Kicking and Screaming the whole way…
One Problem Drinker and Drug Abuser’s True Story .
You can’t help him until he wants to help himself. He is not ready to get clean and sober, the court ordered him to come. He is only doing this because he is on probation and is trying to avoid jail. He has no desire to give up drugs. He just wants to slow down on his drinking. These are words often spoken about addicts and alcoholics.
All this was true about Will 24 years ago. He was ordered to attend a program because of repeat DWI’s and had a 2 year suspended prison sentence. Will knew that drinking was causing him some grief because of the DWI’s, but felt it was just a streak of real bad luck. Marijuana and cocaine had never gotten him into trouble. Sure, he had not worked regularly in years, had no driver’s license, no electricity, no hot water, and was being evicted from one of the worst trailer parks in the county. Maybe he drank a little too much but the other drugs had not gotten him arrested yet.
Will’s parents and entire family had grown tired of his ways and had given up on helping him again. He felt that in a few months they would come around, just as they always had. They didn’t. They even told him they would no longer accept his collect phone calls. He could not visit unless invited and then could not spend the night or take food or money when he left. He was not to be left alone in the house and had to leave when other company left. What an insult! “I really have changed this time,” he protested.
“Why are they doing this to me? Can’t they see I need help? If I don’t pay these fines I will go to prison for 2 years. If I can’t get a ride to the DWI program, if I can’t do my community service, if I don’t pay probation and show up as ordered, if, if, if, he said. Tough , they said. “Don’t call us collect from prison and don’t expect us to visit. We will not send you a penny and don’t show up here when you get out.
Will was all alone and facing the toughest time he could imagine. Where could he turn for help? The DWI substance abuse counselor told him, Here is a phone number. Do everything this man says and you will be okay. The man was an AA member and Will went to AA so he could figure out a way to beat this system. He had been forced by the “coldness and shortcomings” of the ones who were supposed to care most, his family. “I won’t quit cocaine and weed” he thought. And he didn’t quit all drugs until about 3 months later.
With daily support group meetings, he learned how to beat the system…Will surrendered to it! Something happened in that few months that changed his life completely. Those family members had changed their behavior and stuck by it. Will had to change. It seemed awfully cruel at the time but the family healed. It was the closest Will had been to his family since childhood. His mother died 2 years later, knowing he was sober. Twelve years his father passed away. Before he died, he formed a relationship with a new son. A son who was happy, productive and much smarter.
Will feels he owes his determination to change his life to his mom and dad. They would no longer put up with his alcoholic/drug addict behavior and did not give in to Will no matter how much Will begged and squirmed. It was the most helpful thing they could do. All the money, rent, food, jobs, etc. only kept him using. Will was not ready for sobriety. He didn’t want treatment or AA. He came to recovery completely against his will but it eventually caught on and probably saved his life. It definitely kept him out of prison. It doesn’t matter how he got there. It is what happened afterward that counts.- A true story
Have you ever had the feeling that addicts act like they are still 14 years old? Do you wonder why they are often unable to fulfill normal adult responsibilities?
The 12-Step programs have a theory about that. Recovering addicts and alcoholics believe that when they picked up their first drink or drug, they stopped maturing at that age. For instance, if an addict first began smoking marijuana at 14 years old, he may have gotten stuck at that level of maturity. He or she may go on to other drugs such as cocaine, crack, or alcohol, which made the problem much worse. If a young person experiments with drugs or alcohol but does not become addicted, that child may grow out of the phase and mature normally.
Everyone grows through 3 major stages in life. The first stage is dependence. From the time we are born until early adolescence we are in this stage. The second stage is independence, the stage that begins in adolescence and continues into early adulthood. The third stage is interdependence. This stage takes place when we mature into responsible adults who are interdependent with our own families, our jobs, the community, our church, friends, etc. When people begin to abuse drugs, they often do not grow into the independence stage of life.
When children are young, before adolescence, they are dependent on parents, and family members for their safety, food, shelter, clothing, and other needs. Children are not expected to be independent in most ways. They are too small and immature to take care of their basic needs.
When children grow into their teenage years, they begin to see relationships with friends as very important, even preferring to be around friends instead of family members. This is very normal for teenagers: they are learning to be independent in the world. If they don’t complete this stage, they will never become mature, responsible adults and be able to function well in the world. These adolescents may rebel against their parent’s values. Within limits, this is usually normal. It is up to parents to learn what normal behavior is for a teenager.
A real problem happens when children pick up alcohol or drugs before they are mature adults. Children as young as 5 or 6, or as old as 18 or 19 may become addicted or alcoholic. It is believed that many children are predisposed to alcohol or drug addiction. This means that it is already in their genes, and if they experiment with substances they are more likely than others to become addicted.
When young people become addicted, they stop maturing in many ways. They will believe that they are mature and becoming independent. However, they are really becoming more dependent. Instead of learning to be independent adults, they have replaced their dependence on family with dependence on alcohol or drugs. While believing they are mature adults because they smoke, drink, or use drugs, they will never learn to be independent of their caretakers. They will always need someone to take care of them in some way unless they find recovery.
After people learn to be independent, they learn to be responsible for their lives. Otherwise, they will expect someone else to be responsible. They will blame others for their own situation and expect someone else to fix them or the situation. Very often, parents or loved ones feel guilty and accept the blame for the addict or alcoholic.
Recovery is all about change. One necessary change is for addicts to accept responsibility for their lives. This is a process that takes time to learn. All people in recovery can learn to accept more responsibility for themselves, no matter how far down the scale they have been. Sometimes the gains may seem very small, but with time and effort, the recovering person will be a more responsible adult, even if he has other problems such as mental illness in addition to the addiction. The idea is to find specific ways recovering people can take a little more responsibility, and teach them to take it. When they feel they have accomplished something, this will help speed up their recovery and greatly improve their self-esteem.
How does recovery help a person accept more responsibility? This happens when people truly work a recovery program. The challenge is to get addicts to commit to a program of recovery and place it above everything else in their lives. If addicts or alcoholics do not make recovery their first priority, it is very likely that they will relapse. If they do not relapse, they may remain dry (free of alcohol or drugs) but will not grow emotionally and become responsible.
Many addicts and alcoholics get sober to find themselves overwhelmed with financial problems. This is a difficult issue that is made worse with a large treatment bill. A good sponsor will help work out a plan to pay off old bills, including treatment. Paying bills just a few dollars per month may seem useless, but it does get them paid eventually. Paying the treatment bill is a way of showing gratitude for recovery. It will lead to an attitude of gratitude.
Can you imagine the addict you know changing into a very mature, happy, responsible adult? With the proper treatment and a rigorous recovery plan, it will happen to most addicts and alcoholics. This may be hard for you to believe “My addict is too sick, in too much trouble, debt, etc. Few people are too sick to make large gains in recovery. It takes work and time, but it works if you work it! (See the Promises in the AA Big Book, pages 83 & 84.)