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Re: new hubby into pills, alcohol, MJ and VIAGRA

Posted by guttersnipe on July 21, 2004, at 6:06:54

In reply to Re: new hubby into pills, alcohol, MJ and VIAGRA, posted by HappyGirl on July 20, 2004, at 23:54:12

Hmmm . . . OK, so everyone who has read about the U.S./Cuban Missile Crisis in any depth, or who has taken a basic intro-level Social Psychology class, is aware of the phenomenon called "groupthink." This phenomenon is especially pernicious among "recovering" alcoholics and addicts who, when they get together, seem to lose all of their critical reasoning faculties and see nothing wrong with being compulsively addicted to 12-step group meetings and consuming massive quantities of tobacco and coffee during the breaks of such meetings but who, perversely, are often highly critical of the use of helpful prescription psychoactive medications (even the meds which don't ordinarily get one high, such as lithium and SSRIs) which many of them insist are impediments to "sobriety" because those substances are viewed as being mere "substitutes" for alcohol or other potentially addictive substances (and they often insist this as they chain-smoke the cancer sticks ...).

So, just for the sake of adding a perspective which does not accord with the groupthink orthodoxy you're likely to hear from the folks who are pathologically obsessed with "sobriety," I'll add a few heterodox comments. Of course, like most advice, my comments are probably worth about what you paid for them ;-)

(1) It many if not most cultures it is considered perfectly normal and healthy for people to consume a couple or a few servings of alcoholic beverages daily. (Indeed, the adherents of one widespread religion worship a deity who reportedly pleased His followers by supernaturally transforming water into wine, and then later reportedly advised them to drink wine in remembrance of Him). Downing 2 or 3 drinks a day is hardly an indicator of alcoholism, especially if a person can stop drinking before getting dysfunctionally intoxicated and if consuming alcohol does not substantially impair the person's social and occupational functioning. And of course, most of us are familiar with the studies showing that moderate consumption of alcoholic beverages, daily, can actually improve one's health (e.g., cardiac health).

(2) You mentioned that your husband has been diagnosed as being manic-depressive. Many manic-depressive folks, myself included, find marijuana to be a useful mood-stabilizing medicine (if curious, google a Harvard doc named Grinspoon for his research on cannabis use by bipolars) which often has much less onerous side effects than other mood stablizers such as lithium, Depakote, etc. -- medicines which, unlike marijuana, sometimes *kill* people (it is physically impossible to consume a fatal dose of marijuana). If your husband uses marijuana in substantial quantity, regularly, then it might be a good idea for him to use a vaporizer, which delivers the medicine into one's lungs without also delivering potentially damaging substances such as tar.

(3) 20 mg Ativan per week sounds like a lot to me (I personally never took more than 14 mg/week, plus the occasional Xanax and shot or two of whiskey to help me sleep -- a level of usage which even after a few years did not get me addicted), but many folks take quantities of benzodiazepines similar/equivalent to or greater than the amount your husband is taking, with their respective doctors' approval, to help them cope with serious anxiety and/or agitation and/or insomnia. If your husband is using Ativan for legitimate medical reasons (and anxiety and agitation and insomnia are, without question, very common in manic-depressives), then so what if the stuff can be addictive or can give him a bit of a mild buzz?! -- would you deny morphine to a terminally ill cancer patient just because opiates are potentially addictive and some folks use opiates to get high? (That's what the cowardly and callous doctors did to my grandmother when she was suffering on her death bed, and just thinking about it makes me completely livid, even to this day -- my sweet, kind-hearted, forgiving, and peace-loving disposition is the only reason I didn't act upon my entirely sane urge to load my 12-gauge shotgun full of buckshot and send those S.O.B. doctors to The Fiery Place Where That Guy With The Horns And The Goat-Feet And The Pitchfork Hangs Out. If your husband in fact does need all those Ativan to make his life bearable, then the absolutely *worst* thing you can do is to pressure him not to take the stuff! By the way, you might be comforted by the fact that unlike Xanax and Valium and Rohypnol, Ativan doesn't offer very much of a high so it is not trafficked much at all on the black market and is not very frequently used by folks who aren't self-medicating for manic-depression and/or anxiety.) "Drug war" hysteria and puritanical ascetic sadomasochism have absolutely no place in compassionate medicine. If your husband needs that amount of Ativan to make his life tolerable, then I for one hope that he continues to pop Ativan as much as he bloody well likes (as long as he doesn't drive an automobile while substantially impaired, of course).

(4) In my experience and that of most of the other guys I know, neither marijuana nor any benzodiazepine has any effect whatsoever upon erectile function -- and booze consumption has to be rather extreme to have an adverse affect upon sexual function -- so your husband's Viagra use is probably NOT related to his use of other substances (heroin and cocaine, on the other hand, can markedly impair a guy's ability to perform sexually -- but of course I'm not suggesting that your husband is using either of those substances). If he hasn't discussed his Viagra use with you, it is probably because he feels embarrassed to do so. From what I've heard, a lot of guys have the wacky idea that not being able to get it up all the time is insufficiently manly (the studly Bob Dole excepted, of course).

(5) I'm hardly an expert on what makes intimate relationships succeed, but for whatever it's worth, if it were me in this relationship instead of you, I would be much less worried about your husband's substances use, and much *more* worried about the obviously problematic lack of trust and communication between the two of you. If I were you, I would be very troubled by my husband's lack of honesty about his substance use: is he in denial about a substance abuse problem? -- a question worth thinking hard about . . . then on the other hand, if you're nagging/critical of his self-medication, then that would surely explain why he would rather avoid discussing the topic! And conversely, if I were your husband and I learned that my wife had been snooping around in my private papers and spying on me, I'd be very troubled by that. (Well, actually, that was euphemistic: to be honest, if I learned that my wife were snooping around in my private papers and spying on me, I would drop her like a hot potato and pat myself on the back for having insisted upon a pre-nup).

Anyway, I hope that the two of you can sit down together and be open and speak your minds honestly to each other. Developing an adequate degree of trust and honest communication is probably the most important thing yall can do to make your relationship work out.

Finally, although I find most 12-steppers to be about as open-minded and intellectually sophisticated about psychoactive substances use as the average Taliban is about women's rights (except for the enlightened 12-steppers on this board, of course), it is certainly true that a lot of folks cannot handle certain drugs -- so maybe your husband is, in fact, an alcoholic and/or is addicted to one or more other drugs. But whether he has a substance abuse problem or not, you might never know the real answer until the two of you improve your communications and become more trusting of communicating openly with each other -- something which you'll have to do to make your marriage work out anyway, regardless of whether he is an addict/alcoholic. Couples therapy (or, if the term "therapy" puts him off, you can refer to it as "mediation") might be a good place to start.

I really hope the two of you can work things out. As I said, I'm not exactly great at making romances work out, but I do have a lot of experience with drug use (and I have a bit of experience with drug addiction, too, so I feel fairly well-qualified to discuss both of them and the differences between the two) so if you want to follow up with me, let me know and I'll give you my email address.

I hope I didn't say anything to offend you, but I do believe very passionately that (especially in the superficially libertine but in fact deeply puritanical U.S.) psychoactive drug use is blown way out of proportion, and that we would be well-advised to lighten up about it -- especially when the folks involved are self-medicating not with rock cocaine or methamphetamine or PCP, but with relatively low-risk substances such as marijuana and benzodiazepines as your husband is doing.

Best wishes, and I hope that the two of yall can work things out together.




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