Friday, August 27, 2010

Getting Through It

We hear it all the time and it is probably the most difficult thing to do. And that it to be positive. Now, not being positive does not necessarily mean that we are negative. Sometimes we are ambivalent or in a state of limbo. We find ourselves in the middle of an intense life situation and we do not know how to get through it. Just the mere fact that times passes and that everything changes is one way we are assured that we will get through it. As the U2 song laments, "We are stuck in a moment and can't get out of it". The moment can be an actual moment or a situation or an hour, emotion, behavior or a multitude of many life's problems. At the time really isn't as important as to how we got there than it is to learn how we must move forward and get through it. It is often said that by talking about it, you move forward but this isn't easily done. Sometimes we just relive the situation and there is no forward movement. So what to do?

My last post was indicative of emotional, psychological and physical trauma but this post can be applied in any situation. Big or small. Not just the traumatic ones. One thing to do is to be conscious of knowing, as I have said, that time passes, whether we like it or not, and the world will change. Our goal is to encourage change in a positive direction instead of an undesirable one. One cognitive function is called, "automatic thinking". A situation occurs and from our past experiences, we automatically know what the outcome will be. And it usually isn't a good one. So, we must recognize our automatic thinking. Stop and look at the situation with an empty head (yes, that is possible). Erase all past thoughts and experiences when caught in a perceived hopeless situation and start to think about the good (or at the very least, the easiest) things that could come out of our situation. The may be require quite abstract thinking but the goal is to change the way we feel (the hopelessness) of the issue. Try to think of all the solutions that can be achieved, whether they have happened to us or not. When something of advantage crosses our mind, the hopeless situation may not seem like one without merit anymore. Exploring each possibility can take us away from the negative repetitive thoughts that we automatically find ourselves engaged in and a new feeling, whether it be hope, joy, curiosity, open minded may blossom.

By no means is this easy to do yet we read about it (like here) all the time. So, I say to think outside the box and be open to many possibilities. Not necessarily ones that have dragged us down in the past. We just may find that we are feeling a new sense of strength and act in a way that is reflective of our new way of feeling. An example: I lost my job, I'm depressed and feel worthless so why even leave the house. A new way of thinking: Wow, now I can the chance to do so many other things, excited and feeling hopeful and getting out in the world making our new goals come to fruition. Again, I want to stress that this is not easily done and we will try and fail, slip and slide into hopelessness from hopelessness but once we accomplish this ONE time, then we have a new history in which to draw from. You know, even thinking that things can get worse can challenge our hopelessness feelings, hence...encouraging us to be a bit more assertive to make a change. Two steps up and one step back. When we find our behavior helping our lives, it re-enforces this new advantageous thoughts that we are thinking, effecting emotions....and so on and so on. This is how the cycle of change can work in a positive way instead of our automatic thinkingthe same thoughts that are keeping us stuck to begin with.

When we try and fail, we need to get right back up and start changing our thoughts over and over over again. This perseverance starts to become a new automatic part of our make-up. The assistance of a professional, a friend or even alone will soon give you more confidence regarding your new set of skills. Yes, many of us fear change because of the unknown but change is going to occur naturally and I, for one, would like to be at the helm when these changes are happening. Sometimes the change isn't what we expected but to accept it, we must change the way we feel about this unfamiliar situation if we are to do the next right thing. The next right action.

Start with small changes and see how it works. To discover where you feel powerful over the process. This could be a good impetus to be prepared for the bigger unexpected changes that occur in our lives. We can all change but we must all put effort into it because, good or bad, nothing in life stays the same. Be the master of your destiny with an adequate amount of awareness with new skills to learn how to use your power.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Surviving Trauma

