The Right To Refuse

There is something I know, which we all know, which is unfortunate at times but even still, the truth is no matter how much we love or care, no matter how we have the best interests at heart, and no matter how hard we try to help or “Fix” the problem, whether we like it or not, not everyone wants help. Not everyone accepts it. Not everyone agrees. Not everyone wants to stop what they’re doing and not everyone wants to change their life.


In the worst of circumstance and even under the stiffest consequences; even if the consequences are fatal, even if the result ends in long-term incarceration, people will still refuse the hands that try and help them.
I have watched people await their consequences and somehow, they still believe they can dictate their will to the judges or the powers that be.

I have seen people undergo the worst of cures. They are home and going at it alone, withdrawing, only to go back to the very thing that made them sick in the first place. Or maybe they give it a shot. Maybe they go in and find a detox but then they quit and go right back out once the wall start closing in.

I have seen people with all the help in the world, money, options, treatment facilities willing to help, and be faced with a choice of “This or that,” and still, they choose the other way.

It would be inaccurate to limit this to opiates. There are other drugs too. In fact, last year in 2018, 72,000 people died from opiate related deaths.
88,000 died from alcohol related deaths, but yet somehow, this fact is often unsaid.

People are dying at their own hands, slowly, day by day, and yet, here we are, living through an epidemic, but what are we doing about it?
How many people say, “It’s not my problem?”
But it is their problem.
It’s all of our problem.
People say not in my backyard.
But it is in their backyard.
This is in everyone’s backyard.
Make no mistake about it.

And I get it though
Most will not, do not, or cannot understand compulsion.
The saying which comes to mind is if you don’t know then you just can’t know.
I get it.
I get that people see substance abuse disorder as a weakness instead of an actual clinical disease, which has been proven, by the way, but yet, people still believe in their own ignorant stigmas.

Those people weak is what they say
They’re a drunk or a bum or a junkie is what we hear.
What do you expect from someone like that?
There is no this one or that one anymore.
There is no specific face or type or skin color anymore. It would be inaccurate to believe there is a common face. There is only a common problem. It would also be inaccurate to believe that people cannot and will not change.
Although not everyone chooses the healthier path, out of all the people I have met in this crazy world, the best people are people like me, or like us, like those who understand what it means to hurt and bleed from a sickness that no one else can understand.or

It is odd though. It is sad too.
It is sad to see people at their worst. It is saddest when people we care for view their own life through the shades of an inaccurate perception.
The addict and alcoholic . . .
Sometimes they think they can still say or do what they want. I have seen people in the most critical stages, and still, they try to negotiate a deal to manipulate the system.

I have seen people tell judges what they will and will not do. I have watched cases where defendants somehow believe they have a say in the matter.
However, I have also seen the expression on their faces when they learned they were wrong.
I’ve seen this, first hand, and had to say farewell to baby-faced kids whose crimes were too intense to go unpunished. I’ve watched them prepare to be sent away to a state-run facility to pull off a lengthy prison term.

I recall a late night when I arrived at a hospital after being deployed to the emergency room for an overdose. The man was a little younger than me, late 30’s, married with his wife by his bedside.
They were both sleeping when I arrived to do my interview. The man was sleeping in the bed. There were machines hooked up to his body.
He had oxygen tubes beneath his nose, head cocked to the side, mouth hung upon and eyebrows slightly lifted upwards.
She, meaning his wife, was sitting in a chair, head resting in her arms which were folded across her husband’s stomach. She was sleeping on him and keeping guard.

The hour was very late. It was passed midnight and the emergency room was quiet. Some areas were unused. The corridors were dim and shutdown like a machine at rest.
It seemed they kept the patients localized to one specific area. Most nights, however, this place is far from quiet.
Most times, there are patients in gurneys, doctors running around, nurses moving through the hallways, machines beeping, and the lights are on, bright as ever, with rooms overflowing with sick or injured.
But not this night.
This night was quiet.
Upon entry, I introduced myself to the patient. I explained who I was and why I was there. I identified myself as someone in recovery. I explained I was a specialist that is deployed to emergency rooms after a report of an overdose.
My main objective is to make a connection. My goal, of course, is to lead the client towards treatment. I was able to offer detox, long-term, short -term or outpatient treatment. I was hired as a recovery specialist and sent as a sober advocate to try and break the unending cycle, which we see all too often.
I took this job because of my friends, like Tommy or Joe, who overdosed and then just went back home to get high again.
I joined this fight because people are dying and rather than bitch or complain, I decided to do something to help make a change.

I wanted to remove the excuses people use when they say, “Nobody cares.”
And believe me.
People care.
At least I do

Most people worry when they find themselves in the hospital after an overdose. Most asked if I was a cop, which is why I learned a great trick. I learned to add that I am not a cop in my introduction.
Still leery, however, most deny their overdose. Often, people say they don’t know why they’re in the hospital. They’ll say they don’t get high. There must be some kind of mistake.
I usually stop this conversation by explaining, “You’re in the emergency room at a hospital. You have an I.V. in your arm, oxygen in your nose, and they administered Narcan to bring you back to life.”
Then I ask them, “Did you think you came here for the food and friends?”


In the case I have described above, the man was uninterested in speaking with me. He was seasoned. That’s for sure. This was not his first time in the hospital nor was it his first overdose.
He was previously clean for a long period of time but somehow lost his stride. Something happened and the man simply lost his way. He was dismissive but not disrespectful. He just wanted to go home.
His wife, however, was worried. She was crying. She was the one that made the call to 911 when she found her husband on the floor in their bedroom.
She knew he had a habit. He was trying to beat it, she said. But then he was just trying to maintain it, she told me. But then some nights he would be gene and just never come home.

I don’t want to lose him, she told me.
I don’t want to be the one that finds him dead on the floor.
And then she wept.
She wept the way a person weeps when she lose the love of her life; only, the love of her life was still alive and right next to her.

The husband was unmoved. He wanted to get out. He wanted to leave because although he didn’t say it; I knew he wanted to get back to the bags of heroin he had stashed someplace in his home.

In my time as a recovery specialist, I only had a few refusals. This was one of them. I spoke with this man for nearly an hour. Keep in mind, this does not mean everyone sought help but most were open to speaking with me.
But not this time.

He said I know you
I know who you are.
He told me he didn’t like people like me. It’s like I found God or something I was just trying to preach or spread the word.
Just go home, he said
Go back to your family.
No one asked you to be here.

You want everyone to live like you, he told me.
No, I told him. I just don’t like what I see.
I don’t want to see people die anymore.

His wife wiped the tears from her eyes the entire time. I left my card. I left him my numbers and explained any time, just call. I always answer and if I can’t answer, I always call back.

As much as I wanted to say more, I know that nothing I could say would make him change his mind. I know that his wife pleaded with him. She told him she couldn’t watch him do this anymore. His response was painful and cold

If you gotta go, you gotta go . . .

Her face dropped as if her heart lost all its blood.

I have watched great people become numb to the world and turn away their loved ones to kept their poison close to them. I have seen families destroyed. Parents heartbroken. I‘ve watched wives become single again and husbands become widowers.
As much as I might want to change the world, I understand wholeheartedly that no one will change unless they choose to change.
I know above all that when the student is ready the teacher will appear.

We can’t force this.
I understand that everyone has the right to refuse.
However, I also understand that we have the right to remove their excuses too.

Time to pull together folks
Time to take back our community and hopefully save some lives.

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