Posted on November 17, 2011 by Henry Tarkington
A substance abuser and his family: DWIs to Recovery
“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 needs to slow down on his drinking some.” These are words often spoken about addicts and alcoholics.
All this was true about Will 27+ years ago. He was ordered to attend a program because of several 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 bad luck. Marijuana and cocaine had never gotten him into legal 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. They didn’t help him at all this time. 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 could not spend the night or take food or money with him when he left. He was not to be left alone in their home, He was required to leave when other company left. What an insult! “You have to help me. 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,” they emphatically stated.
Will was all alone and facing the toughest time he could imagine. Where could he turn for help? He received a substance abuse assessment and was recommended to attend 2, two hour groups every week for 16 weeks. He could miss 3 sessions but if he missed more, he would be discharged from the program, no matter what the reason. Since Will had a suspended prison sentence, being discharged from the program would likely result in the suspension being revoked. Will would be in prison doing a 2 year active sentence if he didn’t complete the program as outlined by the substance abuse counselor. But Will missed 3 sessions and came to a couple more drinking, but never got called out for it.
He knew he was on thin ice. Will had one fear greater than giving up beer and marijuana…his greatest fear was going to prison. He spoke the counselor and told him he needed to talk. He told the counselor what was going on and the counselor just said “I know.” He left the room for a few minutes but soon returned. The substance abuse counselor at the DWI program told him, “Here is a phone number. Do everything this man says and you will be okay, but if you don’t you will end up in prison.” The man was an AA member and Will went to AA so he could figure out a way to beat this system and not do prison time. 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 after that first AA meeting. He had stopped drinking, though, before talking to the counselor so, in his mind, he was meeting the AA definition of abstinence. But in a few weeks, smoking weed and using cocaine began to bother him. Of all things, he told his “sponsor” and another AA member. They advised him to quit immediately, which he did.
He attended 90 meetings in 90 days, with no car, no drivers license, no phone, and living about 10 miles from the closest meetings. Will did many more than 90 meetings in 90 days. With daily support group meetings, he finally learned how to completely 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, had quit “enabling” and stuck by it. Will was in a corner and he had to change. No one was going to lift a single finger to help him. It seemed awfully cruel at the time but the family healed better than one could ever imagine. Will became the closest he had been to his family since childhood. His mother died 2 years later, knowing he was clean and sober. A few years his father passed away. Before they died, though, they formed a new relationship with a new son. A son who was happy, healthy, productive and much, much smarter.
Will feels he owes his determination to change his life to his parents. They would no longer put up with his alcoholic/drug addict behavior. Finally, they did not give in no matter how much Will begged, pleaded and promised to he’d change. It was absolutely the most helpful thing they could do. All the money, rent, food, jobs, etc. they helped with only kept him using alcohol and drugs. As long as his parents paid for the necessities, Will was able to use the money he could scrape together himself for beer, cigarettes, marijuana and cocaine. Will was not ready for sobriety. He didn’t want treatment or AA. He came to recovery completely against his will. It quickly caught on, though, and probably saved his life. It definitely kept him out of prison. It doesn’t matter how he got to recovery. It is what happened afterward that counts.- A true story. Anonymous
“Well, I came to First Step behind a DWI, and my lawyer gave me a couple places to look into. My first thought was that I didn’t want to go to counseling. Not that I didn’t think I could benefit, but I’m not a talker and don’t like to speak about problems with myself or family. The counselors are insightful, helpful, and not too pushy, which made it better for me. Some people really need to express their feelings to get through trouble. And listening to everyone let me realize that no matter who you are or where you come from, we all have issues to sort out. So for me, I am glad I am coming to the end of treatment because I am ready to get back on track and be a better person and make responsible decisions and not let people or circumstances get in my way and make a bad decision. “I’m stronger because I had to be. I’m smarter because of my mistakes. I’m happier because I have known sadness, and I’m wiser because I’ve learned from my past.” Anonymous