Colleen's thoughts on writing, directing and coaching, and her unique take on life itself!

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

"Growing up too fast"

There are several news stories out now in newspapers, TV and radio about protecting kids from "growing up too fast" - from being exposed to - and partaking in - drugs, alcohol and violence.

But ask any psychologist, psychiatrist or counselor: engaging in these activities and abusing mood-altering chemicals at a young age results in preventing an individual from growing up.

They actually keep us immature.

Significant steps in our maturation stop literally the day a child takes his or her first drink, drug or is severly traumatized by violence. Addiction is much more likely to occur if a kid takes a drink or drug at a younger age.

According to Robert Downey Jr., his father gave him his first hit of marijuana when he was 8 years old and was allowed to partake in addictive substances, including alcohol, as a child. According to addiction experts, children and women are more easily addicted to alcohol and drugs because of their physiology than adult men.

And addiction is no stranger to grown men.

As I mentioned in a previous blog, a noted child psychiatrist I interviewed from Seattle's Children's Hosptial and Medical Center told me the way children can recover from even the most traumatic experiences is to talk about their feelings.

However, addictions prevent abusers from processing - recognizing and talking about - memories or feelings in order to mature. When kids aren't taught systems with which to handle negative emotions or experiences, the fallout from those feelings and troubles can linger and fester - harming the individual's ability to deal effectively with life's ups and downs as well as blocking a significant part of the emotional and intellectual maturation process.

Several adult friends of mine regret ever lighting up that first cigarette or joint, or abusing alcohol. Not because they ever got "hooked" or addicted, nor were these "gateway" drugs ("lighter" drugs that lead to hard drug abuse) or because their lives were in any way messed up or ruined by them, but because they simply were not necessary.

They only took time away from the clarity they enjoy now not taking any mind-altering substances - especially the misery and time it took to quit smoking!

I'm one of them. What a waste of time. Even though I started when I was a young adult and not a kid, and quit smoking and drinking decades ago, I still wish I had never started. I'm someone who wants to make the most of her life; chemicals don't enhance that experience for me - they detract from it.

It's probably impossible to convince youngsters how much of their youth is robbed by sucking up cigarettes and booze or taking drugs because they mistakingly believe abusing drugs and alcohol is a sign of maturity - where in fact it is a sign of immaturity.

It's immature to get behind the wheel of a one-ton lethal weapon after drinking or drugging.

It's immature to escape feelings and refusing to grow up drinking and drugging.

It's immature to instigate violence.

Violence not only enforces simplistic, ineffective solutions for complex problems, but witnessing violence traumatizes not just those who experience it, but even those who execute it; those doing the shooting and hurting others.

Why do you think there are so many soldiers - who firmly believe they're doing the right thing - suffering from post traumatic stress disorder?

Again, from all I've seen and experienced, smoking, drinking, drugs and violence keeps those parts of us that have not developed immature. Literally preventing us from becoming all we can become, all we can genuinely experience in order to live life fully.

It always makes me laugh when notorious alcoholics and drug addicts die and are described as people who "lived life to the fullest."

Um, no. Drugs, alcohol and violence actually prevent us from living life fully - I mean, what good is having a "great time" if we can't remember it or suffer the sickness of a hangover the next day or two or three after - preventing us from doing anything except recovering?

Or suffer from life-altering injuries, severe trauma, are killed or put in jail because of violent acts?

It's true of artists. Who can create honestly, love openly, share our talent fully, if we're "under the influence" that prevents us from accessing our deepest thoughts and feelings.

An interesting study in Canada revealed that great artists don't do great work while they were under the influence or suffering from depression or bipolar disorder, but in fact when they were free from those things - lucid, sober and not distracted by demons.

However, because those experiences tended to be their most vivid and recent memories, that is what they tend to create in their work - painting, writing, and so on.

You may consider these things when you are creating characters as a writer, actor or director.

To be clear - I personally don't care if adults imbibe or partake of anything they choose as long as they don't endanger anyone else as they do it.

However you choose to define living your life to its fullest and being genuinely happy - whatever that is - is just right for you.

It is your body, your mind, your life.

I thought you might find these thoughts interesting.

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