THE “I CAN’T” AND “I WON’T,” OF ADDICTION.
Addiction has a tendency to back us into a corner. The World debates over whether we choose that corner, or are backed into that corner. I don’t believe that is the discussion we should have. Once we are in the corner it is not as relevant how we got there, but how we get out. The truth of the matter is we both ended up there, and get out of there in large part by 2 phrases, “I can’t” and “I won’t.”
“I WON’T GET ADDICTED” LEADS US THERE
No addict ever sets out to be an addict. I made this argument when i was writing blogs for a previous site: blaming an addict for his addiction by saying he chose to use drugs that first time is the same as telling a person diagnosed with cancer that they chose cancer by smoking, eating processed foods, or tanning too much. It’s just as true, in many cases, as it is with addiction. Choices were made, then later, consequences were realized.
i won’t get addicted.
Every addict starts out thinking “I won’t get addicted.” Maybe it is a conscious thought, maybe they just never considered the possibility they would become an addict.
It is also interesting to me that a great majority of people who condemn addicts for that initial choice experimented when they were younger. Often times they smoked pot or drank when they were younger, or they took the same pills prescribed by a doctor that I did. For some reason, they didn’t get hooked. We can go into greater detail on that later, but the point is, they made the same choice, they rolled the same dice. Their rolls just didn’t bring up “snake eyes” like mine and so many other peoples’ did.
I CAN’T STOP USING
The very first time I began to think what i was doing wasn’t healthy was when i took 10 pills at once for the first time. I was almost 2 years into my addiction by this point but still didn’t realize that I had a problem. I took 10 pills at once for the first time and i thought, “this can’t be good for me. This might kill me one day.” After dismissing that initial fear, i never looked back. Even when i was taking 30-40 at a time, the thought that i might die one day never again crossed my mind. About a year and a half after this first epiphany (3 and a half years into my addiction) was the first time i admitted to myself that i wasn’t taking the pills solely for pain relief anymore. I tried to seek help a couple of times and was basically dismissed. It wasn’t until almost 4 years later (almost 8 years into my addiction that i first had the thought:
I can’t stop using
but by this time i didn’t know how to get help or even who to trust with the thought that i might need help. I didn’t really want help. I knew this stuff kept me from hurting, inside and out. I had zero desire to go back to hurting anymore.
I WON’T GO TO REHAB
For me it wasn’t so much that i didn’t think rehab would help, but i wasn’t like those other people. I had legitimate physical pain. I needed to treat that pain. I didn’t realize at the time that i was really treating emotional pain more than physical, and doing so in a very unhealthy way.
The first time i went to rehab i noticed that everybody there besides me had long prison sentences hanging over their heads. They were court-ordered. I was not. I knew that program has done good things for a great many people but i wasn’t willing to be outside of my comfort zone so after 4 days i left. After that, any time somebody suggested rehab i said, “I don’t need rehab.”
I won’t go to inpatient treatment
THEIR ARE OTHERS THAT SHARE RESPONSIBILITY FOR EACH “I WON’T” AND “I CAN’T” THAT HELP THE ADDICT BE AN ADDICT
We call this enabling. When somebody does things for the addict that make using a little easier, that is enabling. Some professionals now say that the families of addicts are often addicted as well. They aren’t addicted to a substance. They are addicted to trying to help the addict, or trying to save them. This is almost impossible for them to do but they keep trying. It is done from a place of love, they just don’t know what to do. But an addict will never change until it is more uncomfortable to stay in addiction than it is to break free from addiction. They have to hit rock bottom. For some that is jail, or losing their family, or being homeless and hungry, but they will not change until they hit rock bottom. When people pay rent, or phone bills, buy food, gas or clothes they enable. When people pay lawyer bills or bail the addict out of jail, they are enabling. Is it hard to watch the addict spiral down to a crash? Absolutely. But the crash is what will help save their lives, not preventing them from hitting rock bottom.
BREAKING FREE FROM ADDICTION THROUGH “I CAN’T” AND “I WON’T”
Those 2 powerful phrases have a very profound impact. They communicate a great deal, even when you don’t intend them to. Addicts, and those around them need to learn to utilize and live by i can’t and i won’t to break free from addiction and to stay free from addiction. “I can’t” means i don’t have the ability. “I won’t” means whether or not i have the ability is irrelevant. I am choosing not to do it.
I CAN’T DO IT
This is the first step in various 12 step programs because it is the biggest obstacle in breaking addiction. I often tell people that breaking addiction, the actual process, isn’t hard at all. What makes it so very difficult is the addict’s willingness (or lack thereof) to participate in and submit to the program. When an addict realizes and admits
I can’t beat addiction in my own power. I can’t do this…..
this is the key that unlocks the door way that leads to sobriety. Without this first hurdle being crossed, addiction cannot be beaten.
I CAN’T OPEN UP TO PEOPLE, I WON’T GO TO MEETINGS
I see men and women rotate in and out of Celebrate Recovery meetings. I rotated in and out of AA and NA meetings a few times over the years myself. They didn’t work for me and they don’t work for others who don’t come faithfully and/or come and don’t share, just listen. The famous last words of addicts before relapse usually sound something like one of these:
-I don’t need meetings anymore. I’ve beaten it.
-I can’t make those meetings. I have other things to do.
-I don’t like sharing in front of a bunch of strangers.
-I don’t want to call my sponsor/accountability partner
There are a lot of other excuses too. These are just a few examples. But what I’ve discovered is that the VAST majority of people who stop/don’t go to meetings and/or don’t stay in touch with their sponsor or accountability group, relapse. We couldn’t do it on our own before. Why would we want to believe we could do it on our own now? That is simply insanity. Those old “I can’t(s)” and “I won’t(s)” have to be turned into a different kind of I can’t and I won’t. I can’t do that thing tonight because i can’t miss my meeting. I can’t hang around those people in those places and stay sober so i wont. I won’t choose to not stay in touch with my accountability partners. I won’t withhold important details about my life from those who are walking with me in sobriety. I can’t do it alone, so I won’t try.
THOSE AROUND US HAVE TO LEARN TO SAY “I CAN’T” AND “I WON’T” AS WELL
I won’t send money to somebody in recovery, ever. If there is some bill that absolutely has to be paid, and i have the ability, i might help. After i have a chance to check out the situation and verify what is going on i might help. If i get a funny vibe or things don’t add up, no sir. They may hate me but i will not contribute to them using again, maybe even dying. Those around the addict have to learn that saying I can’t help, or i won’t help, is a necessary part of helping to do everything they can to help an addict stay sober. And saying “i won’t” is much more powerful than saying “i can’t” because it communicates that you are making a choice not to.
LASTLY, I CAN’T MAKE AN ADDICT STAY CLEAN, SO I WON’T TAKE RESPONSIBILITY FOR THEIR SOBRIETY
It is not my job to keep a recovering addict clean. I can’t. I don’t have that ability. I walk that road with them offering support and accountability, but at the end of it all, they make the choice whether to use again or not. With that being the case i won’t take responsibility for them if they relapse. It is not my fault they used again (assuming i didn’t give it to them or make access easier). It will break my heart if they relapse. I will not, however, accept any blame for it because i didn’t choose to use for them. i can’t do it, and i won’t.