recover integrity Tag

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Seeking Help for Addiction: Where to Begin?

Are you questioning your relationship to drugs or alcohol? Do you think you might have addiction or alcoholism? Has the problem passed some kind of threshold where you believe something needs to change? 

 

How do you know if that’s happened? Well, first of all, I would say…you know it’s happened when you’re asking yourself these questions.

 

Does that mean it’s happened permanently? Does that mean it is exactly the same as your uncle? Maybe not. But you know, when you’re asking that question, the vast majority of the time…you know. 

 

And so it’s not really the right question to ask.

 

Take Action By Asking Yourself…

What do I do about this? 

 

The hardest part is to be vulnerable enough to pick up the phone and reach out to a friend or relative who’s been through something and say, “Here’s what’s going on. I need help.” 

 

That is by far the hardest part…And there’s a reason why that’s so hard.

 

Fearing the Next Step…and It’s Okay

It’s not just the vulnerability of being seen in a weak moment. It’s also that some part of you knows that this problem is going to take a lot of work. Fearing taking the first step on a journey that is going to be pretty long and really tough..but it may be the best life decision you ever made. 

 

Of course, you’re not necessarily thrilled about it. You may not even feel like you chose it yourself if family and friends intervened.  

 

…But asking for help is the first step. 

 

Finding Addiction Treatment: What You Should Know

The second piece of that is, how do I find good help? 

 

Nowadays, that’s very difficult. You go on the internet and type keywords in Google…

 

….Suddenly you have everybody and their mother marketing towards you. They can solve your problems. They’ve got all the solutions. 

 

So I never recommend using the internet–not reviews, not any of this–for choosing the beginning of your recovery.

The Better Way to Find Addiction Treatment

It may take a little more work, but the results can save you a lot of time, money, and disappointment. 

 

You need to look around and see who’s in your community. Start talking to people. Find somebody you trust and then maybe that person knows somebody that they trust. Eventually you can get a firm word on an addiction treatment program that is actually making a difference in people’s lives.

 

Sure, all this asking around may be uncomfortable…even embarrassing. 

 

Consider attending some AA or NA meetings. The individuals at these meetings know what you are going through–they’re not judging you–they can give you some valuable insights.  

 

Persistence pays off. You’ll connect with someone who’s been to a good treatment program. Or maybe somebody who knows a great addiction therapist, counselor, mentor, case manager, or interventionist…whatever it is you’re looking for. 

 

Now more than ever, I think it is important to seek treatment with a personal recommendation from somebody in your community. 

 

And, of course, always reach out to me and Recover Integrity.

 

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Adapting Treatment During A Pandemic…What’s Next?

It’s been a little over a year since COVID-19 has become a harsh reality changing the course of all our lives.

The pandemic presented inconceivable challenges and altered the way we reach those struggling with substance abuse and addiction.

During this uncertain time, Recovery Integrity adapted and created protocols to ensure the safety of our clients and staff.

We’re entering a time where there is a light at the end of the long, dark tunnel. Restrictions are cautiously being lifted. Vaccines are becoming more widely available. Life as normal may not be within reach…but we are getting closer.

Of course, we can’t let our guard down. And we have to address the concerns, anxieties, and trauma caused by COVID-19.

Let’s face it: Some that had a solid footing in recovery at the beginning of last year may have regressed or suffered emotionally during this difficult time.

Social isolation, loss, lack of support, fear that any interaction may lead to a life-threatening infection…these are very real issues that affect recovery.

What’s the best way to move forward?

Recover Integrity believes this is a two-fold approach: addressing addiction and the trauma caused by COVID-19.

Prior to the pandemic, Recover Integrity offered trauma-focused care. After all, many individuals struggling with addiction also experienced trauma at some point in their lives.

Our knowledge of the effects of trauma on a person’s overall well-being allows us to address the emotional struggles many faced as COVID-19 disrupted our lives.

It’s time to process, regroup, and make efforts to move forward…while cautiously acknowledging the pandemic is still a reality.