What constitutes trauma? It many be different for all of us but the core feelings are the same. Fear, anger, withdrawal, confusion, intimidation are all emotional elements of those who have survived a traumatic situation. Working through it can be a lifelong process and it involves many types of coping skills to deal with it effectively. I am not speaking about physical trauma but rather psychological trauma though one can certainly lead to the other.
Many years ago emotional trauma brought up the feeling of shame. It was hidden away by families and never spoken about, fearing the stigma of having survived trauma would cast a disgraceful light on the victim. The 'we do not air our dirty laundry' syndrome. Blocking out the incident was the only means of treatment but, of course, this did not solve the problem. Learning to withdraw or disassociate from the memory of the event was encouraged but this merely suppressed intense negative feelings, rendering the victim to live a wounded life. Never being able to escape the multitude of emotions associated with surviving trauma. And when those feelings are ignored, they eventually re-emerge in the form of self-destructive behaviors.
This was especially the case with soldiers who had experienced the horror of war. So overwhelming were the experiences causing death and severe injury, the mind could not comprehend the magnitude of the situation at the time. Long after the event, if not processed, a triggering (reminde event caused them to live the memory of the trauma over and over again and believing that it was happening again. Never being able to obtain peace. Thus, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) became a diagnostic psychological impairment in the psychiatric world and a new way of approaching treatment came to light.
We do use our survival skills to get through the trauma (though it may not seem like we do at the time) to ensure self preservation. It is the aftermath that creates the severe difficulties in our thinking and behaving. As I have said, repression is usually the first condition noticed. We use this as a defense mechanism in which to deal with the event but this usually cannot last forever. At some point, when the sufferer cannot function well in the day to day living situations of society, the issue must be gently addressed. Associated with repression, reoccurring nightmares, panic attacks, anxiety, addiction and depression can consume one's life. The decision to address the traumatic event is a major breakthrough and only then can the intricate work can start to occur. It is not a decision that is easily reached. With the guidance of a qualified mental health professional, the victim discovers that they are really a survivor. This change in thinking sets the stage for the rest of the work. It is important to address the details of trauma in a safe environment. A therapist can pace the amount of information revealed and will recognize when the survivor is become overwhelmed. In some cases, it is a delicate balance but the therapist usually takes his/her cue from the client with the hope that, in time, the entire event can be processed.
I usually discourage those sitting alone at a computer to relive the details of their trauma as they can become devastated by the disclosure and there is no safety net in which to fall. I understand the human need to allow others in but emotional safety must be considered. A therapist will remind an overwhelmed client that the trauma is not happening in that moment. The trauma was done in the past and that the client is not in any immediate danger. This is very grounding for the client as they realize that they are, indeed, talking about the past without the danger of re-occurrence. The goal of therapy is not to eradicate the trauma from the clients psyche but rather to make the memories more manageable; no longer paralyzing them or destroying their quality of life. Discussing the event on a regular basis assists in reducing the emotional power that the client initially feels their trauma has over them. In support groups, talking to others who have experienced trauma and discussing the feelings that they all share can be very therapeutic in showing the client that they are not alone. Once the event no longer rules over the life of the survivor, they are free to experience the positive aspects of their lives. We all want the best possible life and learning healthy coping skills to deal with past traumatic events can be life saving.
Remember to be kind to yourself during this process. You did not ask for this. We are all fragile human beings, sometimes feeling alone with our past so processing it takes love and patience. No one wants to live in fear. We want to live in the sunshine, reclaiming our lives and relationships. It is never a requirement that past traumatic events must rule over our lives indefinitely. We learn to be the ruler over the after effects of our crisis situations. We can live with the knowledge that our trauma is behind us and we can have exactly the kind of life that we want. It is all possible.

National Center for PTSD:

