September 30, 2023

From a recovering Caymanian ex-addict

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recoveryBy Edward Pars

Let me explain to you the cold hard facts of what’s happening right here in our own back yard. These are the realities of our society gone amuck.

A housewife does the family laundry as a child roams the streets. A child sits in a classroom straining to concentrate. A preacher forms the outline for his Sunday service as a homeless mother stands in line at D.C.F.S. in vain, looking for help. A teacher prepares a lesson plan. A young Caymanian athlete trains with vigor, yet it is in vain. An executive dictates a letter to his secretary, as a fisherman braves the sea to try and feed his family, and a farmer toils the soil to receive new seed.

Each of these diverse personalities will share at least four things in common:

1. Each has emotional pain. When the facade is stripped away there is a deep, empty hurt that etches the face and clouds the eyes.

2. The emotional and behavioural turmoil from being raised in a family that functioned abnormally.

3. Almost without exception, each will deny that they were raised in anything other than a perfect environment.

4. The pattern of conduct and the difficulties with relationships will be passed on to succeeding generations.

Men and women everywhere are unhappy. They feel trapped and miserable. Hearts are filled with rage, murder, envy and fear. In Cayman, escape is found in alcohol, drugs, tobacco, rape, incestuous sexual encounters, crime, gangs and insanity. Ninety percent of our families are fragmented by problems that range from uncomfortable to bizarre. The newspapers, radio and television are filled with revelations of sad abuse behind the walls of the average home because telling hidden secrets have become more acceptable! The Islands are now filled with self-help books and the support groups now defy counting.

934579We now have to wonder what has happened to our Islands. The marriage rate of locals is the lowest since 1980 (not counting foreign marriages). Also, between sixty percent and ninety percent of our children are born out of wedlock. Northward Prison population has doubled in the past two decades, while the world population will double ONLY every thirty-nine years. Fifteen percent of deaths are listed as suicide or homicide as the cause. The murder rate between 1987 and 2013 are up. White-collar crime and theft or burglary is major problems and a media commodity.

People of these Islands now live in fear of being a crime victim, both in their homes and wherever they venture outside. Respect for human life, property and for authority (not to mention that eighty percent are not born in Cayman) has been set-aside in the quest for attention and being allowed to “do as I please” attitudes, regardless of who is hurt by their actions. Much ado is made about the “freedom of personal choice”, despite the fact that we live in a civilised society. I wonder… this leaves me to ask this question: · is there a common, casual thread that weaves through the fabric of our diseased society that has run amuck?

Every year two hundred to three hundred students leave or graduate high school with little or no prosperous future to look forward to. As we all know, alcohol is our last socially accepted vice. We love the “Marl Road” stories of drug abuse because it makes us feel pious.

Most of the population have ignored marijuana (ganja) and evaded the seductive stranglehold of crack cocaine. Cigarettes are not against the law, even though it is attributed to one in every five deaths, yet they are against public opinion. “Be for real”! Alcohol is increasingly a crisis with younger and younger children since it is viewed as a part of “coming of age”. Kids know that being an adult means drinking. Social denial of danger is a factor since only about half-percent of all alcoholics on these Islands are on skid row, and it is common place for people to drink occasionally without ill effects in twenty percent of homes in Cayman. Publicly, alcohol makes its impact. Alcohol is a factor in just about every sex crime prosecuted. More than seventy percent of Caymanians grow up in a family with an alcoholic, married an alcoholic, or have a blood relative who is an alcoholic. It plays a part in seventy five percent of divorces in Cayman. Alcohol related motor vehicle accidents are the leading cause of death among our young people. One in three children have at least one alcoholic or one parent with substance abuse problems.

Alcohol is the most common drug of choice and privately impacts the function of more homes than any other single abuse substance. Reality checks … The problem does not begin with alcohol or other mind-altering substances, though it is compounded by their abuse. Alcohol is only one of many addictions that have become a local lifestyle. Compulsive, addictive behaviour has been defined as a “pathological relationship” to any mood-altering experience that has life-damaging consequences.

Mood altering is most often linked to euphoric experiences brought on by the use of alcohol, drugs, sex and sexual abuse. Ten percent of women in Cayman have been sexually abused. We are an island with a variety of societies. Some of these societies will have an even higher percentage because they’re never reported. Overeating, even perfectionism and religious legalistic fanaticism, are other forms of addiction that are used to distract our emotions. Work, shopping, over-spending, watching TV, daydreaming, jogging, gambling – these in excess, are also mood-altering and numb us to the pain of suffering.

A major factor in the corruption of the home is the addiction to power and violence. Battered women and children (sometimes men) attest to the horror of being victimized in physically abusive homes. Emotional abuse can leave scars as deep and disfiguring. Right here in Cayman, hundreds of forms of addiction have been identified and support groups have evolved to share tools to aid in recovery. The consequences of all forms of addictive and compulsive behaviour are much the same. Some substances like alcohol and drugs may create greater daily crises, overeating may cause serious health impairment, but since Cayman Society is such a diverse one, the multi-generational impact will be much the same

The cycle of addiction must be broken, both at the top and the bottom. What this means is that we have not solved the problems when we stop drinking or overeating. We must also understand what caused the addiction in the first place and make changes from the inside out. Only by re-developing character and behaviour of the family (and self) can we break the mould that causes an alcoholic father to raise a workaholic son who has a compulsive overweight daughter who eats herself into poor health.


Addiction and compulsion have a cycle. Counsellors and those who research addictions have developed a classical model to describe the downward self-defeating spiral followed by those caught in the web of dependent and co-dependent behaviour that serves as the basis of troubled families.