We are all still learning to adapt. Recover Integrity is constantly evaluating our treatment model to be a beacon for those suffering from addiction during a pandemic.

Feel free to reach out to discover how we are helping those suffering with addiction during the pandemic.

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The Need to Control and Addiction

One of the common things that I come across with people that are trying to recover. So I sort of look at more universal elements that mean the thing about addiction, is it’s not really appropriate, it’s not accurate. To say… oh addicts do this, addicts do that. Because there’s a huge amount of personality, and… diversity, in the addicted population. Right? I mean, people– people are not the same, at all. 

 

One of the things you want to understand is what are the characteristics, that you do seem to cross boundaries.

 

you can say, okay, those– these would definitely want to get to, and I’ve talked about in another piece, around people-pleasing which I see you know, something like 75%, of people over accommodated people-please. And they don’t have healthy boundaries and they don’t know how to assert themselves, to create a sense of self in their lives. [/vc_column_text]

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The other thing I see is issues around control.

 

 Human beings in general, addicts in particular, are people suffering from addiction, in particular, tend to be control freaks. And there are lots of ways that– that manifests.

Somebody who’s a control freak isn’t necessarily an overt control freak. 

 

Like if I look at myself, and I say, what are the ways that I defended against the world and attempted to predict and control outcomes so that I could feel safe? I was– I was never overtly controlling. As you can imagine, I did it with words… and rationale. Right, if you hear me speak… my biggest defense mechanism, the way to keep people away from me, was to understand what was happening around me, try to be predictive and to use a language, as a barrier.

I could hypnotize people with my speech, that was one of the ways that I maintain control. 

 

It’s why for me, it took me a long time to figure out how to do individual therapy, talk therapy because I’m good with words. And so I can… talk and talk and talk and talk and I’m not necess– you know, once I had worked on a lot of the shame, I can even talk about the issues but it wasn’t having a transformative impact.

The talk therapy, group therapy was really good for me. 

 

Group therapy I had so many eyes on me, that I couldn’t control… each person, because I got some you’re looking at me over here, and over here and this and it was too much. And so it made me more vulnerable, which is what I’m trying to do and try to let go of control.

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Boundaries, Assertiveness, and the Right to Say “NO”

 

In Recovery you need to have boundaries, assertiveness, and use your right to say “NO”

 

Usually, people don’t want to be in a relationship because they don’t want to be with that person anymore. The question that the party asks that is being broken up with is usually, Why? But they don’t mean it. Because nine times out of 10 there’s only one answer because I don’t want to be with you anymore. 

 

 

Human beings are naturally kind of narcissistic. 

 

So somebody breaks up with me, and I love them, and they don’t love me that I don’t understand. But I do understand because there are people who have loved me who I didn’t love in the same way. So I get that, right? We have all of these complicated interactions that require a lot of clarity, about what my rights are. And when I do that, it’s sort of like cleaning my room. 

 

 

People that can’t handle boundaries, are going to leave your life relatively quickly. 

 

You’re going to attract people that have good boundaries, and so, your whole life system changes real quickly when you begin to do that. It’s hard work and it’s uncomfortable.

I usually start back when people smoke before they vape I used to start with people with cigarettes because there’s a whole game of cigarettes and everybody smokes. And a lot of them don’t have any money. So ever got the cigarettes, it’s like, you know? if it’s not Newport’s. Now, they’ll come up to you and be like, “Oh man, can I bump a cigarette.” you know, and it’s like, eventually, like, Oh, my God, I’m giving away all my cigarettes, you know, what do I do? So you start making excuses. You know, so people come down and say, “Look, I get a cigarette.” and you say, “It was my last one.” And that’s the common responsible distributed rehab. 

 

 

If you don’t want to, you don’t want just say no, right? 

 

You say, “Oh, it’s my last one. I left the box in my room.” you know, I’m not going to go up to get it, right. One of the things that I have people practice with cigarettes and things like this are plenty of examples, is say no without qualification. And if they keep harassing you about it, ask them if, if you have round heel the right to say no. 

