Join Dr. McKalip and Dr. Basha Jordan tomorrow morning at 8:30 a.m. to discuss the problems of addiction in our community and to begin a conversation of healing at WRXB 1590 am.
As a neurosurgeon, I see many patients trapped in a cycle of substance abuse. Patients who repeatedly come into the Emergency Room dangerously drunk, or injured or diseased from drinking or using drugs. The drugs abused include alcohol, Cocaine, Heroin, prescription narcotics and more. I see people who come into my office dependent on prescription drugs that were inappropriately prescribed to them by doctors who should have known better. There are many routes to these ends, but there is a common theme that seems to emerge in a vast majority: a rejection of the power of the self to control their own lives. In the end, it is often a problem that can be healed by recognizing the power that God gave each of us that we often refuse to embrace – the power to be great individuals.
I have cared for many alcohol abusers in the hospital. After the second or third admission for a head injury, spinal fracture or coma from abuse, some of them are responsive to the following question: “Are you ready for a change”. Most require about five or six encounters in the hospital before the will fall into the group who are willing to try to end their addictions. These people then begin to embrace the challenge of overcoming these addictions and do have relapses and problems along the way. But the ones that ultimately overcome their problems are the ones that say “This is my burden; only I can overcome this problem and I need to stop making excuses to fail”. Whether they have realized or not, they have just embraced God’s call for each of us to be in charge of our own lives and to start on the road to be the best person we each can be.
Many patients come into my office on Percocet, oxycontin, fentanyl patches and more. As a brain and spine surgeon, I see many patients with truly bad problems that cause pain: pinched nerves, spinal deformities and severe arthritis of the spine. There are a variety of reasons why doctors are inappropriately prescribing medications. Sometimes it is laziness by the doctor to avoid diagnosing and treating the correct source of the pain. Sometimes insurance companies (Medicaid and soon Obamacare plans) will not pay for treatments that work like steroid injections around the nerves to relieve pain. Other times doctors are earning a revenue by keeping their patients on these medications and having them come back for more and get tests to stay on them. Sadly, many times, doctors feel bullied by their patients and prescribe narcotic pain medications to avoid losing them to a competing doctor. There are also the “pill mills” where doctors have completely abandoned their moral obligations to practice medicine in the best interests of the patients and are merely glorified drug pushers.
Whatever the cause, it is important to make sure that if you are receiving narcotic pains medicines for more than a few weeks that as the patient you seek a true diagnosis from a reputable and qualified specialist to diagnose and treat your problem. You will then need to make sure that if no obvious source exists that you do not simply stay on the narcotics since the body develops a tolerance to narcotics and you will need more and more. This creates a cycle of drug dependency that is hard to break. It is clear that there are subsets of patients who require chronic narcotic medications, but this is vastly overcome by the number of patients I see every day who are on narcotics they can get off.
Our society creates many excuses for people to justify their drug and alcohol abuse. “There are no jobs”, “no one loves me”, “it’s not my fault”, “I’m poor because of others”, “No one understands me”, “There is no right and wrong”, “ I decide what is right and wrong”, “everyone else is doing it” are at the beginning of a long list. While it is true that there are societal problems that contribute to addiction, in the end it is up to each individual to overcome them. They can embrace their own greatness bestowed upon them by God and use the free will they have been granted by God to make the right choices. That may mean waking up to the reality of their situation they have been trying to avoid. Perhaps taking away the numbing effect of addiction will help them see the reality of their life and cause them to stand on their own feet and change their life for the better. Perhaps they will lift the veil from their eyes and re-engage with the others people or family members they have been trying to avoid through addiction. When they wake up from their addiction they may search for a better way to get out of a bad situation or help rebuild their community for the better. It is in these personal triumphs that we can best live up to Christ’s exhortation that we love God as we love ourselves and love our neighbor in the same way. That will trample down the cycle of dependency and start a new cycle: the cycle of freedom and prosperity*.
We will being this conversation tomorrow morning on WRXB am 1950 at 8:30 am on the Hope Alive Outreach ministry. Join Dr. McKalip and Dr. Basha Jordan on the radio and call in and let’s work together to solve these problems in St. Pete.
