It strange now, to be on this side of the doors, I mean. It’s strange to hear the echoes of people speaking in corridors of a treatment center, which at one point; I was one of those voices a long time ago. It’s strange to be involved with the legal system on this side of the table and to be almost like a man in-between, almost like a translator if this makes any sense.
Not even one year into this new venture and so much has happened. Some days are hard. Sometimes the stories I hear and the abuse I listen to makes me wonder what kind of world we live in. I have listened to stories of unthinkable heartbreak from parents and from children. And as for the addict stories, I find the angles they shoot from are countless and their resilience to endure and ability to remain in the unendurable is truly amazing.
I avoid the arguments regarding the disease concept of alcoholism and addiction. I do not enter my thoughts on this. I do not argue whether this is a choice or an actual clinical disease. In my opinion and from my standpoint, it doesn’t matter what it is. My point is how do we stop it?
What are we doing as a community? Where are our resources? Where are the families in our community meeting to put a stop to this? And if the answer to my “What are we doing” questions is nothing, then I have to ask what else has to happens before we all wake up, stop the judgment and stigma, and do something about this?
I’ve heard the outrage before. I’ve heard the angry opinions of those who resentfully say, “Let them die!” They say, “It’s their own damned fault. They did this to themselves.” I’ve hear people argue, “No body forced them to shove a needle in their arm. No one put a pipe in their mouth or pills in their body.” I’ve heard people argue, “No one told them to waste their by drinking all the time.”
I’ve also heard people express their thoughts on homelessness.
“It’s not my fault their homeless.”
I hear people argue, “Why don’t they just get a job?” I’ve heard people speak about homelessness as if it’s a choice. No one considers the reasons. No one considers mental health. They’ll say, “They’re only homeless because they’re lazy.” And they’ll say the same with addiction and alcoholism too. I’ve heard people speak out about street junkies and drunks. They call them lazy. But be assured, addiction is a full-time job. Everything done is done on its behalf. I’ve heard addiction and alcoholism be called a choice. I wonder though. I wonder of this was translated into a context which they could understand.
A choice, is it?
Mental illness is not a choice. Neither is depression or Bi-polar disorder. No one chooses to have schizophrenia nor do they choose physical ailments, handicaps, or body disfigurement. No one asks that pain management hook them into addiction.
What is addiction?
I’ve heard it best described (about drinking, that is) that alcohol is like being in a bad relationship with great sex. Hence, you keep coming back. I can understand that.
I know what the dictionary defines addiction as. It means to be enslaved to a habit. It means to be dependent upon or leashed to a habit. In truth, we are all addicted to something somehow.
There is somewhere around 35 different 12-Step programs. Most commonly known is Alcoholics Anonymous. But there are others, such as Narcotics Anonymous. Then there’s Gambler’s Anonymous. There are 12-Step groups for food, eating, sex, love and relationships, and work.
I don’t know much about anyone else’s addiction. I don’t put myself in other’s life or pretend to know or understand it all. I don’t say that I went through the worst of it because in comparison; I am a high bottomed statistic. It is only by fate that I am on this side of the statistical margin.
I know what addiction means to me. I know what sobriety means to me and I know what depression is to me. I understand what mental illness is from my standpoint and I understand what abuse is, what bullying is, and what it means to feel diseased, unlike, and unwanted. However, I don’t think I chose to know these things. And I’m not sure if these things chose to know me, —but in all honesty, I don’t think choice is the matter. I came across an old poem the other day about a friend of mine I lived with back at The Farm.
“This is about a man known as Mike the Rocket
It was a long time ago, but I knew him well. He had his own beat and his own style He had his own way of being and doing things. Perhaps what I knew best of him is what put him to the end
He was caught in the habit; otherwise known as casualty with a needle in his arm and a fallen soldier to a war that never ended
I often wonder if he had known, would he have gone differently, and chose another way. But now, the recollections of our youth seem empty, —like the old field we used to walk through just up at the top of the hill behind Father Anthony’s house and away from the barn
It was a long time ago, but I knew him well. I knew him as well as anyone could know a friend. Yet, I wonder if he remembered the bond of brotherhood or the way he stood by me through my toughest December of my life.
I wonder if he knew that he changed lives (like mine). Did he know the sobriety that I learned from him is the exact same sobriety that saved my life? I suppose this what irony means. He taught me how to live life a certain way and the opposite of his lesson is what took Mike’s life away
Did you ever think about the farm? Ever think about the barn crews? Or the end of summer when we went haying in the fields? We were far from the city that kept us sick. We were separated from ourselves. We were young and we were happy.
Did you know how many people looked up to you and that you were loved? Did you ever know how much I loved you?
Maybe you did.
But in the end,
I guess it didn’t matter
Nevertheless, I understand. I understand that our own beauty escapes us. I know the nod can blind the heart and stain our blood. The needle shoves in to soothe the body because the sickness is just that incredible.
So as the dawn resolved in color, your life gave in to night. One man dies; another life is revived by birth.
Rest well, Mike”
I remember the day I wrote this. I remember crying while writing this too. Of all things I remember, I can’t say I remember thinking this was Mike’s choice. I don’t think he chose to die. I don’t think he chose to let his family down or his children grow without a Dad.
Nevertheless, whether it was a choice or not, —the tragedy still remains. But I’m not here to bitch and complain about it. No . . . I’m here to do something about it. That’s why I’m sitting where I’m sitting. That’s why I do what I do, and whether I make a dent or knock a hole straight through; I am here to have an impact.
What are you here to do?