I am constantly amazed at the number of new clients that have been joining my groups these past few weeks. After all, wouldn’t it be more like an addict to wait until the New Year to make such an important life change? Isn’t that what resolutions are all about? The truth is, some people actually want to be sober before Christmas, and before New Year’s Day. Amazing! I am not being sarcastic either. I welcome such determination into the groups but I always ask “Why now and not in a month or two? What happened that was significant enough to propel you into recovery at this very moment?” Of course the reasons vary and can be attributed to appeasing the legal system, being under the threat of losing family and friends, but the most compelling reason I have heard is “being sick and tired of being sick and tired”.
The lifestyle of an addict is hard work. We talk about counseling for diversity. Our classes at school consistently reminded us that cultural differences exist all around us. The cultures I don’t remember being taught to, though, are the drug culture and sobriety culture. Moving from the drug culture into the sobriety culture is not an easy process. Often by the time an addict seeks assistance in recovery, they are in the legal system, possibly in child protective services system, have lost everyone they cared about, are likely homeless and broke as well. Addiction is dangerous. I have learned more about “junkie” behaviors than I care to know but need to know to provide the best counseling services for my clients.
It is not uncommon to hear about an addict who has stolen from everyone around them, pawned articles that don’t belong to them, committed fraud at the local department store, even panhandled to get that next fix. An addict wakes up (or comes “to”) in the morning and the first thing on their mind is how they are going to get their supply for that day. Then comes the scheming and lying and other junkie behaviors. Without fail, this is the story I hear from every single addict. This, then, is a culture. Letting go of those behaviors is difficult. The drug has become their best friend and worst enemy. It governs every waking moment of their life. In contrast, the sobriety culture focuses on recovery every single moment until recovery becomes as much a habit as using.
With all the gifts around, though, I am still amazed at my clients who want to get sober. After all, keepsake ornaments on the tree, brightly wrapped presents under it – a veritable paradise for thievery! The reality, though, is the majority of them don’t like what they have become and what they have to do to get high. Most seek normalcy and stability in their lives. When everyone else around them seems content, and their lives are a mess by comparison, recovery is a viable option and one many of them will fight as hard to get as they did their drugs.
Linda Magnelli is a counselor who works in Phoenix as a substance abuse and mental health counselor specializing in difficult cases.