Sometimes i wonder if there is actually any understanding in the AA community or other organizations regarding why people either start to drink( use drugs, over eat, etc) or cannot seem to shake the habit. I am not talking about encouragement or cliches like “get back on the horse if you fail”, etc. That is support and greatly needed of course.
More so i m talking about life crisis and ongoing situations that inflict a person at some point in time that create the conditions leading to substance abuse, or any addiction for that matter.
For instance, in thinking about some of the alcoholics i have known over the years. A good amount were pretty much just using excuses , such as normal daily stress, peer pressure or a bad job to justify not changing or trying to change.Things that can be overcome with a few tough choices and discipline- time management and self care, staying away from the toxic peers, or working towards finding a better job.There are surely some obstacles , but not impossible hurdles.
But there are some i’ve known that i absolutely feel turned to alcohol, poor eating habits, smoking tobacco, using recreational drugs, etc. due to unforeseeable or chronic situations that they may have little or no control over OR that the hurdle is so large that it is almost impossible for a normal human to overcome.
One such situation that comes to mind is a man i knew who lost all of his family in a car accident, which at the same time left him crippled and in a wheel chair for the rest of his days. He had no extended family ( being an orphan himself) and the family had been living in a very remote area of the mountains for many years prior to the accident.Afterwards, the only people he saw regularly were caretakers who only came to check on his medical situation once a week. Due to resulting financial issues, he only had a cell phone, not a smart phone. In his area, there was no internet or cable available. He could not drive and had no transportation other than a community van that came to take him to appointments and grocery shopping once per month. He had very little income.He was alone, isolated and in severe physical pain. While he had not been a drinker most of his life, the situation created an un-fillable hole in his life. He was not fortunate enough to be able to overcome the loneliness and pain, and after a few years succumbed to alcoholism, dying alone and not being found for several days until a caretaker came for a visit. He was 50.I barely knew him and he lived a few hours away, or possibly i would have tried to help.That being said i doubt anything i could have done would have changed much.
Another close friend of mine made some bad choices early on in life due to growing up in a strict religious environment that gave no quarter to any family member or associates who struggled with coming to terms with her sexuality or alternate spiritual path ( a very catholic family, not accepting her choice to follow a buddhist path or her bisexuality). When she came of age she moved far away and without any financial means, fell in with some shady characters who started her on a path of addiction. Many times, even after returning home , she signed herself into rehabs and went to AA, etc. They never stuck.Ongoing health problems ensued – a failed gastric bypass which kept her in a wheel chair for years and placed her back in the family home which did not allow friends to visit unless they were from the church.An extreme weight gain from stress eating that made her almost immobile and caused even more chronic issues. Then there were financial problems resulting from said health issues. Over time she was able to leave the family home again but without stable income, resorted to living in one place after another , by the good graces of friends, but each was temporary.She had a car but no money for insurance or repairs. In the end ,she had been unable to stop drinking and was staying in a house with a friends family. She passed away in her sleep. She was not found for several days. She was barely in her 30’s.It was assumed she died from alcohol directly, but it was later found that she died from pneumonia for which she had no medical coverage or care.
Yet another woman i know who was a nurses aid was single and had a medically challenged daughter and lived with a mother with severe dementia. She worked 12 hr shifts just to make ends meet. The stress levels of the job , the hours, and the family situation were almost unbearable. Eventually she became addicted to prescription meds to work the long shifts, and also for pain, anxiety and depression. When new laws came into effect, she was prevented from access to most of these legal medications with little to no support. She turned to street drugs because they were easier to access and more affordable. She lost her home, her mother passed away from a fall that happened while the daughter was working, and the child was soon placed in foster care.This woman wound up homeless and within a year was found dead under a bridge with other local homeless people. She was 42.
There are many examples like this. And i believe sometimes we sit in judgement and make statements that these poor souls “should have done something about it” or “could have done something more”. But i feel very differently. I believe there are just some ongoing, chronic situations that make their choices not ideal, but understandable.Other examples include disabled vets, the terminally ill, homeless elderly folk without family, and those living in such awful conditions that the only relief they seem to have is their vice, whenever and however they can get it. I feel such pain for them, sometimes i cry.
I pray frequently for these victims of life..i empathize with their hopelessness. I do not judge or give advice that is impossible for them to take. And i hope that others feel similarly and are understanding. Sometimes they simply cannot help themselves despite desperately wanting to be free of the addictions, even with many efforts and attempts to do so.
Pray hard, Pray often. And pray it never happens to you.