I don’t know why some people end up lost within an addiction while others don’t. Nor can I say with any certainty that a given treatment plan will work. In situations of great complexity, of which addiction is one, there are often so many things at play that pinpointing one reason over another can be difficult and tricky. Plus, I think the undercurrent of our human lives is that there isn’t anyone who can say that there is one single and absolute truth. One person’s messiah can be another’s pariah.
What are we supposed to do?
Sometimes, treatment programs and treatment providers believe that theirs is the best and sometimes, the only way, to recovery. But I think that’s an ignorant and naive approach. While I’m sure there’s evidence that various programs do work, I don’t believe that any program works for everyone. Over the years, I’ve taken a lot of heat because I don’t exclusively advocate 12-step programs. While I think 12-step programs do work for some people, I just don’t think they work for everyone. As a matter of fact, I’m willing to bet that there’s people for whom 12-step programs work against their recovery. There’s just too much complexity in our human lives to think that 12-step programs are the absolute and only solution.
What do I recommend? That depends upon the person with whom I’m working. My approach is always focused on learning: That is, struggling with something can provide rich material from which to learn. But, what someone needs to learn is not for me to say. It might sound cut and dried: someone who uses should learn not to use. But it’s neither that simple nor is that cut and dried. Really, what anyone needs to learn about their struggles is for that person, and that person alone, to decide. My role is to guide them along their path, but the path is theirs alone. I can safely say that no one can own someone else’s path. We walk alone in our shoes and no one can say what’s right or wrong for anybody else.
If I found a lamp, rubbed it, and then had the opportunity to make a wish granted by a genie, I would wish that all people owned their own path and didn’t get frustrated by someone else’s. When someone approaches me about someone in his or her life who’s addicted to a substance, more often than not, they really want to know how to fix that person. Most people want the “addict” in their lives to not be an addict anymore. While on the surface that sounds like a good thing to want, the first thing I tend to work with is the basic question: Why? If the rationale is for health and happiness, then I believe we can move forward. However, when the rationale is based upon right versus wrong and good versus bad, then I can’t help: I’m no one’s moral police.
Besides, maybe it’s someone’s karma to struggle with alcohol or maybe it’s someone’s life lesson to kick heroin. Maybe some people just like using and don’t like what life feels like when they’re clean. I don’t know, but I do hope we can learn from each other and not want to fix each other. I really believe that if we can learn from anyone, even someone addicted to drugs and alcohol, then we all can experience a piece of our own recovery.