The most uncomfortable truth about Heroin and opiate addiction is that it affords the user one of two options-you get sober, or you die. That is the rule of the game you play when you invite that monster in your life. I did not make the rule. It just is.
My area is not well-known for its mountains, forests, lakes, caverns, or waterfalls. Of course it is to those of us born and raised here, but nationally, my area is known as an epicenter of the opioid epidemic. First came prescriptions for Oxycontin for ailments such as headaches and menstrual cramps to be followed by education and legislation as to why that might be a bad idea. Insert Heroin here. Devastation followed, and it’s difficult to see the beautiful place that raised me; that raised all of us. The result has been mass addiction and mass exodus.
My husband and I fled only to find ourselves coming back, because this is our home. I’ve left many times, but I always find my way back. This is the place I love, and I’ll be damned before it overdoses into nonexistence. Many of us decided to roll up our sleeves and put the pieces back together when the plateau arrives. We work daily to turn things around, but how? It’s a complex problem, and solutions are few.
We have formed a subset to tackle this. Of course it would be better to prevent, but we have mass numbers in active addiction now. A local man working heavily in the recovery community has coined the phrase, “Not a bologna sandwich.” This seemingly innocuous phrase points to the fact that there is a fine line between empowering and enabling someone, so how can one understand which is which? You ask yourself if this individual is capable of doing (insert task here) himself or herself, as addicts will ask for numerous things in an effort to maintain their addiction, and it is often disguised as help.
“I really need you to bail me out of jail.”
“My electric is about to get shut off.”
“I need a ride.”
“If you could just loan me a few dollars until payday…”
“I don’t have enough to pay my rent.”
You don’t empower someone by solving their problems for them. In fact, you enable them to remain in active addiction. To pay Person X’s rent, you give them the opportunity to use what he or she did have for rent on his or her substance of choice. What will Person X do next month? He or she will continue to use and rely on you to pay rent, as Person X has learned how to solve the problem of not enough rent money to also chase the dragon. Person X will never learn how to solve the problem correctly until they have no choice but to solve it correctly.
Maybe Person X loses his or her apartment. I don’t know. It depends on how Person X defines ‘rock bottom,’ as we all define it differently. Maybe Person X will have to lose the house, the dog, the car, the job, and the unicorn of a girlfriend before he or she realizes there is no possible way to dig down further. Maybe not. Maybe all Person X has to do is lose your favor and assistance to acquire their favorite illicit substance.
You might have experienced this phenomenon even without addiction. Rock bottom is that pivotal moment in life where you clench your fists and shout, “I’m tired of this! I don’t want to do this anymore! I’ve had enough!” It is the realization there is nowhere to travel but upward, and you have nothing to lose in doing so.
Would you agree the figurative rock bottom is better than death in hindsight?
The definition is easy. Implementation is the difficult part. It is fairly easy to convince yourself you can stand firm. It is another entirely to stand firm when the one you love is shouting in your face how his or her lot in life is your fault. Every addict has mastered manipulation. Just ask one in recovery if you don’t believe me. As a result, people give in believing it is out of love when it is actually the false perception of guilt that you are responsible for that individual’s current state of being.
Stand firm. It is not love to give out of guilt. It is not love to strip away one’s ability to resolve his or her own problems, because how will they know how to solve that same problem in the future? You are unknowingly preventing that person from reaching his or her full potential as a human being and contributing to his or her self destruction. Make a commitment and make it clear you will not sustain another’s dysfunction any longer, because you do not want to help someone you love accidentally kill himself or herself.
Every time you deny your assistance to someone truly not in need is an opportunity for them to rise above and climb out of the hole. It is an invitation extended out of love for that individual to realize just how gifted and capable he or she is. You are not responsible for whether or not he or she accepts this invitation to enlightenment, as you cannot make the journey for him or her.
I will be here to listen any time you need me. When you are ready, we will make the drive to rehab together. I will get you whatever you will need while you are in there. I will cheer you on and hold your hand every step of the way.
Until then, not a bologna sandwich.