Finally, my brothers and sisters rejoicein the Lord. To write the same things to you is not troublesome to me, and for you it is a safeguard. 2 Beware of the dogs, beware of the evil workers, beware of those who mutilate the flesh] 3 For it is we who are the circumcision, who worship in the Spirit of God and boast in Christ Jesus and have no confidence in the flesh— 4 even though I, too, have reason for confidence in the flesh. If anyone else has reason to be confident in the flesh, I have more: 5 circumcised on the eighth day, a member of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew born of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; 6 as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless. 7 Yet whatever gains I had, these I have come to regard as loss because of Christ. 8 More than that, I regard everything as loss because of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things, and I regard them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but one that comes through faith in Christ,[e] the righteousness from God based on faith. 10 I want to know Christ[f] and the power of his resurrection and the sharing of his sufferings by becoming like him in his death, 11 if somehow I may attain the resurrection from the dead. 12 Not that I have already obtained this or have already reached the goal; but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. 13 Beloved, I do not consider that I have made it my own; but this one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus. 15 Let those of us then who are mature be of the same mind; and if you think differently about anything, this too God will reveal to you. 16 Only let us hold fast to what we have attained. 17 Brothers and sisters, join in imitating me, and observe those who live according to the example you have in us. 18 For many live as enemies of the cross of Christ; I have often told you of them, and now I tell you even with tears. 19 Their end is destruction; their god is the belly; and their glory is in their shame; their minds are set on earthly things. 20 But our citizenship is in heaven, and it is from there that we are expecting a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. 21 He will transform the body of our humiliation that it may be conformed to the body of his glory, by the power that also enables him to make all things subject to himself.
Mental Health Matters
SUBSTANCE USE VS. ABUSE
What is Substance Abuse?
Substance abuse can be defined as a pattern of harmful use of any substance for mood-altering purposes. Substances can include alcohol, illegal substances, or even prescribed medications. Abuse can result because you are using a substance in a way that is not intended or recommended, or because you are using more than prescribed. However, someone can use substances and not be addicted or even have a substance use disorder. Substance use disorder is a diagnosable mental health disorder as defined by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM–5).
When Does Substance Use Cross the Line to Abuse?
Substance use crosses the line into substance abuse if that repeated use causes functional impairment in key areas of your life. For example, if your substance use causes you to miss school or work, impacts your relationships with friends and family, causes health issues, if you frequently use more than you intended, engage in more risky behaviors, spend more time planning around your use, neglecting responsibilities because of your use, you regularly use substances as a coping skill for your stress, anxiety, or depression then your substance use may be at the abuse level. On top of it affecting areas of your life, you may notice your tolerance to substances also grows, meaning it takes more of the substance to feel the desired effects. As your use continues, you may also notice that you need that substance to feel “normal” and like yourself. Without it, you feel “off.”
Generally, when most people talk about substance abuse, they are referring to the use of illegal drugs. Illegal drugs can do more than alter your mood. They can cloud your judgment, distort your perceptions, alter your reality, and alter your reaction times, all of which can put you in danger of accident and injury. Some believe the use of illegal substances is considered dangerous and, therefore, abusive. Others argue that casual, recreational use of some drugs is not harmful and is merely use, not abuse. If the use is causing functional impairment in your life, then it is abuse. This functional impairment may not be noticeable to you at first, but it may be apparent to your friends, family, or co-workers.
Alcohol is, of course, legal for adults over the age of 21 in the United States, and there is nothing “wrong” with having a couple of drinks with friends or to unwind on occasion. But, it doesn’t take much alcohol to reach a harmful level of drinking, and that is when alcohol use can turn into abuse. Generally speaking, low-risk drinking for men is no more than four drinks per day and no more than 14 drinks per week. Low-risk drinking for women: no more than three drinks per day and no more than 7 drinks per week. Drinking more than this can be harmful to your physical and mental health in many different ways. For some, drinking less than this guideline above can also be considered abuse. Again, if the use is causing functional impairment in your life, then it is abuse, regardless of how much is consumed.
If you are wondering if your use is crossing the line, ask yourself, “Is this causing me harm?” and “Is this affecting important areas in my life?”
Substance Abuse in Light of COVID 19 and Other Current Events
This question of when substance use crosses the line becomes even more pertinent during the current times we are in. The pandemic, social injustice coming to light, and political unrest across the country is a perfect storm of factors that can drive up substance abuse as we see increased unemployment rates, economic fallout, diminished personal and community supports, lost daily routines, reduced social interactions, and divided opinions and strong emotions all across the country. This is enough to leave anyone feeling overwhelmed. As more people are left limited, it may become more difficult to cope with these stressors without the use of substances. Substances are often used as a way to self-medicate their stressors and even other mental illnesses. While substances may temporarily mask the symptoms, emotions, and feelings you experience due to the pandemic and the fall out that comes with it, it is often making the addiction worse. It can lead to a person being unable to cope with any stressor without using, which only further exacerbates the stressors, their mental illness, and causes further functional impairment in their life.
What Can I Do to Help, Especially Now?
Whether you are struggling personally with increased substance use or you know someone that is, one important thing you can do is maintain a routine and structure in your life. If you have a plan for each day, then it is easier to stay on track and not impulsively engage in substance use. It is also important to maintain connections with your supports even if it cannot be in person. Send a text, make a phone call, or schedule a FaceTime or Zoom. While in-person socializing may not be ideal for everyone right now, for some, the risk of an in- person, socially distant visit, may be worth it to outweigh the potential consequences of a relapse. If that is the case, and you are comfortable, say yes to a socially distant in-person interaction. Recovery is not something that can easily be done alone. It may be difficult, but talk to the person openly and honestly. Listen to them non-judgmentally. Give them reassurance and don’t place blame. Encourage them to seek help whether that’s from a professional counselor or self-help groups like AA or NA.
Finally, if you feel your substance use is getting to the point of abuse, please don’t hesitate to reach out for help. Reach out to a local AA or NA group. Talk to your primary care doctor. Call your health insurance company to see what service providers they may cover near you. If you do not have insurance you can contact COMCARE’s Addiction Treatment Services, Substance Abuse Center of Kansas, or other local providers that can provide support on a sliding fee scale.
Help is here. Recovery is possible. Your mental health matters. You matter.
~Lauren McMullin, LSCSW
Resources utilized throughout from mentalhealthfirstaid.org, medscape.com, verywellmind.com, DSM-5