I was leading a Trauma Group a few years back. In this group, people shared their stories about pain and loss and grief and expressed their ways that all that suffering played a role in their addiction. One person, however, stood out to me because he didn’t say he was abused or that he watched someone die in war. What traumatized him, and continued to traumatize him, was getting busted back to jail for drug-related offenses. “I hate going back,” he said. “And having to say goodbye to my family over and over again.”
Now, it may seem simple to hear his words and respond with, “Well, if you hate it so much, quit getting into trouble by using drugs and alcohol.” But, it’s not that simple. We can’t tell someone who abuses drugs and alcohol that if they could just quit, all their problems would go away. The truth is far more complex and layered and because our mixed up world has criminalized addiction, a complicated disease becomes more and more complicated. When someone goes to war, he or she often comes home stricken with PTSD. And while I appreciate military service and hold PTSD-stricken former soldiers in my prayers, military service does end and no on has to go back to war when his or her service time ends. For too many people, their addiction almost ensures that they continue to have to go back to prison several times.
A friend of mine has been busted back to prison five (5) times for dirty urines analyses (UAs) . Heartless probation officers see a dirty UA and immediately call the cops for an arrest. My friend has a family; his father is a hard man but can’t contain his pain when he sees his son behind bars. There really isn’t an endpoint, either. The terms of my friend’d probation stipulate that a dirty UA is an automatic violation. What this stipulation means to me is that my friend will spend more time in prison than he will at his son’s soccer games. What really pisses me off is that my friend’s a good guy who wants with all that he is to be a good father and husband. But he can’t. He can no more avid using alcohol than a cancer patient can avoid chemotherapy.
But, we don’t see the pain we cause when we pass laws that lock otherwise innocent people people away for behaving in ways that they can’t control. We need treatment laws; we don’t need more sentencing laws that will treat drug-related offenders worse than rapists. When we ask stupid and simple questions like, why don’t junkies just quit using? I think a better thing to do is look in a mirror and ask the reflection: Why are we all so stupid and blind?
We cause suffering through our ignorance. We traumatize others through our lawmakers. Stupid is as stupid does and I pray with all that I am we learn to recognize our stupidity and end the trauma-cycle of re-incarceration.