I am what they call a “real” alcoholic. Meaning, that despite all the consequences I faced (Jail, Hospitals, & Death) I just could not stop using. There was a constant need to change how I felt every waking moment. It overtook my thoughts, governed my actions, and dictated my mood. There is no escaping the barrage of thought flowing through an alcoholic’s mind when their disease is in control. So, sobriety is the only possible route out, they hesitantly accept it. In fact, alcoholism is one of the only chronic diseases that those afflicted think they can get better on their own. Nobody gets diagnosed with bone cancer and says that they can treat it on their own. “I don’t need chemo… I know everything there is to know about cancer already, doc. I just need to be left alone for a bit, and I’ll be just fine after some time.” Any patient that says that would be considered out of their mind. When treatment is finally accepted, however, there is a separation from what is needed and from what actually gets treated.
Alcoholics who are in full blown practice are often dishonest, angry, unruly, and flat out ornery. The idea that the only thing that has brought you any semblance of comfort over the years is quite a terrifying concept. I was a spiteful cuss every time I reentered treatment of any kind. Scoffing at any rules, and voicing what I felt to be grave injustices as loud as I could. I was looked at as a rabble-rouser who was just unhappy to be in treatment again. While that might have been true, I also had valid concerns that I felt needed to be addressed. These issues would go unattended to usually because the person bringing them to light was me. A tattooed, resentful, and bitter man who spent the majority of his time trying to not face his own reality through the abuse of alcohol. On paper, I was not the most credible source. The point being that my concerns fell on deaf ears. Any that might have gotten back to my family were written off as the musings of a spoiled alcoholic who was just venting his anger at the expense of the treatment center.
All of this reminds me of a study I had once read about. A group of scientists put three chimps in a large cage with a button on one of the walls. This button would shock all three chimps in the cage if it were pressed. After a short time in the cage, one of the chimps ventured over to the button and pressed it, promptly shocking all three chimps. This resulted in the other chimps giving the poor fellow a beating for his actions. Next, the scientists introduced a new chimp to the mix. After some time in the cage, the newest member hesitantly walked towards the button, as if to push it. The chimp who had received the first beating initiated an attack on the new chimp before he could even push the button. The beaten new member didn’t even know why he been attacked. Then, the scientists took one of the chimps out and added another new one. This new chimp began to head for the button, and like the others before it, got a beating. The scientists did this twice more, with the same results every time. At this point, all of the original members of the cage (the only ones who had felt the shock of the button at all) were gone, but the beatings still took place. This is a good example of what the world of rehabilitation for drugs and alcohol are like today. Rules and regulations established by someone else, but followed by a completely new set of people. Enforced for reasons they might not even know. This often results in an unhealthy environment expected to treat the unhealthy. Most rehabs are just chimps beating the new chimps for not yet pushing a button…
In fact, this is the case for most of recovery. Stagnant practices established by someone a long time ago that really have no bearing on the current state of affairs. Without enough people to speak out against what is really going on, then everything stays the same. Mainly because of how much money these establishments rake in every fiscal year. A state-funded & nonprofit faith based rehab here in OK, for example, pulls in six figures a month selling banana nut bread and bringing in new “sinners.” Nobody knows the true success rate, mainly because of the dishonesty of someone who has relapsed and is in active addiction. This often rules out the dishonesty of the treatment facility, allowing them to continue their shady ways unimpeded. It’s a sticky situation. The addict often leaves worse-off , and the rehab’s pockets get a bit bigger. This same allegory can be used for lots of situations our society is currently facing now. Just because it’s normal and has been accepted, does it make it okay? Of course not. Please, be aware. Please, speak up.
More to come soon.