Monday, January 11, 2010

Tangible Connections

We hear it all the time. We read it and truly believe it. I am even guilty of saying it myself. Most religious, spiritual and metaphysical beliefs endorse it. Almost every philosopher, past and present, has used it as the basis of their individual creed. I suspect that even those in the animal kingdom instinctively base their annual rituals on it. I speculate to say that even aliens from other world's light years away embrace it. Almost no one can deny it. What is it? Four simple words: "We are all connected". There are as many interpretations of this phrase as there are sources that incorporate the meaning, whatever that may be, into their daily lives. It is such a universal phrase, easier to say than to explain but it sounds profound so surely there must be some existential truth to it. Being connected spiritually, connected biologically, connected emotionally are but a few of the popular accepted concepts. I think that the phrase promotes peace and is perceived as a cosmic welcome mat into our neighbors world. Among the myriad of connections we, also, have physical connections....tangible connections. How can we visibly connect to each other in less elusive methods? The answer lies within our community. There are pockets full of people everywhere in this world. There are groups coming together socially (fun) or coming together out of necessity (cause). Coming together socially, a group can ebb and flow as they merrily control the input/output of their activities. A ski club, for example. But what about the groups that come together out of necessity? These groups have little, if any, say at all regarding the purpose or variables of their circumstances. A children's cancer ward springs to mind. These strict in structure groups feel isolated from the rest of the world. They are always challenging. Yes, they have each other for support but, similar to the free flowing social groups, they need to feel connected to the world. One very effective way to do this is by bringing the external into the internal. Recently, on my social web site, Twitter...I have started to provide information on how we can tangibly connect with these isolated pockets of people. Whether it is assisting with our homeless population or bringing a moment of joy to those living in an end of life care facility. We need them and they need us. By our donations, we raise our own self esteem, as well as making others feel loved. By receiving, they feel gratitude and experience being part of the real world. Connections. There can be simple tasks such as bringing a box of chocolates to a hospice or donating a teddy bear to a children's hospital pediatric unit. Some tasks may require a bit more involvement. Such as offering a homeless person a ride to a shelter in sub freezing weather. Bring a friend for support if you are weary about being so close to a stranger. You get the picture. I am asking us all to raise the bar a bit in terms of tangible connections. You can make these symbiotic connections alone or with a group of friends. It is a well known fact that there are always countless volunteers to assist in soup kitchen shelters over the holidays but what about the rest of the year? Our small contributions can be life changing 365 days a year. And I do not necessarily mean only money. Sometimes people just do not know what to do or where to start. This is where I actively come in. Either for pure joy or maybe out of necessity, I will be suggesting who may need what. What would make life at a shelter, a mental health group home, a detox facility and other such places a little bit easier?What would make those at such places feel more connected to the world?
Once accomplished, this short term volunteering can be an inspiration to others. Charity work is justly contagious. I realize that money is tight everywhere so my recommendations for purchases will always be very modest. Even the smallest amount of money can be divided between friends. Donating money is important. It is a quick fix but why not take a little time and custom make some of your donations, emphasizing the human touch...which is getting lost in a world of fast paced technology. Price aside, your heart will burst with love for yourself and humanity knowing that you have made someones life a little happier. You would be bringing a slice of the real world into the isolated lives of others and maybe lessen the burden of worry...if only for a moment. There is no other feeling like it. As my gift to you, I want everyone to feel this omnibenevolence. In good times and in bad times, I feel it almost everyday. I feel rejuvenated at every junction of assistance. Once you are touched by the hand of altruism, the sensation will stay with you always. Of course, anyone can donate anything anywhere but if you are indecisive on what to donate or where to go, just contact me at Twitter and I will gladly give you appropriate suggestions with exact locations in your city where your gift/donation will make the greatest difference. This is a joy for me to participate in. We will make tangible connections this year. Everyone wins at this. Every one's heart will grow a little bit larger and a little bit stronger. My name is Rich Bassett, CADAC and can be reached at:

Friday, October 16, 2009

Illuminating Beauty

This is Dame Elizabeth Taylor at her most magnificent. She stunned the world with her exquisite beauty, captivated us for decades... as her generous heart helped to save millions of lives from the ravages of AIDS. Her tender prayer, "God...maybe Heaven can wait. This time, maybe Heaven can wait. Please" was heard globally. No one has ever illuminated the silver screen as she has, and there will never be anyone like her ever again.

To see other magical Dame Elizabeth Taylor video's, please visit:

Friday, October 2, 2009


Hopeless, helpless and dying. Anyone that has lived with a severe chemical addiction is very familiar with those realities. Soon the thought of actually being dead seems better than a life of torment and daily decay. The idea of just ceasing to exist is the only comfort that you feel. Immersed in addiction for 24 hours a day becomes physically and psychologically draining as you look for anything everywhere, trying to escape each fearful passing hour. But there is nowhere to run and the next day is a dismal repeat of the present one. You watch people that you love pleading for you to seek help, and you also watch them all eventually walk away. The pain of seeing you self-destruct is soon more powerful than the act of begging you to get help. Once apart from everyone who ever mattered, darkness seeps in and the opportunistic mongers, who term themselves as ‘friends’, infiltrate your empty world of sorrow… bringing you even further down into the endless pit of self destruction. Much further than you ever thought that you could fall. Morals vanish. Ethics are nonexistent and you value nothing…except maybe the drug. You value something that you, also, hate and despise with a vengeance, yet, crave for every waking moment. There is no more humanity within your lonely cold existence and even the occasional spark of hope is soon extinguished by a drug induced haze. Society passes you by though you are hardly cognizant of it. People will reject you, will degrade you and pity you. It won’t matter. It is an ugly world but it is the world that you know. This internal vortex. This is addiction.