 

 

If you want to learn how to be a little more authentic and assertive, be honest with people.

 

If somebody wants something from you, and you don’t want to give it to them, and you can’t justify giving it to them, except for that you feel bad. That’s not a good reason to give somebody something most of the time, you know unless it’s saving their life or they’re hungry or something like this. 

 

 

So basically, it’s training people how to be authentic

 

I don’t want to do this. I don’t want to hang out with you. And training people how to say that. No, I’m not going to give you a cigarette. Why is your last one? No, it’s not my last one. So why aren’t you giving me a cigarette? Well, hang on before we go down this road of why I’m not giving you a cigarette. Can we agree, that I have the right to say no to you about it? If they say yes, that’s the end of the conversation, you say Oh, great, then we don’t need to discuss this other thing because you just get that I have the right to say no. If they say no, my direction will be just Walk away. If somebody doesn’t think you have the right to say no in a relationship, I would just walk away 

 

 

A great part of recovery is when you start drawing those boundaries and being respectfully assertive in your life, and seeing what it does for your life.

 

A little territorial about how much of yourself your going to give, you suddenly start to get clear about who you are when you stop and start then you begin to have a sense of self, then you begin to have a moral code you made to feel good about yourself and you attract people around kind of people you want to hang out with, that also know how to say yes or no and appropriate wise. Next thing you know you got a different life.

 

 

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The Role of People-Pleasing and Codependency in Addiction 

The Role of People-Pleasing and Codependency in Addiction 

 

When you’re working with people that are in early recovery, they suffer from the same kind of orientations and disorders that exist in the culture at large, just usually in a more extreme way. 

 

Over accommodation or people-pleasing

So one of the things that come across a lot is what we call over accommodation or people-pleasing, and it means sort of overextending the boundaries of myself in a way that causes me a deficit for the sake of the other, you know, psychologically call that kind of co-dependence, it’s on that spectrum. And it’s a really big deal.

 

 “A lot of people that you find coming into recovery have felt that they’ve been living for the world and they don’t really get theirs. And so there’s becomes using drug and alcohol.” 

 

Straightening out what your boundaries are 

You know, the metaphor for me is like, okay, I do everything I’m supposed to do. I mean, the world asks of me during the day and at night, I hide in the closet and drink vodka and smoke meth, you know, or whatever it is, that’s for me, the rest of its for the world because the world’s been demanding on me since I was born. You can think about that dynamic. And so one of the things that needs to happen in treatment is you have to straighten that out.  

 

You have to help people become more assertive. 

Assertive is a tricky word. I don’t mean asserting your will on others. But I mean, being clear about what your boundaries are, and being clear about how to draw those boundaries in a way that’s effective in your life. So if you’ve been people-pleasing for a long time, you have to get clear about how to assert boundaries. And you have to be clear about what your rights are and asserting those boundaries. So where people are confused, is they’re confused about where their rights stop and start in the interpersonal reactions. I’ll give interactions. 

 

When I was working in treatment

I remember I walked into a lobby, and there was a woman who I liked quite a bit, who was working there. And she said, “Hey, I sent you a Facebook friend request. Did you get it?” And I said, “Yeah, I got it. I saw that friend request.” And she said, “Well, are you going to friend me?” And I said, “No, I’m not going to accept your friend request.” And she gives me this look like you know, she’s offended. And she says, “Why not?” And I said, “Well, I don’t, you know, I don’t want to.” And she said, “Well, my roommate, who you know, she sent you a Facebook friend request, and you accepted that friend request.” And I said, “Yes, I did.” And what did she say? She said, “Why didn’t you accept my Facebook request?”

 

And you should know this a teaching from my mentor. When somebody says “why” to you and interpersonal reaction. They don’t really mean it. They don’t want to understand it. It’s really a complaint. Right? And so you go, is that a question or a complaint that “why”. I need to clarify that. But in that circumstance, I said, “Can I ask you a question?” She said, “Yeah.” And I said, “Do I have the right to decide who my Facebook friends are?” She said, “Yes.” I said, “Okay, good. We’re clear.” 

