Is the buying/selling/using of drugs immoral?

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Have you noticed that drugs are always portrayed as “evil” or “bad”? Since I have been old enough to understand language, society “as a whole” speaks about drugs with a morality factor attached to them. They, or “we” claim that the using, selling, and doing of drugs is somehow immoral. Philosophically speaking, this is just not true.

I should mention first the religious aspect to this right up front. As you may already know, I accept atheism as a valid methodology so my morality, or rather my ethics have to come from a universal standpoint. Ethics that are not universal are merely preferences or opinions. Some religious edicts state that our body is a temple and therefore to do harm to it is immoral. In that case, it is immoral to put sugar in your body. Rationally, that circle can’t be squared. Also, ethics that are brought forth by a power that is exempt from the same ethics put in place by that power is just rank hypocrisy. Thou shalt not murder! Great idea! I think we can all agree on that so lets not then turn around and create a global genocide.

As noted by early philosophers, ethics were invented by evil people to control and oppress good people. What that means is ethics are like a diet book for skinny people. Bad or evil people don’t care about ethics except as a means to lower their competition and for human control of the good.

It may seem like I am cheering on drug consumption and sales but as a former heroin addict, that is not the case. I am looking at drugs from a purely moral perspective; I’m trying to analyze drug use using philosophical first principles.

Initiating force or violence against another person when not in self-defense and  violating the property rights of another person are the fundamental core ideas of first principles.  Violating either of these principles is immoral. (If you are questioning “what makes first principles valid?” I can make that case but to do that here would take this post too far off topic and it would also make it far too long. If you want more info on first principles please comment below.)

So the next question is- Does using, selling, or buying drugs violate either of these principles?

Without the state sanctioned “illegalities”  of drugs, it would be easy to argue the crimes woven into the black market of todays drug world would disappear. When the government creates a prohibition law, what inevitably happens to the value of the now illegal good? It sky rockets. Every time, without failure. Not only does the value of the illegal good go up exponentially, crime rates rise too. One instance of this is the alcohol prohibition in the early 1900s. The rise in crime that followed was a major driver in the state’s decision to reverse the prohibition.

Back when heroin was legal, it cost 10 cents a hit. As soon as it went into the black market, it shot up

Prohibitions are also the main ingredient for mafias and gangs. How could mafias’ or gangs’ function without a black market? When you push things into the black and gray markets of the economy you are causing harm to the natural economic flow of the market. Drug lords now have a lucrative and prosperous foundation to build their violent mini empires. All this because we believe that using violence (using the state to create a law) to solve social problems is a legitimate way to fix complicated social issues. Same holds true for prostitution and illegal gambling. 

Prohibition is a real gun pointed at real people. We need to stop thinking we can solve problems by pointing guns at people.

Prohibition is a real gun pointed at real people. We need to stop thinking we can solve problems by pointing guns at people.

The amount of harm caused by prohibition is far worse than the harm caused by a drug itself.

1- With prohibition, there is no dispute resolution for buyers and dealers so weapons and other violence must be used.

2- With prohibition, there is no way to know the potency of the drug you are buying therefore you raise the risk of overdose and poisoning.

3- With prohibition, you may lose professional licensing or become un-hirable to companies for decades.

4- With prohibition, families are torn apart by incarcerations, financial fines, court and lawyer fees and the negative social stigma.

5- With prohibition, as mentioned above, the cost of product increases hundreds of percent causing more illegal activity. (I eventually had to break other laws to continue using heroin. It was too expensive.)

6- With prohibition, people who are addicted to drugs can’t come forward for help because it is treated as a criminal problem instead of a health care issue.

7- With prohibition, illnesses like Hepatitis and AIDS are spread around the drug circles because access to clean needles and other paraphernalia is made difficult.

8- With prohibition, many women turn to prostitution to supply their addiction.

This list could go on and on…

As we know, drugs are handled by the government as a criminal problem. The budget for the War on Drugs in 2013 was 26 billion dollars. Less than 2% of that was used in a treatment or preventative means. The vast majority of the budget every year is used on incarceration costs, police force, and other violent and aggressive tactics like multi-operation sting-ops that cost massive amounts of tax payer resources.

