Are drug addicts born or are we created? Nature or nurture?
I have met people who were born addicted to drugs and never developed an addiction to anything, and I have met people who come from the most successful, normal, and seemingly perfect families with little to no family history of Substance Abuse- who go on to become hard core drug addicts. This is one of the many great riddles.
There are no cookie cutter approaches when it comes to helping someone overcome addiction and alcoholism. There just isn’t. Every person is unique and brings with them their own unique and special story. Each and every person walking this earth has a very rich and comprehensive history that goes into making them exactly who they are, right here and right now. So each and every person’s journey into many tomorrows will be just as special as the journeys that got them here, to today. And I believe personally, because I witness it all the time, that people can and do in fact change.
I have attended many seminars, conferences, round table discussions etc. And so many people tend to use the phrase, evidence based & what works and what doesn’t. Now, when it comes to the scientifics of it all, and the various modalities of treatment, resources, and medication, I will leave all of that to the people who know much more and better than I. But I have over the years developed my own bleeding heart philosophy that worked for myself, and as I get to know more and more recovered people around the country, I have noticed something very similar has worked for them.
Now, I am not going to split hairs and say which fellowship, scientific method, or modality is “the best” or “works best”, because there is no such thing as a cookie cutter approach, and what works for me could kill someone else. AA,NA, SMART, MAT(to an extent and to be utilized under the HIGHEST of supervision and regulations), Celebrate recovery, CBT, Motivational Interviewing, etc… They all work, again, different strokes for different folks. I am not talking about those types of ideas, but more so an Idea that is much more basic and visceral than groups, or therapies. A formula of events, and changes over time if you will. And this is what I think, this is what I try to express time and time again:
- There must be a stopping point. How this occurs varies from person to person. But In my opinion, a person must be “clean slated” first and foremost, before a program of lasting change can be implemented. There are people who disagree with this, but I just don’t understand how one can expect a drug addict to turn their life around, if they’re still using drugs. Again, my opinion, and I am not a scientist, but I have managed to stay clean for awhile now, and this is what has worked for me. And, just to take it one step further, 100% of the people who I have met that a truly successful, and have turned their lives around, are all clean, and not still using. It is very hard to find a successful drug addict who is still using, in fact, I don’t think I have ever met one. But anyways, there needs to be a stopping point. This can be an intervention, which I truly believe in, a heart to heart talk, an arrest, a court order, etc. But there needs to be a stopping point. The Basic Text of NA says “It(addiction) can be arrested and some point and recovery is THEN possible”. An addict who is still in the grip of addiction, or who still has the appetite for drugs, will continue to go on using, that’s just a fact. There must be some type of nudge, push, or redirection occur in an alcoholic/addict’s life in order to bring about change. If there are no boundaries, or consequences, why would they change? Make sense? ok.
- There needs to be an introduction into a new culture. We as humans, are habitual. We are products, within reason, of our environments. We become what we frequent the most, and this is especially true with addicts. We are almost like a morbid species of Chameleon. We adapt and we evolve in the situations that we are exposed to the most. We become habituated to our friends, our drug buddies, our drugs themselves, etc. We literally become products of our environment and our environment itself. Throughout our active addiction we end up so consumed by the “counter culture” of drugs and alcohol, that it is literally what drives us and motivates our moves instincually. Our favorite restaurant on a Friday night, why? Because they make our Gin and Tonic the way we like it. Our favorite Golf Course? they have the best beer selection. Our favorite casino? Bar? you get the idea. We are perpetuated to continue on in this pattern that has long sense developed over months and years. It is very difficult to stay clean, when we are frequenting the same types of social circles and behavioral patterns. This becomes who we are. It becomes our Identity. And how Can I reestablish myself If I am still seeing the same old buddies, in the same old places, doing the same old things. People, places, and things. That’s day one stuff. But what If I just cant seem to break away? What if the temptation is just too strong? I just keep bumping into (My Favorite Drinking buddy/Using Buddy) Everywhere. They keep asking about why the never see me anymore. This is why support is so key. And for those who don’t have a lot of family or friends support who are attempting to get clean and stay clean, it is important to create some or find some. For this and several other reasons, this is why I often recommend that people get as far away as they can for treatment. To get out of those “trigger zones” for as long as possible, and get back to feeling good clean and sober, before coming back into the environment where you got sick. Just as we learned to get high from an addict and drunk from a drinker, we have got to learn to stay clean from those who are walking the same walk as us. It is very difficult to just will power it and get clean right in the same area that we got dirty in. Trust me I know, it took a year in jail, and a year in a halfway house for me to finally stay clean. It was difficult. So what does a new culture look like? It could be church, it could be support groups like AA, it could be going away for treatment. It could be a cross fit club, or a Men’s Bible study. There are a multitude of opportunities to make some new supportive friends who can speak life into us and help reshape our identities.