 

Let me ask you another question. “Were you ever married?” She said, “Yes”. I said “Did you have a wedding?” She said “Yes.” I said, “Did you invite some people to your wedding?” She said, “Yes.” I said, “Were there other people you didn’t invite?” “So the other people I didn’t invite?”. “And did you ever have somebody who didn’t invite to your wedding come up to you after the wedding?” And say, “Why didn’t you invite me to your wedding?” And she said, “In fact, I did.” And I said “What did that feel like?” She said, “It didn’t feel good.” I said, “Great. Now you understand this interaction. Right?”

 

And now I’m being a little bit you know, humorous or whatever. But it’s an example of how we get confused in our boundaries of what we’re obligated to do. Where do my obligations stop and start? If I’m in a relationship with somebody, and I don’t want to be with them anymore, which is usually why people break up out of relationships, right? 

 

Usually people don’t want to be in a relationship because they don’t want to be with that person anymore. 

The question that the party asks that is being broken up with is usually “why”, but they don’t mean it. Because nine times out of ten there’s only one answer, “Because I don’t want to be with you anymore.” Obviously, on the other end, that’s hard for you to understand because human beings are naturally kind of narcissistic. And so somebody breaks up with me and I love them and they don’t love me that I don’t understand. But I do understand because there are people who have loved me who I didn’t love in the same way.

 

 

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The Moral Aspects of Treatment

Remove the Moral Aspects of Addiction Treatment?

 

I talk a lot about the moral aspects of treatment and I am very resistant to removing morality from the conversation about addiction and recovery. I understand why people want to do that. It’s to bring down the stigma to address the confusion around the free will issues, for it to be covered by insurance, I agree with all that. I agree with the reasons. My hesitation is that there is a huge moral component to addiction and recovery, and let’s talk about what that looks like in recovery.

 

In recovery, the moments where we gain the most growth are the same moments where we gain the most growth in life.

 

One of the most pivotal moments of growth in my life, there are moments when I’m in a moral conflict and I’m not sure what to do. What is the right thing to do in this moment? If I’m in a marriage and I don’t know if this marriage is working and I have kids and I’m trying to figure out– I’m- some of them in this world conflict, what is the right thing for me to do? If I’m tempted to go into a career largely for money, but it’s not my passion, I’m in a moral conflict what is the right thing for me to do.

 

The most serious conflicts in our life are these moral conflicts with competing claims on each end.

 

The reason why I’m hesitant to remove that from the conversation is, it is the moral conflicts that induce inhuman beings the most important parts of ourselves. In order for me to wrestle with a moral conflict, I have to draw on all of these different parts of who I am and my personality. Right?

 

So a common conflict and treatment that happens is, my roommate snuck out and got drunk and I know. My roommate comes back and says, “Don’t tell anybody,” and suddenly there’s a couple of things happening.

 

One, I am asked to keep a secret. And in general, secrets, those kinds of secrets are not the healthiest things to keep inside of us.

 

Number two, I’m in this interesting quandary around loyalty to my friend, but on the other end I’m in an interesting quandary about being honest with the people that are helping me: counselors, therapists, the community at large and treatments. I have these competing claims. I also have me. I don’t want to be walking around with lies in myself. I don’t want my friend to get in trouble, which is a normal thing, but I don’t wanna be dishonest, and suddenly I’m in the midst of a moral conflict.

 

What somebody does in a predicament can be the make or break moment in somebody’s treatment experience.

