Cunning, baffling, powerful. These are three words used to describe addiction in 12 Step literature.
I have worked in the addictions field now for 12 years, and I am certainly baffled. We had the honor of watching and walking through, the painful excavating and facing of, the dark places inside a young adult I’ll call Peter.
As with most of the people we help in long-term or repeat treatment, the disease and the twisted way of thinking is planted and tended by the parents and family. Coming to terms with the fact that the people who you believe love you the most are toxic enough to kill you, shakes the very foundations of a person’s life. There is no point in explaining Peter’s history. It is nothing more than a variation of a theme that is played out in hundreds of thousands of families across time and geography. It is something called good intentions of ‘love and nurturing’ gone awry.
Peter had been to treatment before, this was his third attempt. Over the years of being in and out of recovery, he saw clearly the progression of his disease. In 12 Step meetings the fatal nature of the disease is exhibited in the funerals and arrests of those that aren’t willing to go to any length to stay clean and sober. Peter was well past the state of denial about his own disease. More frequent visits to the drunk tank, passing out on the street, and vomiting on a daily basis foreshadowed the end of the road, and it was not very far away.
At 12 Step meetings they often offer key fobs or coins to celebrate and acknowledge lengths of clean time. 30 days, 60 days, 90 days, 6 months, 9 months, and then yearly thereafter. Peter had taken a 60 day key fob on Tuesday, and talked about how proud he was of this incredible accomplishment. Make no mistake, 60 days without drinking, for an alcoholic, is a monumental feat. People who are not alcoholic seldom count how many days it’s been since their last drink, so one may not understand the import and significance of this.
Thursday morning Peter showed up to breakfast crying. He said his bags were packed, and he was leaving early. Peter was crying, because, he told us, he knew he was going out to drink. He stated very honestly that he was going to a bar, and would likely sleep on the street tonight. He was invited to stay for breakfast so we could talk about it. Peter stated he knew he would die, or harm someone else in a black out and land back in jail. In addiction lingo this is called The Hijacked Brain. There was nothing anyone could say or do to hold back this man back from certain destruction. Peter had packed up his 30 and 60 day key fobs, and left after breakfast.
Addictions can be cunning, powerful and baffling. Alcoholism creates a powerful thirst for self-destruction. Recovery can create a powerful thirst for life.