“You’re a reasonable facsimile of a human being – you present very well – but don’t you want more for yourself?”
And before you answer that, let me tell you a few things. I don’t know you personally, but I do know addicts. And a lot of addicts are very selfish. Narcissistic. Into drama and blame. Pointing the finger at everyone but themselves. You threaten and promise all kinds of things. You tell your loved ones that if they would change, you could quit using. You blame others for your mistakes. It’s never your fault, right? Wrong! That is a typical addict lie. I see your mother is sitting in this courtroom. Let me assure her that she is not at fault for your addiction. Neither is anybody else. You are, sir. You alone. Just you. And no one else can get you clean and sober. No one else in the whole wide world. It is your choice. Yes, it is a disease, but it is still your choice to get treatment.
Talk about the whole wide world, yours is shrinking. You may not realize it, but if you get into treatment, you will come to see that through your addiction, your world has gotten very small. Your world is diminished, and you are diminished. You have gotten smaller. The things you used to care about, and the people you used to care about, have fallen away one by one. You aren’t doing well in school. You lost your part-time job. You don’t have anything you like to do, anything you enjoy, any more. You just use. Some of your own family don’t even want to talk to you. Would rather not be around you now.
Your world is shrinking, and you are shrinking with it. Your life now, and the lies you live in that you desperately try to believe, it’s all closing in on you, and you are getting smaller. Don’t you ever want to take off the mask, and see what is behind it? Because that person under the mask is the authentic you. And you are in the process of losing yourself. You are in danger of disappearing into your addiction, and just being a reasonable facsimile of yourself. It is already happening. Is it worth it to mask your pain with drugs at that price? Is this all you want from life? To hide from your pain and then blame others? To cause others pain?
Part of the problem with you addicts is that you are convinced that only your own pain is real. That only you suffer. And that you suffer in some new and special and extra-hard way that no one else can feel or understand. But I am here to tell you that your suffering, as great as it may be, is actually no more special or intense or important than the suffering of any other human being, sober or drugged. You are no more important than any other human being, sober or drugged. Your particular life history is not the worst or hardest or most excruciating suffering that any living human being has ever been through. Surprisingly enough, other people also feel, just as deeply as you do. But you just can’t see that, can you? Because it’s always about the addict. Everything about you is more important than anything and anybody.
As you progress in your disease, drug addicts tend to see other people as mere props in your play, to be manipulated and controlled so you can keep doing what you want to do – use drugs. As drugs lead you into more selfishness, people are less and less real to you. But let me tell you they are certainly real to themselves. I may be repeating myself here, but it is so important that I have to say more about it. Believe it or not, other people feel and think and suffer just like you do. Just because you are caught up in your own pain does NOT mean that you suffer more or better than others. It does not make you special. Other people have their own life stories, and your story does not trump theirs. You are a simple human creature, one of many billions, walking around with your pain and your potential joy, just like all the rest of us. We all suffer – we all feel – we all doubt. As an addict, I know you cannot see or believe that. Not right now.
Addicts are unreliable – changeable – unsteady – jittery. You make big beautiful promises, but you have no staying power. Because you already start out with a fragile grasp on reality – borderline enough to actually think that drugs will help, which is pretty crazy, and then you use drugs over and over and guess what – they only make your ability to tell the truth and deal with the truth even more tenuous. Your grasp on reality hangs by a thread. And sometimes that thread breaks, and then we have psychosis to deal with.
Your so-called truths – the lies you addicts live in – become revisionist history, and depend on your mood of the moment. You try to justify your addictive and selfish behavior with lies upon lies, looking back in time to try and convince yourself that what you are doing is someone else’s fault. And you constantly revise the stories you live in. What you say and think and feel changes by the minute. Your feelings and impulses of the moment have taken over your personality. Who are you? Who is the real, authentic you? How can anyone trust you? How can you trust yourself? Do you know who you are? Truly?
There used to be a show on television where the contestant would have to guess which of three people pretending to be someone was the real one. There were questions and answers, and the answers might be true or a lie. In the end, the presenter would say, Will the real Mr X please stand up? So I ask you, will the real You stand up? Well, that is a tough one because there isn’t a real You right now, is there? Not a solid, reliable, core personality that anyone can trust and believe in. Addicts lie to everyone but most of all to yourselves.
You live in fantasy-land. You are not a reasonable person. That’s why your mother and all the others who have tried to help you cannot continue to support you for much longer. It’s not because they are bad people or they don’t love you enough or they’re not smart enough to understand you. It’s because they cannot reason with an unreasonable person, an addict who is not living in reality. Who is denying reality, and living in a made-up world of your own lies. They cannot trust your word because you have become a liar. Accept this fact and you are ready for treatment.
They cannot believe a thing you say because it changes every five minutes: You love your family. You hate your family. You miss your family. You need to get away from your family. You are guilty and feel bad for all the crap you have pulled. It was somebody else’s fault that you did all that. You actually didn’t do anything wrong. You feel great and using is not a problem. You are afraid to quit. You are going to quit. You did quit. Oh, no, you didn’t. You started again. You would quit if everyone would stop telling you to quit. You are going to treatment. You don’t need treatment. You are fine. You feel terrible. You don’t need anyone. You are using. You are fine. You are using again. No, you’re not using. You’ve got it under control. Oops! No, you don’t. And now you don’t want to talk about it – until you do. Then you go around asking for help that you won’t ultimately take.