Confucius said “The beginning of wisdom is calling things by their proper name.”

What an amazing quote. Lets put this into practice. Lets call the “War on Drugs” by its proper name. The war on drugs insinuates that the state is at war AGAINST drugs. Is this the case? Have you ever seen a sack of weed in handcuffs? I know I have been in handcuffs but the heroin I had on me got off without a single charge.

With just a couple of seconds of thought, its easy to see that the clever wording of “the war on drugs” was used because it is hard to argue against. Most people don’t want drugs in their family structure so a war against drugs sounds great to the average person. “You are against the war on drugs? You must want babies to die too, right?”

It’s not a war on drugs. It is a war on families. Particularly minority families. Making drugs illegal will NEVER cause the problem to get better. When you use force and violence to attack a complex social problem you will see a short-term advantage and the long-term will be much worse. This is why the drug problem in the US has continually gotten worse since the WOD was initiated.

So how can we accept that legalizing drugs is the right thing to do? I know when I first heard about these arguments, I had a recoiling emotional response and I thought that legalizing drugs would be a terrible idea. Of course that was not based on any facts or evidence. It was an emotional response that was threatening my incorrect belief. Based on facts and evidence, I have now changed my stance.

Are drugs dangerous? Well, of course they can be but so can a paperclip.

Are drugs bad for your body? Overall, they can be very harmful to us. But so can cheesecake.

If I was selling you a $20 hit of heroin and I hand you the heroin and you hand me the $20, is either one of us using violence to get want we want? Is it not peaceful trade? Isn’t it a praxeological axiom that we both consider ourselves to be better off because of the trade? If it wasn’t, why did we trade? Is it fundamentally no different than if I was selling you a cheesecake or a box of paperclips? Trading, buying, selling drugs peacefully is not an immoral action. It may not be honorable or preferable, but it is not immoral.

People who need drugs are going to acquire them by any means necessary. Even if they are illegal. Even if they know they will go to jail. Even if they know they will lose their home. Even if they know they may die. We can see this very clearly now. The war on drugs; the criminalization of drugs is making this much worse. If drugs were legalized, we could rid society of the stigma associated with addicts who suffer under the life crushing violence of the state. Funds could then be used to help people who suffer from addiction problems. Open up more recovery options and widen the grasp of addiction treatment facilities. The possibilities would be opened up enormously and some real change could begin.

I believe this is moving humanity forward and extending the value of personhood. If you look back through history you can see the major leaps forward in mankind. Those moral shifts have allowed freedom and growth to take place in the human species. We used to eat each others flesh. Then we realized “hey this is kind of gross and wrong…and used up too much salt and pepper.” Then we enslaved other humans. Women had little to no rights. Then we realized “we are all human beings.” We kept universalizing and extending our ethical guidelines. I hope soon we will do this for the little people. Our children. Once we start treating them as full individual human beings we will see a growth in the world like no other. If we could evaluate the last few decades of the war on drugs, we would see the disaster for what it is. Making more laws around the same system will not help fix the disaster the state created. We must legalize all drugs, gambling, and prostitution if we truly want to make the problem better for our society.

I don’t want children or future children to believe that drugs are okay to use and that there are no problems with drugs. But you don’t solve that problem by creating laws against drugs. You do it through the peaceful raising of children and maintaining a nuclear family. There is no more of a non-answer in solving the drug problem than believing that creating more laws is helping the situation.

I understand I am making some pretty wild claims. If you disagree with me, please tell me where I am mistaken. I will correct my mistakes if better and more truthful arguments are brought forward. I believe it is important to accept reason and evidence, especially when talking about the zeitgeist of societies. 

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I saw my heroin dealer this weekend

On Saturday my wife and I went to the city to attend a reptile expo. The expo was at the state park which is also the same area of the city I used to roam around while I was homeless. My old heroin dealer would ride his pedal bike, meeting up with us desperate and wayward users who had no access to a vehicle. I didn’t think much about the correlation between the location of the expo and my past drug excursions, but I did think about it briefly, prior to going. I didn’t put a lot of concern on this because my employer is in the same city as where I was homeless and I have built new and sober memories at these areas now. Also, I didn’t want to ruin our day by navelgazing.

