I suspect most of us who identify as humans employ a variety of coping mechanisms just to get through the four letter word called life. Over the course of almost half a century now, I have used different coping methods and have relied heavily on several during exceedingly difficult times in my life. I talk about, and try to live my life through, a lens of social justice. This piece has no judgment but does hope to make space for how we each try to make it through trying times.
In 1996 I had seen the A&E adaptation of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. Now I must confess, during difficult times I would read and re-read Pride and Prejudice. When I saw this seminal film version of a most beloved novel, I knew I was home. Through the next several years, I would put the VHS tape in and watch this movie ad nauseam to soothe and console me. I so saw myself as Elizabeth Bennett played by the amazing Jennifer Ehle. It truly was my drug of choice. I was grateful to discover that I had a partner in crime, for my dear friend Bethie was equally addicted.
Years later, when I was feeling blue and down out, I found that I would keep re-reading the third Harry Potter novel. In fact, in 2003 when I was working on an NEH grant, I was reading the fifth Harry Potter novel. Upon finishing it, I asked my husband to mail me Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban as a tonic.
A while ago, I was at work — I do diversity/inclusion and racial equity workshops while also teaching social work. I was confronted by a white man in a workshop who was doing some posturing and asked “so what do you think about the gay agenda and should we also accept the pedophile agenda?” I have been doing these types of workshops for many many years now and rarely do I feel as though I have had the wind knocked out of me, but wow — I felt the severe punch. All I could say was: “I’m not sure I understand the question, or if there is a question?” I try to meet everyone where they are at on their respective journeys and I have to keep in mind that one cannot force someone to be where they are not. I also have to keep in mind that for those of us doing work around issues of diversity and inclusion there will always be an acceptable amount of trauma. That being said, when I finally got home, I knew I was going to self-medicate. I told my husband what happened, made myself a martini, and yes, we watched Pride and Prejudice.
As I write this, I am keenly aware of my own position of privilege and am also grateful that how we treat people with addictions looks much better than it did just 15 years ago. I’m grateful there are harm reduction models available and I hope we will continue to rely less and less on shame and blame. I also hope we continue to look at addiction and intersectionality. Are targeted groups more likely to rely on substances and if so, how do we change systems to create an equitable society and culture?
As we do this hard, important work and move together through the complicated journey of life, I hope everyone has as safe and reliable a drug of choice as my freedom to escape into the world of Miss Eliza Bennett.