I was just minding my own business looking at the business of my Facebook friends, when I saw this quote:
“In the first place we should insist that if the immigrant who comes here does in good faith become an American and assimilates himself to us, he shall be treated on an exact equality with every one else, for it is an outrage to discriminate against any such man because of creed or birthplace or origin. But this is predicated upon the man’s becoming in very fact an American and nothing but an American.
“If he tries to keep segregated with men of his own origin and separated from the rest of America, then he isn’t doing his part as an American.
“We have room for but one flag, the American flag, and this excludes the red flag which symbolizes all wars against liberty and civilization just as much as it excludes any foreign flag of a nation to which we are hostile. We have room for but one language here and that is the English language, for we intend to see that the crucible turns our people out as Americans, and American nationality, and not as dwellers in a polyglot boarding house; and we have room for but one soul [sic] loyalty, and that is loyalty to the American people.”5
This is an actual quote from Teddy Roosevelt, not in 1907 as the Facebook post asserted, but in 1919, according to Snopes, and with a link to an actual copy of the letter. Before I get to the reason I quoted this letter, let’s just note that the actual letter doesn’t have Theodore Roosevelt’s signature or name anywhere on it. So, I can’t prove Theodore Roosevelt wrote this.
I spent the hours of 8am – 215pm today in the process of getting to court, sitting on the hard benches for hours and hours and hours, watching my son get handcuffed and taken to jail, and then coming back home. What a revolving door that jail has.
The reason I am posting the above is not because of immigrants. It is because of people who use drugs. This is how I would rewrite this to illustrate my thinking after my time in court this morning:
“In the first place, we should insist that if the junkie who gets sober does in good faith become a person who is committed to recovery and assimilates himself into the behaviors, habits, and decisions that reflect true recovery, he shall be treated just as a non-drug user. But this is predicated upon the addict’s becoming in very fact a non-drug user and nothing but a non-drug user.
If the addict tries to keep segregated with others who are either recovering or active addicts and keeps himself away from those who are in long-time recovery or even those who aren’t addicts in the first place, then he isn’t doing his part as a recovering addict.
We who do not use drugs have room for but one stance on drugs; do not use. We have room for but one language here, and that is the language of recovery, for we intend to see that the crucible of drug court and rehab turns out people who are CLEAN, who are in ongoing recovery, and not as dwellers in some non-specific wishy-washy boarding house where the boarders continue with the habits, thinking patterns, and choices that brought them to drug court in the first place. We have room for but one sole loyalty: loyalty to recovery.”
I’ve been to Courtroom 500 enough times now that I am getting familiar with some of the defendants. And even for the ones I do not know, the stories are familiar. “dirty drop,” “missed urine test,” “failed to report for probation check-in,” “got another charge having to do with drugs, OVI, DUI, driving on a suspended license, failure to control a motor vehicle.” Of the men who were in rehab with Eli, two overdosed this past weekend, and four more were in court today for various offenses.
Drug Court is a great idea, but I would love to see men and women only admitted to Drug Court if they demonstrated a desire for recovery, not just a desire to avoid a felony. And by demonstrated a desire for recovery, I mean they SHOW by their ACTIONS a willingness to BECOME A NON-DRUG USER.
What would some of those actions be?
- Submit a written overview of their financial situation. Include photocopies of bank statements, wage garnishment orders, credit card statements, letters from creditors.
- Show someone in charge their cell phone contacts, and explain who each and every one is. Make lists of the ones who bring out the best, and the ones who pander to the worst version of the addict. Delete immediately anyone who is part of the drug life.
- Be willing to answer to the best of their ability questions about their family situation, their own understanding of why they use drugs, their own words about why they wish to become a non-user, and a personal mission statement regarding the intentions for recovery and how they plan to fulfill those intentions.
- Create, with help, a plan for how to pick up the pieces when the addict fails in any particular area. Everyone makes progress at different rates, and relapse is nothing to be ashamed of, but it’s also nothing to ignore or take lightly.
And before any one of the above actions is required, the staff crafts a mission statement on what it means to be trustworthy. Without trust, relationships cannot be repaired. The leaders in rehab and recovery must have an extremely clear description of and reason for being trustworthy, if they expect addicts to trust them.
Give each addict a week or two to get into the recovery process and get the drugs out of their system, but then get serious about recovery.
Other things that need desperately to be addressed with these men and women:
- The importance of creating and living by a personal conduct code which includes being in integrity. Oh, they don’t come from a world where people are in integrity? Well, fine. Teach them how to do it no matter where they come from.
- Helping them discover why they might want to learn how to do what they say they are going to do, or not make promises they cannot keep.
- How to take care of their physical bodies. Why it matters what you eat. What sleep does for you. What a lack of sleep does to you. This doesn’t have to be polemic or political. Treat them like the intelligent people that most of them are; give them the data. Let them make their own decisions, but also help them be clear about why they are making those particular decisions.
- Why it might be possible to believe that there could be something better than taking the easy way. Structure the rehab or recovery program so that they have opportunities to do the hard things for reasons other than they might get kicked out.
- Release the punishment mentality and get into a reinforcement mentality so addicts learn what POSITIVE things get them reinforcement. What I have seen is that the worst guys get the most attention; the bad behaviors make the biggest splash; and everyone is focused all the time on catching the addict doing something wrong.
I tried to do these things in my own situation. I taught about taking care of oneself, being willing to do the hard things, doing what you say you are going to do, and lots more, but without a clear demonstration by a person that they do want to be in recovery, the same attitudes and actions recur again and again.
YEAH, I KNOW hella addicts use because of personal pain, often times pain they aren’t even able to articulate. So what? We all have personal pain, and we all deal with it in different ways. For the addict, it is true that if they are in drug court, they have chosen a path that is going to lead either to prison or to death. That is where drugs lead. Of course I realize there is some percentage of users who use without getting into legal trouble and who use while maintaining a life that they want. But the VAST majority of users are not in that situation.
“Fake it till you make it” and “Attitude follows action” are two of the most powerful concepts I know of that advocate for doing the right thing before you feel like doing the right thing.
My basic gripe with the system is that it perpetuates situations where people will comply with rules only because they are punished. People who use drugs can’t even comply with the rules under threat of punishment because they don’t have anything else to think about or do that seems remotely as appealing as getting high. So when is “the system” going to look at helping these men find something that is remotely as appealing as getting high?
Although education is incredibly important for addicts, it isn’t enough to know the steps that happen before you use. It isn’t nearly enough to say the words without meaning them. (exception: fake it till you make it means that sometimes we keep trying to get there by saying the words and doing the deeds until we really feel it) It isn’t enough to have a few minutes of different experience where you feel the positive vibes that come from saying thank you instead of taking things for granted.
How in the world the court personnel come to work day after day and say the same words to the same people over and over again, I do not know. How I can make a difference in the life of even one addict, I do not know. Tell me where the arena is and I’ll get into it. But don’t just expect me to get in the ring with the lion who has no intention whatsoever of doing anything other than biting me in half.
Hours on a hard bench in a courtroom are never fun. Knowing that I am there for an entirely preventable reason can make me irritated and angry.
Of course there are no easy answers to these questions, but maybe there are some simple adjustments we could make if only we could find the leadership to do it. How can I be part of that leadership? Believe me, I’m thinking about that question.