In my years of working and living with addicts, I have learned, all too well, that there is no “one size fits all” way to deal with and “help” addicts. I’ve found that there are very different ways and means to recovery; also, I have found that there are many different types of addicts. While I completely agree with the idea that Addiction is a measurable and progressive disease that reshapes the brain, I also believe that how a person “wears” his Addiction is as individual as a fingerprint.
To me, there are three (3) basic types of addicts that frame their behavior in specific ways. The first type of addict is the one who is ambivalent towards his addiction. This addict knows that his addiction causes problems, but those problems aren’t causing enough harm to make him want to seek treatment. Therefore, he maintains his addiction, willingly or not. The second type of addict is the one who wants to find health and seeks ways to recover relationships he lost. He may use still, but he acts towards his own best and healthy interests in spite of the addiction. The third type of addict is, to me, the most confounding and difficult. This addict LIKES his addiction and WANTS to keep it alive. He has no interest in recovery or health, he just wants to do all he can to get the object of his addiction. For example, heroin addiction comes with a very specific culture. The heroin addict who likes his addiction also likes the culture with which it comes. He likes his life, such as it is, and places heroin above every other aspect of his life.
The thing is that there is a common misconception that addiction is a one stop shop and that all addict should be treated a certain way. Regardless of how that treatment looks like to a person, it’s not really fair to apply it to all addicts. For example, thinking that all addicts are morally weak isn’t realistic thinking. Also, thinking that all addicts are worthy of compassion is also probably flawed reasoning. See, while all people are worthy of compassion, the type of addict who likes his addiction probably doesn’t really see himself in a compassionate way. Yes, we should honor his humanity, but NEVER at the expense of our own.
Professional treatment providers are trained to handle even the most difficult type of addict. But even then, some addicts simply don’t want the “normal” life. There is a lot of payoff in hustle – the simple rush of even acquiring a drug provides some measure of intensity that can’t be had in a day-to-day life. Yet, we try to project our version of health onto this person who simply thinks that what we have to offer isn’t worth a crap.
There are at least three (3) types of addicts that I’ve come across and two out of those three really can be reached; they are tired (or getting tired) of being sick and tired. But the addict who likes hi s addiction simply cannot be reached by an intervention or by begging or by ultimatums. Those addicts require a higher order of intervention. We can hope, but in reality, hope isn’t a tactic.