*As a Catholic, I am proud of the direction given in my Catholic Catechism on Freedom and responsibility and on how we are made in God’s image. There are powerful teachings here from the oldest Christian Church on the planet. Below are some excerpts which can be found in Part III (Life in Christ):
1702 The divine image is present in every man. It shines forth in the communion of persons, in the likeness of the unity of the divine persons among themselves (cf.chapter two).
1703 Endowed with “a spiritual and immortal” soul,5 the human person is “the only creature on earth that God has willed for its own sake.”6 From his conception, he is destined for eternal beatitude.
1704 The human person participates in the light and power of the divine Spirit. By his reason, he is capable of understanding the order of things established by the Creator. By free will, he is capable of directing himself toward his true good. He finds his perfection “in seeking and loving what is true and good.”7
1705 By virtue of his soul and his spiritual powers of intellect and will, man is endowed with freedom, an “outstanding manifestation of the divine image.”8
1706 By his reason, man recognizes the voice of God which urges him “to do what is good and avoid what is evil.”9 Everyone is obliged to follow this law, which makes itself heard in conscience and is fulfilled in the love of God and of neighbor. Living a moral life bears witness to the dignity of the person.
1707 “Man, enticed by the Evil One, abused his freedom at the very beginning of history.”10 He succumbed to temptation and did what was evil. He still desires the good, but his nature bears the wound of original sin. He is now inclined to evil and subject to error:
Man is divided in himself. As a result, the whole life of men, both individual and social, shows itself to be a struggle, and a dramatic one, between good and evil, between light and darkness.11
1708 By his Passion, Christ delivered us from Satan and from sin. He merited for us the new life in the Holy Spirit. His grace restores what sin had damaged in us.
1709 He who believes in Christ becomes a son of God. This filial adoption transforms him by giving him the ability to follow the example of Christ. It makes him capable of acting rightly and doing good. In union with his Savior, the disciple attains the perfection of charity which is holiness. Having matured in grace, the moral life blossoms into eternal life in the glory of heaven.
1731 Freedom is the power, rooted in reason and will, to act or not to act, to do this or that, and so to perform deliberate actions on one’s own responsibility. By free will one shapes one’s own life. Human freedom is a force for growth and maturity in truth and goodness; it attains its perfection when directed toward God, our beatitude.
1732 As long as freedom has not bound itself definitively to its ultimate good which is God, there is the possibility of choosing between good and evil, and thus of growing in perfection or of failing and sinning. This freedom characterizes properly human acts. It is the basis of praise or blame, merit or reproach.
1733 The more one does what is good, the freer one becomes. There is no true freedom except in the service of what is good and just. The choice to disobey and do evil is an abuse of freedom and leads to “the slavery of sin.”28
1734 Freedom makes man responsible for his acts to the extent that they are voluntary. Progress in virtue, knowledge of the good, and ascesis enhance the mastery of the will over its acts.
1735 Imputability and responsibility for an action can be diminished or even nullified by ignorance, inadvertence, duress, fear, habit, inordinate attachments, and other psychological or social factors.
1736 Every act directly willed is imputable to its author:
Thus the Lord asked Eve after the sin in the garden: “What is this that you have done?”29 He asked Cain the same question.30 The prophet Nathan questioned David in the same way after he committed adultery with the wife of Uriah and had him murdered.31
An action can be indirectly voluntary when it results from negligence regarding something one should have known or done: for example, an accident arising from ignorance of traffic laws.
1737 An effect can be tolerated without being willed by its agent; for instance, a mother’s exhaustion from tending her sick child. A bad effect is not imputable if it was not willed either as an end or as a means of an action, e.g., a death a person incurs in aiding someone in danger. For a bad effect to be imputable it must be foreseeable and the agent must have the possibility of avoiding it, as in the case of manslaughter caused by a drunken driver.
1738 Freedom is exercised in relationships between human beings. Every human person, created in the image of God, has the natural right to be recognized as a free and responsible being. All owe to each other this duty of respect. The right to the exercise of freedom, especially in moral and religious matters, is an inalienable requirement of the dignity of the human person. This right must be recognized and protected by civil authority within the limits of the common good and public order.32