I have long wanted to say what I am about to say. However I hesitated in the past because I truly wonder if people who are not familiar with addiction have any clue what it involves. I am referring to addiction, not ” partying” -I am talking about people that for whatever reason find themselves in the prison of the dark night of the soul. A bondage that is all too powerful when it is realized and usually finds the addict all too weak when it strikes.
A few things that need to be said to the general, non-addicted public about how you should view an addict. First, love the addict, hate the addiction. Next, don’t you dare tell an addict to ” straighten up” or ” just stop” – that is unless you would walk right into the cancer ward and say the same thing to a cancer patient. You think that is extreme? Not so much. I can tell you that every single day, people kill themselves rather then face withdrawals from drugs. Last week in my area 2 young people, ages 19 and 20 were jailed on separate incidents. Minor incidents, misdemeanor type crimes that were first offenses.
The problem was, the jail staff didn’t take either of them seriously when they pleaded in pain for relief as they were experiencing unplanned drug withdrawal form opiates after extended time on them. That can be deadly. Rather then face any more of the grueling pain, both hung themselves in their cell. Kids, just kids who probably had no idea what they were facing or that they would be arrested, only to find themselves without medical care when death was near.
This is not an isolated incident, and I am not trying to take responsibility off of the user. What I am trying to say is this; But for the Grace of God, there goes YOU and ME. That’s right, you and me. Just because our weaknesses may not be as visible as a drug addicts, that gives us no right to think of ourselves any better then they are. I see daily the veterans being carted off to JAIL after being caught with open beer cans or public drunkenness. Do we need public drunkenness? Of course not. Is jail going to do anything at all to change it? Of course not. Why would you take a mentally ill, alcoholic, and stick him or her in a jail cell with a warning to cure thyself quickly? Really? I know in my experience both professionally and personally it was no overnight and easy task to accomplish sobriety or help others to do so. It was hell. Death and thoughts of the relief of death were abundant.
The addict has forgotten more pain and suffering then the average person will ever know. The daily routine of self-hatred, guilt, shame. hopelessness is taxing on even the strongest most positive minds. The fact that your friends at AA or NA -well at least 95% of them will fail. They will drink and drug again- 95% the statistics show. Where does the hope come from you may be wondering? It sure does not come from judgmental, self-righteous family and friends who look down on the addict. The only hope an addict has is whatever support system they have believing in them and telling them so. Does it mean you enable them? Of course not. Can you help find them a treatment center and write them once a week? I hope so. It is the very little things, the glimmers of hope that keep an addict pushing forward even after so many stumbles that nobody is supporting you anymore.
If you ever watched the old Rocky movies, you will remember a time in the ring when Rocky was getting pounded into the ground. Relentlessly the opponent slammed him and knocked him to the mat. The response from Rocky? He bounced up like some kind of energizer bunny- never missed a beat. Now I know that those punches to the face had to hurt very badly, so it wasn’t the absence of pain that made him get up. It was his resolve, his determined mindset that staying down just was not an option. Taking that out of the equation, he had only to plan what his next moves would be, not deciding if he would quit. Not an option.
If an addict is fortunate enough to have a few people to support them in recovery, and they adopt the Rocky mindset, getting clean is a real possibility. Sometimes, like a little child would do, the addict when going through the hardest parts of treatment, will look up to their support system in an attempt to get a feel for whether the support system even thinks they can do it. Just by encouraging them, believing in them, praying with them, you can make a major difference in the outcome. I have been around thousands of addicts in my life, and been one too. One thing I will say is that almost all of the ones I talked to had very little hope. They often saw death as a relief and wished for it. Many only tried because they had a family they wanted to get clean for. That is noble, but it does not lessen the grip addiction can have on a person.
I feel fortunate to be alive. Each day I remember the challenges I faced and the seemingly endless hurdles always in front of me. I can still hear the gossip of my detractors, who would keep tabs on me just to mock me if I failed. However in spite of them, I had a few, a handful of people who loved me. They hate the addiction, but they loved me. When all my other friends were quickly walking away from me because they didn’t want to be embarrassed, that handful was leaning down propping me up and many times helping me take showers when I was too weak, or making me a meal. Wow did that feel good. Unconditional love. It does not happen much anymore.
I don’t know if the government will ever wake up and start treating the diseased as if they had diseases, or if they will keep blindly tossing them in jail or what. I do know that if you have a loved one who is addicted, maybe you wrote them off or cut them off. Sometimes you have to cut the addict off, that’s understandable. It doesn’t cost anything to love them though. Not a penny to encourage them or pray for them, or write them a note reminding them of their talents. As a matter of fact if you think real hard you may even remember that you have flaws too. Maybe not outward and obvious, so they are hidden. No different. We are all vulnerable to failure- but if we stand around pointing fingers at others, we just become prideful. Pride, as you know, comes before a fall. Lets be humble, understand that the addict needs hope and encouragement more then anyone-and be sure of this; if there were any way possible for them to quit themselves, they would have, long ago. Its a terrible thing to live your life imprisoned like that and unless you have live it, don’t judge it.