The Harsh Reality of the Life of an Addict

From a very young age I was diagnosed with a mental illness. The word "illness" to me communicates that someone is sick or not normal. I was diagnosed with several disorders: anxiety disorder, OCD, PTSD and many more. I was constantly trying to "fix" myself, and decided to cope with this in other ways that made me feel normal instantly. That’s when I met my cure - alcohol. I drank until I couldn't feel anymore. I drank until I blacked out. I drank alone. I drank every day. I drank to feel normal.

I woke up on May 16, 2014 in a hospital bed, both of my parents crying over me. Was I dreaming? Was I dead? Reality struck me when I learned that I was .02 BAC away from my brain completely shutting down from alcohol. On that day, I admitted that I had a problem, and that was the first step of a long journey ahead.  

As a 20-year-old college dropout, I flew out to a treatment center in the middle of nowhere. When I thought of an "alcoholic", I thought of a homeless man under a bridge drinking out of a paper bag. I soon came to learn that this wasn't the case, that millions of people from all different backgrounds struggle with this same thing. In order to get sober, we had to work as a community and lift one another up to a life of recovery.

I also learned that there was nothing to fix. This was a part of who I am, and it's what I did with it that mattered. So instead, I fought for my life, embraced my brokenness, and lost my anonymity in the process. I returned to school and made it a goal to start an open conversation about mental health. The more I shared my addiction story with others, the more people opened up about their personal connection to mental illness.

One by one this continued to happen, until I began my own platform called "Spread Wellness with Wesley". This is when I discovered the power of the word "WE" and the power of community around the topic of mental health. If you take the "I" out of mental illness and replace it with "We" it creates mental wellness. I held the very first sobriety chip I picked up when I was standing in front of the entire student body and was named Miss Homecoming. I realized they all knew my flaws, my brokenness, but accepted me for who I was because they related in some shape or form. 

Today, I have made it my goal to spread this message in every way that I can, and that has transformed into a career in public speaking. When I am speaking to an audience, I am reminded that if just one person resonates with my message, then I have done my job. I am thankful that I am far from perfect. I am thankful for the people who help me every day with this second chance at life. I am thankful for my diagnosis, because I have been able to connect with others through it. Today I am thankful to be sober, one day at a time.

22 million Americans are currently suffering with addiction, and deaths due to overdose are rising. Many people may not realize that they are surrounded by those suffering with addition daily. Many never realize how many are suffering behind closed doors. There is a stigma attached to the word “addiction”; one of weakness and despair. People are afraid to admit that they need help because they think that it is a sign of weakness.  The potential to save someone’s life through connecting and relating with them far surpasses any fear. If all of us can work together each day to break this stigma by supporting mental health and addiction recovery, we can finally hold out a hand to those that need one. As more people realize how prevalent this issue is and that those suffering are not alone, addicts will be more likely to grab those hands that have reached out in support.

This chain reaction is the solution to anything in life. Vulnerability breeds vulnerability, and connection creates community. I thought that there was no other option, and I almost let the disease of addiction take my life. The only way I was able to get out of it was to reach for those hands that were there to pull me out. Addicts can’t do it alone, that is why we need all of society to help support recovery.

 

This article was written by Taylor Wesley. Taylor is a recent graduate of Auburn University and a keynote speaker and advocate for mental health. She hopes that by sharing her journey, she can encourage others to reach out and support those with mental health illnesses.

A Brief History of Liberals and Conservatives: Who We Are, Where We Came From, and Where We're Going

The words “liberal” and “conservative” have a long, complicated history. They haven’t always denoted the sharp political divide that we assign them today. Surprisingly, liberals were once pretty conservative by today’s standards, and conservatives have typically been fairly liberal. So no matter what side of the isle you find yourself on, here is a quick history of our political ideologies.

In the 18th century, a “liberal” person would typically be defined as “someone capable of freedom,” while a “conservative” would have simply described someone cautious toward risk and change. These terms carried little to no political meaning, and these liberals had a pretty limited conception of freedom that really only applied to the aristocracy. However, the belief that human beings could be their own free persons quickly lead to revolution, an overthrow of the old system, and the first political definitions for our two terms.

