A story about willpower in addiction treatment

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He was in line at a local Starbucks when he noticed my new book on the table in front of me. “Hmmm,” he said to me. “Where’d you get that book?”

“Well,” I responded. “I wrote it. I’m putting together a curriculum for it.”

“I’m in recovery,” he said as many strangers say to me when they learn of my involvement within the addiction and recovery community. “Maybe I should write a book about Addiction one of these days. Man, the stories I could tell,” he said through a wistful tone and while shaking his head slowly.

“Maybe you should,” I said as the last I want to be is discouraging.

“Yeah, I should. But let me ask you, does your book talk about religion?”

“Not religion, specifically, but I do talk about how sacred life is in various ways. You should read it; I have a copy available, if you’re interested.”

“Nah, I’m not. My book wouldn’t have any religion or spiritual mumbo jumbo at all. I didn’t need to hear any of that crap to get sober. All I did was get tired of being sick and tired and stopped using. That was it. I didn’t go to any meetings or any rehab. I didn’t need any higher power. I’m all the power I need, because I just woke up one day and stopped using.”

“Impressive,” I said. “If you don’t mid me asking, and you don’t have to answer, but what did you use?”

“You name it. My drug was ‘more.’ More alcohol, more weed. Hell, I’d even snort more coke if I had the money. As long as there was ‘more,’ I was using it.”

“How long did you use ‘more’?”

“Hell, I started drinking when I was around thirteen. So, I’m forty now, and it’s been three years that I’ve been sober, so that’s about twenty-four years that I used,” he had stepped out of line and taken a seat at my table. I didn’t invite him to sit down; he just took a seat, picked up my book, and leafed through it. “It seems interesting, but I think mine would be better.”

“Oh yeah,” I said wearing a large smile. “In what way?” I was actually curious – people who write hypothetical books always seem to be ready for their Nobel Prize in literature and I’m always amazed at how good they are at marketing their non-existent works.

“Well, mine would be a lot simpler – none of the psychobabble you write about. Plus, I’ll make it a point to tell everyone that they don’t need no higher power of meetings. All they need is to be strong and they can quit and never look back.”

“Hmm,” I said. “Seems pretty simple, you sure you can fill a book with that message?”

“Well, like I told you, I got a lot of stories to share,” he said and laughed shook his head. “Yeah buddy, one day I’m gonna write a book and tell people all about them.”

He stood and left without even having ordered. He looked back and waved as he walked out the door. While I’m glad that smug dude was able to get sober, I disagree with him that it’s that simple. Or, maybe it is that simple, but it’s hard to actually do. For those who can just stop I say, do your thing. But for everybody else, I say, find that which is sacred for you, and live for that. If you do, your need to use will diminish in time. See a doc, if you need to, but don’t let that which is sacred fall out of focus. If you do, recovery will be all that much harder.

  1. Some of the best I advice I got when dealing with my son’s addiction was that there’s no way to tell who can recover on their own over time — grow out of it, or just use willpower — and those who can’t. Why take the risk of leaving it up to time or willpower?

    1. Man, you took the words right out of my mouth. In my clinical experience, very few can do it on “willpower.” There are treatment options, if someone wants recovery, I’m certain they’ll recover much better with help….thank you for pointing out the risk of not knowing!!

  2. I think most people can’t stop alone, I’m sure it’s possible, but for most people, at least what I’m from what I’ve read, most need to seek treatment from counseling, support groups, or what not.

  3. I know at least 10 people who were addicted. Nine of them got help through AA/NA meetings, methadone, counseling, church, or residential treatment (or any combination of these). Only one stopped ‘cold turkey,’ relapsed three times and died.

    Of the remaining nine people in recovery, three also died but that was several years after ceasing their use. Their deaths were the delayed results of drug/alcohol use: Hep C or cirrhosis.

    You showed compassion just by hearing the guy out.