Funny Thing Happened on the Way Home From Rehab

Drawing of an airplane flying

As I write this, I’m sitting on a plane as I return home from taking a client to treatment after an intervention.  This person began the process of recovery from heroin addiction last night as they checked into a treatment center.  In the row of seats behind me is a man who I have to assume is an academic of some sort.  Whether he is a medical doctor or not I can’t tell at this point.  He is speaking loudly enough that I can hear him in spite of having earphones in.  While I feel a little guilty for eavesdropping, I can’t go back to watching my movie.  The conversation started as they discussed the movie “Flight.”  For those of you who haven’t seen it (spoiler alert), Denzel Washington plays a pilot who gains attention for landing a damaged plane and saving most of the people on board.  The focus of the movie is the alcoholism of his character.  As this gentleman behind me explains the basic plot points he begins to share his interest in addiction.

The passenger talks about his work in addiction research and how research in this field is in it’s infancy.  He makes sure to highlight the sad state of affairs in the US as we as a nation have taken it upon ourselves to legislate marijuana use and that it is clearly not addictive and we have no right to legislate happiness (That’s a topic for another day).  He brings up the many other substances that are far worse i.e, bath salts, methamphetamine, heroin and others.  One thing is remarkably clear to me.  This man is not speaking from experience of being addicted himself.  He is sharing with those in his row from his intellect.  There is a sterile and antiseptic feeling to his words.  He may have some letters behind his name and a beautifully framed diploma on his wall, but addiction research is far beyond infancy.

There are those of us who have done extensive research in this field.  Some of it on a bar stool.  Others in our own homes where you would never suspect we were finding out first hand the devastating effects of this disease.  Others have ended up in jail, prison or worse as we they “researched” addiction.  This is what makes those of us who have recovered far more effective at helping those still suffering.  We don’t share information that is understood only academically.  We get to share from a place that is only known to those of us who have been there. Not to mention the extensive research by professionals with letters behind their name who actually specialize in addiction, as clinicians and researchers. A tremendous body of knowledge of how addiction works in the brain continues to be revealed.

Part of me wants to jump into the middle of the discussion and share with him what I hope he will never learn first hand, that addiction robs us of our dignity, self respect and the trust of those around us.  It destroys the lives of it’s victims and their families.  What I also want to share with him is that there is a way to recover.  If he works for a pharmaceutical company, it won’t be found in a medication they create.  We don’t have to wait for the neurobiologists to unlock the mystery of addiction to discover a way to relieve us from our suffering.  The remedy is already in use and quite successfully.  It was born out of the desire to stop suffering.  It is found hourly in countless rooms around the world as those who have recovered from this hopeless state share their experience, strength and hope with the newcomer that walks through the doors of a recovery meeting because they are tired of doing “addiction research.”   It is not my intention to minimize the contribution that good doctors and scientists are making to find a way to treat addiction more effectively.  I hope we will not overlook the great success that happens one day at a time as one alcoholic or addict helps another to stay sober.

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