Allow me to illustrate and demonstrate:

1. Emotional Void

2. Low Self Esteem

3. Addictive Agent (alcohol/drugs / food)

4. Consequences

5. Guilt and/or Shame (did bad / am bad

6. Self Hatred

There is an urgent need to break the cycle in several places at once. The impact is multigenerational and the problem of this generation will warp and condemn the next. We often hear that someone in our family had a drinking or addiction problem (and stopped without help). More often, a person just traded one addictive agent for another and perpetuated the cycle. Both the dependent and co-dependent personalities are caught in a merry-go-round that destroys lives, happiness and productivity. Even alcoholics are codependent. Their dependency is with a thing – alcohol. The family members are dependent upon the alcoholic and the nature of the relationship as they help and enable the alcoholic. Each is equally dependent upon the other, thus, co-dependent. Let’s look closer at the addictive compulsive cycle in the chart above (l through 6).

1. Emotional void

We all have a God given need to be loved from birth to death. If in some way children are deprived of love or if their emotional needs are not met, they will carry scars for life. There are hundreds of causes for Emotional Voids: An addictive or workaholic parent, another parent preoccupied with the consequences of the “isms”, e.g., perfectionism – the idea that nothing I do is good enough, inability to communicate on the intimate level (talk about feelings), emotional unavailability, parental conflict and divorce, children unwanted and farmed out. Physical, emotional and sexual abuse leaves the void because they are not able to depend on and trust those who should protect them (parents, government, family). Then there is the death of one or both parents, feeling left out by everyone in both childhood and adulthood, a disastrous love affair, a severe disappointment, a trauma at work, real or perceived abandonment – the list is endless. The result is a feeling of emptiness and that something is missing – yet all one hears is “he or she can do better”.

With all of this, there is an element of denial that is built-in. These, with a void, have always lived a lie, pretending, yearning, wishing for a happy, normal life. Accepting reality or “popping the bubble”, destroys the fantasy and crushes the soul.

2. Low Self Esteem

Low Self Esteem is a symptom of having experienced an Emotional Void in childhood. It is felt as pain. The number one malady in Cayman today is Low Self Esteem.

Low Self Esteem can be recognized by feelings of worthlessness, inferiority, and a nagging voice telling you that you don’t do enough, don’t do it right, and don’t deserve anything. It makes itself known (by our own Caymanians) that you don’t measure up, that you are less than others, and therefore you cannot be accepted, nor do you fit in. What happens then? You then isolate yourself and feel alone and wonder if this is all there is to life (in my own back yard). What’s left? You then feel beat-down and lack courage. Life is sad and painful. Feeling emotional pain moves you to the next cycle as you seek relief from the pain.

3. Addictive Agent (alcohol! drugs! food)

It is only natural to seek relief from pain – like taking a Phensic or Advil when you have a headache. The idea is to move out of reality so as to sooth the pain, to get a break, to escape for a while.

The Addictive Agent of choice may be alcohol, drugs, sex, food, smoking, work, religion, cultism, gangs, imagination, lying, sports, TV-soap operas, exercise, buying clothes, spending excessive money, and on and on. Some of these will have more devastating consequences than others – (but all will keep one from facing the real problem of not being happy with one-self and seeking some outside influence to make one-self feel better for a while). Each addiction also has its own painful consequences.

4. Consequences

Each form of addiction has one thing in common – DENIAL. The nature of addiction is to deny that there are bad Consequences to ones’ behaviour No smoker believes that he will contact lung cancer. Teen smokers are three times more likely to become alcoholics, forty times more likely to become binge drinkers and thirty times more prone to use hard drugs (source: ABC news, The American Agenda).

No alcoholic recognizes the dysfunction of his family. No drug addict expects to die. No (workaholic sees what he does to his marriage or children. The Courts downplay that this is a disease and that we do have a major problem in Cayman as long as they stick to the stigma, “all they have to do is say no”. In spite of denial that it is a disease, the cycle moves on and the Consequences are real.

5. Guilt and Shame (did bad I am bad)

Guilt is the recognition for “I have done something bad”. Shame is the feeling that “I am bad”. Guilt is felt when one has the knowledge of good and evil and knows when one has done wrong~ Many have moved so far from the standard laid down by civil society that they have no knowledge of right or wrong. Shame is the concept that “1 am evil, worthless and have no redeeming place in Cayman’s society.

These festering feelings of Guilt and Shame hurry me along to explain the next cycle as I found it to be.

6. Self Hatred

Now that I am caught up in the trap of addiction, my feelings about myself intensify to the point of Hatred. It is not uncommon to hear the alcoholic or the addict (after an all night binge) mutter over and over, “I hate myself’. These feelings propel them to start the cycle all over again. The sad feature of it all is that so many will not seek the help that is available without which they may never recover.


The complexity of the problem of addiction and compulsion demands that the cycle be broken in more than one place at the same time. It is very simplistic to tell an alcoholic or addict to just stop. But first we must deal with the cause of his or her feelings that started them down the road to seeking relief from pain and reality. This is true for every addiction and compulsion. One must fill that void by accepting and loving himself again as a person.

There are many groups here on the Island designed to help with recovery. But the real recovery process cannot even begin until, as they say in N.A. (Narcotics Anonymous) and A.A. (Alcoholics Anonymous), “turning our will and our care over to a God of our understanding”, whatever and whoever that may be to you. Then recovery is possible.

The road to recovery is long and narrow and demanding. It is filled with pitfalls and distractions, but if you are willing to go to any lengths to get it, it will be life changing but you must be open minded, willing and honest. Then you are on your way! However, the life it offers and the future it promises makes it all worthwhile.






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