The tunnel of addiction!
by Ned Wicker
STEP TWELVE: Having had a spiritual awakening as a result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to addicts and to practice these principles in our affairs.
There is no teacher like experience. The final step in the 12 Step process speaks to experience, which gives those who have walked through the tunnel of addiction a depth of understanding that non-addicts don’t have, nor ever will have.
So many counselors and therapists I have met over the years are in recovery themselves, and because of their experience, they are tuned into the thinking process and lifestyle of the addict. A person who truly knows the experience of addiction is ideally suited to help guide someone else through the tunnel.
Unfortunately, drug addition strips us of our ability to reason and our humanity, leaving only “You’ll have to learn the heard way” as a means of getting the message through to us. Highly addictive drugs, like crack cocaine, can grab a person immediately and push them down that destructive path.
From the outside, the observer sees the addict’s craving as being absolute lunacy, but for the one addicted, the craving is for something they desperately want to satisfy the need to feel better, or normal. Any intervention to prevent the addict from using is seen as an act of betrayal at worse, or the silly attempts of a non-understanding, uninformed individual at best.
It’s hard for anyone who has not been addicted to understand this. Therefore, those who have walked through the tunnel of addiction and come out the other side are invaluable recourses to those who struggle with the disease. There is a certain bond. Call it a commonality or a non-spoken understanding, but the experience of former addicts resonates well with current users.
Hope in recovery!
That’s why a woman I recently met has hope for her recovery. She, like her two older sisters, is an addict, but the two older ones have come out of the tunnel. Her counselor at the treatment center is a recovering addict, so she is surrounded by people with intimate, personal knowledge of the disease.
The sisters’ behavior had been a strong influence on their “baby” sister, but instead of feeling guilty for dragging her into addiction, once they were freed from the chains of the disease, they got into the fight to save her. They understood what she was thinking, knew what she needed and were prepared to do their part. Even though the haze of methamphetamine addiction, the little sister knew that somebody cared.
Knowing the tricks.
Meeting with the counselor at the treatment center, the older sister mapped out a plan to get their little sister into treatment, and a plan of what the recovery process would look like. The counselor said it was like having additional arms and legs to do the job. He had overcome addition to cocaine years ago, and as he put it, “I know all the tricks,” referring to any pushback from the client. But he had the two older sisters in his arsenal. “Sometimes the family gets in the way because they are so used to being enablers,” he noted. “But (the sisters) know what she needs and they know how to help.”
Getting back to the question of whether it is necessary for someone to have been an addict in order to help an addict, the answer there is definitely no. However, knowledge and understanding are necessary. Families need to know what they have to do to help. Had the older sisters not been in recovery, the counselor was prepared to offer resources for support and education. The older sisters were ahead of the curve, so they were in a good position to be utilized.
Returning to wholeness
The treatment center has answers, but organizations like Alcoholics Anonymous, Al-anon and Narcotics Anonymous have connections to help families train to do their part in the battle. The 12th step is sort of a call to arms, if you will, an opportunity for the recovering addict to help users return to wholeness. Even if 12 Step is not your preferred means of recovery, the idea of reaching out to others is noble, and in the end, the pain and suffering you experienced can be for the good of someone else.