Doc Rioux At Large

DENIAL impedes recovery from addiction Richard "Doc" Rioux · October 6, 1996

Ya know, when I'm in the middle of the trials of my life, when all seems unbearable, when I feel as if I'm going to jump out of my skin from the pressures of too much work, politics, finances, complicated relationships and dealings with some of the trouble makers (people who don't agree with me) in this valley, it is to some basic principles that I turn for perspective, sanity and peace.

I reflect on the people I serve who come into the centers I help run for the addicted, homeless and otherwise afflicted. Most arrive fearful and confused. How sad to see good minds blown away like dust to the dry winds of social neglect and social disdain. So many wasted lives, so many poets not writing, so many architects not drawing.

What is rewarding to witness are the many who leave having learned new principles for living that they hope will allow them to survive and expedition through their own inner conflicts where dinosaurs and demons once dwelled.

Terrence: "In the wake of my struggle with drug addiction, I determined myself a soldier. My fight was not a noble one. My cause and choice of weapons were poor. I suffered a million blows by a thousand and one foes. I arrived at this center a wounded refugee."

And so they come in by the hundreds each week from the junkyards of our inner cities, dead to the spirit and dying from loneliness, reaching out from their last reserve of strength, longing for someone to reach back to them to help them find recovery.

Anthony: "This place taught me to reach inside myself, to find that lost child from my past life, and to take his hand and walk him through the pain of his life. He can now feel loved."

Total surrender is an alien concept for most non-recovering people to accept. That a Higher Power, a Power greater than ourselves, that God could take us through the dark rapids of life safely if we agreed to let go of our own self-will is not an easy principle to adopt. Acting on this principle is, however, critical to the process of rehabilitation.

Joe: "As long as we hold on to the idea that we can control something, the longer it will be that the something controls us. Surrender means abandonment of personal control over things you really have no control over anyway."

Dealing with the knowledge that you must forever refuse using the crutch of alcohol and drugs to get you through each day must also be accepted if permanent recovery is to be achieved.

Gaylord: "The lesson I've learned in my recovery so far is how valuable it is to be willing to sacrifice. There is a saying that 'everybody wants to go to heaven, but nobody wants to die.' If I really want to be productive in life, I know that I will never be able to use alcohol or drugs again."

The embarrassment of having to admit to the world around you that you're an alcoholic or drug addict is a very difficult process for most of the afflicted to get through. It's hard enough to admit to oneself that you're unable to control your desire for alcohol or drugs. It is even harder to admit to others that you can't control your booze. The problem is called DENIAL, and it impedes the recovery of most alcoholics and drug addicts.

Rico: "Getting through denial took me years. I always thought I could control the use of alcohol. I could not or would not admit that alcohol or cocaine actually controlled me. I had to lose everything I had before I was ready to admit that I had a problem that I could not solve without a lot of help from God and other people. I was in total flight from reality and had a date with the devil until I dealt with denial."

Friends and relatives of the addicted and afflicted often find it extremely difficult to deal with the alcoholic's DENIAL. How do you tell your husband he is sick and needs help? How do you tell your 18-year-old daughter that she is an addict and that she can't stay in your home until she does something about her addiction? How do you gather the inner strength required to throw a loved one out on the streets?

Bill: "It's only when my mother told me she never wanted to see me again that I went to get help. Up to that point I kept on manipulating her and getting the money I needed to keep my addiction going. I can honestly say that I'm sober and clean today because my mother told me to get out."

Alcoholism is a progressive disease that catches up to the daily drinker like sticky paper catches flies. It might take a few years, but if you "need" a drink every day to handle stress or wind down from a day at the office, the habit will become an addiction you will eventually not be able to control, no matter what you tell yourself and others.

My two children skipped through to their late 20s having escaped the ravages of alcohol abuse and drug use. My wife an I remain on guard concerning the exposure of our two younger children to peer pressure and the proliferation of drugs. We keep our children close.

I've learned a lot from people in recovery from alcoholism and drug addiction. I know that I'm powerless over the future. I must try to admit my many weaknesses as I stand before the mirror every morning. I know that I cannot control the things I cannot see. I'm willing to surrender each day to God while hoping that He will help me see what I must see to keep me healthy and to protect my children and the people I'm charged to serve.

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Dr. Richard Rioux is a resident of Stevenson Ranch. His commentary appears on Sundays.


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