When I first tried to get heroin addiction help in the late nineties, I thought it would be a good idea to tell my family. I was living in a halfway house and they kept telling me I needed to get honest, so what better place to start than with my family? Besides, I was very lonely at the time andI needed their help to overcome my heroin addiction.
But it didn’t go well, not at all. The short version is they disowned me. To them, anyone who needed heroin addiction help was a loser, a moral failure, a scumbag. And truth be told, I WAS kind of a scumbag. I hurt a lot of people. I stole, lied, and cheated to get what I thought I needed. But it was what I DID that made me kind of a scumbag, not what I WAS.
Things are different now. I sought help for my heroin addiction and things got better. I’m clean about twelve years now and my family trusts me again. And I don’t blame them for disowning me now. How could I? I hurt them again and again with my actions. But they were also under a misconception, the same misconception most of the world lives under – that addiction itself is a moral issue. It’s not though. How we treat people – that’s the moral issue.
I’m clean today because I got accountable. I became convinced, for the first time in my life, that I was responsible for every single one of my actions. All of them except one – being addicted in the first place. Sure, in a very real way I chose to get high all the time and hurt people. But in another way – a kinder and more productive way – I didn’t choose any of it. I had been in terrible emotional pain my whole life. The pain made me selfish and delusional.
Is my theory psychologically accurate? Am I right, strictly speaking, when I say that by the time I sought heroin addiction help I had given away the power of choice? Beats me. That’s how it felt on the inside, but what do I know? What does anyone know for certain about motive and free will? The only thing I know is that I’m clean today because I became accountable. And I only got that way by letting go of the idea that I was a scumbag because I needed heroin addiction help.
I have a lot of love and concern for others in my heart today. It was always there, even at my worst moments. The love in my heart just needed developing. It needed development and accountability in order to save my life. And I could only get accountable by thinking maybe I wasn’t a scumbag after all, that maybe I was worth saving.