As human beings, our greatness lies not so much in being able to remake the world… as in being able to remake ourselves. – Mahatma Gandhi

                                        OUR ADMIRABLE NEIGHBOR

I had the opportunity to meet one of my neighbors, Jack, today. He was in my yard to offer a professional opinion regarding a landscaping project my wife and I were considering. While we were discussing the needed work, Jack inquired about my employment. When I explained that I was a counselor who specialized in the treatment of addiction, he candidly shared, “My son has been off heroin for almost four years.” He explained that his son had become dependent upon pain killers but had succeeded in establishing a sober life. Jack proudly asserted that his son was a hard-working and prosperous owner of a small business.

After this chance meeting with my new neighbor, I was reminded of a point I’d often made with my students during my addictions course. When it comes to patterns of behavior that fall into the category of negative addictions (alcohol, other drugs, gambling, etc.), we all fit into one of three groups:

1. Casual, social, non-problematic users
2. Addicts
3. Those in recovery

Presumably, most of my readers, indeed most of the population as a whole, fit into category #1. We enjoy an infrequent drink, only use prescribed medication, and limit ourselves to risking a few dollars on a Super Bowl party squares.

But wait a minute! Stop patting yourself on the back for your good judgment, moderate behavior, and moral compass. In my 40 years in working with addicts and addictions, I’ve come to see such healthy lifestyles as largely a function of genetic pre-disposition rather than the presence of virtue.

In reality, our fellow citizens struggle with addictions because of neurological differences that make certain substances and behaviors more pleasurable and, therefore, addicting than what the rest of us experience. Their inordinate pleasure from a sip, snort, or bet is their burden. The rest of us have simply never experienced the ecstasy, nor the agony, that our neighbors, friends and family members have struggled with.

When I consider the three groups listed earlier, I find that I have the most respect and admiration for those in recovery. They are the strongest members of our society, and they deserve our positive regard. Those currently in the midst of addiction deserve our support, understanding and assistance.

And what about the rest of us, we random, occasional users? Well, since we can’t claim much credit for a favorable roll of the genetic dice, let’s just say “thanks” for not having to deal with the plague of addiction. Instead, let’s focus our admiration and esteem on our silent (and perhaps unknown) neighbors who have survived a battle that the rest of us have never had to fight.

They truly deserve it.

My recovery must come first so that everything I love in life doesn’t have to come last. – Anonymous