ASD & High ACE Score Increases Likelihood of Substance (Ab)Use

Notable adverse childhood experience (ACE) trauma — especially when its effect is amplified by an accompanying autism spectrum disorder (ASD) — suffered by adolescents can readily lead to a substance use disorder. This, of course, can also lead to an adulthood of debilitating self-medicating.

The greater the drug-induced euphoria or escape one attains from its use, the more one wants to repeat the experience; and the more intolerable one finds their sober reality, the more pleasurable that escape should be perceived. By extension, the greater one’s mental pain or trauma while sober, the greater the need for escape from reality, thus the more addictive the euphoric escape-form will likely be.

If the adolescent is also highly sensitive, both the drug-induced euphoria and, conversely, the come-down effect or return to their burdensome reality will be heightened thus making the substance-use more addicting.

As a highly sensitive child, teenager and adult with ASD—an official condition with which I greatly struggled yet of which I was not even aware until I was a half-century old—compounded by a high ACE score, I largely learned this for myself from my own substance (ab)use experience. The self-medicating method I utilized during most of my pre-teen years, however, was eating.

Yet, in many sober ‘neurotypical’ minds such addicts have somehow committed a moral crime. But serious life trauma, notably adverse childhood experiences, is typically behind a substance abuser’s debilitating lead-ball-and-chain self-medicating lifestyle.

Generally, there’s a formidable reason why a person repeatedly consumes and gets heavily hooked on an unregulated often deadly chemical that eventually destroys their life and even that of a loved-one. It all really doesn’t happen out of boredom.

Perhaps not surprising, I have yet to find a blog that dares to delve into (what I call) the very problematic perfect storm of psychological/emotional dysfunction — i.e. a debilitating combination of ASD and significant ACE trauma (and perhaps even high sensitivity) that results in substance abuse.

Also, I strongly feel that not only should all school teachers have received ASD training, but that there should further be an inclusion in standard high school curriculum of a child development course which in part would also teach students about the often-debilitating condition.

It would explain to students how, among other aspects of the condition, people with ASD (including those with higher functioning autism) are often deemed willfully ‘difficult’ and socially incongruent — and mistreated accordingly — when in fact such behavior is really not a choice. Maybe as a result, students with ASD feel compelled to “camouflage,” a term used to describe their pretending to naturally fit in, which is known to cause their already high anxiety and/or depression levels to worsen.

While some other school curriculum is controversial (e.g. SOGI, especially in rural residential settings), it nonetheless was implemented. The same attitude and policy should be applied to teaching high school students about ASD, the developing mind and, especially, how to enable a child’s mind to develop properly.

“Guys with cats … I don’t know …”

THERE are some guys who’ll understandably hesitate at speaking in public about their particular fondness for pet felines; for, to do so, unlike with expressing affection for a good sturdy canine friend, may be generally stereotyped as a man’s non-testosterone pet-animal inclination.  

And, yes, there are people out there who’d implicitly or explicitly question the normality altogether of a guy who adores his pet feline(s)—something that’s implied by first-season Seinfeld’s George Costanza. In a doubtful tone of voice and a slight shake of his head while looking aside, George says to Elaine Benes in regards to her boyfriend cherishing his two pet felines: “Guys with cats … I don’t know …”  

George’s line rushed to mind after one particular response I received upon posting a short essay onto a feline-fan site (accompanied by an adorable feline photo, of course); it was from a reader subtly questioning my ‘normality’, which left me feeling both embarrassed and angry. 

It also brought to mind an early-1990s Vancouver Sun letter to the editor—aptly titled “A Man With a Cat Is Where It’s At”—in which the writer, a straight guy who adored his two pet felines, responded to some recently published cat-critical commentary. He frankly cautioned straight single women about relationship-seeking heterosexual guys who love dogs but dislike domesticated felines; for, what such men really want in a mate is, basically, submission—unlike the dudes with cats who more than appreciate a companion’s independent nature as well as a silky soft touch.

Within, Steve Eykel of New Westminster wrote the following response to another letter author’s cat-belittling: “Let me take a wild guess: [the writer] is a dog person, not a cat person. It’s not too surprising really. After all, a dog will lick your hand, grovel, cringe, do tricks and generally make you feel like the big strong alpha male you wish you could be. A cat will do none of these things. Women take note! This is an acid test for any man’s character. A man who prefers dogs is looking for subservience; a man who prefers cats is looking for a partner. You heard it here first.”

I further recollected how as a teen I knew two of the toughest, testosterone-laden and, like myself, straight guys around (whom I always tried to emulate), who also cherished their pet cats, however privately.

Given the tough-guy environment of that place and time, no male would’ve dared openly express his cat enthusiasm to his large peer group, lest he seriously risk having his reputation permanently besmirched as ‘a wuss’.

(Frank Sterle Jr.)

Distracting Ourselves on a Burning Spaceship Earth

Whether it’s unprecedented wildfires in California/Cascadia, Europe’s hottest year on record, off-the-chart poor-air advisories, unprecedented stalling hurricanes, the mass deforestation and incineration of the Amazonian rainforest (home to a third of all known terrestrial plant, animal and insect species), record-breaking flooding in Europe, single-use plastics clogging life-bearing waters, a B.C. (2019) midsummer’s snowfall, the gradually dying endangered whale species or geologically invasive/destructive fracking or a myriad of other categories of large-scale toxic pollutant emissions and dumps—there’s discouragingly insufficient political courage/will to sufficiently address the cause-and-effect of manmade global warming and climate change.

(And, yes, I very much want to be proven wrong!)

To me, our existence has for too long been analogous to a cafeteria lineup consisting of diversely societally represented people, all adamantly arguing over which identifiable traditionally marginalized person should be at the front and, conversely, at the back of the line. Many of them further fight over to whom amongst them should go the last piece of quality pie and how much should they have to pay for it—all the while the interstellar spaceship on which they’re all permanently confined, owned and operated by (besides the most wealthy) the fossil fuel industry, is on fire and toxifying at locations not normally investigated.

The latter is allowed to occur, because blue-shirted liberals and red-hatted conservatives are preoccupied loudly blasting each other for their politics and beliefs thus distracting attention from big business’s moral and ethical corruption, where it should be focused.

Meanwhile, mindless arguments are made, and stupid-sounding catchphrases are uttered, like “It’s the economy, stupid!”

In short, we’re distracting ourselves from our own burning and heavily polluting of our sole spaceship, Earth.

What is sufficiently universal, however, is that the laborers are simply too exhausted and preoccupied with just barely feeding and housing their families on a substandard, if not below the poverty line, income to criticize the former for the great damage it’s doing to our planet’s natural environment and therefore our health, particularly when that damage may not be immediately observable.