- We need to establish a new identity. No we don’t need to change our names, or have some type of Alias. Not that Identity, but a core belief of who we really are. Are we the Drunk on a bar stool on a Friday night? No. So we need to stop believing that is who we are. And this doesn’t just happen over night, or because we decide to do so. It is a product of changing our culture. Just as we became a product of our environment before, we need to do the same again. But this time enmeshed in growth, positivity, and support. I believe this is why they refer to major milestones in recovery as Spiritual “Awakenings”. Think about when your alarm goes off in the morning. Do you just snap up and head off to work? No. you Awaken. It’s gradual and it takes some time. But it is habitual, intentional, and with purpose. Recovering from drugs and alcohol must be the same. We must begin with the end in mind. So the more we stick with a culture of people who are supportive and who are doing some good for the world, the more the way we look at ourselves will change.
- We need human connection. There are very few, if any, lone wolves who have over come and stayed clean. Think about a bonfire, Think about how all of those glowing hot coals down in the hot bed that keeps the logs warm and glowing stay so bright orange for so long. Because they have each other to feed off of. If you get yourself a nice hot bon fire and keep it stoked with logs for a couple hours and then leave it unattended, those coals will still be hot enough tomorrow to burn you. But if you pluck just one single glowing lump out and set it over in the grass, it will burn out in a matter of minutes. People need people the same exact way. And I’m not merely repeating what I just said above. Sticking with the winners and having a new culture which leads to an identity change is not the same idea as this one. This is about human connection. I need to feel connected to SOMEONE. A Sponsor, a therapist, a mentor, a pastor or elder in my church, maybe just an old successful friend that I look up to. Maybe my grama. But with Connectedness comes accountabilty, and it’s important that we have that too.
- We need to find a passion, or a purpose. When my brother died, My friend the lawyer who will soon be judge called me to check on me. He knew how close My brother and I were, and My friend knew that I would be hurting pretty bad at this time. But he said something That I will never forget. He said, “You’re gonna be okay, because you have purpose now” And he was right. I do have a passion and a purpose and I feel like I finally have a place in the world where I am needed. And it is so very important that addicts and alcoholics find theirs as soon as possible. I have long since been quoted saying that “Every single successful person, who has overcome addiction, they all have one thing in common. They have ALL found something they’re passionate about.” Maybe it’s music, art, being a parent, animals, working on cars, helping others, being a counselor, whatever speaks to your heart. We Must be unapologetically passionate about something GOOD in our lives, which can keep us anchored to the reality that we’re trying to create; So that the storms of life cannot and will not blow us down. And this is why when I am talking to people about getting clean I always ask them a few of the same questions: 1) are you happy? 2)What do you want? and 3) how can you get what you want and be happy? And Though theyre very simple questions, the answers can lead to some profound dialogue. Its quite beautiful the way people will talk to you when they believe you’re actually listening. And it is for this last thought here that I tend to call this approach “Purpose Driven Recovery”. We want to feel loved, we want to feel connected, we want to feel valuable, and we want to feel like we matter- like we get the chance to leave a lasting mark on this world, if only someone would believe in us. And we do, and we will. And it is a beautiful thing to see the work begin.
If you want to truly help someone, the most important thing you can do is listen to them. – Fred Rogers.
Are you happy?
What do you want?
How are you going to be happy and get what you want?
If you don’t know what you want, you’ll damn sure never get it.