When I started drinking heavily I called Dr. Drew on “Loveline.” I told him about my past as a Mormon Missionary and asked him a basic question:
“How do I know if I’m drinking too much?”
Dr. Drew asked me if I was blacking out. I was sort of like, “um, yeah… duh. That’s the idea.” Then he told me that most “Return Missionaries” can’t party in moderation. He said the rehabs in Southern California are full of guys like me.
Guys who don’t believe in moderation.
Guys with no middle gear.
Today I’m very glad I don’t have a middle gear, but that’s only because I have pointed my compulsion at something positive. About a month ago I wrote a post about getting pulled over in the middle of the night and having the cop ask me to step out of the car.
Because of my past, I was expecting handcuffs. Instead he stuck out his arm for a handshake.
“We have your Ohio Mini Mart Sign article hanging up in our station. I just wanted to shake your hand.”
I was slack-jawed and stunned by this; especially because I’ve been arrested in the past for jaywalking.
I was even more surprised when on his way back to the cruiser, the officer got on the radio to say, “you’re never gonna guess who I just pulled over.”
I mention both of these situations because my drinking was only the tip of the iceberg. As my desire to escape my feelings/thoughts/nightmares/life progressed, the slide into drugs seemed as slippery as it was inevitable.
My desire to run didn’t change, but the escape routes became progressively more “effective” until I ended up with a needle in my arm. Now, as a retired junkie, I find myself being asked to walk back into that burning building to pull others from the flames.
(Please allow me to pause here for a moment to clarify that I am not a licensed interventionist. I have never taken a single course. I have never pursued any “qualifications” and I sure as hell have never sent anyone a bill for my services.)
I’ve come to terms with the fact that these calls will never end. Whatever I’ve done (right or wrong) has put me into a position where loved ones call me for help with the “addict” in their lives.
Recently I was added to the Board of Directors for 10,000 Beds which is a non-profit in Utah. The founder, Jean, often jokes with me about my foul mouth and tells me that when the organization is vetted by donors, all of the board members will also be vetted and my attitude might be perceived as less-than-professional.
Here’s the thing, Jean… believe it or not, there is a method to my madness. I am very grateful that my experiences in life have allowed me to pace so many different people. I’m not stupid. I clean up pretty well. If you put me in a Polo shirt on the fifth green at Pebble Beach with lawyers and surgeons, I can hold my own.
However, that’s not where my strength lies. I have a hell of a slice and I’ll end up trudging through the trees in search of a ball that has fallen off the beaten path.
Like that ball, I’m also pretty good at pacing the guy in the gutter with the needle in his arm. I’ve walked into his shoes and while “qualified” interventionists, social workers, church leaders and even parents crash ineffectually into his walls… I stroll in through the side door.
He can see my track mark scars. He can see my tattoos. He can hear me speaking his “foul” language.
He can open up to me.
We probably know the same people, the same judges, the same probation officers, and we’ve probably spent time in the same cell blocks.
More than anything, I’m the disappointment-free-zone where his walls have no use. Also, you can’t bullshit a bullshitter and he knows that I’m not putting on an act.
I’m just me and he’s just him.
No more. No less.
Nevertheless, this rift between drug addicts and “normal” people exists. I’ve worked hand-in-hand with law enforcement. I’ve gotten warrants lifted, cases closed, been to court for people and even had a Police Sergeant call me to go into a dope house before they raided it.
I’ve also had the cops called on me in Utah numerous times because of my appearance. I’ve been swarmed for “suspicious behavior” after doing a LIVE video for an online recovery group. Even my car gets profiled. This week while I went out of town to do an intervention on a kid, a friend of mine had to move my shitty Honda because multiple people had thought it didn’t “belong” in their neighborhood.
Sadly, even the kid I was working with saw me as the “opposition” at first glance. He thought I was there to “force” him into recovery or read him sad letters from his family.
Believe me… if you could “beat” recovery into people I’d be using my arms to throw punches instead of giving hugs.
Instead we went hiking, jammed out on the guitar, drank sodas and had a good heart-to-heart next to the lake.
“Your family needs this intervention as much as you do,” I told him. That wasn’t me saying his loved ones are doing anything wrong. That was me telling him that all I’m trying to do is bridge a gap.
Maybe someday the technology will exist that will allow people to trade brains for a few minutes. If that happens, it won’t take this much effort to invite people into the shoes of those they don’t understand.
But, until that happens, I’m going to keep doing things my way. I’m going to tell it like it is, leave the sugar-coating to congressmen and confectioners, and not be afraid to call everyone out on their shit… parent or addict.
If you love someone who is struggling with addiction, I’m happy to help. I may not be listed in the Yellow Pages or have any fancy degrees hanging on the wall, but there’s plenty of people out there who may be much better at this than I am.
The truth is, though, I might be completely unnecessary. Everybody is different, but actions do really speak louder than words. Your “addict” might be acting like a complete asshole right now, but most of them aren’t stupid. They will be able to see your efforts to understand their struggle.
I’m on the road right now because I saw smoke coming from a place I care about. There’s nothing special about me. All I did was meet this kid at his level and pointed out the obvious:
“This bridge between you and your family is burning. In one hand I’ve got a gas can that gets me out of your hair. In the other hand I’ve got a fire extinguisher that we can all use to put out these flames. You choose.”