CHURCHIANITY PART VI – self medication

Published November 21, 2008

WORDSLINGER’S NOTE: Here we go again with another Churchianity post — I’ve been trying to be a little more faithful in my upkeep of this topic. Depending on your background, some of these may sound a little more rant-like than carefully thought out, but I am making a sincere effort to focus more on the faulty dogma than those whom I believe are deceived by it. Again, you may wish to read Parts I – V before continuing.

Self-medication. Two words that can instantly bring to mind a vastly differing interpretation. While many who subside in The Bubble (see Part I for more on that) would associate any form of self-medication with Drug Addiction and therefore label it a sin, this is actually a term that can mean something as universal and simple as any substance or activity which makes the person involved feel better. My point is, we ALL self-medicate in one form or another. The only difference is dosage, frequency and the legality (right or wrong) of the substance or activity involved.

Self-medication can be something as simple as reading a book or watching a movie (to quote the tag line for cable’s Cinematherapy show: “Because movies aren’t just entertainment, they’re self-medication” — thanks, I’ve known that for a long time). It is not necessarily drugs or alcohol — sports, gambling, shopping, porn, even religion can be used as coping devices — yet even healthy and legal activities/substances can not only be abused but have long-lasting consequences. Those who prescribe and self-administer mass quantities of food or liquor experience clear and obvious results for their indulgence. Those who self-medicate with exercise (ah, endorphins … the human body’s natural opiate) reap a much more beneficial effect.

I’ll say it again: we all self-medicate in some fashion — usually the effect involves some form of escapism, by either a chemically-induced high (dopamine triggers are as different and unique as the individuals who seek them), an emotional rush (I’ve surely seen religious fervor whipped up into a froth), or something that is a potent distraction from inner turmoil. I’ve often jokingly claimed to have a Black Belt in distraction.

This is a world that hates to feel. The stock figures of our pharmaceutical companies will testify to this — we’ve been Prozac’d, Xanax’d and Ritalin’d into oblivion. I’m sure these psychotropic substances work for many, yet their misuse and over-diagnosis is scarily universal. How many people with long-buried emotional traumas are told by doctors that their depression and ennui are actually due to chemical imbalances and other biological causes? Anything to keep the pills rolling out and the money rolling in. Quick fixes are much more readily sought than (shudder) emotional excavation. And … just because a drug is prescribed by a physician and approved by the FDA, does NOT mean it is safe. Ask Heath Ledger.

Here’s a rarely-mentioned fact: shutting off your feelings for too long, will drive you crazy! It doesn’t matter whether your method is active, passive, edible, drinkable, legal or illegal … stanch your undesirable emotions too much and eventually there WILL be consequences. How many of the people walking the planet today are emotionally constipated time bombs ready to go off at any time? Know one? Been one? I have and I admit it — though I have spent much time exorcising such so I don’t NEED to self-medicate.

In no way am I saying all self-medication is bad — in fact, sometimes it’s downright necessary.

When I was nineteen — impressionable, troubled, and damaged by years of emotional and religious abuse (to name a discreet few) — I was “adopted” by a couple of neighboring families who were much more world-wise and rough-hewn than anyone I had ever met growing up in The Bubble. The kind of people whom the church demonizes for their seemingly wild and rebellious ways. They weren’t quite bikers (although one of them had recently settled-down from such), but they were certainly cut from a different cloth. Though I had been warned that such long-haired, leather-wearing, rock-listening, tattoo-sporting, beer-drinking, pot-smoking hippies were damn-near evil incarnate, I quickly discovered these people were actually salt-of-the-earth types who would do anything to help a brother or someone in need. They were more genuine, loving and unconditionally accepting than most of the people I knew in church. (If you’re wondering if this experience set in motion the plot of my novel, you are correct.)

