Mindful Cafe: Addicts can choose to stay sober — for today

Stephanie Willis
Stephanie Willis

You never forget the first time you get a call from a parent whose child has overdosed.

One day they are in treatment as a young 20-something, hopeful to attend a recovery meeting, get a sponsor, and return to read their speech recovery assignment. The next day your voicemail light reveals a desperate mother’s message garbled with emergency room paging in the background stating that her son skipped the meeting early, got high and had an overdose. This time he’s barely alive.

Just like that. One minute sober and headed toward a future re-building trust with their parents. The next handcuffed to a gurney in an emergency room facing charges of possession of narcotics after fleeing the scene of an accident, and all trust and hope out the window.

Some parents even know what it is like to walk into their child’s room and find them in an overdose state. The shock, fear and adrenaline necessary to react to the emergency situation must be a lonely and terrifying moment. Some make it out alive; some do not.

The heartbreaking stories of those still fewer parents who are left with the news of their child’s death could never fully be understood by anyone else. But there is something that the rest of those surrounding that addict can relate to, and it is the question: “What else could I have done to prevent this?”

Parents are not the only ones facing this haunting question.

Friends of the addict come secretly to therapy facing that same question. Administrators at the school sit in private conference meetings asking that question. Medical teams meet with their supervisors consulting their lawyers with that question. Believe it or not, even other addicts who are using have that same question.

We say in recovery that relapse does not have to be a part of the recovery cycle. It is always a choice, no matter the circumstances. It was that addict’s choice to relapse.

Yet still we wrestle with the question, as is our duty as fellow human beings in this life together. Relapse may be the choice that an addict may choose, but it doesn’t have to be the choice the rest of us make.

Staying committed to recovery as a community means digging deep and remaining steadfast to the principles of our own programs. Our dedication to spread awareness, educate on Nalaxone (Narcan), spread the information about The Good Samaritan Overdose Law, and spend time with our kids is more important now than ever.

Because recovery for addicts isn’t just about getting clean, it is about staying clean. And so it is with us as a community. We must maintain our passion and dedication to this cause, to these lives.

More than anything, remain vigilant in believing that every addict can choose sobriety just for today. We might not be able to ask them for more than that — just for today.

Stephanie Willis is president of Willis Counseling & Consulting, a private group therapy practice in Naperville and Chicago. She can be reached at www.williscc.com and 312-476-9064.

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