The end of the century (does July 4, 1776 ring a bell?) brought about a robust change to the political structures and social orders of the day. By the 19th century, “liberals” sought to bring freedom to all – well, all white male landowners, but hey, it’s a start. These “Classical Liberals” wanted to rid themselves of the reign of the aristocracy and establish a rule for the people, by the people. They believed that there were three fundamental ways to do this: protection of natural individual rights, a free market economy, and a democratic government. Thus, conservatives became those who sought to maintain the old aristocratic system and rule by the select few.

The birth of the modern industrial society in the 20th century brought about world war, revolution, and economic depression. It seemed that the Classical Liberal free market system was collapsing and needed saving. Insert Franklin Delano Roosevelt and a new faction of liberalism, “Reform Liberalism.” Whereas government was once seen as the biggest threat to individual freedom, liberals began to see government as the only protection against powerful corporations and the failures of the free market. With the birth of the New Deal, Roosevelt and his reform liberals sought to bring freedom through regulation and redistribution of income within the free market system. It was during this time that conservatives adopted the Classical Liberal belief of a free market system that is unregulated by the government.

At first glance, it seems like Conservatives have drawn the short straw throughout history. However, by the end of the 1970’s, the policies of Reform Liberalism were quickly failing. The election of Ronald Reagan brought new life to conservatives who sought to bring back the free market policies of Classical Liberalism. But, the conservative movements of the 1980’s were not a simple resurgence of Classical Liberalism. While they sought a return to an unrestricted free market system, the development of a consumerist culture sought to break free from the protestant influences of Classical Liberalism. In fact, since the 1980’s, economic policies in the United States have become increasingly more conservative while social policies have trended more liberal. A good example of this is the decline of tax rates over the past few decades. In 1969, under the Republican administration of Richard Nixon, the highest tax rate on regular income was 77 percent compared to just 39.6 percent in 2015 under President Obama.

The resurgence of these conservative principles has been labeled as Neo-Classical Liberalism. Neo-Classical Liberals tend to champion a society of self-expression as opposed to the strict protestant work ethic of Classical Liberals. While Reform Liberals sought to assuage the inequality produced by the free market through government intervention, Neo-Classical Liberals acknowledge this inequality, but accept it as an inevitable result of the free market. Government intervention in the economy, and therefore the restriction of one person for the benefit of the other, is detrimental to their expressive way of life.

With a brief history of our nation’s most important political ideologies behind us, the question is where are we going from here? The danger of Neo-Classical Liberalism is the severely nihilistic state of the world it envisions. Truth, whether moral, religious, or even scientific, becomes completely subjective in a culture fixated on individual expression. Recent elections have seen a rebirth of traditional conservative social policies and the rise of populist candidates like Donald Trump and Roy Moore in backlash against these relativistic dogmas. However, it is yet to be seen if this trend will continue.

Apart from some moral awakening or revival, it seems inevitable that social issues across the spectrum of American politics will continue to converge. Therefore, American political parties will become defined by their economic policies. The future of American politics appears to be defined by distributive justice (who gets what) rather than what is right or wrong. However, nothing is inevitable.

 

This article was co-written by Daniel Bruce and Madie Tidwell.

The Protestant Reformation's Effect on Modern Law

The Protestant Reformation’s “official” beginning is October 31, 1517, when a German professor by the name of Martin Luther sends his “Ninety-Five Theses” against indulgences of the Catholic church to the Archbishop at that time. This bold act jumpstarts the religious and political reformation that continues for nearly forty years and stands as the baseline creation of the modern justice system. In his Ninety-Five Theses, Luther makes numerous radical statements against religious practices of the present day. For example, Luther mentions that “priests do not have the power to grant salvation” and that “only through faith, not by good works, can someone achieve forgiveness for their sins”[1]. Luther’s Theses were so taboo at the time because the Catholic church dominated civilization as the church was responsible for social matters, owned majority of the land in Europe and clergy members were believed to be the common man’s only chance when it came to eternal salvation. Luther, a monk himself, had found problem with the practice of selling indulgences within the church.  Indulgences- which were small pieces of paper from the pope- were being sold to the public to “renew salvation” to which Luther argued that the forgiveness of sins could not be purchased, but only received through faith.

