Notes from the Bendigo Writer’s Festival – Part 2.

Another Go with speakers Jenny Valentish and Ray Mooney.

1 Stigma involved with drug addicts and alcoholics.

My aunt visits our place regularly and she often (and by often I mean every day practically) seems to talk about drugs and people she suspects are drug users. She lives in a housing estate with some rather down on their luck individuals and I guess this influences her views a great deal. But she never considers what led these people to take drugs in the first place. The speaker here at the festival told of being sexually abused as a child then later in life struggled with substance abuse; this may be the case for one of my aunt’s neighbours, but it never seems to occur to her. Today’s youth are just after an escape, she might say. The media’s influence can’t be underestimated, either.


2 After suffering so much, how did they turn it around?

If they had been inherently weak people, they would’ve been doomed for the rest of their lives: perhaps left to a cycle of substance abuse or alcoholism, homelesness etc. My brother is strong because for years he suffered with depression and agoraphobia after being the target of bullies at high school. But he found a source of inspiration and resolved to change his life around. The right environment is another thing. I love Melbourne but for some time I was stuck in a rut, lacking motivation to try different things. My energy levels were low and most of the time I was spending time at home. But now since moving to Bendigo, I feel like I’ve wasted a day if I haven’t gone out. I like that Bendigo is smaller, more compact and intimate. So depending on the place, you can be more likely to find yourself, perhaps.


3 Identity and drug addiction

In many cases, substance abuses have gone through traumatic experiences such as sexual abuse, leaving them a hollow shell as a result. As such they use drugs as an escape from their past traumatic experiences, and they assume a new identity, the identity of a drug addict, or an alcoholic, as may be the case.

4 How important is it that society supports the wrongdoer?

In Norway, despite murdering 77 people, Anders Breivik was accepted into college from solitary confinement – naturally this provoked loads of outrage, but on the part of the college, their rules state he met the entrance requirements, and they stuck to their rules. I’ve heard in the USA that there’s a problem with overcrowding in their prison system, as people come in, get released, then re-offend, rinse and repeat. Maybe if there were changes to the system, and throughout society, the outcome of these individuals would look more optimistic.

5. Why do people get addicted in the first place?

Some believe it’s hereditary, others lean towards the kind of environment you grow up in. Interestingly, some groups have put addiction down as a disease, one reason being, this reduces the responsibility of the drug user and minimizes the stigmatization of the individual. I’m reading a book at the moment about substance abuse and what’s alarming is that the author states many of the signs which point towards future dependency, such as low resiliency and poor self-regulation, and I can identify with – so perhaps I’d lean more towards it being a matter of character. Saying that, I’ve never been interested in taking drugs, though I have had issues with addiction – since getting my Samsung Galaxy tablet, I’ve been using it way too much, I just took a couple Panadol for a headache that’s been nagging away…

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