A friend of mine recently posted to her social media account that she had lost a patient, who had been doing well, to addiction. In my new position I have been fortunate over the last couple years, not to have to have dealt with that. But, I, like a lot of my fellow counselors, doctors and medical staff, case workers, and volunteers who work with addiction know that pain all too well. My most recent case was before I came to Recovery Works NW and I received a message on social media from a former patient telling me that she appreciated the work I had done with her and some other nice things. Due to professional ethics we generally do not respond to people we work with on social media forums, and in this case I did not. Two days later I found out she had taken her own life that same day.
I don’t tell you that to garner sympathy. I tell you this because for quite some time this young woman had been doing quite well. And while I don’t know what was happening in her particular situation, I can guess. She forgot what she was and stopped doing the things necessary to survive.
Addiction is a disease. It’s that simple. Every bit as much as diabetes, cancer, heart disease, or Multiple Sclerosis. There is no cure. That’s right, no cure. Pax Prentis is full of s***. If you wanna blow how many ever thousands of dollars to go hang out in Malibu with his denial cult, knock yourself out. But, he’s wrong, and I have no doubt people died from drinking his particular brand of Kool-Aid.
So I wanted to lay out a few tips on surviving this disease, and it is about survival. You are in a fight for your life. If you don’t believe me, open a newspaper, watch the news, or just listen. People are dying by the millions. Most deaths that could have been prevented. So, you say you wanna survive? Well, listen up and try not to take this personally. It’s for your own good.
- Stop thinking you’re unique.- I know you’re mom told you that you were her special little snowflake. You’re not, at least not when it comes to your addiction. One of the most naive things I hear from people is how their story is different. People are so desperate to believe that they aren’t as bad as the other people they see or know with this disease. Look up addiction on Google. Look at images. See the “after” picture they use to scare elementary school kids. Look close. That’s you. Stop telling yourself you’re better then that person. You’re not. Just because your disease hasn’t progressed that far doesn’t mean that it won’t.
- Recovery is not for pansies.- People with long term recovery (and I am blessed to know quite a few of them) are bad asses. They have picked themselves up from a series of events so brutal that lesser people would have crumbled under the strain, and worked at putting their lives back together. They’re like the people you see on the news after a natural disaster trying to salvage from the wreckage what little they have left. One of the founding women of Alcoholics Anonymous (her name escapes me) opened several treatment centers. In every mess hall/cafeteria at those centers, hung a sign that said, “I never said this would be easy. I said it would be worthwhile.”
- Stop thinking that what works for all your other problems will work for addiction.- This is the great frustration for many people. Usually the more successful people are, the harder it is for them to grasp this. In clinical terms we refer to it as “Attempting normal problem solving skills,” and it tends to happen pre treatment. In layman’s terms it means you try and use things like willpower, bargaining or compromise, etc… to try and corral addiction into something you can manage or get a grip on. I’ll save you some pain if you are reading this and still suffering. It won’t work. The disease of addiction doesn’t play by those rules. It doesn’t subscribe to the same set of principals or guidelines that work for other areas of your life. It helps to think of addiction as having a life of it’s own. A separate entity whose sole goal is too create as much misery and chaos in your life as it can before it comes to its inevitable conclusion of killing you.
- Stop beating yourself up and get over yourself- Self pity, much like shame is a completely useless state of being unless you use it to figure out what has caused that state in the first place. STOP IT RIGHT NOW! You beating yourself up over having this disease is about as useful as doing the same thing if you had cancer. It serves no purpose. You did not choose to have addiction any more then my own 10 year old chose to have Type 1 Diabetes. While he doesn’t say it (cause like people dealing with addiction in recovery, he’s a bad ass) I am pretty sure he’d like to be more like other kids. Other kids don’t have to carry their “lunch box (diabetes kit),” every where or have to shoot themselves with a needle or prick themselves and draw blood multiple times a day. The novelty for him wore off a while ago; but he understands, like all of you need to, that he is going to have to do this for the rest of his life. When you were younger you didn’t walk into the “disease store,” look up at the shelf and say, “Oh, addiction. Well that looks fun. I’ll take that.”
- You need help.- Yes I know I said people in recovery are bad asses. Well, they didn’t become bad asses all on their own. We have so many paradoxes in recovery that it’s hard to keep them all straight some times. However, a favorite of mine is “You can’t do this alone, but all the work will be done by you.” Addiction thrives in isolation. It does its best work when you are cut off from people who can help you. One of the things I repeat to my patients, that I learned from someone with more wisdom then myself, is that “When Rick talks to Rick about Rick…we got problems.” Same goes for anyone else struggling with this disease. Your normal problem solving skills of being your own best counsel won’t work here. Addiction love it when you think it will though. When you start thinking “I got this,” is when your disease will once again rear it’s ugly head and start the process of dragging you back under the dark water. Maybe for the last time.
- Recovery is hard, but it’s not impossible.- I am going to back pedal a bit on my whole “you’re not unique,” stance. To clarify, you’re not unique in having addiction. You don’t have a special kind of addiction, but mom was right, partially about the whole snowflake thing. While there are certain things that most certainly increase your chances of not dying, the way you approach those is different for each individual. Support is huge. Let me say that again…SUPPORT IS HUGE! I’m not talking about your girlfriend/husband/mom/second cousin twice removed. I’m talking about recovery support. People in recovery who have walked in your shoes who and gets it. I don’t care where you get it. Just get it. Odds are your loved ones enabled you and probably increased your chances of dying. Harsh I know, but the truth none the less. Don’t worry we have programs for them too. There are several types of treatment, abstinence based, medications assisted treatment, and so on. What works for one may not work for another. You’re not a better or worse addict because you need more help. Getting it is what counts.
There is a ton more. Sooooo much more. Anyone with any real time, illicit drug and alcohol free is reading this and saying to themselves, “You forgot (fill in the thing you should do here),” and that’s why you need us. The more of us the better. I don’t have all the answers, but as a whole our not so little community of people in long term recovery have seen it all and one of us will be able to help.
At Recovery Works NW we have a staff that has decades of combined experience in dealing with addiction issues. Somewhere along the way each of us lost our minds and decided this is what we wanted to do for a living. From Tami at the front desk, the Dr Schwartz duo, Dr Rosenfeld, Alex, our Suboxone Coordinator/MA/guy who gets things done/superhero by night, to Jen and myself we all chose to be here. Are there easier ways to make a living? Probably, but everyone is here because we believe in what we do.
If you or a loved one is dealing with addiction issues please call us. We don’t have a cure, but we have a lot of great ways to help you avoid dying. Talk to you soon.