Staying Straight…


I helped a young man by driving him to a detox center this past week.  This 23 year old kid is a crack addict and an alcoholic – pure and simple.  If he gets into treatment again, this will be the third time in the past year and each time he went through a program, he was sure that he was going to be able to stay clean. However, integrating change for the long-term is not something that can be done without effort and it is easy to falter in our steps as we walk down the road to change. If we do not have the right processes to keep us on the straight and narrow path,  we can easily veer off the road and make a U-Turn to get back on our old familiar road vs. risking going forward into unfamiliar territory.

I thought it would be interesting to share some of the text messages and conversation I have had over the past few months as this young man moved took a step forward and then retracted his steps.  James Prochaska, PH.D and his colleagues describe in their book Changing for Good (1994) how successful self-changers move through the Precontemplation stage to the Contemplation stage of changing.  I think you will see the movement from this kid not really ready for change to wanting to make some changes because his behavior isn’t working for him anymore.

January 29, 2013 (Text Message Conversation)

Me:  Hi, it’s Pat. What are you up to? Ready to try getting into a program again or just waiting for everything to hit a greater depth? If you need someone to talk or walk you through some doors to sobriety, I will be around.  Stay in touch so we know you are okay.


Him: Yeah for the moment

Me Hey back at you, are you safe?  No response. (Me)  Keep in touch ok? Thinking about you a lot lately.

Him:  Yes, I will keep in touch thanks for the thoughts and prayers its been really ruff lately…

Me:  I truly believe that you will rise above the adversity and that there is a great plan for you by God to really make a positive impact on this earth.  Once you really begin believing in that yourself, life will turn around.  You are the power kiddo…

February 9, 2013: (Text Message Conversation)

Him: Hi pat, this is ____________ just in case your wondering

Me: Whats happening?

Him: Having some trouble latley (sp)....

Me: whats going on?

Him: Using and in legal trouble now duckin an dodgin

Me: so what are your options? Ready to be serious or druggin still a priority?

Him: Well Im smokin a joint right now if you want me to be honest but i need soome (sp) help kickin that other shit coke.

Me: Kickin coke requires kickin it all buddy… Are u ready to give it all up or is it because coppers are looking for u? When you are ready, find a place and I will be there to get you there…if you want help this weekend, let me know. Now stuff out the fricken joint if you are truly serious…

Him: Yes you are right

Me: Let me know

Him: I will for sure this is a for sure thing pat

Me: Okay, let me know when you have something set up…

Him: Your the best thanks

Me: no you are but you need to figure that out and believe it

February 14, 2013 (Text Message conversation)

Him: Im serious I need help fairview riverside or mission lodge detox. Im serious and im ready to do this

Me: Where are you…call me

Him: Mission Lodge is booked

Me: what about Riverside?

Him: Detox is booked there also

Me: any other options tonight?

Him: Jail

Me: are you willing to call the cops and have them come get you?

Him: No Way

Me: Can you get on a waiting list somewhere?

Him: I’ve been trying

Me: stay in touch okay?

February 14 (Text Message Conversation)

Him: Will you call me?

We talked for about 15 minutes.  He had talked to his Probation Officer (PO) and he was told that a warrant was going to be put out for his arrest because he missed taking his urine test as ordered by the court. The PO said that if he turned himself in, he (PO) would ask the courts to allow him to get into rehab.  I asked him what he was going to do and he said he was thinking about turning himself in.  I asked him what is going to help you make up your mind one way or another?, his answer,  If I get drunkI askif you get drunk that will help you make your decision? His response: I am afraid, they will keep me in jail and you don’t know what it is like to have to take a shit on a metal toilet that everyone else is sitting on and it is  right there in the middle of the room… and then have to shower with all those people… All I could say was being a crack addict sure sucks (and all I could think of in my head was that is probably the least of your worries kid...

Then he said,  I am going to die if I do not stop this.  Me: Yeah, you will. Truth is, one-third of addicts will die at a young age, one-third will continue to use, have a miserable life and die earlier in life but probably not until their 50’s or 60’s and one-third will recover – which third do you want to be?  I had heard that you were doing a great job selling at the phone store – top sales in that store.  Are you competitive?  Do you like to win?  So what third do you want to be in?  The third that wins of the two-thirds that are losers?

