I had an interesting discussion this weekend with one of the friends I have made at the methadone maintenance facility where I host a recovery group. He had sort of an epiphany about just how powerful his addiction was and how it continued to shape his life… and more importantly, for the first time in his life he defined “recovery”.
He had recently missed his daily probation call on a day that his color was chosen. The routine is that you call every day and listen to a recording which lists several colors of the day, if your color is called you go in for a drug test. Miss the test and jail could be the next step. He missed it and had to explain why to his case officer why, and it was during this explanation that he seized upon the fact that there was one thing in his life that was so important that he never forgot: His daily cup of methadone. The subject came up while they were discussing setting up a schedule and a positive lifestyle (and a regular call-in schedule). He said he has been gardening and does regular watering and weeding rounds, that he has been praying but often does not remember until late in the day and sometimes not at all, but that he never-ever forgets to show up in the morning for his daily dose of methadone. For those of you looking for ways to explain the power of an addiction to someone he supplies a great example: An enjoyable hobby, the threat of incarceration, and even religion pale in most cases when compared to the pull of an addiction and the lengths one will go to satisfy its need.
His epiphany was that he realized that in a sense he was praying every morning but had unfortunately placed his faith in a drug. Using drugs for more than 30 years this man has seen his fair share of jail, rehabs, and recovery programs. But until this day had never envisioned what recovery meant to him, it was just an empty term. Now it has meaning and he has a new purpose, recovery for him will be process of finding a better place to worship and to seek answers than the nurse’s station at the treatment center.
Recovery isn’t a state, it’s a process. I know there are many naysayers of methadone maintenance treatment that see it as no better than trading one addiction for another, but it is stories like this that make me a supporter. Just getting off illicit drugs and returning as a functional part of society is a step in recovery. Realizing that there is more to recovery than just entering treatment is another. It is my opinion that without the structured environment of the treatment program and the return to normality methadone provides that many people will never enter recovery for the sheer reason that they do not realize it even really exists.
A Dixie cup of methadone is not communion and going to AA or just quitting drinking is not recovery. Recovery is a never ending process of discovery and improvement, and that is exactly what this guy just experienced. Good luck my friend.