The area of the expo is an area I haven’t been to since I was using and when we were driving through the area, I began talking with my wife about how I was feeling uneasy and had a sick feeling in my gut. It was raining quite hard and transients were walking up and down the rough and graffiti littered streets. Right after we started talking about my emotional state, I seen a man on a bike pedaling towards our vehicle. We was not stopped- we were heading north on the narrow neighborhood street and the cycler was riding south on the sidewalk. As soon as I seen the man on the bicycle, I knew it was my heroin dealer.

I told my wife who it was. I didn’t feel like it was something I wanted to keep to myself. To someone who has never been addicted to heroin, maybe this situation seems kind of inconsequential but for me, it was a pretty scary situation. I am very glad my wife was with me. I am glad she is willing to listen to my issues and fears without much warning.

I know that if that would have happened earlier in my sobriety, I would have slammed on the brakes, bought heroin, and got high. The sickening feeling I had did pass, but it did shake me up for a few hours. Addiction continually baffles me in its unrelenting patience and power. It’s not something to play around with. I go months without so much as a thought about heroin then BOOM! there it is. This is a rushed post because I am at work. I wanted to get this down in writing before the raw feelings of the situation disappeared. Thanks for reading.

Emotional Growth

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I often hear in the recovery community that some emotions are bad while others are good. I understand that point of view but I believe it is incorrect. It may not seem like a problem, but I think it is very important to be precise when talking about this topic so that we are not led astray. Emotions can be extremely powerful and if we perceive them incorrectly for a long period of time, it can be catastrophic for our recovery. It has always been an emotion that I acted on that caused a relapse.

Some people believe anger is an emotion that should be suppressed, ignored or outright avoided at all costs. Anger is healthy. Anger is the opposite of depression and is a valuable emotion that we should speak to, and evaluate in much more depth. If you begin to feel anger, that emotion is there for a very good reason. Suppressing it or ignoring it is only erasing your true self. Of course, it is possible to allow anger to get out of control. That means you are not listening to what it is saying to you. You are simply allowing it to operate you like a giant meat puppet. Figure out what it is telling you. Don’t confuse anger with rage. Rage can be destructive. If you are swinging a baseball bat through the flat-screen, it is safe to say that you are no longer angry. If you act as though your emotions are “against” you instead of there to help you, you are not going through optimal recovery and very little growth, if any, will occur. Your emotions are your friends. Your emotions are your true self. Don’t treat them with contempt or hatred. Each one of your emotions is a part of your personality eco-system. They are your Board of Directors. They are your Congress (a Congress that actually does something useful.)

When I was in early sobriety, I remember how powerful and overwhelming my emotions were. So I understand the early random flooding bombardment of uncontrolled guilt-cry-happy-joyous-disgust fits that hit without warning. I also know that I made it through that time and I am still alive. Emotions always fade away. That is why it is so important to understand what they are trying to tell us and why.

Relapsing because of a non-harmful emotion seems kind of silly in hindsight. When my father passed away, I felt like my heart was ripped out of my chest. The pain felt so powerful, so intense. I knew the pain wasn’t going to kill me and even though it felt similar to physical pain, I knew it was just a deep sadness and grieving in knowing I could never see him again. I allowed myself to wail over his death. I remember sobbing loudly and uncontrollably on my mother’s couch with my wife at my side. Right in the middle of my emotional deluge, a thought popped into my head. I realized at that moment that my father’s death was not a good enough reason for me to relapse. I knew I would be okay.

For so much of my life, I have misunderstood my emotions. I have let my emotions overrun my life by my misguided reactions and irrationality. I’ve mainly focused on anger and sadness in this post but all of our emotions are legitimate mind/body awareness that tell us everything we need to know. The hard part is figuring out what they are trying to say. As long as we don’t push them away and suppress them as unnecessary glitches in the system, we can grow and learn everything we need to know about who we are. Just remember there is always a thought before an emotion. You have that “magic quarter of a second” to beat your emotion to the punch. But don’t punch your emotion, violence is bad.