 

When somebody can say, “Hey, you put me in a really bad position by asking me to keep your secret because you act it out and I’m not willing to co-sign that with you, and it wasn’t okay, and you need to go work this out because you’ve put me in a bad situation. You’ve put you in a bad situation. You’re an alcoholic who allegedly is here to get sober. I get that you don’t do this thing perfectly but you need to straighten this out,” right? That’s a high level response. That’s not the government’s fault, but imagine if somebody is used to cosigning everybody’s everything all the time in life, they’ve engaged in a program of recovery. They strike them, they built what we call a moral core, some center about what the right thing to do is. They’re challenged, they’re in the middle. They’re stuck there in the hallway. They don’t know whether to go left, whether to go right. Right? Suddenly it’s like, okay, and they have that conversation. You know what that does for me. That’s everything. That’s the turning point for people’s recovery.

 

The moment when you have the difficult conversation with your parents or your loved one that you’ve never had, we build that moral core.

 

Begin to put yourself in the equation. That’s where we get the most growth. Not only do we get that growth morally, we also get it psychologically. We are moral psychological beings that come hand-in-hand. Right? To be– if you meet somebody who’s evil, which is a moral term whether you believe in evil or not, but behaves in evil ways depending on their level of narcissism and the way in which they act out, you would have a difficult time saying, “Well, that person is mentally healthy. They’re just evil.” Right? In general, those things come together. Right?

 

So, you know, to use the extreme example. Adolf Hitler was not only evil. There’s such a thing exists. He was also mentally ill and a methamphetamine addict. Those things come together. So our moral behavior in our psychological wellness, they’re integrated with each other. We have to understand that. So we cannot remove morality from the equation of recovery addiction. We have to figure out how we incorporate that in the conversation about well-being, psychological well-being, spiritual well-being, etc.

 

 

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Moment of Grace

What to expect in this episode:

 

  1. When I first came into recovery it was like a giant mountain I didn’t know how to climb
  2. People were giving me info, love, encouragement, support, so I began The Climb
  3. You begin to plateau, but then you are granted a moment of grace – when all those burdens flip off your shoulders and become a foundation…

 

My Moment of Grace

When I first came into recovery, I just remember kind of walking into treatment and all this information that was given, and it was like a giant mountain and I was like “Whoa, how am I ever going to climb that thing?”

 

And there were people that were encouraging me and giving me information and giving me love and giving me care, and so I started to climb the mountain and I’m like “Whoa, this is – okay, I can do this”. And then it just felt like the progress was slow, it was like trying to climb a hill in roller skates, you know.

 

And everything felt so heavy, but there’s something that happens in that recovery journey. It’s not something that can be measured. It’s not scientific. It’s not in any manuals. It’s something close to grace and all of those things that are weighing you down, all of those burdens that are making you heavy and making you small and making you feel like you’ve never be able to stand up straight.

 

You’ll never be able to look yourself in the eyes. You’ll never be able to feel love, none of that. Something happens in an unmeasurable instant, at some point in that journey, where all of those rocks on top of you, all of those burdens, all of that weight, it just flips.

 

And suddenly, you have this new capacity, you have – you’re in touch with something different. I call it Hope, you can call it what you want and you’re able to travel up to the top of that hill. And once you get to the top of that hill and you’re standing on top of that mountain, once you’re there, there’s nothing to do but just dance, because you’re free and you’re dancing the dance of recovery.

 

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Things I Don’t Like About Contemporary Treatment: A Meditation From The Inside

Dr. Erich Fromm, one of my teachers, inspires the title, and much of the content here.

 

There is a huge shift transpiring in the field of drug and alcohol treatment, it is happening rapidly and systemically, it will be for the worst and difficult to reverse. Warning: the field of treatment is being infiltrated by people who are emotionally disconnected and un-empathetic towards the plight of the people they claim to serve.

 

What the treatment industry used to look like: A group of people who had an experience of transformation becoming missionaries and willing to do whatever it took to help addicts and alcoholics. Twelve step, spirituality, new clinical techniques, whatever helped people recover it was done with spirit, intention and legitimacy. I am not idealizing the past, there were always unscrupulous operators, but they were the exception rather than the rule (with some large scale exceptions in the 80’s treatment bubble).