It takes one day to die, another to live. There are many motivating factors that bring addicts into treatment. Broken laws, broken bodies, broken hearts and broken dreams may be contributing factors; none are more important and powerful than a broken soul. True recovery starts inside, moving outward. There comes a time when your broken spirit is more powerful than your life destructing addiction. At some point you realize that you are not yet physically dead and a wavering thread of consciousness asks: ‘why?’ This may be the first sensible thought that lives with you for longer than thirty seconds. A deep thought that isn’t being obliterated by your chemicals. This is the beginning of your recovery. It is a little seed. Some say planted by God or another higher power by divine intervention or even a spiritual awaking. Some believe it is a primitive survival instinct. Others believe that it is a product of sheer will. Whatever the impetus, a journey begins. There will be many trials and errors, temptations and disappointments as one rediscovers the hidden fragile persona that has been long since buried. In early treatment, the drug is physiologically removed from your body and a sea of feelings rushes to the surface, waiting to be acknowledged, understood and felt. The discussion of addiction being a disease or a repetitive pattern of self destruction is explored. In the beginning, there will only be unfamiliar words to comprehend as the avalanche of emotions sweep through. So overwhelming that this process can be, it is essential to once again connect with the human spirit. Not only your own spirit but with the reverberations of others. At first, it is emotional painful and frightening but as the murky fog lifts the once dim vision of hope becomes an ever growing shinning spotlight. Once you embrace this new found gift of life, the world will conspire to help you. This is a process that cannot be done alone and the loving hearts, minds and hands of others will guide you through this turbulent but rewarding early transition. You hold your breath. This can be. This is inspiring. This is hope.

One day the sun will shine. The sky will never look as blue and the rainbow colors that surround you sparkle like neon. Was this here all the time? Every day seems to be a new adventure and waking up in the morning, no longer in sickened despair, welcomes pure joy. You are in recovery. Looking in the mirror, you start to see a productive member of society smiling back at you. Sustaining and maintaining a life in recovery takes diligence, as well as dedication to the many support systems that exist to guide you. Some are faith based, immersed in spirituality (turning over your will to a higher power) while others are cognitive/behavioral (a new way of thinking and acting) and others rely on logic (recognizing rational beliefs and using self awareness). They are successful with some people separately or in combination. The common denominator in all forms of treatment is the fact that recovery is an ongoing process that must be attended to on a continual basis. Recovery is much more than abstaining from chemicals. It is reemerging with the world and learning how to live again...then love again. Learning to love yourself. When your capacity for love overflows, you are able to share that with others. Respect for yourself and mankind will develop with an escalating sense of dignity. In time, there will be laughter, and even tears…but the empty shell of a sufferer will exist no longer. The day may include kindness and compassion for the ones you see that are agonizing…as you once did. You will reach out to them…just as others once reached out to you. Will they listen? Did you? Having been at the bottom of the barrel, a new found appreciation for life emerges. You are grateful for even the little things that the world has to offer. For many, this rejuvenation of the spirit is seen as the miracle of recovery. A growing sense of self worth wraps itself around you as the healing process obliterates the reality of a life once dictated to by poison. I do not mean to paint recovery as a mere bed of roses. Repairing the damage done by a dented life requires raw self realization of how, why and when your life spun out of control and ended up in such a sorry state. Couragously exploring the answers to these questions may prevent it from happening again and new found dimensions of your recently learned life skills will truly enhance this new state of being. With time/effort, peace and tranquility will prevail. As you gain personal and/or spiritual faith in the recovery process, the belief that all things are possible will bring comfort to you. You may start to believe that it is, indeed, true. You will move with the world, no longer watching it pass you by. This is now a journey towards all things beloved. This is a new beginning. This is recovery.

Unfortunately, this does not happen to everyone who suffers from chemical addiction. There are those who will never experience the rewards of recovery. But as an Addictions Counselor, I am dedicated to insuring that all who I am blessed to encounter have the best chance to be successful. I am one part of a team of experts. I am Richard Bassett, CADAC and can be found on Twitter:

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Compassion on Twitter

I have always been an ‘in person’ kind of person. It is how I usually communicate at work, as well as my social life. I have the advantage of watching body movement, looking into people’s eyes, listening to the tone of their voice, the volume in their voice, pregnant pauses and what is being said between the lines. As a counselor, mastering this skill insures success with clients. They often come to me lonely and confused. They tell me things that they’ve never told anyone else and are always reluctant for fear of being judged. But this isn’t done easily. First, I have to make certain that they are comfortable and feel safe. A smile helps. A soft voice and then reminding these troubled souls that whatever their problem happens to be, I realize it is very important and vital ‘to them’, thus, it is very important to me. As a story unfolds, I actively listen. I try to understand everything that they are saying and if I become confused, I gently ask for some clarification. And throughout their entire story, I continue to give positive feedback…always trying to find the good in whatever they are telling me. This builds confidence and, ultimately, trust. And them the sessions begin. Each one is built on the previous one and a pattern soon emerges where the client and I exchange pleasant, meaningful cross talk. They are always reassured that I am 100% on their side. Taking this skill to Twitter was a goal I set for myself. In 140 character tweets, I soon saw a wide range of issues being posted with a lot of deep emotion behind them. I tried to imagine the troubled user sitting behind their computer, trying to reach out and hoping that they would be heard, or acknowledged, or recognized. These people were looking for a connection. Easier to do in my office than on a computer, but not impossible. I have been able to reach several people with empathy, compassion and kindness and have been able to do it all with words. First, it is important to reinforce that it is very courageous to post their life in public and how much that I admire them. Then, I reiterate that they are not alone. As the story unfolds, I give the choice of posting me in private or in public. Most people prefer to post in public because they want people to know who they are and they want to let people know what is troubling them. Most of all, they are looking for help. Some say that posting their stories is cathartic, as they have been bottling up such pain for such a long time. In some instances it feels safer to do it, first, online as they can remain somewhat anonymous. As I follow these users, I am blessed to be able to be a part of their daily lives…always ready to lend support or give a social service referral if necessary. I do not speak for any specific organization. I am speaking from myself and my own personal experiences. I am not acting as a professional on Twitter, but I do practice professional ethics. I am but one man, among many, reaching out to assist my neighbor in times of sadness and depression. Compassion is possible and, at times, essential on Twitter. My wish is that we all practice it, thus, bringing unity into our cyber world. I am Richard Bassett, CADAC and I can be found on

Friday, June 19, 2009

Information &Referrals

If you look at my Twitter profile, you will see several non-profit organizations and charities that I associate myself with. You may be surprised and wonder how one person can support so many agencies and still have time for themselves. Let me tell you a bit of my experience in working with so many (and there are many more that are not listed). I once worked for The United Way of America as an Information & Referral Specialist. This is an actual job that requires extensive training, as well as national testing. Once trained in this field, I took calls from the general public, who were usually at the end of their rope, looking for assistance for a variety of problematic issues. Some of the calls were from those about to become homeless and were looking for resources to prevent this devastation. Some calls were from those who had just lost everything from a fire or flood and needed immediate assistance. People called in with addiction issues needing treatment, as well as, health/ insurance issues. There were those who needed help with utility bills, finding financial assistance for school, issues with work related discrimination, HIV/AIDS support, suicide ideation, domestic violence, sexual abuse, mortgage difficulties, and just about every topic that you could imagine. It was my (and several of my colleagues) position to contact the referring agencies and discuss the type of assistance that they could provide. This work was very interesting because all of these agencies wanted to reach out and help those in need. My callers usually called us as a last resort, as they have tapped into every other suggestion given to them by friends and family. I was amazed at the services that were out there wanting to lend a hand, if people would only ask. In some cases, financial assistance was readily given. I thoroughly enjoyed this cross talk with these organizations, as it was a learning experience for me, and I soon became very familiar with every individual service that each agency provided. And there were always more agencies willing to help. They just needed to get the word out to let the public know that they existed. I felt great joy from connecting people to services that would make their lives a little better. And it is all about these ever so important connections. Once involved with an agency, you are likely to become a lifetime client and always be provided with support, if needed. Like all non-profits, funding is necessary. Some receive state and federal grants, and some rely on private donations. To keep these agencies up and running, money is needed. Even giving a small amount can make a big difference if the masses are donating. On Twitter, I saw that there were users who were promoting a cause, but these users usually posted an article related to their cause and that was it. I thought a more personal touch was needed so I decided to make myself as available as much as possible to answer questions, give support, give referrals and (as a Counselor) just listen to the trials and tribulations that people were going through. Sometimes, people need only to vent and feel as though they are being heard and understood. This reduces anxiety. If their situation remains in their head, it gains power, seeming worse than it actually is, and almost becomes paralyzing. Once out in the open, problems seems much more realistic and solvable. So please take the time to investigate the link that I provide and skim through the list of services that each organization provide. From, "Feeding America" to "UNICEF", you will be a bit more educated. You may not be in need of the service, yourself, but you may know someone who can benefit from them. And you know, there are tens of thousands of people on Twitter. Everyone has baggage and life issues to deal with so I believe this service can be helpful. Every section of the country has their own division of the, "United way's First Call For Help". You need only to call your directory to locate the phone number of your local branch. Hopefully, connecting people to services will become a little easier on Twitter.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