Sober people cannot follow you down this rabbit hole into the darkness of your addiction, my friend, so do not get mad at them if they decide to watch what you do as you do it, real time, rather than trying to believe in the ever-shifting kaleidoscope of your ever-changing words. Especially after a long, almost endless series of disappointments and betrayals that are part and parcel of living with, and loving, an addict.
Don’t blame your family if they cannot keep pretending that you are fine, that they are the ones with the problem. That is too much to ask of them, no matter how much they love you. They cannot do that. They cannot play your addict games. Because they always lose, and they are weary. The most patient, loving heart, even the maternal heart, gets tired in the end. You are asking so much and giving so little. You are taking so much of their happiness, and giving nothing but pain in return.
Here is another of the lies you tell yourself and others, and I see this over and over every day in here. You are a very important person and you are just about to do very important things. If other people would just be the props in your play, and be all about you, and support whatever you do, even if it’s gonna change again in five minutes, then you could really get somewhere. Wow! Drum roll – the orchestra plays. Everyone is invited. The curtains open, and there you are. Da-tada-ta-da! Watch me! I’m so great! But then, oops. There’s not much of a show, is there? There’s not much there. Not so fun to watch your very special show called Crackville, or Marijuanaville, or PCPville. So you look out in the audience for someone to blame for your shortcomings. Why aren’t they clapping? Why are they leaving? If only you had a truly supportive crowd, you could really show them! It’s somebody else’s fault – again. Oh, boy.
I like to ask my addicts, and this might not mean much to you now, and you don’t even have to answer on the record, but what else do you want to lose to your drug before you can say you hit bottom and you are ready to quit? You already lost most of your family. You already lost your chance for a straight path through school and into the workforce. You lost a lot of friends. I am guessing you have lost a lot of self-respect. But you haven’t lost your mother yet – here she is with you still. Do you want to lose her before you turn your life around? You haven’t lost your freedom yet – if you do drug court, you can avoid jail while reclaiming your life. Do you want to lose your freedom? You haven’t lost your life yet – but you will if you stay on this path. Do you want to lose your life?
What else will it take, or in other words, what else do you want to lose, before you choose to do the hard work of recovery? NA, support groups, treatment, in-patient, whatever it takes? Are you ready yet? Have you lost enough to your drug yet? Or do you want to lose even more? It’s up to you. I know you don’t believe me right now because you are still clearly in denial, but this train to hell has many stops and you can choose to get off anywhere you want. You have free will. It is your choice. There is no law that says you have to self-destruct. That you have to destroy your family. That you have to break people’s hearts and leave them with a lifetime of guilt for not being able to save you, heal you, fix you, help you enough, so that you can get sober. It is not written in the stars that you have to die an addict.
You can get treatment. All you have to do is be willing and open, and all the support and help you need is right here. This is your chance for the wake-up call. Time to wake up and face your own life. It’s not too late! Not if you don’t want it to be. But it isn’t about anybody else or what anybody else did to you, or said to you, or didn’t do for you. It’s just – you. That tiny spark of life in that little bit of flesh you call yourself. And you’re gonna have to stand all by your little lonesome self at the very edge of the abyss, and look into that darkness, if you want to face your demons and claim your full adulthood. Your full humanity. It is a chance for reinvention, if you are brave enough and curious enough to take it.
You have the opportunity to recreate yourself out of the ashes. And once you face the void and clear away all the lies and denial and numbness, and work through the underlying pain, what is left, if you can do it, is pure gold. It is you, yourself. And you will finally look yourself in the face and know yourself, and can gather up your broken pieces and make yourself whole. Your true self. The one you have been afraid to know, and accept, and embrace, and eventually, love. Do it – go through it – face it. And then, my friend, you can call yourself a true human being, in the full meaning of the word. In all your glory.
You smile, you think it’s impossible? I have watched people do it. Over and over. Hundreds of them. They had their pain and they faced it. And they got sober and they moved on with their lives. You can. If and only if you want to. Remember, this program is voluntary – I cannot make you enter into drug court and I cannot make you stay. I can only kick you out if you lie to me and fail. It is wholly up to you. You decide to enroll. You decide whether to fail or succeed.
So I repeat my question: You’re cute. You’re smart. You’re quite charming. You’re well-spoken and convincing. Like so many addicts, you’re a reasonable facsimile of a human being – but don’t you want more? Don’t you feel like you deserve it? What? You don’t feel up to it? You don’t want to try? You want to give up? You feel like dying? Well, so what? That doesn’t even come into the question. That’s a problem that will solve itself. Think about it. You’re going to die without any effort on your part – we are all mortal. In fact, I have a sign in my office that says: “Alert! Death rate stays steady at 100%!” So don’t worry about that. It will happen. We all reach that finish line, no matter what we do in the interim.
But while you are alive, here, today, aren’t you just the least little bit curious to get to know yourself, truly know yourself, and become whole, before you just throw in the towel? It is an adventure that only you can choose to take. Are you willing? I suggest that you take a moment and ponder this. Your full and rich humanity is a treasure that only you can manifest into the world. So please, for your family’s sake if not for your own, before you give up and let the drugs win. Can you dig deep and look for that tiny little spark within you that still thinks, still knows, that you are worth the effort, worth the fight? If so, then embrace this, embrace this opportunity.