You Have To Go Thud!
by Ned Wicker
I was always told there are two ways to do anything—the easy way and the hard way. It seems in so many cases a person chooses the hard way. It’s not for lack of intelligence, or the inability to reason, but all to often it just gets down to stubborn pride. I am going to do this my way and no other way. But sometimes the hard way is the better choice.
Why can't they say NO to drinking?
Addict/alcoholics have this struggle more than most people, but don’t think any of us are exempt, but with substance use disorders it’s a complicated issue of not doing the right thing because you can’t. Joe Herzanek’s book “Why Don’t They Just Quit?” spends countless pages explaining why an addict/alcoholic can’t just say no.
Once the disease takes hold, the addicted person is in for a long, difficult ride and it’s no longer a matter of quitting, no longer a will power issue and no longer something the person has any control over. The problem may be obvious, but that doesn’t matter. The disease takes the addict/alcoholic by the throat and shakes it like a wild dog on a feeding frenzy. The easy thing to do would be quit. The easy thing to do would be admit you have a problem. The easy thing to do would be to let somebody help you.
A lot of excuses for drinking too much
People will laugh about their friend being the life of the party when they’re drunk, or funny and creative when they’re high, or they will make some kind of an excuse as to why the situation is not as dire as it really is. The addict/alcoholic likes the support, because they can justify a lack of action, avoid personal responsibility and continue to partake in their drug of choice.
It’s much harder to go to your friend, confront them and tell them that they have a problem. It’s messy and we don’t like mess. After all, it’s their problem, isn’t it? You can see that taking the best road isn’t easy at all. Worse yet, when we enable the addict/alcoholic, we lend our approval to the behavior.
A man I know still lives at home with his aged parents, free of living expenses, free to drink. Mom and dad were scared still that they would lose him if they put their foot down. They are loving him to death. They did tell him that he has to leave the house, mainly because the father is nearing the end of his life and they’d like to get everything in order.
Dad told him the major advantage to moving out was that he could then drink at home and wouldn’t have to go out to bars and spend a lot of money. He also wouldn’t have to drive and put other people’s lives in jeopardy. He agreed to move because he’d still get to drink.
Leave me ALONE!
Even though people have the disease, they don’t necessarily want treatment, mainly because they deny they have an issue. They, after all, can quit anytime they want. No problem. They can handle it and they are quick to share that, even though they cannot demonstrate any ability to do so. Human pride is very powerful.
As the disease progresses, they may lose their job, lose their family, lose their possessions, but they STILL don’t have a problem. If you bring it up, you’re wrong and you’re the bad guy, so we tend to look the other way. The disease takes over and robs them of the ability to choose.
That first step states that “our lives had become unmanageable.” Lacking the ability to make a life and death decision is out of control, but sadly, as a hospital chaplain, I have seem people literally drink themselves to death, or continue to take their drug of choice to the point where serious medical issues befall them and there is little the medical professionals can do in the emergency room.
A TRUE tragedy
Denial is so tragic. Not getting help means the addict/alcoholic risks taking that long journey from which there is no return unless there is a major event, an intervention, a medical emergency, anything that will force the person into treatment.
With nothing to prevent them from using, the disease makes the decisions and the decision is always to keep using. Some are lucky. They have people that love them and keep after them. They realize that there is the possibility that they have a problem and they submit to treatment.
Some must hit bottom
You’ve heard it said that people have to “go thud” or hit bottom before they can climb out of the hole. I suppose this has an element of truth, but if you look at addiction as a mental disorder, why would you give the person with the mental disorder the option of accepting treatment or continuing to do what they want to do? The law says people have rights and can refuse medical treatment.
But as a chaplain if I determine that a patient may do harm to another person or to themselves, I have an obligation to report it. The law is vague, wishy-washy and just because a person can assert their rights doesn’t mean it’s a good idea. I do believe that I am my brother’s keeper when I am placed in a position of action, or influence.
Playing with fire
You have to go thud is dangerous because thud doesn’t come until the disease has progressed well past problem stage. The hard way is to force the issue. The easy way is to ignore it. The hard way is to advocate for the addict/alcoholic, set boundaries and organize a plan to get them into treatment by whatever means necessary. The easy way is to wait for them to go thud.