HIV/ AIDS Today and Yesterday

When the pandemic first struck in 1981, there was no treatment. It wasn't even called AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency disease syndrome) . It was called 'gay cancer', 'gay compromise syndrome' , 'community-acquired immune dysfunction" and GRID (gay-related immune deficiency) . KS (Karposi's Sarcoma), a specific type of cancer, and PCP (Pneumocystis carinii pneumonia) were soon the two main medical conditions being discovered by physicians in a certain population of people who met a certain criteria. Known primarily to affect only those with compromised immune systems, these conditions were very rare but over time more and more cases were being reported in hospital emergency rooms. Patients, who were primarily gay men at the time, were dying in a matter of months. As researchers worked on containing a virus, which attacked the body's immune system, it soon became apparent that a vaccine was going to be impossible to develop. This virus, eventually named HIV ( human immunodeficiency virus ) was classified as a 'retrovirus', meaning it was able to duplicate itself into many different forms when spreading throughout the body so one 'single' vaccine was not going to be able to conquer it. This dismal picture of AIDS was prevalent throughout the 1980's. Though there wasn't a cure, the medical community concentrated on treating the symptoms of the many 'opportunistic infections' ( a group of maladies affecting only those with a compromised immune systems) seen in those with AIDS. The goal was to improve the quality of ones life and promote longevity but, unfortunately,these treatments were not very successful and many continued to die. From the gay community, AIDS found its way into the IV drug using community and eventually into the straight community. Mothers contracting the virus were giving birth to babies already infected. The AIDS virus was found in blood, semen, vaginal fluid and breast milk. Transmission occurred when the bodily fluids of one infected person were transferred into the blood system of a non-infected person. The nation went into panic mode and AIDS social service agencies could not be developed fast enough. And with AIDS came fear, hatred, bigotry and rejection. People were fired from their jobs and displaced from their homes. Teen-agers were being turned away from their own families as feeling guilt and shame were damaging all self worth in many of those infected. As drastic as this was, AIDS activist groups were, also, being created to fight for funding for research, medication and education. Dame Elizabeth Taylor became the first and foremost leader of this battle creating amFAR (The American Foundation for AIDS Research) and her own Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation. She slowly raised millions of dollars with her philanthropic efforts. Radial groups such as ACT-UP demonstrated and held protests demanding equal rights and better societal treatment. It took years until one single drug, AZT, showed promise in slowing down the production of the virus in the blood stream. It was a major advancement and in some cases, it prolonged life but not significantly. As other drugs came down the pipeline, ACT-UP demanded that the FDA (Federal Drug & Food Administration) streamline experimental drug and to release them quickly for human consumption. People simply didn't have the the opportunity to wait extended periods of time for drugs to be approved. Some drugs, commonly known as Nucleoside/ Nucleotide Reverse Transcriptase Inhibitors (NRTIs) and Non-Nucleoside Reverse Transcriptase Inhibitors (NNRTIs) were developed and clinical trials for effectiveness started as soon as possible. Now, some with AIDS were able to add some years, instead of months, to their lives. But it was still a life with an inevitable end in sight. Even though there were advancements in the treatment of AIDS, health issues were still an uphill battle. Systems of a severely compromised immune system, as well as side effects from the new medication, caused problems unto themselves. There were those who were too ill on a daily basis to enjoy the extension of their lives and misery prevailed once again. Those infected with HIV gave up their employment and went on disability. Some were cashing in their life insurance policies for money to exist on. And exist they did. Isolation, depression, hopelessness, and substance abuse addictions plagued this population of people who were left to ponder the meaning of their life having acquired this affliction. Finally, in 1996, there was a significant discovery. The creation of a group of drugs called 'Protease Inhibitors' (PIs) attacked the virus in a method never seen before and, at last, there seemed to be some hope. Though these drugs did not cure AIDS, they initiated an entire new phase in the history of AIDS treatment. PI's came with their own particular troublesome list of side effects and a battle ensued in regards to taking the medication, which made most people ill or not to take them. In the years that followed, more and more drugs were created with less and less side effects. HIV could virtually be undetected in the body with the proper use of these medications. Without HIV destroying the body's immune system, the immune system had a chance to repair itself. As AIDS was slowly slipping away from having a reputation of being an instant death sentence, people were building back the foundation of their lives. They were feeling better, living longer and were able to enjoy life, once again. Unfortunately, this was not the case for everyone and there were still those who succumbed to the disease. Today, we have several classifications of effective drugs: Fusion Inhibitors and Intergrase Inhibitors all attack the virus in different ways. These drugs are now used in conjunction with others in combinations commonly called ' a cocktail' . Taking these medications is now a daily routine and vital in the lives of those suffering from HIV/AIDS. Now, it is hopeful that living ten, twenty or thirty years may be a reality. The medical profession is now calling HIV/AIDS a manageable disease. There is a downside, though. The long term use of these potent medications it not fully understood and ,as years go by, these medications may be more harmful to the body that actually having AIDS itself. Only time will tell. A second drawback is drug resistance. Each of these medications may only be effective for a certain amount of time and then they are no longer able to keep the virus at bay. So, the discovery for a cure can never be pushed onto the back burner. For only when AIDS is eradicated from the face of the Earth, is when we shall find peace. Researchers are skeptical that this will occur in the near future but advances in AIDS treatment remain tremendous in comparison to a quarter of a century ago. Though there is still a stigma attached to those with AIDS, it is not the face of quivering illness as it once was in our society. It is the face of health and prosperity. And we remain forever hopeful. If you wish to donate to the cause, please visit The Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation:
Any contribution will be greatly appreciated.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Twitter and Social Services

