Tanner had been an opioid addict his whole life. That's what it felt like anyway. That's what he told people too. Whenever anyone asked what he did for a living, he'd say "drugs." Then when they asked how long he'd been doing drugs, he'd reply "my whole life."
At first it was just that -- a joke. A bit daring and risque for high school perhaps, but what isn't? In college, the joke still got laughs, but it seemed less funny somehow. Some folks even seemed saddened by it. Now that Tanner was rounding 30 and heading for his fourth rehab, it was no joke at all.
Tanner sure wasn't laughing. Neither were his friends or his family. They'd been behind him since forever, but their allegiance was beginning to fray. Truth be told, it had been shredded. Folks had simply given up. Some of the closest people in his life even. Sure they were exhausted by the petty lies and deceits; more importantly though, they were sick of seeing him slowly kill himself.
It was an all too familiar story in the life of an opioid addict. Just ask any opioid addict. That didn't make it any easier to tell though. Or to live. Just ask an opioid addict.
Last Gasp of an Opioid Addict
Tanner couldn't tell what was worse -- the lump on his head or the hole in the wall. The lump hurt the most. Now. But that hole in the wall is about to bring a whole 'nother kind of pain into his life. Why? Because it's his girlfriend Patrice's wall. Worse, she's only been his girlfriend for three weeks.
That'll teach him to do whatever he feels like doing. We don't mean hippy-dippy follow-your-bliss do what you feel; we mean literally following some absurd descriptive metaphor. People say they feel like banging their head against a wall in order to describe an emotion, not to provide themselves with marching orders.
In other words, people say they feel like banging their head against a wall so they don't literally have to bang their head against a wall.
Raging, Tanner didn't quite think it through. In fact, he didn't quite think at all. If he had, he'd have considered the consequent injuries. Not just to his head and the wall (though of course there are those), but to his relationship. It's highly unlikely Patrice is going to want to date a guy who literally does whatever he feels like; especially not when it's something like banging his head against a wall. She sure isn't going to want to live with him. Who could blame her?
So Tanner did what every self-disrespecting opioid addict does when he or she has again done something foolish -- he left. That's right. Threw his laptop and his clothes into a backpack and walked right out of the apartment -- and out of her life. Oh, he left a note. Taped over the hole in the wall. (After all, he's not a complete heel.) But other than that, he simply left.
Two hours later Tanner was walking back into the rehab he'd walked out of just three weeks before.
Nobody was surprised to see him.
Beginners make mistakes. That's a given. And until they know better, they'll keep making mistakes. That's why teachers and tutors and instructors and other guiding types try to exercise as much patience as possible. But patience has its limits, for even the most patient guide. And when that threshold is crossed, well, you're generally done.
Such was the case when Tanner returned to rehab for the fourth time in less than a year. How many times can a person take the same beginner's course and still not learn anything? The rehab usually ran by the three-strikes rule -- fail thrice and you're outta there. And they'd have thrown out Tanner too were it not for the distinct hunger in his eyes. There was something serious and committed about him that wasn't there before. Sad, sure. But not sorry for himself sad. And not woe-is-me desperate either. No, this was something outside of self-pity and well beyond desperation. Enough for the staff to think that perhaps this time Tanner might actually be saved.
So the rehab staff broke the three-strikes rule and gave Tanner another chance. They didn't tell him a rule was being broken or that it was his last chance. They didn't have to. Tanner knew that if he didn't succeed this time, he'd never get another chance. Not here anyway. Hell, he might not get another chance anywhere else either.
So Tanner thanked his lucky stars and got back down to work. He made the requisite admission -- first to himself; then to a sponsor. This time though, Tanner did so with utmost sincerity. He applied the same sincerity the next day too, when the two of them were on their knees for Step Three. And when he whipped out his stack of paper and started in on Step Four, he took that sincerity and pinned it to his heart forever.
Mostly though Tanner vowed not to make any more beginner mistakes. No more showing off in group. No more being cagey with his counselor. And no more daydreaming his way through the program. This time Tanner actually applied himself. And -- surprise, surprise -- it felt good.
That 90 Day Clock is Ticking
On Day 85 Tanner's counselor started letting him call around in order to figure out where he'd go once his 90 Day Inpatient Addiction Treatment Program was over. First they sussed out the geography. (Anywhere but his hometown.) Then they addressed his finances. (None.) Finally they talked over his hopes and his dreams, as well as his goals, which really were the same thing.
The conclusion? Tanner needed a sober home far from the triggers and temptations that kept dragging him back into drugs.
Fortunately Tanner still had one good friend who was speaking to him. His name was Jacob, and he was down in Florida enjoying his fourth year of sobriety. Jacob was also enjoying all the benefits brought about by four years of sobriety -- good job, nice house, great relationship and strong sober support network. Coincidentally all of the things that were on Tanner's hopes and dreams list.
When Tanner called Jacob couldn't have been more kind. Just the fact that he seemed actually glad to hear from him, left Tanner feeling elated. When Jacob told him how much Recovery Boot Camp and Healing Properties had helped him achieve real sobriety, Tanner was sold.
So he called Jun at RBC. We've got one bed opening up next week, said Jun. If you can get down here, it's yours.
Tanner was thrilled. The problem was he didn't have the scratch for the plane ticket. He didn't have the first week's rent either. And he sure didn't have anyone he could borrow from. He'd burned all those bridges long ago. The rehab was having a family get together for upcoming graduates this Friday night though. Maybe if his folks see how far he's come and hear his plans for the future, they'll spot him just one more time.
When Friday came around, Tanner thought he'd burst from the mix of anxiety and excitement. He couldn't tell if he was more of one or the other, or even why, but his emotions were certainly running amok. Turned out he needn't have worried. Little did he know but both his father and his mother had been in constant contact with his counselor throughout his treatment. So they not only knew what was up, they also knew what was at stake. And they readily eagerly said they'd spot him the money to make the move. Three days later Jun was picking him up at West Palm Beach Airport. Tanner was on his way!
An Opioid Addict No More
Some people claim to be addicts or alcoholics their whole lives, even in sobriety. Others refrain from the designation but still manage to work a good program. So long as folks know they really only have one day at a time, the claim becomes superfluous. Tanner didn't like calling himself an addict so he didn't. Simple as that.
But that doesn't mean he didn't work a strong program. Quite the contrary. His program was super strong. He had sponsors and sponsees, and a meeting list that would make Bill himself envious. He also had the support of a whole sober home worth of men who were on the same page, looking out for each other, and doing the good deed. Men who Tanner knew he'd be friends with for the rest of his life.
Mostly though, Tanner had joy. A real elation. He'd come up. Big time. No, he didn't strike it rich; Tanner did even better: he learned to stand up straight. Yep, Tanner began taking on the world with a truly considerate manner, and in return the world provided him with all manner of considerations. He landed a great job. He paid back his folks. And he'd begun paying back everyone else too. And yes, he's soon to move into that deluxe apartment in the sky.
In fact, every day in every way, Tanner found himself happier than he'd been in forever.
How 'bout you? Are you in Tanner's shoes? Have you ever been? Do you want what he's got? Healing Properties helped Tanner (as well as thousands just like him); it can help you too. All you've gotta do is call. Ask for Jun. He'll give you the moon. No foolin.'
(Image: Michael Daddino via Flickr)