 

What’s happening now is something different: salesmen, hustlers, and young wealthy kids who want to show their parents they can be successful, open treatment programs, for the wrong reasons and with no experience. Many Drs. And psychiatrists enter into the field as consultants or hired employees and get tempted by money and use their degrees as cache to become owners and operators of there own centers, these too tend not to be missionary healers, but more business savvy narcissists. What’s happening now in treatment is systemic, a result of the breakdown of ethics and spirit in the treatment field. All of this has come together in a near perfect storm to create an industry that seems to have lost its way. The new breed of treatment centers is looking at how to maximize profits, buy and sell addicts care, and become as large and efficient as possible. It is the wrong approach.

 

One of the contributing factors to this shift is the influx of narcissistic and egoistic personalities that own and operate treatment programs. Every day I hear about the shenanigans of the owners of large “successful” treatment programs. It is clear many of the owners of private rehabs have not done their own spiritual work. Many of these owners are pathological. They tend to have the psychological profile of compulsive gamblers: Mildly (or majorly) anti-social, grandiose, charismatic, addicted to the cycle of winning and loosing, self sabotaging, self-absorbed and lacking in empathy.

 

What makes this situation deeply troubling, as opposed to another unfortunate by-product of profit-centered capitalism, is that recovery once was a sacred field, largely due to Alcoholics Anonymous.

 

We have reached a moment in the field of treatment where events and industries have conspired to create the perfect storm. The issue is greed.

 

Treatment, when done correctly can be a profitable business, and treatment with a focus on profit (over care) can be insanely profitable. Treatment has now become an attractive field for those looking to make a quick buck. On some level what is happening is no different than what happened in the mortgage industry in the early 2000’s. The treatment bubble began to attract these characters (en masse) with the introduction of mental health coverage from insurance in conjunction with the capacity for huge online marketing efforts on Google.

 

How has this happened? There is a lot more money in the field than there was ten years ago. There is also, unfortunately, a growing customer base, as our country is in the midst of the worst heroin epidemic it has ever seen, and it is an epidemic affecting not only the lower, but also the middle and upper class that can afford to spend more on treatment. This has not gone unnoticed by venture capitalists, real estate investors, huge multinational corporations; they all see treatment as an industry they can capitalize on.

 

One of the reasons this works is that when families or clients choose to come to treatment all they know is the marketing, not the treatment itself. Unlike a restaurant, customers cannot just try the product and decide if they like it and go somewhere else. Rehab is a big investment. From the outside (or the website) there seems to be no difference between genuine experience legitimate treatment, and large commercial insurance farms. Financial success in this industry has little to do the quality of treatment and everything to do with marketing. The more one can focus their resources on marketing the more clients one will get. It has become a marketing game to fill beds. As a result you see the greediest operators achieving enormous success, putting marketing first (over care). The clients who don’t get the care they need don’t have a voice because they disappear back to where they came from, or sometimes, tragically, die. No one takes responsibility, and the most vulnerable among us are being exploited.

 

And, we now have the recovering community itself getting involved. Which in many ways is a great thing, but when a recovering person in the first couple years of recovery without much experience or know how opens a treatment center, the core of the treatment matches the core of the founder: shaky, compromised and not yet fully integrated.

 

So what does good treatment look like? A good treatment center is one that exemplifies healthy living, strong ethics, strong boundaries, expertise (through experience) and lots of love. The men and women in the trenches of their recovery, with an interest in transitioning into the field of recovery, become counselors, therapists, techs; they go back to school learn their crafts and 10 years later they have worked their way to positions of power, legitimately.

 

The best of us in the field are those who feel an obligation to our fellow person, see ourselves in the people we help, recognize our own limitations, can empathize deeply with suffering, and have the strength to help create a safe and sacred place for those in need to recover.