When I discovered this mega-web site on the Internet, I was confused and curious. Learning the premise was pretty simple. Simpler than most but I wondered, why such a big fuss? I learned that marketing and social networking seemed to be the goal of creating such a site but with millions of users professing to be doing the 'same thing', how would one distinguish one post from another? The way that tweets zip down a stream reminds me of sticking my hand out of the car window as a child, and trying to catch one snow flake. If you do stop to read one article, you are in peril of missing one hundred more tweets traveling through your stream. How do you know what to stop and visit, and what you should just let slip by? I certainly understood the celebrity aspect of the site. As a society, we have always followed our celebrities and they were, in our living rooms. Their number of followers are massive. When one has 450,000 followers, how can you possibly watch your stream and attempted to isolate one tweet? It is akin to looking for a needle in a haystack. The social aspect of Twitter is fun. Meeting people, sharing thoughts and idea's and building connections. You look forward to seeing these people every time that you log on. They become friends and you soon share in each other's lives. You laugh, tell jokes, meet their friends and it is just plain old fun. As people watch your interactions with others, they get to see a bit of your personality. If they like what they see, you have a follower. If people like your bio, then you have a follower but I believe that observing actual interaction is where the magic is. I encourage people to come out of their shell and start to interact. It starts with just one tweet....and it can take off from there. At the beginning, I thought: aside from the social aspect from Twitter, what can I contribute? My profession is in the field of social services. I am a Counselor and I help people discover their own answers in regards to the problematic issues of their lives. I empower people to use what is within them to find solutions in their lives. I do not give advice, as a rule. I certainly didn't want to be a 'Dear Abby' on Twitter but I could see myself connecting people to social services, as I do this for people on a daily basis. There is a population of people who are down and out on their luck, for one reason or another. Homelessness, hunger, mental illness, addiction, AIDS, domestic abuse, runaway teens, etc... There are hundreds of social service agencies that have computers for these lost souls to use, free of charge to provide some meaningful connection with the rest of the world. These computers are always in use and their users are grateful to have access to them. Sometimes, it is the only friend that they have. I wanted to devote my Twitter site to those people who are looking for answers and may not know where to turn. They are users, among all the rest of us. I also wanted to point out to the more fortunate users... what organizations are the best of the best in dealing with these social issues. They may know someone who could use such services. And I wanted to add a human touch to my site, not just providing a long laundry list of services without being able to provide individual information on each one. Now, I feel confident that I have found a unique place on Twitter and my wish is that, as time goes by, people can depend on my site for education, information, compassion, empathy and kindness. I believe this is what may be missing on Twitter and just what it may need. My site: Please visit, and take a look around!