I’ve made no bones on this site that my two favorite methods of self-medicating are movies and marijuana. Shocked? Those of you who have wondered what the category This Site Is 420 Friendly means should dig a little further to find out. There is a post in there by the same name, which features an excerpt from Christian author Donald Miller’s book, Blue Like Jazz. In it, he describes the season that he and another Christian colleague spent living amongst a group of hippies in the woods. What he discovered was, to him, quite startling, but it’s something I’ve known for a long time: people who partake of this particular herb are generally more relaxed, genial and pleasant to be around than the (often-not-always) uptight, finger-shaking, Bible-thumping individuals who judge and condemn them without a hearing. I will repeat here what I stated there (though I strongly encourage you to check it out) — When even a Christian author notes that Jesus’ command to “love one another” was more readily found amongst a bunch of hippies in the woods, than within his church, something is profoundly wrong.

Certainly safer and more conducive to a calm, genial atmosphere than ire-fueling alcohol, this simple plant has been demonized through decades of political (and religious) propaganda. When actually, the far-reaching medical benefits of this plant (anti-anxiety, anti-inflammatory, anti-nausea, relaxant, sleep-aid) are certainly safer than their much more physically addictive and liver-destroying alternatives. More about this can be found in the documentary here.

Have I gotten off subject? Not at all. My point here is NOT to run a commercial for the legalization or de-criminalization of this country’s marijuana laws — those are actually coming around as more and more politicians and doctors are seeing the truth behind age-old propaganda.

My points are two-fold:

ONE: (and this one is directed toward the church) Stop demonizing individuals who choose grass as their self-medication of choice. Give some of these stoners your time and compassion and you will find some of the kindest, friendliest, most giving and good-hearted people you’ve ever met. They are also very diverse — yes, many wear sandals, weave macramé, wear tie-dye clothes and hug trees, but just as many are intelligent, college-educated, book-reading, God-fearing professionals. Just because they choose something a little different to make them feel better does not mean that they (we) are devil-worshipping pagans from which your children need to be guarded at all costs. They are God’s children, just as deserving of His love and grace as those within The Bubble. Do not forbid them welcome — love them, accept them, get to know them — you might be surprised what you’ll find.

TWO: ANY self-medication carried to extremes is not a wise thing to do. This is not a moral issue — this is a heart issue. Shut off your heart too much and there will be consequences. Shut off your heart too much and even a Christian will not be able to give God the ONE THING HE DESIRES: Intimacy.

Some Christians who have read these Churchianity posts have gotten what I’m trying to say (even if I do seemingly attack the individual rather than the faulty dogma — I’m working on it). Others have taken great offense at my words. This one will probably be no exception. Let me add that I have seen many “Christians” use church and the Bible like a narcotic. The distinction is this: If your religious activities cause you to shut off your heart and not have COMPASSION for the struggling, lost and hurting people of this world who self-medicate a little differently than you do, you are using religion like a drug. Period.

God looks at the heart — always has, always will (there is a lot in that statement regarding Old Testament Law and New Testament Grace, but I will save it for another post). He knows our traumas and turmoil, our bitterness and resentments, our relationship and trust issues from abuse. He knows our hurts and motivations for pain relief. He also knows what love, compassion and empathy we carry. Often, there is a potpourri of all of these things. God does not condemn us for self-medicating. It is human nature to want to experience pleasure rather than pain. He roots for us to trust Him so we won’t have to rely on more temporal remedies. (In case I haven’t made my point, I think self-medication is more about degrees of and reasons for use than the black-and-white conceptions of the church). God loves us despite our performance, behavior, or reliance on Band-Aids that often make this cold world a little more bearable. The grace of that statement is a far better reason to abstain (or at least cut back) on those things which, if overused, keep us from experiencing His love. Certainly more so than judgment and condemnation.

Just something to think about.

For more great songs, see the aforementioned post, This Site Is 420 Friendly.

UPDATE: While many of these Churchianity posts have garnered some very interesting comments, none more so than this one. Read on below … if you dare. Mwah-ha-ha-ha-ha!

Continue on to Churchianity Part VII — an anonymous letter.