Jo Harvey Weatherford | Rewriting The Story Of My Addiction

Rewriting The Story Of My Addiction Jo Harvey Weatherford
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(Last Updated On: January 6, 2019)

Do you know how Jo Harvey Weatherford rewrote her own story of addiction to alcohol? If not, you can find here her candid talk explaining how she rewrote her own story of addiction to alcohol. She also discusses the importance of the stories we tell ourselves about our behaviour.

Jo Harvey Weatherford

  • Develops and implements drug and alcohol prevention programs on the campus of The University of Nevada. 
  • She has a deep-rooted passion for identifying alternative approaches to healing from trauma and addiction. 
  • Taught an Overview of Addiction course for the past several years for the Center for the Application of Substance Abuse Technologies. 
  • Pursuing her PhD in Educational Leadership and has her MS in Human Development and Family Studies with a specialization in Addiction Treatment and Prevention Services. 

Rewriting The Story Of My Addiction –
Jo Harvey Weatherford

Her own struggle with substance abuse was the catalyst for identifying non-traditional approaches to treatment. Her personal experience of healing which cultivated the desire to assist others on their journey to wellness. 

Jo Harvey Weatherford speaks from the heart and it is a good example of how people from the bottom can go to the top.

Transcript

I could tell you a million different stories or I could tell you the same story a million different ways. I could tell you about the night my boyfriend stood me up for Pamela Anderson or about the time my girlfriends and I were so wasted. One night leaving a nightclub that we stolen street sweeper and depending on my mood the audience and my intention behind telling you this story.

I can tell it funny, sad, shameful, even proud and while the details may vary from story to story for a long time my opener was always the same. Remember that one time we were wasted. See I was araging alcoholic and thankfully most of it I don’t remember.

What I do know is this. For me, the key to recovery always comes down to the stories that we tell and whether or not we choose to focus on the negative or the positive. Because it’s never what happens to us and always the meaning we attribute to it. So take for example. If somebody were to tell you that they’re getting divorced, is that your instinct to say, “oh my gosh I’m so sorry, oh wow: you must be so relieved, right.

It’s the same event but a different story. So for me a long time the story I told around my addiction was dark and messy and suffocating. And it’s true it caused me in everyone around mean intense amount of pain. Back then I didn’t know that what we resist persists and so the more I fought against the pain I was in the more of it I experienced. I was kind of like that cat-like the cute cuddly one it was just purring and happening all the time. But if that same cat were to get injured and you went to pick it up it would bite and claw and hiss.

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I was a perfect example that hurt people, hurt people. So not only did I have to feel bad about the pain I was causing myself but also the pain I was causing everyone around me. When I would disappear for days and not call. Even now as I revealed this piece of myself I can’t help but be reminded of the shame I used to feel every second of every day.

It’s like why do you drink? Because I’m sad. Why are you sad?Because of what I did when I was drinking? And just around and around it went? I didn’t know back then either that there’s a major difference between shame and guilt. The guilt says what I did was bad and shame says I am bad. I felt like I couldn’t move past my sins. So I just became them.

And speaking of sin it’s interesting. I found out years later that sin is nothing more than an old archery term that means to miss the mark. So the way I look at guilt now is actually really positive. It’s just an internal cue that lets me know the way I’m acting is out of alignment with my true self. That’s literally all that it is. It’s like this is who I want to be, this is who I am right and it’s that space in between that we call depression or anxiety. But instead of changing my behaviour to bridge that gap I just lowered my standards and expectations.

So I didn’t have to feel so bad about myself. Pretty common coping mechanism. it’s not just me a lot of us do it. For example, if you went out Friday night you did something you really really felt bad about you’re actually way more likely to do it again the following weekend because we like to normalize our own behaviour. It was just amazing the pain that I just kept on perpetuating. It’s wonderful to be able to look at my experience differently. So some of you have a personal story around addiction and for those of you that are sitting there thinking. You know none of this applies to me. Like I would never do drugs.

You have to remember it’s not just substances that we get addicted to but also behaviours, shopping, screwing, eating, working whatever it is. Because addiction is really anything we do or use compulsively to make ourselves feel better that has negative consequences. That’s all it is to keep it simple we use for one or two reasons. So to either start feeling something or to stop feeling something. So we can be as simple as I’m going to go get a cocktail after work, right. So I want to start feeling more relaxed or I want to stop feeling anxiety but sometimes it’s so much more when we don’t come from an environment that supports natural feelings of loving connection.

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We can use substances to manufacture those experiences and just like somebody might take morphine to help with the pain of a broken leg, somebody else can drink to numb a broken heart. And if we look at brain scans of somebody an intense emotional pain next to somebody that’s an intense physical pain we’re going to see the brain light up in the same areas because pain is pain.

The only difference is we don’t judge the person taking morphine, we judge the person using heroin. Even though it’s essentially the same substance used for the exact same reason and just like it isn’t all about morals and values, it isn’t all about genetics either. Thanks to Dr. Bruce Lipton’s research.

What we know now is this. It’s the environment that determines whether or not that gene gets flipped on or off. For example, if I have three different Petri dishes up here and each one contained a genetically identical organism but I put one in intense heat, one in open air and one in extreme cold. Those three identical organisms can become three totally different things. So it’s not about the gene it’s about the environment. What that means is you can have somebody that has that addictive gene but if they don’t grow up with abuse and neglect or trauma and they have loving and attuned caregivers it might never get activated.

So it’s the environment that really really matters. I tried to change everything except for that because I didn’t want to change what really needed to. I had so much fear about getting better because what would that look like, who would I be and most importantly how would I feel if I lost it. To keep it simple really trifecta and goes like this. You have somebody genetically predisposed. They have pain and trauma and then they find something that works at taking away the pain and if you take the time to really listen to their story more often than not your question will go from how could you be using – how could you not. Because when someone’s in intense pain and they know taking a drink or a hit is going to make them feel better it’s almost impossible for them not to it would be like trying to drown yourself and it’s not about the drug.

Anyway, it’s about the characteristics and the intention of the person using it to look at it any other way is the equivalent of saying a deck of cards is responsible for somebody’s compulsive gambling habit. We need to focus on the real issue we villainize substances in this country but like Dr. Gabe Ramante has said what we need to do is ask what’s right with drugs.

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If we can help somebody identify what’s positive about the substance use we can help them find alternative ways of getting the same experience. Once again shifting that focus on to the positive we need to really really focus on ourselves because the reality is we can take away the substance and that’s not treatment, that’s a band-aid on a compound fracture right.

We need to go down deep within ourselves to the places that we are most terrified to face because that’s where healing becomes possible and it’s also the hardest way to get there I mean. I had searched high and low for the right therapist, drug relationship and I only ended up high and alone finally realizing that nothing outside of ourselves can save us. So it was through the process of healing that I rewrote my story. I let go and I was carried and I’ve really come to a place now where I understand that.

While addiction almost killed me it simultaneously saved my life because if I hadn’t had some way to check out in those darkest times I’m not sure how long I would to stuck around. So I had to let go, I had to let go without pain resentment all of it. I really did and just be and just be here and feel all of it.

So what story do you want to tell? How do you want to tell? It maybe, it’s a total rewrite and maybe it’s just some changes to the tone, but we have to remember is that we may not be able to control everything that happens to us but we can always control the story we tell around it and choose to seek beauty even in the ugliest of situations.

Conclusion

For some people, finding the positive aspects within their own addictive behaviours might sound like “glorifying drug use”. Jo Harvey Weatherford’s perspective on separation of guilt and shame help people to go to that retrospective place, acknowledge their guilt and process for growth.

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