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November 23, 2010

The Inevitabilities of Addiction

One of the first things we learned when Dave was in treatment was that if left untreated, the disease of addiction leads to three inevitabilities: Jails, Institutions and Death.  We learned, tragically, that even when there is treatment this same triad of consequences can also occur.  In fact it wasn’t until Dave entered a treatment facility, (which for the uninitiated counts as an institution) that he began to run afoul of the legal system and added jails to his addiction portfolio.  He was arrested twice and was first Cell detained in the a County jail on charges of theft in four different jurisdictions in a two hour period.  His second arrest came not long after in another County for theft again which meant a brief stay at that county’s juvenile detention center.  His behavior at first was inexplicable to me for a young man who had everything he could ever want at his finger tips.  But it was only inexplicable until i looked deeper at his addiction profile.  From childhood he had always been a risk taker, always willing to try anything…do anything…just to say he’d done that”.  We learned that risk taking or thrill seeking is often an attribute of an addict or alcoholic and when the drugs are taken away in early recovery he sought an outlet for that thrill seeking behavior wherever he could find it.


Like many parents who first encounter the legal system I sought legal representation for Dave, telling myself I just wanted to be sure that he didn’t get caught up in a system that seems to me at the time to be unfair, inefficient and inconsistent.  So instead of allowing him to face the natural consequences of his actions I wrongly sought to prevent them, rescuing him from himself I thought and yet in doing I perpetuated his reliance on the certainty that Dad would not let bad things happen to him.


Today I feel somewhat differently about what I would and would not have done when DAve was arrested…but that is not to say we find totally palatable the current view the criminal justice system has about those who suffer from the disease of addiction and become ensnared in its tentacles. George Brenner of the Gallahue Mental Health Services in Indiana frequently shares his view of the current judicial state of affairs with regard to the treatment of the disease of addiction.


He says:

 The Emergency Rooms for this chronic illness are the arrestee processing center and holding cells

 The Detox facilities are the county jails

 The Waiting Rooms and chronic care follow up are the Probation Departments and the courts

 And finally the long term care or residential facilities are the Prisons.


For my part I do agree and believe, that until we can rid ourselves of the stigma that permeates all sections of our society regarding those who suffer from addiction we are doomed to repeat the mistakes of our past.  But let me assure you that I am not naive about my own son’s illness or the consequences that it brought to him and the consequences that have been visited upon the surviving members of his family which we will carry for the rest of our lives.  I usually don’t indulge myself in the luxury of magical thinking about him and play “what if games”.  I don’t do that because I know that once begun it is a downward spiral that only returns me to the darkness and hopelessness of those first days, weeks and months after his death.  But if he had survived that day and was me today…he might be doing well and moving on with his life....he  might be in recovery…or he might still be in treatment…it might be on the streets still using…he might be homeless....or he might be in prison.

But at least he would be alive.

November 23, 2010 at 11:26 AM | Permalink


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Many times I have told parents with kids in jail that at least they could still talk to their kids. Like you I helped protect Nick from the Legal system. Unlike you, I let Lindsay suffer the consequences of the legal systems. Neither worked. One died and the other lived only when she decided on her own that she wanted to live instead of die. The legal system and treatment system helped neither one! Sorry but there is no good answer to addiction except in the mind and heart of the addicted.

Posted by: mark fritz | Nov 23, 2010 2:52:21 PM

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