The National Institute of Drug Abuse lists thirteen principles of effective drug addiction treatment. One of them is that “Treatment does not need to be voluntary to be effective.” This conclusion was reached after over two decades of research which yielded mountains of evidence supporting the claim. For me it was my personal experience. I had no intention of beginning the journey of recovery the day I was arrested. I had gotten high that morning. I was walking back to the place I was staying with a beer in my hand when a cop pulled up and started questioning me. Turns out I had old warrants for petty theft. I was in a bad spot, and I absolutely believe that a Higher Power was watching out for me that day.
Two of my friends had recently died from heroin overdoses and my life was miserable. I was homeless, living on people’s couches, knowing my only value to them was in my ability to score drugs. It was New Year’s Day, and that morning I was seriously considering suicide. I was planning on using a fatal amount of heroin rather than facing another year of drug use, losing friends, and hiding my existence from the police. “One more beer,” I thought, as I walked to the gas station and subsequently got arrested. Turns out my addict mind was my saving grace – who needs one more beer before they off themselves? I do. The truth is, I don’t think I really wanted to die, I just couldn’t stand the way I was living and I desperately wanted a change. I remember thinking in the back of the cop car that day, “This isn’t exactly the change I was looking for.”
I sat in jail negotiating a plea for my charges for five months. During that time, something shifted in me and I was able to take responsibility for my life. I remember getting so worked up about court dates and when I would be getting out in the beginning and one day a voice just whispered in my ear, saying, “Why don’t you just give up and stop struggling? What do you really need to be doing out there anyway, more drugs?” I began going to 12 Step meetings and my family made plans for me to go to treatment as soon as I was released. I had gained a moment of mental clarity and just enough surrender to be willing to do something about my addiction for the first time in my life. It wasn’t the result of any good ideas I came up with, it was the result of being arrested and intervened on. I took my family up on their offer to go to treatment. My experience at BRC Recovery led me to over five years of recovery and a career as an addictions counselor. And it all began with handcuffs and me cursing under my breath as a large man sat me in the back of his car.
My point in sharing this with you is to let you know that the idea of a “bottom” one has to hit is such a subjective idea which depends entirely on each individual’s experience. I had been to jail before and I had suffered many consequences which should have been a bottom for me prior to my last arrest. But each time I got interrupted and had to dry out, it gave my brain a chance to turn on and gave me the opportunity to reflect on my life, something I could not do when I was in the grip of active addiction. The last time I was intervened on, my brain just started working again and I saw my need for treatment. I believe this can happen for anyone suffering from addiction provided they get the opportunity, sometimes they need more than a few opportunities.
In my time at Spearhead Lodge, I’ve seen several cases similar to my own. Young men who were arrested and showed up angry, far from embracing their current situation. But over the weeks and months, a shift occurs and they are gradually able to take responsibility for the direction their life has gone. Shortly after taking responsibility, you can see the excitement in their eyes when they realize they can change, they don’t have to do this anymore, provided they are willing to maintain their recovery. These are the cases which strike me the most, breathing life into the words of Dr. Silkworth, “And though perhaps he came to scoff, he may remain to pray.”