Self Destructive Lifestyles: A Wake-Up Call ...by Bill Knell
During the 1990's we heard a lot about self-destructive behavior and saw the consequences of it unfold before our very eyes. Teachers were caught having improper relationships with their students. Military Academies became centers for accusations of rape and the cover-up of crimes against female cadets. Prestigious universities tried to shake off growing reputations of being 'party schools' while more and more of their students died from date rape drugs, ecstasy use and alcohol poisoning. Cancer rates among American females grew for the first time in decades as more women took up the smoking habit. Record numbers of people were becoming infected with Herpes in all it's forms. The credibility of the U.S. Presidency was brought into question and a president impeached, with sexual misconduct and harassment as the root cause. These incidents and facts should have been warning signs against a growing pattern of self-destructive behavior among Americans, but now well into the first decade of the twenty-first century, did everyone get the wake up call?
The popular perception has become that if you have a drug or alcohol problem, a short stay in the rehab center can take care of it. If you're unlucky enough to end up with Aids or Herpes, a cocktail of drugs will handle that. If you're overweight, you can just get your stomach stapled. People with problems just need for Doctor Feelgood to prescribe some happy pills and they'll feel better. Kids that won't listen can be medicated into submission. These are the dangerous and fool-hearty half-truths that govern a society of people addicted to self-destructive behavior. Addicts never learn from the consequences of their addiction and always require some sort of intervention to kick the habit. So consider this article an intervention.
Most of the problems that we face each day, whether self-inflicted or created by circumstances beyond our control, have no simple solutions. Many supposed cures involve someone or something else taking control of our lives and, ultimately, do not work for the long haul. Meanwhile, the one cure that can help everyone the most is always the least talked about. Taking personal responsibility for your life might just save it! We've become a society convinced that blame is the way to handle all of our problems. If we can blame someone or something for our condition, then it's alright for us to drink too much, eat too much, sleep around and take illegal or prescription drugs to handle all the pain caused by others. Blame removes personal responsibility from the picture. But it's just an illusion created by a society that refuses to recognize there are real and dire consequences for all of our actions.
Let's look at how foolish arguments have lead people away from the one thing that can help them. At one time smoking was a heath issue, but now it's been turned into a political one. Politicians intent on making people quit smoking have passed laws banning them from doing it in most public places. They point out that smoking costs the public money because tax dollars ultimately end up being used to treat Smokers. Smoking enthusiasts say this is a violation of a person's fundamental right to choose. While I don't smoke and think it's a terrible habit, I also know that you cannot legislate morality. Prohibition (a national law which largely forbid the consumption of alcoholic beverages in America) did not stop people from drinking, it merely made them drink more and brought on a nationwide crime wave. By turning smoking into a political argument, society has limited discussion on the actual heath concerns and results of the habit. People are turned away from taking personal responsibility for their habit and steered towards taking sides in a political battle.
Running to the doctor or taking pills has become a crutch for Americans. We have been lead to believe that medicine and medications can solve all of our problems. If we're not happy, we are told it's an imbalance in our brain that requires pills. This doesn't relate to those who suffer from serious mental illness, just folks who aren't feeling like themselves. These people are told that they may be suffering from depression and put on medication. At the same time, several popular medications used for treating depression have been linked to suicides and even murder.
Children who display any sort of rambunctious behavior are immediately labeled as 'hyperactive' and put on prescription drugs. In many cases this is because parents and teachers just don't want to deal with kids who may be acting out because of other factors. I few years ago my children befriended a twelve year old boy and his younger sister. Both children seemed normal and bright, but from time to time the boy would become violent and lash out at his mother. After being examined and put on medication, he became somber and unhappy. No one ever thought to consider other causative factors for his behavior.
His mother and the two kids lived in a three bedroom apartment. Because they were poor, she regularly took in friends who needed a place to stay and rented them the boy's bedroom. Essentially, he was made to sleep on the floor and do all the housework for his mother who claimed to be disabled. His father showed up every couple of years and showed no interest in the children at all. Authorities could have tried to help this family, but the easiest route was to control the boy's outrage at his situation with medication. Children cannot understand complicated situations, they can only react to them. Hyperactivity can often be a cry for help. Answering that cry with drugs seems cruel at best.
I recently saw Carney Wilson in a television interview. As the daughter of Brian Wilson of 'Beach Boys' music fame and a performer in her own right, Carney has become a celebrity spokesperson for a procedure which helps people lose weight by stapling their stomach. Carney has lost 150 pounds. But after losing all that weight, she seemed less enthusiastic about the operation. Confessing that she was still hungry most of the time, Carney admitted that a change of lifestyle was as important or more important then the procedure. That goes to the heart of the matter. Should we add to our problems by letting medicine tinker with our bodies in ways that might create more health problems down the line, or should we try and take personal responsibility for our lives and change behaviors that are self-destructive?
Taking personal responsibility for our actions means gaining control of our minds. Most people misinterpret their own feelings. They desire fulfillment and turn to what seems like the quickest way to get it. But drinking, smoking, over-eating, taking pills or sleeping with people until we decide to settle down with one doesn't provide fulfillment. These are self-destructive behaviors that lead us away from true happiness. Those who drink, smoke and over-eat never picture themselves dying because of those choices, but that's what usually happens down the line and those deaths can be long and unpleasant ones. People that move from relationship to relationship, sleeping around until they find the right partner, never see themselves with five or six children from different encounters, three or four divorces under their belt before they're forty or saddled with some terrible disease they can spread through intimate contact, but it happens all the time.
Gaining control of your mind means gaining control of your life by doing some mental troubleshooting. If you've been involved in self-destructive behavior, it's time to stop and take responsibility for everything you do. You can't control all the circumstances that surround you, but you can control your own life. Most people that smoke, drink, over-eat, take illegal drugs or depend on prescriptions for their happiness, do so because they lack fulfillment. Finding that fulfillment means discovering what you really want and setting goals to get it. It also means replacing positive actions with negative ones. Replace self-destructive behavior with educational, volunteer, self-improvement and career expanding opportunities. This will give you the chance to meet positive people with goals and interests that may be similar to yours.
It takes courage to become a person who is willing to be responsible for their own actions, but it's immensely satisfying to escape the blame trap that so many find themselves caught in. Most people CAN'T escape negative circumstances because they WON'T. Many will never try, but those who do will find it easier then they thought possible to escape the negative confines of their own minds.