While Luther was excommunicated for these statements against the Catholic church, he is responsible for the foundation of laws concerning family, education, social welfare, crime, and church/state relations. The reformation officially began after gossip of Luther’s statements was spread throughout Europe for its radicalism. What essentially began as a war on religion resulted in the formation and enforcement of state law and by 1570, every land that followed Luther’s ideas held in place new state laws f or society. Luther argued in his “two kingdom theory”2 for the idea that every individual is a citizen of an earthly kingdom and a heavenly kingdom. The earthly kingdom is to represent the natural, created world that functions on reason and law yet is knowingly tainted by sin and crime. The heavenly kingdom is designed to operate on faith and love with Christians bearing the understanding that while they are inhabitants in the earthly kingdom, it is the Christian responsibility to abide by the laws in place but the governing authorities. Luther was a believer that both these “kingdoms” would work hand-in-hand to pursue “righteousness, justice, order, truth, and knowledge”[2] and that a justice system’s purpose should be to rid society of God’s adversaries- those who “sin” ergo, commit a crime. This begins the idea that is held in the justice system today. The purpose statement of the United States Justice System is, “to enforce the law and defend the interests of the United States according to the law; to ensure public safety against threats foreign and domestic; to provide federal leadership in preventing and controlling crime; to seek just punishment for those guilty of unlawful behavior; and to ensure fair and impartial administration of justice for all Americans”[3]. Every single one of these characteristics stems from Martin Luther’s theology about how law should operate in accordance to society’s standards of morality. Luther was a firm believer in the idea that the magistrate’s job was maintain peace like a “loving father” while also playing the role of “fearless protector” that shields the innocent from harm. As seen in the purpose of the justice system, a government is meant to simply protect the weak and bring justice to those attempting to cause harm.

Martin Luther was thought to have helped with many of the reforms that were made in accordance to the responsibilities of the church and the laws that protected the rights of the church’s authority. For example, Luther is accredited for the religious laws regarding tithing, endowments, holy days, entertainment laws such as public intoxication and gambling. Luther is also noted for having laid the idea for laws regarding education such as the establishment of a public school for children to attend to learn to read the bible and study basic social functions. State laws regarding social welfare such as shelters for the poor, emergency relief, orphanages in larger cities, boarding schools, hospitals, etc. are all founded because of Martin Luther’s Theses but must importantly is the influence the list had on the criminal justice system. Luther’s Theses laid the groundwork for our modern court system which allows society to enforce these state laws while the church is simply in charge of prophetic direction instead of power being all inside of the church. Without this imperative decision of declaring a new system of governing individuals and taking the emphasis of law out of the church, there is no telling how our country would be running today. Aside from touching at least minimally on nearly every branch of law that there is to study, Luther delves into the reasoning behind why we must have a system where faith should be the focus of religion and that tradition should not govern the salvation of any persons which is essentially the building blocks of the goal in the study of law.

 

[1] Staff. “The Reformation.” History.com, A+E Networks, 2009, www.history.com/topics/reformation.

[2] Witte, John. “The Legacy Of The Protestant Reformation In Modern Law (John Witte, Jr.).” The Legacy Of The Protestant Reformation In Modern Law (John Witte, Jr.) | Political Theology Today, 2 Oct. 2017, www.politicaltheology.com/blog/the-legacy-of-the-protestant-reformation-in-modern-law/..

[3]“Front Page.” The United States Department of Justice, 26 Oct. 2017, www.justice.gov/.

 

Adopting a child in Alabama

Adopting a child in Alabama

In Alabama, there are several adoption agencies that have hundreds of kids in need of a home. Adoption is always an option for all individuals, but it is most common in older couples and couples struggling with infertility. Kids that are adopted typically live happy, well-adjusted lives. However, children over the age of nine have a significantly lower chance of being adopted. According to the North American Council on Adoptable Children, 398 kids aged out of the system without a legal family in 2012. This means almost 400 kids were sent out into the world on their own without anyone to help them; without anyone to guide them through life’s challenges...

Opioid deaths in Alabama on the rise

Opioid deaths in Alabama on the rise

As of 2016, there has been more than 200 heroin or fentanyl related deaths in Jefferson County alone, and the amount of people that have died from fentanyl has more than doubled in the last two years. The “Gray Death” has plagued states such as Alabama, Georgia, and Ohio, killing hundreds of people a week. Gray Death is a mix of heroin, fentanyl, elephant tranquilizer, and a synthetic opioid that can kill a person with a single dose.