“Addiction does not negotiate”
This is a quote from Eric Clapton, and it couldn’t be more true! It’s amazing how many addicts, alcoholics, whatever terminology you wish, attempts to negotiate with addiction, and every single time they lose, outright. Period. It’s impossible to negotiate with something that doesn’t negotiate back. We’ve all seen the negotiations, and continue to see the negotiations, and even more unfortunately see the results. Relapse, broken homes and families, heartache, hospitalizations, and death.
Addicts will try to negotiate in so many ways, each time thinking that they are original in their approach. Some will swear off of one substance, say alcohol for instance, and switch to another they deem non addictive, perhaps marijuana (it’s legal now, don’t you know, so obviously it must be okay). They negotiate with their supports they have in place. “I’ll call them tomorrow.” Or “I’ll go to my meeting next week.” They think that part of the program, or perhaps, for the “12 Steppers”, some of the Steps in a 12 Step program, don’t apply to them. They think that they don’t need a sponsor, (that’s for the “real bad alcoholics.”) They’ll jump on things they hear that are against everything they know, because it is so much easier than doing the work for recovery. Some people come up with a 6 month plan – “I’ll go to my meetings regularly for 6 months and then I’ll have a great foundation under me. Then I get to return to my life, free and clean!”
Here is another Clapton quote that might resonate:
“I found a pattern in my behaviour that had been repeating itself for years, decades even. Bad choices were my specialty, and if something honest and decent came along, I would shun it or run the other way.”
Recovery does not work this way. Recovery is hard work (especially in the beginning), every day, for the rest of your life. The work you put in is worth every ounce (and exponentially more) of what you get out of it.
Another negotiation I see often, and one of my personal favourites, is the “designated drunk”, or “designated addict program.” We all have somebody who is worse than us, and we can always hold ourselves against them and say, “I’m not as bad as…” What makes me smile about this one is that, I used this one, a lot. You see, I wasn’t a drunk as long as I never got thrown out of the Cecil Hotel. It was the scuzziest hotel where I used to live. I got thrown out of the Westgate, the Majestic, the St. Regis, the York, The Trade Winds, the Carriage House, the Empress, the Alexander, the Imperial, the Highlander, the Crossroads, and many more. But I never got thrown out of the Cecil, hence I wasn’t an alcoholic. Only alcoholics got thrown out of the Cecil. Truth is, I never drank at the Cecil for fear I would get thrown out and then I’d be an alcoholic. Same thing for being an addict. I never stuck a needle in my arm, only true addicts would do that. I won’t even go into all the places I stuck a needle in myself, but never in the arm! And isn’t media great these days in helping us negotiate this way? Think of how media shows us in the news, etc., what alcoholics and addicts “look like”, and where they are (in the alleyways, drop in centres, food lines etc…)
Negotiations in Treatment Centres
I work for a treatment centre and the amount of negotiation I see happening here is truly heartbreaking. Although we have an extremely unique facility, we are like almost every other treatment centre in that we are evidence based! Our whole programming is based on mountains of evidence-based practices world wide. Yet, our clients are always trying to negotiate with our program. “I’ll do this because I like it, but that scares me, so I won’t do that.” or “That is really uncomfortable.” or “That’s outside of my comfort zone.” Duh, yeah! Your comfort zone is addiction!
As long as we still have things – cars, houses, families, money, children, jobs – then we can’t possibly be alcoholics, addicts. As long as we look at what we haven’t lost instead of what we have lost – trust, respect, dignity, self-esteem, hopes/dreams – we can continue to attempt to negotiate with addiction.
The Bottom Line in Addiction Recovery
Bottom line is this: In order to recover from addiction in any form, whether substance or process, we will need to recover somebody else’s way! The world is chock full of people who have recovered from alcoholism, addiction, compulsive gambling, compulsive sexual activities, shopping, multiple psychiatric disorders. Their numbers range in the millions if not billions. And all of them have one thing in common, and only one thing. They gave up the negotiating rights to their addiction, and followed instructions laid down by millions of people who have found a way out. It really is that simple.
By Pat Mandryk
Addictions Counsellor – Top of the World Ranch
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