Everyone has a story about a person in their life who has a drinking or drug problem but can never seem to get better, despite the best efforts of those around them. Unfortunately, this person’s story is often used to prove that treatment for substance use disorders doesn’t work and that recovery from said disorders rarely happens. “My Uncle Bob has been to treatment 12 times and he never lasts more than a week after he gets out.” “My Uncle Bob quits from time to time but he just can’t quite get on track.” “Uncle Bob just Bob just doesn’t seem to care about staying sober even though he has been given SOOOO many chances. I guess he just doesn’t care.”
Everyone has an Uncle Bob. It may really be an aunt or a dad or a sister or a best friend or a co-worker or a next door neighbor. But we all have at least one person in our life that seems to symbolize the fact that chemical addiction is a hopeless disorder from which very few get better or recover. You’re probably think I’m going to launch into a sermon on how effective treatment is and “Shame on you for believing in the Uncle Bob Myth!”
Actually, I won’t do any of that but I will make a statement and then I’ll tell you a story. The statement is this: “For every Uncle Bob you tell me about, I can counter with a story about someone who was a ‘hopeless’ alcoholic or drug addict and who is fine today.” In fact, I challenge you!
Now, here’s the story: Lori is a 37 year old female with a 21 year history of alcohol and drug addiction that started with alcohol and marijuana but over the years included methamphetamine addiction and prescription pill abuse. She was pretty functional until she tried methamphetamine at 24 when she was a young mom with two young children and a marriage that started off well enough but now was facing some trouble. There’s not enough room here to tell you all the details but through her drug use Lori lost her marriage and custody of her children. In fact, it got so bad that she actually chose drugs over raising her children.
Over the years Lori managed to scratch out a marginal living doing various jobs and living in a small apartment or sometimes with a man that would take care of her. But her life mainly consisted of using alcohol and drugs and just surviving the best way she could. She often thought about quitting but would always remember her Uncle Bob (Remember, everybody has one!) who seemed to try and try but never could quite help himself.
Then Lori really got into trouble. She was arrested for a drug related charge and was looking at serving some time in prison. Life had never been so bad. Lori was convicted of the crime but was given a chance to attend something called drug court and treatment instead of one to five years in prison. She thought about treatment and how it sounded kind of useless but she visited her counselor and group sessions each week, as required. She also went to self help meetings (Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous).
She began to keep track of how long she was drug free and she began to think that maybe there was hope after all. She met people who were sober, just like her with stories a lot like hers. Life still was hard but as the weeks and months passed, she began to realize that with some effort on her part, some honesty and integrity, and a strong support system, life might be OK after all without alcohol and drugs.
Fast forward 10 years. Looking back at that day that she went into drug court (with some misgiving, at that), Lori decides that it’s been worth it. All has not been perfect. She had a relapse about 6 months into her recovery. Then she had some health problems about 5 years ago. She and her kids talk now and spend time together, although she knows that she could of spent more time being part of their lives but she can’t undo that. She has to deal with the remorse but she also works on that by forgiving herself and making “amends” whenever and wherever possible. Now she lives in the day but also looks to sunny days ahead. She has a grandbaby who she adores. Her Uncle Bob died last year and he never did get sober….but Lori did. She mourns him but she celebrates her own recovery.
Not everyone gets sober but many do. Recovery happens all the time not just occasionally. September is Recovery Month. You’ll be hearing more from me about that later. Let’s celebrate and remember the thousands and the millions in recovery from a substance use disorder. In the meantime, remember Lori.