A Story of Not
When I was the manager of a Sober Living Home, I had several clients that always made me sad. One that stands out was a young beautiful meth addict in her early twenties. She came to the house with her father one afternoon to check in. We went through the check in process, and there didn’t seem to be any problems between her and her father, which sometimes can be the case when a parent drops off their child. Everything seemed like it would be alright. Just another client, business as usual. Her father was very attentive and appeared to know just what she would need to get started at the house. He brought bedding, toiletries, and food for the week. The girl seemed very pleasant and anxious to get settled into her room. All seemed well at this point, so after showing the girl around the house, I left her alone.
I asked her father if he could meet me outside for a moment before leaving, and he agreed. I asked him if there was anything I should be aware of regarding his daughter that might help me understand her. He told me that she had a long history of drug use and a case pending for drug possession. I said, “that’s fine; we see that often, but are there any other things I might be able to keep an eye on?” He told me he didn’t know how long she would stay. I asked if she had been in any other Sober Living Homes, and he said, “yes, two others.” I told him, “well, we have a great house here, and I think she will like living here.” I will never forget the look in his eyes as he paused to respond to me, his face turned stoic, but you could see he was in deep thought. After pausing a moment, he said, “do you think so?” His eyes told me everything. There was a mixture of pain, guilt, and exhaustion in his eyes. I recognized this look from so many other parents who had dropped their children off before. I shook his hand and tried to give him some words of encouragement. I told him I would check with her daily to see how she was doing.
As I walked back into the house, I thought I need to do everything I can to help this girl adjust to the house and stay sober.
Her first night was uneventful. We had a house meeting that night, where I introduced her to everyone in the house. We all went to bed that night, and all was well. The next morning I was up early and saw her coming down the stairs heading for the front door. I asked her where she was going, and she told me her father was outside, and they were going to court. That was the last time I saw her for three days.
I called her father to tell him she didn’t come home last night. He answered the phone and said, “Hello Bob, she ran away, didn’t she?” I was shocked to hear this but figured this was the norm with her. Her father finally got in touch with her, and she returned two days later. I pulled her aside to have a talk with her about her behavior. I asked where she had been, and she told me she was at a homeless camp downtown with her boyfriend. I asked her if she wanted to get sober. She looked at me and said yes. I asked why. She told me because she had a four-year-old son and she wanted to get him back from her parents.
Two days later, she disappeared again, and I called her father to get her things, which he did. He thanked me for giving her the opportunity to come to the house. I saw the same look in his eyes that I saw the first time I met him.
About a week later the girl came to the house to pick up a few things that were left behind. I tried to talk her into staying and give it another try. As I was talking to her, I noticed something in her eyes that I had seen before in people. Her eyes were nearly black. She had this eery stare with seemingly no emotion. This is the look of deep addiction. This is the look of “I am not ready.”
Why You are not Ready to be Sober
Many things make us unwilling to be sober. It could be that you have not suffered enough consequences, or that you have suffered so many effects and you feel like giving up. It could be that you are in so much mental pain you can’t bear to be sober. It might also be that you are angry about something only you know about. Other reasons could be a family issue, like divorce or long-standing problems from your childhood. Many reasons people choose to continue using and drinking is vast and varied. Whatever the reason, the bottom line is you just aren’t ready. If you have your bottle or your drugs, you have temporary peace of mind, and that’s good enough for you.
The young woman who came to my house that day clearly was not ready to be sober. I don’t know what happened to her, but I hope she eventually was able to get sober and get her son back.
So Who is Ready?
For me it was consequences. I had ruined nearly every relationship I had. I totaled my car. My health was plummeting down so fast I was going to die. I couldn’t be trusted by anyone including myself. So, if, or when, you find yourself where I was in life, I can safely say you are ready to be sober.
The truth is, it doesn’t have to get that bad to be willing to be sober. You just have to be willing to listen to AA meetings. You have to trust others who are reaching out to help you. You have to follow suggestions, such as getting a sponsor and living in a Sober Living Home.
I had not suffered any consequences when a concerned friend came to me and asked if she could take me to my first AA meeting. I reluctantly agreed and went. I sat there and listened to the speaker and the stories of others. I was shocked. I heard horrible stories of car crashes, divorces, loss of jobs, loss of homes, and loss of dignity. I looked around the room and thought to myself; these people are all fucked! What the hell is wrong with these people? I am nothing like them. I couldn’t wait to get out of there for fear some of that craziness would rub off on me.
My friend drove me home, and we sat and talked. I remember telling her how appalled I was at AA and their meetings. I was going on about how I was expecting something nicer from an AA meeting, not some dumpy room in a run-down shopping center. My friend seemed sad that I couldn’t see the truth about myself and left.
As soon as she left, I grabbed one of my hidden vodka bottles, turned on the TV, and poured myself a couple of shots. Now, I was the classic case of not ready. Geez, what an idiot I was back then.
Very few people, if any, stop drinking or using after their first consequence. Most of the stories you hear are the years of consequences that have built up. This is a sad fact. Why can’t people see the destruction that lies ahead if they continue to drink and use drugs? For me, it was my ego. I thought I was better and stronger than the people I saw at AA meetings.
Being ready to be sober is just like what the first step says in the twelve steps of AA. You have to admit you are powerless over drugs and alcohol and that your life has become unmanageable.
Knowing when your life has become unmanageable is not the same for everyone. Many factors contribute to you knowing when this moment arrives. One of the worst things you can have as an addict/alcoholic is means, in the form of money and housing. As long as you have these things, it’s very hard for addicts and alcoholics to see a reason to stop. Think about it, if you have money and a home, that money is going to the dealer or the liquor store. Another thing is support. If you still have the support of influential people in your life, you feel you can still drink and use. Now, I didn’t mention love and support I just said support. Your friends and family with always love you despite what happens to you and your addiction. What they may stop doing is supporting you and your behavior. They didn’t buy a ticket to your circus, and they don’t have come.
Once you lose your job, which is almost always inevitable, there goes your means and possibly your housing. Usually, when you miss these things you rely on the support of others, and they are willing to help to a point. So what happens next? You snap out of it, get clean and get your job back, right? No! You lie, beg, borrow and steal. You take advantage of every person you know until they have turned their back on you out of self-preservation. You find yourself broke, jobless, homeless and friendless. At this point, you are ready to be sober or are you ready for death, jail or institutions.
Once you have exhausted all possibilities to continue with your addiction and you keep winding up homeless or institutionalized in some way, and you have escaped death, you are ready to be sober.