It is estimated that the average addict relapses around nine times before they actually get clean. Before the idea of sobriety sinks in to our extremely thick skulls and stays there. During this vicious cycle of recovery and relapse how many friends have we pushed away? How many family members have we fucked over? And how many times have we been betrayed, hurt, lied to? How many times should we expect to be forgiven for our sins from our past lives?
Above is a diploma from my middle school D.A.R.E. (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) class. I don’t know if they still do this, but in 1995-1998, all students had to attend drug classes in school. They informed you about various drugs, their effects, addiction possibilities, etc. Being that I was a straight A student all through out school, I aced this class as well. I was going through a bunch of old paperwork over the weekend and found this. Ironic isn’t it? Now, I would be used as a horror story as to why you shouldn’t do drugs. “Meet Amy. She was a straight a student. Full scholarships to many of the best colleges in the country. She started using heroin and cocaine and threw her life away. She has multiple arrests and achieved no where close to her potential.” But back then, in middle school, I was the absolute last person that anyone would have suspected would fall under the firm, death grip of heroin.
The first time an addict finally decides, or more often then not, is convinced to enter into rehab, there is a great deal of hope and optimism amount the addicts friends and family. They will get clean, they will be cured. We will have our friend back. When you come home from the in-patient rehab, or complete the out-patient rehab, all transgressions are forgiven. Trust is restored. It is assumed that we are “cured”, back to normal. God is good.
Then a very large percent of time, we (the addict) relapses. Unfortunately, the friend/family of the addict takes this as a slap in the face. Like we are doing this to fuck them over. They either didn’t research that the idea of recovery almost never sticks the first go round, or they assume that their family member will be different. One reason , in my humble opinion, that most people fail to stay sober after the first time of going through rehab, is that an addict has to want to get clean. Many times an addict enters rehab for the first time to pacify their loves ones. This is nothing more than a set up for failure. Merely going through the motions of NA, rehab, whatever is not enough. You have to really work it. Want it. It sort of like looking at a book, but not really reading it. The information is not going to sink in.
When we relapse the lies start up agin ten fold. We are now trying to hide the fact that we failed. We relapsed. We were unable to achieve the lasting sobriety that our loved ones were expecting us to and we are undoubtedly ashamed. Most of the people that we hurt during our first bout of drug use was probably willing to forgive us this time, but each time that we try and fail to surrender to God, we loose more and more people that we care about.
Eventually, inevitably, it comes out that we are using again. We may try to deny it continually, but an arrest happens, or an overdose, or a job loss. Something happens. We fuck up somehow. Usually a good sign is that we never have money or if we have money, we do not have as much as we should.
The people who care about us take the news of our relapse as a personal a front. Why have we done this. We just completed a program. We apologize, but that trust is much harder to gain back each additional time.
More than likely we are encouraged to get back in to treatment ASAP. We are just a little slow, stubborn, they think. We are not (yet) a total failure. If, and most likely when, this go round doesn’t work either, everyone starts to wonder what the fuck is wrong with us? Why don’t we just stop? Can’t we see the pain we are causing? Don’t we care about all of the friends that we are loosing? Most importantly, why are we so fucking selfish? Do we really not care about anybody else?
And I get it. I really do. Someone who doesn’t have this disease, who doesn’t struggle daily with addiction, can not understand. It is heart-breakingly frustrating to watch someone that you love and care about so much kill themselves slowly.
When my husband was serving time in Montgomery County, Maryland, he qualified to serve his time at PRC (Pre Release Center). This actually tries to rehabilitate prisoners. It sets them up with jobs, helps them get their GEDs if they need it, has them go to twice weekly NA or AA meetings. But one rather unique thing it does I takes the inmate’s sponsor (loved one they of their choosing) attend classes before the inmate can earn any at home visits. Since I myself am an addict and have done time, I already knew almost all of the information presented, but it is a fantastic idea. Inmates with little to no family suppose stand a much, much higher chance of becoming a repeat offender. Not everyone in jail struggles with addiction, but since the majority do, the classes teach the sponsors about their loved ones addictions.
One aspect of addiction that people need to understand, is that the drugs alter the addicts brain. Forever. Our synapses fire differently. We have a shortage of endorphins for the rest of lives. We don’t understand at first, that we are addicted for life. While the first time, it may have taken us months of daily use before we developed a habit, each additional time it only takes two to four consecutive uses to re-developed said habit. Our habit also picks up where it left off, with terrifying speed. I feel like our families, or friends, sort of feel like we make a huge effort to relapse. Like we use daily for a month before we get dope sick again. I don’t think that have any idea how fast it really happens.
Of course, we lie and betray every subsequent time we start to use again. It is very, very difficult for someone without this awful disease to understand how truly awful we feel when we lie to the people that we love. When in my active addiction, I would, on a rare occasion, ask my mother for money. She would berate me talking about how she was nothing but a bank to me. How I loved getting money from her. The actuality was that I only hit her up for money as an absolute LAST resort. I would have rather done almost anything. It made me feels so worthless, so low. My husband and I were able to come up with almost a thousand dollars a day, so asking her was usually an emergency. Actually, very rarely did the money that she gave me go to drugs. It usually went towards court fees, rental car, or bills one way or another. I had to be very sick to ask her for gate money. Losing the trust of my mother was one of the most terrible, awful side effects of being a heroin addict. Gaining back her trust, her forgiveness is probably the single most important thing to me in my recovery. It something that I work towards daily.
Once we are sober, we want people to hand back of their trust, the keys to their heart instantly. It is not that easy, unfortunately. Once someone betrays you over and over, it seems slightly insane to forgive them. I think the only reason that we are able to be forgiven at all is that people some-what believe that the drugs took over our brains, making us do things that we otherwise never would have done.
As far as karma goes (assuming that you believe that you believe in this sort of thing) we can not expect to be forgiven (and forgiven repeatedly at that) if we refuse to forgive others. We understand relapse. We understand the insanity of addiction. It is important to forgive while still being cautious of trusting too much. We can forgive people while still keeping people at arms length. We have to understand others need to do the same with us. We have to accept that through our actions, whether as a part of a drug induced haze or not, that there is inevitably many people that we have lost forever.
Especially with those who do not understand the disease of addiction, forgiveness may be something that is impossible to achieve. Some people are not the forgiving type. I have many friends and family members that I have done nothing to, except be n addict, that I have lost forever. I have people that have committed one minor transgression that have refused to offer their forgiveness to me after many, repeated heart-felt apologies. This is something that I am forced to come to peace with. There is a Buddhist quote that goes, “Holding on to anger is like trying to throw a torch with your bare hands. You will inevitably get burned.” I take great comfort in this and have stopped dwelling on people’s whose forgiveness I will probably never receive. If they choose to hold on to hate and anger towards me, there is nothing more that I can do to remedy the situation. I have forgiven people. If they choose to let anger eat them alive, so be it.
We can only concern ourselves with those who are willing to let us back into their lives, into their hearts. This does not just go for addicts, but for everyone. It is important to apologize to someone whom you have wronged, but if forgiveness is something that they are refusing to give, fuck it. I know from personal experience that it will eat you up inside. It is not worth it. It is far better to take that energy and focus it towards your recovery, to those who found it deep within their souls to give us trust again, even if just a little.