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Monday, April 30, 2012

Takin' Care of Business: R-E-S-P-E-C-T Recovery

I wonder what segment of the public understands the tremendous commitment made by an addict seeking intervention and rehabilitation? Most people seem to identify easily with a smoker or with an obese individual struggling to change, but so many of these same people seem to abhor those with drug habits and to care little about their recovery.

This callous attitude is partly due to the fact drug addicts have been stereotyped as bad people who break taboos and enjoy the culture of criminality. Quite frankly, a large segment of the public views an addict as a loser and as an acceptable fatality of a self-chosen repugnant lifestyle. This view is inaccurate and intentionally degrading.

I know many addicts who have fought overwhelming pain and endured tremendous suffering, humiliation and disrespect to achieve sobriety. These individuals know how lucky they are not to be in prison for life or in a grave. They count their blessings every day of their sobriety and understand that triggers could contribute to an unexpected, spiraling fall into future dependence and further addiction.

Recovering addicts must exercise complete control of their emotions and rely upon special others to help boost their independence. As they come to grips with their disease, they must recognize that they, unlike the majority, are prone to great risks from certain potentially enslaving behaviors. They can ill afford to put themselves into situations that present something as simple as a visual cue that tempts their controlled desires.

These addicts understand that the odds of their recovery are not good unless they -- with heart, mind, and soul -- commit and adhere to long-term professional help. Out of necessity, they understand that old friends and family who continue to use become their enemies. They understand that a commitment to walk a narrow path is their only hope of survival in a forest full of deceptions and deadly snares. And, they understand that surviving the long trek into a new and better life still does not guarantee them a job, a family, or mutual respect. They live clean by their strong wills or they perish by surrendering to their disease.

Society must not treat recovering addicts like damaged individuals. Neither should society treat them as pariahs without redeeming qualities. They are not "bad people" because of their addictions; they are simply people who have made some "bad" choices. Most desperately desire love and wish to find an environment that extends them common courtesies. Many find little consolation, and yet many become much stronger individuals as they learn to cope with the fallout of their disease.

I admire those who relentlessly fight their addictions. As I hear their stories and look into their faces, my ears and my eyes recognize many similarities. I relieve old risks of my own, and I remember my own debilitating bouts of spiraling clinical depression. I understand dependence through my fight with mental illness -- the drugs, the hopelessness, the helpless condition. I realize that I, like them, must be ever mindful of needed treatment, and that I, like them, rely upon people to see me as whole and not irreparably damaged.

We all face struggles. In the obstacles we face, we all suffer some significant losses. But by the grace of God, all of us could be judged by our peers as inadequate or inconsequential or even dependent in some less-than-attractive manner. No one is immune to failure. Sometimes those failures fall directly upon our shoulders. Making mistakes and correcting them are parts of the human condition.

Doesn't every soul who commits to sincere change deserve help? I don't mean to offend anyone, but whether you smoke, you overeat, you drink, you lust, you lie, you steal, you envy, you have a physical or a mental deficiency, or you are addicted to drugs, you should be afforded assistance and offered the means to recovery. I wager you would do all in your power to help family or friends who say, "I need you."

Maybe we should also assist a stranger with a gorilla on his or her back. No one wants to become addicted. Unfortunately, more and more do. Those giving their all to beat a personal addiction are fighting an opponent unequalled in the battles faced by most of the rest of us. Our love will strengthen them and help them testify to scores of others. And, most importantly, our love will help reduce the high body count caused by drug abuse.

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