 

The other day I was visiting with a young man who just opened a new treatment center. I was speaking with him and the clinical director for longer than I had anticipated.   It was clear he was excited about his new business and also clear that he was excited to be helping those who need it. We talked about ethics, spirit and fighting the trends of our industry. Treatment programs like his and mine, are becoming the exception. We are people first, we’ve done our own work, we have experience, we are small, smart, and we are values based. I am having these conversations more and more (with colleagues, with parents, with clients, with peers); there is a small underground group of us forming, perhaps a specter is haunting the treatment field: the specter of integrity!

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The Human Side of Treatment Behind the Opioid Epidemic: Ryan’s Story

I was working in residential treatment a few years back; one Friday night, a new resident, Ryan, approached me. He was a teenager, 5’6” with big, kind eyes, natural dark circles, and a face that turned red at every feeling or change in temperature. He asked, vulnerably, if he could speak with me. I took him to my office, we sat down and I asked, “What’s up?

 

I got out of Heroin detox two days ago. I’m 8 days sober. And I’m craving shooting heroin again.”

 

I could see that he was quite sincere and on the razors edge of going this way or that. I looked him in his eyes and asked him: “How are you going to use?” This question surprised him; I think he thought I was going to talk him out of it.

 

 

I’ll smoke it,” he said dryly.

“Do you have Heroin on you now?”

No,” he said.

I asked, “How will you get Heroin?”

“From my dealer” he responded, clearly getting impatient and annoyed.

I proceeded, “Do you have money?”

“Ten bucks” he answered.

I said “Give it to me,” and he did, and I put it in my pocket. “Do you have a cellphone?” I asked.

“No,” he was beginning to catch on to our game.

“How are you going to call him?” I pressed.

With some finality he said, “I’ll panhandle, get the money, I’ll call him from a payphone at the gas station, and get high.”

“So he will come drop it off and you’ll get high at the gas station?”

No.” Ryan said,  “my dealer doesn’t deliver, I’d have to take the bus to Inglewood and meet him.”

I continued, “After you meet him and get the dope where will you get high?”

“I’ll get some tinfoil and a straw from burger King and smoke it in the bathroom there.”

“And then what?” I asked accusingly.

“I’d be high,” he replied.

“And then what?” I asked.

“I’d go home,” he answered.

To your parents?” I asked.

“ No, they kicked me out. I’d come back here,” he admitted.

“To rehab?” I asked, “and then what?”

“I’d get sober,” he answered.

“You’d get sober? But you’re sober now!” I replied, too loud, revealing my inner judgement.

Yes but when I am High I really want to be sober,” he said.

Aha. “So let me get this right, in order for you to stay sober you have to get high?”

 

 

Two days later, Ryan was on the street getting high. Ryan wanted to be sober. But he wanted to be high, also. By the eighth day in treatment and sober, he had run out of motivation to stay sober. Why did Ryan need to get high in order to stay sober? When he went into his memory he realized that when he was high, he found the motivation to get sober; the crisis of addiction created an energy, a desire in him to get well. Ryan was cutoff, he was stuck in his own thinking, and his thinking was cut off from the world. He was stuck in a narcissistic bubble of addiction. Ryan was rational, but his reasoning was driven by an unconscious craving to get high. He didn’t want to get high, that’s why he asked to talk to me, but it was almost as if once he engaged me he was sleep talking, unable to wake up and stay where it was safe and welcoming. Underneath the mechanics of Ryan’s thinking there was something else going on. Ryan was numb, and underneath his numbness was pain, fear and sadness.

 

I wonder if I had been able to break out of my role in that moment: warm and clever counselor and instead become loving and vulnerable with him, would the effect have been different? If I had held his hand, been there with him 2 or 3 hours or however long was necessary, listened to his pain, given him a hug, could I have broken through to a different part of him and changed his trajectory? As it was, I believe we were both stuck in our roles at the time, him the out-of-control addict in need of saving and me the young-smart-(slightly)-distant counselor. Ryan recovered from his condition; I am still working on mine.

 

Ryan ended up in treatment two weeks later and has been sober ever since. So it turns out he was right, he had to get high in order to get sober.

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