Activate Your Two Best Weapons Against Self-Destructive Behavior

The Grammy Awards of 2012 will probably not be remembered as much for the current crop of winners or losers, as for the sudden death of singing legend Whitney Houston just a day before the ceremonies took place and practically on their doorstep. After a relatively short life filled with joy, sorrow and a relentless battle against her own demons, the pop diva joins the likes of Amy Winehouse, Gerry Rafferty, Jeff Conaway and Mike Starr in recent celebrity deaths possibly connected to substance abuse.

Having been brought up in the 1960s and having lived through the 1980s, I can barely recall a year going by without news of some celebrity or v.i.p. death related to drug, alcohol or prescription medicine abuse. Some would say that it comes with the territory, but I disagree. Like all things in life, it's a choice. Saying NO to the street pusher is just as easy as saying NO to the person trying to hand you a drink at some party or saying NO to the physician who offers to make you feel better by writing yet another script.

I do not judge those who have become entangled with substance abuse because we all have our weaknesses and there are plenty of people waiting in the wings of our lives that are ready, willing and able to exploit them. The man or woman who sees a pretty or handsome face and decides that the grass is greener outside their marriage is just as guilty and wrong in their judgment as the person who smokes a joint at lunchtime, sits on the stairs of some skyscraper in Manhattan to do cocaine or visits a new doctor to get yet another pain medicine script.

It's all about integrity and character: These are our built in protections against self-destructive behavior. When we ignore or shut them down, we choose the dark side and are instantly vulnerable to its darts. The good news is that we do not have to stand alone in our efforts to fight off the demons that haunt and seek to destroy us. There are churches, meetings, counselors and organizations out there filled with people who can help. Again, it's all about making a choice and seeking help that we know is out there for us.

It always seems easier for us to take the first step into self-destructive behavior than it is to step away from it or head down the road to recovery if we are are already in the enemy's camp trying to escape. However, it's an equal choice. Either take control of your own life or let someone or something else control it for you. It's not hard to understand that going with the flow and allowing someone else to be in the driver's seat will easily take you to the edge of a cliff in terms of survival. If you do not grab the steering wheel in time, you are going to go over that cliff and die.

Time is never on your side when you are headed in the wrong direction and the clock can run out a lot faster than you think possible. Your first abusive use of alcohol, drugs or prescription medicines could easily be your last. Everyone's tolerance of drugs in any form is different. The person who decides to rob a bank does not know if they will survive the attempt and walk away with some cash, or be shot dead before they ever get a chance to touch a single stolen dollar. It's all about choice. Why task the risk?

Life is precious; a thing to be experienced, enjoyed and treasured. When we decide to throw integrity and character to the wind in favor of the kind of cheap thrills or temporary satisfaction offered by substance abuse, we sign away our right to find happiness. We condemn ourselves, those we love and those that love us to a kind of living hell on earth that no one should have to experience.

It's just as easy to activate our built in protection against self-destructive behavior as it is to deactivate it, especially if we have not yet made a choice that will lead to negative consequences. People that tell you that you don't know what you're missing if you do not get involved with some sort of substance abuse are wrong. Just watching the heart broken relatives, friends and fans of Whitney Houston grieve over her loss answers that argument better than I can.

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