I Before E ...

A friend of mine called a few weeks ago because she felt fairly certain that her son relapsed again. 

Prior to this recent one year in recovery, Joe was addicted to heroin for about three years, and he experimented with others drugs (including alcohol) before and after his involvement with heroin.

He faced death on several occasions by overdoses and by physical violence.

He has mental illness and a history of abuse - both extremely common in the disease of addiction.

His mom, Sue, has attended Nar-Anon meetings, has a sponsor, and has read much about addiction.

She has battled courageously alongside her son throughout these many years.

Sue knows the drill, but somehow this “cunning, baffling, and powerful disease” still manages to outsmart, perplex, and paralyze her every single time it rears its ugly head.

Sue mentioned that her son relapsed and was drinking alcohol.  I asked her if she was sure he wasn’t doing anything else, and she said that he told her he just had a few drinks.  Yet his behavior seemed to indicate that there might be more to the story.  She inquired, “Do you think Joe could be lying?”  Did I think Joe could be lying?!!  I responded, “Sue, you know the old one about ‘how can you tell if an addict is lying?  When his lips are moving.’  Short answer, yes, he can definitely be lying.”  That’s not to be contemptuous.  It’s simply the nature of the beast.  

So what makes an intelligent, knowledgeable, informed person so confused and unsure of herself when the disease flares up?  Why do parents, relatives, and friends often feel like the bad guy for even considering that their addicted loved one could possibly be using again?  Why do the tables get turned, and what once seemed so clear and simple suddenly becomes hazy and complex?  There is no cut and dry answer, but much of it has to do with observing and responding from our emotions rather than our intellect.  Remember the old spelling rule, “I before E except after C?”  Maybe when dealing with persons suffering from addiction we should keep that in mind.  Intellect before emotion except after checkup (aka drug test!).  

When someone is addicted to drugs, he is not going to admit to it.  He may have been completely honest, trustworthy, kind, and loving the week before, but once he is using again all bets are off.  You are not dealing with the person anymore. This is not easy to understand because the same person, with his familiar voice, face, etc. is standing in front of you.  The same person who, when not actively using, is supportive, loving, kind, and trustworthy.  We almost instantly feel guilty for even considering that this person could be lying (emotions speaking).  Yet if we stop and think, we understand that the brain is affected and the behavior is a direct result of substance on this organ which houses the personality of the afflicted.

The great paradox is that to respond lovingly, we must often use methods that we would never normally use with this person.  The intellect has to make the decisions, because the emotions don’t understand what is happening.  Keep them at bay or at least submissive to the intellect.  Don’t try to do it alone.  Get to a meeting.  Get a sponsor.  Take some classes.  Educate yourself.  Get support, and remember “I before E except after C" - as in the word "lies."