The next morning I saw a new text message that I receive from him at 11:45 pm the night before…here i go pat thanks for the support and prayers.

February 15th:

He had turned himself in the night before and had just finished at the courthouse where they released him.  His fears of sitting in jail for two weeks were over.  He could get into a place for detox but needed a ride so off I went to pick him up as I had promised I would do when he was ready to get help.  He wreaked of stale alcohol and he told me that he had to get wasted to get the courage to turn himself in the previous night.  He also told me that he stopped by the liquor store on the corner right before I picked him up and took a shot of vodka (I am pretty clear that it was more than just one shot…) because I need to be drunk in order to be allowed to go to detox.  I politely called him out on my bullshit meter,  oh really…they told you you had to be drinking right before you get to their doors in order for you to get it?  All he could say was it makes the most sense…now doesn’t make sense to me but as the old saying goes: you can’t rationalize the irrational…

We had a good talk on the way to detox.  He kept saying he had to change. The left side of his face was paralyzed after having the right side of his face hit by the fist of a 250# man over a drug deal gone bad.  He made the comment,  I was laying there bleeding all over and he just kept punching and punching me…all over a $30.00 rock of coke…how stupid is that?”  He then told me that he is thinking about becoming a Chemical Dependency (CD) counselor.  He said, what if my face stays paralyzed for good?  I could show kids ‘this is what happens’ when you are a drug addict.

I asked him what had changed for him, why rehab again?  He responded,  I kept thinking about what you said 1/3, 1/3, 1/3 and I am going to be in that top 1/3.  There is a reason that guy stopped punching my face before he killed me… I don’t know why I start again…one drink, I get a buzz and then I want to do the coke.  I asked why even start with the one drink and he told me that he gets bored.  Ah, so it is boredom that starts it?  Yeah, the thrill of making the deal…I wish someone could follow me and see how I do it… I go do the  deal… go home with my buddy… lay it all out on the counter and use it all up right then and there… I could hear the energy in his voice and the excitement on his face when he was talking about the experience.  He said one of the cops at the courthouse asked him why he smoked crack – you were in Army, what the hell are you doing crack for?  The kid answered,  I took one puff and I liked it… Wow…  I took one puff and I liked it...scary isn’t it?  It can take just one time…

So will he succeed this time? I honestly don’t know but Prochaska has a short self-assessment that can assist a person in determining if they have learned from their relapse and are now ready to change (based on informed change principles):

  1. Have you identified the major causes of you previous relapses(s)?
  2. Do you have specific, action oriented processes to counter the situations and emotions that induced your relapse?
  3. Are you more informed about the cycle of change and how it relates specifically to your problem (Pre-contemplation, Contemplation, Preparation, Action, Maintenance)?
  4. Can you tolerate a slip (lapse) without a total fall (relapse)?
  5. Are you planning to make change of of your highest priorities for the next three to six months?
  6. Have you prepared yourself for the possibility of complications and for more than one change at a time?
  7. Can you put your newfound learning into action?

For this 23 year old crack addict, it appears that he may have found a trigger for his previous relapse… he gets bored so he seeks out the thrill (no matter how irrational it is). He will need to learn what actions he can take when that urge to live on the edge starts bubbling up again.  He needs to learn what actions to take when he gets a paycheck in his hand so that he doesn’t immediately cash it to blow it all on crack and alcohol.

He made a comment that could be a very powerful tool in his recovery… I would like to be a CD counselor or work in that field because I think that is the only way I can stay sober and straight…by helping others…  If this kid can tap into his strengths and use his natural easy-going, charming, charismatic personality style to make the change for himself so that he can help others – my hopes will remain high that he will succeed…

This is a dramatic example of someone wanting to change but there are many of us who also want to create change within ourselves…maybe it is exercising more…maybe it is not being so crabby with our family…maybe it is dropping those few pounds we put on over the winter…maybe we are looking to have more spirituality in our lives…

The first steps in any change is to come to the realization that we want to make the change and we are willing to withstand the pain of changing. Willing to let go of our old familiar  behavior during those initial weeks and months of changing…

Do you have something that you want to change in your life?  How are you preparing to be successful in that change?

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