Belknap County Inmates: Why We Do Drugs
Celebrate Recovery Inside affords me the pleasure and burden of visiting weekly with inmates from our Belknap County Jail. It's a pleasure because many of the inmates voice their honest appreciation to me for coming into the jail when I do not have to. I often leave feeling I have truly helped. The burden for me is not the inmates themselves but the humbling awareness that I also am one step away from steel doors and concrete walls. Some inmates have made a lifestyle of law-breaking, but many inmates made one bad decision and there they are. The burden for me is also the flattening realization that although they look worse than me on the outside (they are wearing green or blue- I am wearing Levi's), on the inside I am just as dirty and in need of mercy as they are.
For all the darkness of being locked up jail nevertheless provides a necessary and important opportunity. It provides inmates a prolonged time of reflection on how they arrived where they are and what they need to change in their lives going forward. An incarceration stint wipes crystal clear the mirror of self-reflection. It forces distractions aside and brings us face to face with every blemish. So what does this forced stillness reveal to them? That life sucks in jail? Of course. That being free is better than being locked up? Obviously. But those aren't the important revelations. The important insights come when they ask things like; "Why do I do what I do?", and, "Where does this insanity come from whereby I do the same thing over and over again expecting different results?"
Community, medical and media professionals have their answers to these questions ("they had a bad home life", "they were poor and had no hope", "they had a disease", etc.), but what would the horse's mouth say?
They would say, "none of the above."
Our group of 8 inmates on Wednesday knew the answers, and their answers are the same for all of us. The answers boiled down to 2 things. 'We use drugs, we abuse alcohol, we do wrong because':
- We have feelings of fear and guilt we are trying to get rid of as quickly as possible, and,
- We were tempted and lost the battle.
The first answer is true a lot of the time. The second answer is true all of the time. A lot of addicts use their substance of choice in an effort to numb painful feelings of fear or guilt. Fear is a preoccupation with the future; guilt is a preoccupation with the past. But ALL addicts use their substance of choice because they are tempted to do so.
Modern people do not like the word "tempted". It has too many religious connotations. But no other answer to the question, "Why do I do what I do?" works all the way down. If we will take some forced reflection ourselves we will find we cannot accept any other answer to why so many people do drugs even though it kills them.
Let's flesh out why no other answer works. An inmate who blames his addiction on his bad upbringing, his economic status, his mental health or anything else for that matter is only contributing to his own insanity. It is true that his upbringing strongly influenced him. It is true that his economic status shaded the way he saw much of life. It is true that his biology affected how he felt and thought. But it is not true that his bad upbringing made him an alcoholic. It is not true that his economic status made him act out, and it is not true that his mental health forced him to take drugs or harm others. So long as an addict blames his behavior on any of these things he will remain addicted and continue in his cycle of destructive behavior. No addiction cycle can be fully broken unless the addict says to himself, "All of my feelings, all of my thoughts and all of my actions are completely my responsibility. I cannot blame them on anyone or anything else" When an addict comes to this realization he is in a prime position to recover.
By blaming human behavior on medical, biological or economic conditions we become hypocrites who say one thing and do another. How so? If we say, "your economic context is the cause of your behavior" then to be fair we must say the same of all people. If your mental health is the cause of your behavior then my mental health is the cause of my behavior. If your upbringing is the cause of your behavior then my upbringing is the cause of my behavior. It cannot be true for one segment of the population and not true for another. If your behavior is contextually dependent then so is mine.
But if this is the way of human nature then on what grounds do we do all of our griping, groaning and fuming at one another's behavior? How can we be angry at the terrorist if his upbringing caused him to be that way? How can we be angry at prejudice if our mental health caused us to be that way? How can we be angry at intolerance if our biology caused us to be that way? How can I be angry at the addict for stealing petty cash from my desk drawer if his disease caused him to do it? How can I be angry at religious people for their narrow, backwards way of thinking if human behavior is determined not chosen? I can't be angry anymore. But then why am I still angry? I am angry because I know deep down that they are responsible. At some point we must get off this blame band-wagon because it turns us into hypocrites and only leads the addict deeper into his insanity.
A passage of Scripture we talk about in Recovery Lesson 6 of CR says, "I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do...What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? 25 Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!" (Romans 7:14, 24-25)
This passage tells us that temptation is the ultimate force we are dealing with in our war against drugs. We want to do good but then we are constantly tempted to do bad. This passage also tells us there is an answer! The answer is not found in blame-shifting but in the humble admittal that we need a Savior: "O wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!
With eager expectation of sharing our Savior every week in Laconia~ shaun