Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT)

 

Opiate use in the United States is at a crisis level–too many people are dying from abusing and overdosing on these powerful drugs. Opiates are highly addictive and a single overdose can prove fatal. 

As a result of the opiate epidemic, lives are needlessly lost or destroyed, families devastated, and the socio-economic impacts widespread.

In an effort to save lives, medications have been developed as a means of harm reduction. 

Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT) gives an individual struggling with opiate addiction a fighting chance to recover and return to a normal life. That being said, a simple medication is not going to solve all of one’s problems–it is often a starting point where extensive counseling and therapy is necessary.

But is MAT just substituting one drug for another?

Not necessarily.

Drugs like heroin are unregulated and dangerous. Even prescription opiates are very dangerous when not taken as directed. 

MAT offers those struggling with opiate addiction safer, FDA-approved medications. MAT medications–like Suboxone–help reduce or eliminate withdrawal symptoms without producing that euphoric high.

 

Using Suboxone to Treat Opiate Addiction  

Suboxone is one commonly prescribed medication to treat opiate addiction. It is actually a combination of two different drugs–buprenorphine and naloxone. Buprenorphine is a partial opioid agonist that blocks the brain’s opiate receptors to reduce urges. The effects are similar to an opioid, but weaker.

 

Naloxone is an opioid antagonist. It counters the effects of opioids in the system. In fact, Naloxone is a commonly used medication by first responders encountering an individual experiencing an opioid overdose. 

 

Suboxone is usually self-administered once a day as a film or tablet placed under the tongue to dissolve. 

 

Potential Future Challenges for Suboxone Users

 

As a result of the opiate crisis, we have a percentage of young people that are on some sort of opiate blocker or opiate substitute–the most common being Suboxone. 

 

The first crisis we may face in the future of addiction is the vast number of individuals taking Suboxone or Subutex for up to 10 years. We don’t really understand the long-term effects of these drugs. 

 

We don’t know how these medications affect people’s development. What happens when an 18-year-old is put on Suboxone. How will it affect their development as they reach the mid-20s? Maybe it’s hardly at all. Maybe it’s a big deal. BUT…we don’t know for sure.

 

Will it be a future challenge?

 

Will people start having mental health challenges as they reach their 30s, 40s, or beyond? Can it be related to Suboxone?

 

And then there is the issue of getting off Suboxone. It’s well known coming off Suboxone is harder than kicking heroin. So, Suboxone may be saving an individual’s life, but the detox and resulting depression can last months if not years.

 

So, in a nutshell, we are putting a band-aid on a gaping wound to help save a life. If we don’t tend to that “wound” with counseling, treatment, and teaching life skills, that “band-aid” may save lives, but not QUALITY of lives. 

 

Will we have the capability to deal with these issues? If we think proactively, there certainly is a potential. 

 

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