In drug court, I heard some great philosophy shared by a long-time judge with a long-time drug user who was expressing once again why he cannot succeed in following the court rules: his drug counselor was wrong; his family was wrong; his probation officer was wrong; and overall, nobody was as smart and together as he was. He knew what would work for him, and they just were trying to control and abuse him. Drugs didn’t bother him that much, it was just that people couldn’t handle it. It was all just stupid rules. They all refused to put themselves in his shoes and really understand him. He was right! They were all terribly, terribly wrong! Yes, he had made some mistakes, but that was either because they weren’t that bad, I mean, what’s the big deal (like walking away from court-ordered in-patient treatment because it wasn’t working) or people were exaggerating what he did, making false accusations, or embellishing. He didn’t have a problem. They did.
I will go ahead and give the judge’s response as directly spoken to the defendant from my notes:
Sir, I hear what you are saying. I believe that you are, as you say, a smart guy. I believe that you want to get what you want and what you need. We all do. That is human nature. But you are not getting it. Instead, you are facing more jail time. And the reason, from my perspective, is that you are standing there thinking to yourself, in every interaction, that you know better. That no one can tell you what to do. That they need to put themselves in your shoes, but you don’t need to put yourself into theirs. And that is just not going to help you at all. Because you are going to burn your bridges.
I am going to tell you something now that you may not understand or agree with. But I am hoping that you will listen. And I am hoping that a light will go off, if not now, then later, when you think back on this moment. You have been trying to think your way out of your situation. But please look back on your life, sir, and look at where your thinking, and doing things your own way, has gotten you. You have spent most of your adult life behind bars. And you are now facing a substantial time in prison if you fail in drug court. So how is your thinking working for you? How is refusing the expert’s advice working for you? How is failing to comply with treatment and drug court and probation working for you? And how is your family doing?
I am going to order you, as one last chance, to attend a behavior modification program. Since you clearly cannot think your way out of your situation, you need to learn how to change your behavior and responses. You need to learn how to get what you want and need in different ways. And sir, one of the things you are going to have to learn to do is to stop being your own worst enemy. You need to stop thinking that someone having an opinion about you, or telling you what to do, is something you have to fight every time. You have to learn to listen to and really consider what other people think and say and want from you. And if you want to stay in drug court and out of prison, you will have to follow rules that are imposed by this court, by your treatment, and by society. It is your only hope.
I am not saying that any of this will be easy. But I am giving you a tool to use. Something to remember. So when a probation officer pushes your buttons, when your treatment counselor makes you mad, when you think I am being unfair, and you want to just do whatever you want to do, because you know you are right, please stop first and ask yourself: I think I’m right, yes. But I have been using my own thinking and doing things my way. How has that been working out for me?
If you can open your eyes and see, hey, not so good, maybe you can open your mind, and put yourself in someone else’s shoes. Maybe the drug counselor is asking you to do something uncomfortable for you because he has seen it work for hundreds of other addicts. Maybe the probation officer is having you do random UA’s because she wants you to have another reason to hold back on having a relapse. Give you a chance to stay clean and get used to it. Maybe your family is showing a wait and see attitude about you because they want you to take some personal responsibility and not blame them for your own failures.
And maybe I am sending you to this rehab because I think you have a shot at it. I know you don’t want to change your behaviors, because you think you are behaving just fine, but I am here to tell you that your thinking that you know better and that everyone should understand you, is what is killing you. You need treatment, and I could just give up on you here and now and order you to mainstream court based on what you have already done, but I am choosing to give you one more shot. Your last shot. And I hope you have the strength and the courage to get sober. Because it will take everything you have, AND accepting the advice and insight of those around you who only want to help and are actually NOT out to get you. Good luck to you, sir. And I hope when you reflect you will remember at least some of what I wanted you to know.