Sobriety: Won’t or Can’t

If you had a child with Down’s Syndrome would you insist that they change their IQ from 65 to 95? If you had a parent who was diagnosed with Dementia of the Alzheimer’s Type would you ask them to snap out of it? Of course not.

So if you have a child or loved one with addiction can we simply asked them to get it. To get sober as if sobriety is a conscious decision. That one day they will wake up and turn on the switch which leads to sobriety. The simple answer is that many can do this but that many others cannot. It has long been my contention that in many individuals addiction is acquired but that in many others addiction is genetic.

Much like an Alzheimer’s patient and a Down’s Syndrome patient many patients with addiction are born with a limited ability to prevent or control their disease. In these patients sobriety may not be an option. At least long term sobriety. This doesn’t mean that we give up on them entirely but that we approach them in a way in which both we and them have realistic expectations about what sobriety looks like. Given the limitations of such incurable diseases as bipolar disorder, schizo-affective disorder, and certain personality disorders patients can expect to control their disease at times but are severely at risk of multiple relapses.

Recognition of these co-morbid conditions allows us to create a framework by which we can maintain a relationship with our loved one in a way that may have to have some room for their disease, including their addiction. Very few are willing to accept this and fewer are able to accomplish this, but in reality what may give the highest degree of sanity to an insane condition is to have realistic expectations. Under these circumstances not every addict would get the death penalty in they cannot maintain sobriety. Instead, we living in the sober world can welcome them into our world when they are sober and set ground rules for when they are not.

I believe very strongly that one of the reason that addicts have a high suicide rate is because they actually get it. They recognize the above scenario. they know that their underlying disease limits their ability to ever achieve permanent sobriety. That realization then leads to hopelessness and suicide becomes the most viable option to living in addicted world as an outcast forever. Let’s not outcast them. Let’s look at them with fresh glasses. You would never insist that a Down’s Syndrome child will his IQ to be higher. Not all addicts can will themselves to be sober.

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