“Just Say Know” ~David Sheff, author of Clean: Overcoming Addiction and Ending America’s Greatest Tragedy
Starbucks – Friday night, 11/3/17
I see the torment on his puffy face and the vacant look in his glossy eyes. I instantly feel the never-ending battle he is waging within himself and uncomfortably hear the feeble attempt to hold a coherent conversation. I get a small taste of his present desire for sobriety and his past resistance to it.
I am touched by his actual presence at the coffee shop, bringing along a worried friend to drive him, because he is too drunk and high to drive. It is evident she cares for him deeply. I like her, especially her pink hair.
I marvel at his decency when he asks if it is moral to attend a recovery meeting in his inebriated state. I love my recovered partner’s answer when she compassionately tells him “yes”. I contemplate the stark difference between the two addicts.
I quickly understand this complicated human being, as if he was my own son. I like him, especially his intelligent eyes.
He’s sensitive, loving, and kind, but can’t quite figure out how to cope with life. He is only 23, yet he is an old soul. I can feel his soulfulness through all of the fog and shame – I recognize his inner beauty and his beast. I immediately think about my son’s own beast, and I know I’m going to offer to help him.
At the same time, it breaks my heart and makes me angry. Why? Because there are a lot of people in this world who think he deserves to die. He is an alcoholic and heroin addict.
He’s in trouble with the law, been kicked out of his house, lost his job, already been to rehab once, and hates himself for it. On the surface, he appears to be a loser, according to our society’s standards – it’s his fault that he has ruined his life because he made the choice to drink and use.
There is nothing further from the truth.
There is a difference in why he started to use drugs & alcohol and why he can’t stop. This is not my opinion or my theory – scientific evidence bears out the facts. Most of us experiment in adolescence, but don’t become addicts or alcoholics. There are risk factors involved – genetics, environment, mental health issues. Drugs & alcohol change the brain structure over time and how it functions.
Addicts aren’t weak, bad, or amoral – they’re ill. Those are the facts.
Underneath his sad story, there is a young man who deserves to live, because he is very sick. He deserves another chance and as many chances as it takes for him to get it.
Maybe if we offer him some dignity and encouragement, he will get it.
Maybe if we stop judging him and start understanding him, he will get it.
Maybe if we start listening to him, he will get it.
Maybe if we offer him some real help, he will get it.
Maybe if we let go of the stigma associated with addiction, he will get it.
Just say know. Addiction is a disease, not a moral failure. If we don’t get it, we are blind to the truth.
Mary Huff Cucarola – November 5, 2017