What company are you keeping?
by Ned Wicker
The old adage that “you’re known by the company you keep” is one of those statements that we cast off as being just another saying, but in truth it is a cautionary word of wisdom for addicts. After all, we are creatures of habit and when we don’t know what else to do, we will go to what feels familiar.
People will move away from their families, their friends and their professional contacts, all in the name of feeding their addiction. It’s like the folks who love and care about them are going to get in the way. Maybe deep down in side there is a sense of shame, and they are hiding in the shadows of life to avoid detection. They lose themselves.
Everything centers around the drinking/the addiction
The addiction has taken over and so all activities must be centered on satisfying the craving. They seek others who use, or who can provide the substance. Nobody else understands and the addict does not want the annoyance of being told there is a problem.
Even if they get into treatment, there is no guarantee that they will stay in treatment. So often people leave early and go right back to the environment they came from, back to drug houses or the streets. Treatment has only prevented them from using. They are still addicted. They will go back to what is familiar, because they have neither the will nor the spiritual resources to do otherwise. They can’t be forced.
Abstinence does work if you can achieve it
I hear criticism about Alcoholics Anonymous’ stand on abstinence, but there are too many cases out there of people who do not stay away from using, who keep associating with the same people, who go in and out of treatment as if it were like visiting a church. They may feel good about themselves, but the message hasn’t sunk in and they have no real belief.
People want a fast solution, a pill, and then they want to go back to doing what they want to do. Sometimes, even if someone wants to turn their life around, the pressures are too great. They determine that they can’t make it and go back to their old haunts. There they find “understanding” and nobody “judges” them. There is no hassle.
Parents don't want to pry
Contributing to this “disconnect” are a couple of factors. A mother of an addict told me recently that she was concerned about her son’s habits, was trying to encourage him, but she didn’t want to pry into his personal affairs. She was worried that if she provided too much pressure he would move out, hang out with his friends and get worse.
One of her other concerns was that the father had already given up on his son after the young man attempted suicide and dropped out of college. She was trying to balance what she perceived as his need with his agenda, and she was finding out that it didn’t work.
Appeasement is not the answer. She needs support herself. Thankfully she knows that and is seeking help.
By nature we are wired for relationship. If a person hides from the world and avoids social contact at all cost, there is likely some kind of behavioral disorder that is causing the isolation. We seek others for love and support. If those others are addicts, the kind of love and support we receive is potentially deadly.
Going back to the old crowd and to an old way of life after treatment is not recovery it’s relapse. The Company You Keep will determine your success. People who leave treatment facilities only to return to the same environment they came from are not going to recover because there is nothing there that would support any other kind of behavior. More likely is their chance of overdose.
No, there must be a clean break and a willful turning away from old patterns of behavior. Moms and dads should pry, friends should encourage and collectively, those who care need to remove obstacles that would hinder a successful recovery.
You are known for The Company You Keep. The Company You Keep in the grips of addiction is not the company that is going to contribute to fulfillment and happiness. It will only contribute to death and despair.