I found this on the ground next to my car in the Safeway parking lot one Sunday night when M. and I were doing a little grocery shopping. It’s someone’s bronze, 15-year sobriety chip that must have fallen out of their pocket that day. I felt badly and wondered if they miss the weight of it in their pocket, the reminder of what they have achieved. After all, 15 years is a long time and a big accomplishment.
Recovery is a world with which I have little experience, and what I do have (through someone with whom I was involved) is probably not representative. But it’s something I think about and finding the chip was a catalyst for a conversation M and I had about addiction, a condition neither of us have to contend with.
Addiction is one of those things that people who aren’t addicts mistakenly believe is a “life choice.” That addicts can stop any time they want. That addicts do drugs to have fun.
But one good look at an addict usually belies that. Do they look like they’re having fun?
No, it’s not a lifestyle choice.
It’s hard to understand how anyone can think that addiction is a life choice–not if they know anything about the detritus addicts leave in their wake. Broken relationships. Screwed-up kids. Good jobs gone. Health.
Would anyone really choose those broken pieces?
Of course not.
Many of us don’t understand addiction, not in any real way, because the things that addicts do are also things that the rest of us do to as recreation. Cocktail hour. A few tokes on a doobie. If we can stop, why can’t they?
Well, they can’t.
And it almost doesn’t matter why–they just can’t.
Is it a disease, is it not a disease–to those of us on the sidelines, it’s irrelevant. What’s relevant is the support we can give to those who want to be clean and sober.
During our conversation on the ride home, M and I expressed our respect for the strength those in recovery must muster every day to fight their addiction. We’ve both grown in our understanding of the way this disease, this conditions works and we’ve grown in understanding of the hard battle addicts face.
One of the best things about our relationship is the broad-ranging discussions we have and how both together and individually we have learned to seek understanding rather than to judge. And how we’ve grown together in compassion.
As we age, we are given the opportunity to grow, if we choose it. Growing in understanding is a benefit of aging. I’ll take the superficial effects–crow’s feet and grey hair–those mean nothing–if I can also have the ability to take a deeper view of the challenges others face.
This chip now sits on my desk where it reminds me every day that there are people all around us fighting battles not visible to others.