It Takes a Village!
There is a saying in the rooms of twelve-step recovery programs, “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results!” Sometimes I wonder if they’re talking about the pathology of addiction of describing the current paradigm of treatment. Short-term treatment is not effective. This is not an attempt to condemn or pass blame; it is an attempt to find better solutions to an insidious disease. Our young are dying in record numbers there must be a more effective solution to the problem.
In the fall of 1968 a seven-year-old boy accompanied his mother to a meeting of Alcoholics Anonymous, the room was filled with smoke, every table had an ashtray filled with extinguished cigarettes, most of the people were middle aged. The people were very friendly, and there were many smiles, and lots of chatter. The chairperson banged down the gavel and the meeting started. The preamble of AA was read by one of the men and then the twelve-steps of AA. Then the speaker began to tell his story. The mother gave her son a dollar to put in a wicker basket that was passed to help satisfy the AA tradition that the meeting is self-supporting. There were coffee and cookies on a table in the back of the room for all to enjoy. The speaker talked for about forty-five minutes and then others at the meeting shared until the hour was nearly over. The meeting closed with the group holding hands in a large circle and chanting “The Lord’s Prayer.”
The mother enjoyed over forty years of continuous sobriety until she passed on a few years ago. The boy had yet to start his “addiction career” at that time of his life. Later in his life he returned to the rooms of AA, not to accompany another, but for his own sake. Sobriety was short lived. There were to be three trips to residential treatment to an AA rest farm started by one of the co-founders of AA, Bill W. There were no doctors or nurses, just a professional staff of other recovering alcoholics who cared. The first two times to the farm, the man didn’t listen, was self-centered, and didn’t take the suggestions of the staff or the program of AA. The third visit to the farm was different; the man was as willing as the dying could be. He got honest, was open-minded, and took every suggestion and put them into action.
The man is still enjoying continuous sobriety of approximately eighteen years to date. The man’s brother and his brother’s wife also found recovery in the rooms of AA and a twelve-step rest farm. The couple has been clean and sober for approximately sixteen years to date. The man’s uncle also found hope in AA and has enjoyed thirty years of continuous sobriety to date. Five people, in one family, who all found the miracle of long-term recovery. Why do so many others fail?
In today’s recovery world, experience and science have shown us that the addicted person’s family must also be addressed, not just the addicted person. Addiction has proven itself to be a family disease. Not necessarily that more than one person in the family is addicted, but the whole family is affected by the disease. The family needs to understand addiction and recovery, so that they can support recovery without enabling addiction. They need to be educated as to the true pathology of addiction. The problem defines the solution. There are no short cuts; there is no easier way out. I heard someone say the other day, “It takes a village” to help the addict to recover.