Subsidized Forgiveness Aids Evil

How many times have you heard the phrase “you must forgive?” It continues on; stating that if you don’t forgive someone of their continuous and horrible misdeeds, you somehow give that person all of your power. You MUST FORGIVE to be relieved of such heavy and tenacious burdens! “Be the better person and forgive! forgive forgive!”

I too once believed in this extremely ridiculous moral proposition.

If you have this same view, believing that forgiveness is always the proper thing to do, please read on with an open heart and an open mind. I understand the deep religious and cultural adhesiveness this topic emits but there must come a point in time where rationality must overturn certain nonreciprocal forgiveness situations.

Forgiveness is a lot like love and trust in the way that it cannot be willed. Forgiveness, love and trust have to be earned for them to be truly validated. Because you cannot just will forgiveness, the person who has done the wrongs, must prove they are truly sorry for what they did. Forgiving someone who has not shown any empathy, change of behavior, or a genuine apology is only lowering the standards of your relationships and the standards for yourself. It also allows abuse in your relationships to continue. When we start to hold people accountable for their abuses against us, we will start to see some real change.

As a heroin addict, I have done and said some egregious and appalling things to others. Would I ever expect those people to just forgive me without a single change of behavior or a massive gift basket full of apologies?

Subsidizing the anti-empathy of others- or “giving them the benefit of the doubt” just means that the relationship is toxic and now that you have allowed it to continue. It will only get worse. We all know that when people get free shit, they become dependent on that free shit and they will continue to accept the hand-outs. Stop giving free hand-outs! Have more respect for yourself and for your relationships!

Relationships can make or break someone like me. I am a heroin addict and I now have a small family of my own that needs me to stay sober. My wife moved here from 8,000 miles away. She left everything she knew to come to America and start a family with me. If I relapsed, she would be completely devastated. This means I better pay real close attention to what kind of people I allow into my life. My personal relationships must be with people who have self knowledge, trust, and empathy for others. These are not qualities I used to look for in friends or even my own family.

If someone in my life does something intentionally horrible that can in any way cause major issues in my life, I will simply “unfriend” that person. Not just through Facebook either. They will no longer be in my life. Life is too short to allow toxicity to overpower my life’s greatness and beauty. I want people in my life who love, protect, accept truth, honesty and virtue.

I do forgive others but it must be earned. Ignorance is no excuse because if you have empathy, you cannot use ignorance as an excuse. If you don’t have empathy then well, you will not be in my life. Everyone deserves a shot a proving they are truly sorry for whatever it is that they did but pay close attention to what that person does from that point forward. If they don’t show any empathy during the process or if they continue hurting you, don’t forgive them and move on with your life. They do not hold power over you. That is a ridiculous belief that allows evil to continue. There are many others out there who will.be willing to raise the bar for a much healthier and meaningful relationship.

This is a shorter than normal blog post but this topic has been on my mind for over a week and it was starting to tear through my prefrontal cortex and leak out of my ear holes. Please feel free to comment some of your own thoughts on this topic. I am quite interested in what you guys think about forgiveness.

Some other great addiction blogs are:

http://messageinabottleblog.wordpress.com/

http://livinginthereallyreal.wordpress.com/

http://themethadonemaze.blogspot.ca/

http://artmowle64.wordpress.com/

http://runningonsober.com/

http://drunkydrunkgirl.wordpress.com/

http://mssober35.wordpress.com/

http://byebyebeer.com/

I tried uploading a picture many times but my computer says no way! I will try it again tomorrow. 🙂

Get High or Get Higher Power?

deity-229216_1920I have been wanting to do a blog on my version of God; or more accurately, my higher power for many weeks now but I kept putting it off. The topic is controversial to say the least- mainly if the status quo deity is put into question. Religion beliefs are often a topic in recovery and I feel that having an honest and open discussion is relevant and absolutely necessary in my own personal recovery. Some of you may disagree with my beliefs and that is perfectly fine. My goal is not to argue that my higher power is right or wrong or that any of my reader’s belief’s are incorrect. I am only explaining my experience and what works for me.

