They Must Not Want it Bad Enough: Ending The Myth of One Pathway
I was that guy.
The guy who upon hearing someone had a reoccurrence of use, said “they’ll be back when they really want it.”
Let’s be honest. There is a pathway to recovery that’s touted as the solution for addiction. Because of their long-standing history and profile in the public, 12-step mutual aid fellowships are often the gold-standard in getting better. When my mom thinks of recovery, she probably thinks of chairs in a circle somewhere, filled with people talking about their struggles, and the steps. I think it’s safe to say the majority of the public sees recovery that way.
“If I can’t get it here, maybe I don’t really want to be better. It’s the only thing that’s worked for all of these people. Maybe I really am hopeless.”
During my decade long struggle with substance use, I thought the same thing. I believed the only way I’d get better was to sit in those rooms and work those steps. So I tried, several times. When it didn’t work, I began to tell myself: “If I can’t get it here, maybe I don’t really want to be better. It’s the only thing that’s worked for all of these people. Maybe I really am hopeless.”
“They’ll be back when they really want it.”
After I was finally able to believe I was capable of living in recovery, I helped perpetuate that myth for others. I was 100% abstinent and if others weren’t they weren’t in recovery. I wouldn’t say that to the newcomer, but I would say things like “They’ll be back when they really want it.” or “They’re not ready.” I even said that I wasn’t ready when I first stepped into the rooms; I needed a little more “first-hand experience.”
You see in popular culture; fictional characters are represented as getting better by being in the rooms of the fellowships. When a character tries to “white knuckle it” they often eventually end up back where they started. When they’re on medication like methadone, they’re portrayed as second-class and slaves to the clinic.
“If I had known there were other options and they worked too, I may have gotten better.”
I realize now, when I was asking for help in those early days, I really wanted help. If I had known there were other options and that they worked too, I may have gotten better. If I had at least one person to counteract everything I knew about addiction and recovery up until that point that could say “you have a choice” things may have went differently.
I will always be grateful for the things I’ve gained from the steps and I choose to live my life now in abstinence, but I will refuse to believe it is the only or best option to find recovery. It is one of many pathways someone struggling can take to recovery.
As a community, it is our duty to stop quietly perpetuating the myths that one way is better than another. If someone is asking for help for a medical condition, we should help them. If one type of treatment doesn’t work, we find one that does.