Many conversations in the rooms of AA/NA, give strong evidence that many addicts struggle with finding, keeping and believing in a God or any form of higher power. I want to explain my higher power so that others who are struggling can see that they are not alone in their struggles. I also want to explain how I finally found what I believe to be- my higher power.

GROWING UP

I was raised in the LDS church as a young child. Up until my mid 20s, I believed in the Judeo-Christian ethical standards as well as a living, breathing deity who had a flowing white beard and had a homestead somewhere above the highest of clouds. After continually struggling to make even a single right turn into the driveway of virtue, I began to question what kind of Satan-spawn I had become. The harder I tried to do right by God, the further he faded from me. No coffee or caffeine? No hot drinks? No nicotine? No masturbation? God must have known me quite well. I was doomed right out of the placenta bursting gate.

THE CRUX

Despite my appalling past; homelessness, IV drug use, robbery, theft etc., I have always thought I was a decent and respectful human being. It may be difficult to believe that, and after reading that previous sentence, I think I may have threw up a little from the ridiculousness of my statement. Anyone who has been addicted to drugs I’m sure can relate. I knew I had done some really terrible things and for God and my sober self, that was a big problem. The thought of going to hell drove me to study religion and to study it passionately. Both sides. Both arguments and even other religions. So that is what I did. I studied Christian, Judaism, Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam and Taoism. After studying these religions* and reading their doctrines, I began to study agnosticism and atheism. I knew I couldn’t make any accurate or true claims about anything if I didn’t understand both sides of the religious coin- belief and non-belief.

THE SEARCH

After countless hours of work, I came to my own conclusion based on empirical evidence, logical consistency, and facts. I now consider myself to be an atheist. However, just because I do not believe that Gods or Deities’ exist, does not mean I do not have a higher power.

CRUX-BASED FINDINGS

When I first realized I was in fact, a strong atheist, I began to feel an emptiness. Like my life was missing something crucial. A pinging vibration of hollowness echoed throughout my body. “If I did not believe that Gods’ exist, how could I ever stay sober?” AA/NA taught me that to continue a happy and fulfilling sober lifestyle, I had to find a higher power!

THE SEARCH CONTINUES

I had heard in a meeting one time that someone was using a doorknob as their higher power but I felt more powerful than a doorknob. After-all, I could turn one and walk through a door so I knew the doorknob would not suffice as my higher power. I think the point of a higher power is choosing something that is more powerful than me and something I CAN’T control- unlike the turning of a doorknob. That is however, only my amateur opinion. If a doorknob works for someone as a HP, then grab hold of it!

FINDING MY HIGHER POWER

My HP had to be something much smarter than me, much stronger than me, something I could not control, something I do not understand, something that would keep me safe and something I COULD allow to run my life so I didn’t screw it up again. After pondering these strict and crucial requirements for my next potential higher power, I finally realized this higher power was right in front of me the entire time. It was with me throughout my entire life and it knew me much better than I knew myself. It is thousands of time stronger than me and it is thousands of times smarter than me. Its capabilities are known to be almost limitless.This amazing higher power I am describing is the subconscious mind.

Actual X-ray of my big yellow-purple brain dots.

Actual X-ray of my big yellow-purple brain dots.

JUST SOME THOUGHTS

Being conscious of our unconscious mind is extremely helpful for living a successful life; even if you think having it (subconscious) as your higher power is ludicrous. For many years, I thought of my subconscious mind as an abstract concept and I never put much “thought” into it. Today, I work to provide a conduit of clear communication between my conscious and subconscious mind. A working relationship between the two is essential for my daily recovery. Having this deity-free higher power has continued to keep me sober and has help me understand so many things that used to baffle me.

I welcome all troll-free comments but if any of my readers are having a hard time with God or a higher power, please feel free to comment. Also, I would love to hear any of your thoughts on this topic. I appreciate all my readers support. Thank you all!

Dustin J.

It is better to be hated for what you are than to be loved for what you are not.” –Andre Gide

(*) Taoism can arguably fall outside the religion category but is still taught as a religion.