There’s a commercial that played in our local market a couple of years ago that so offended me I actually turned off my radio when I heard the opening doom-music for a minimum of an hour after the commercial aired. The main gist of the ad was that we addicts/alcoholics are “reaching out for help” as younger adults and older children, when we get busted: “When you found my drug paraphernalia, I was screaming for your help”. That was actually one of the lines in the commercial (or something close to it). Now forgive me for not being all “touchy-feely” about this, but that couldn’t be farther from the truth. The mythical chick in the commercial left her pot pipe out where her parents could find it because she was stupid – we addicts do stupid things, especially when we’re stoned or drunk. We all laugh when comedians say things like, “Of course we’re going to drive drunk… How else are we going to get the f*ckin’ car back to the house”?! (I believe that was Sam Kinison). I hate to tell you folks, but that’s a whole lot closer to the truth than “I got busted because it was a cry for help”. No, the cry for help deal is 100% pure manipulation (at least for drinking and drugs). The reality is that we really don’t give a damn what you think, we just want to get loaded as freely as possible. Sure, we’ll take all of the co-signing, the co-dependent and the touchy-feely bullshit you can come up with, right before we steal your wallet to feed our habit. Go ahead, mom and dad, blame yourself for my being a mess, just do me a favor and pass me that fifth, eh? Hell, I knew folks who were messed up enough to steal your wallet and then help you look for it if they were still in the room when you realized it was gone (another part of a comedy routine that mirrors life very closely, though I can’t remember who).
There is one reason that those commercials are needed. When we drunks and addicts are in the midst of the disease, we are such insufferable, selfish degenerates that it becomes extremely difficult to love us on a human or even spiritual level. The escape from reality becomes so necessary that we don’t care who we mow down to access it and that’s a sad truth, but it is what it is. The “cry for help” angle makes it possible to keep loving us at a time when love and forgiveness is damn near impossible. The truth is that the cry for help comes after we’ve lost everything, at least that’s the way it was with me. Only after the booze stopped working, after I’d used my parents as a door mat for the last time, after they had finally had enough – after the entire State of Michigan deemed it necessary for me to seek treatment, did I finally cry out for help.
If I were to look back, access the kid that I used to be, it would look like this: “Yeah, right, sure I was crying for help – if you’re gullible enough to buy that and it makes your knees go weak with sappy misplaced emotion and most importantly, helps you forgive me for what I’ve done so I can continue doing what I do, unhindered, then that’s exactly what I was doing, calling out for help.
We’ve all heard the quote, you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink, well that about sums us up to a tee. There’s a popular saying in the circles that I run: You can’t tell a drunk anything until they’re good and ready to hear it. Specifically what that translates to is that until such a time as we’re finally done running from the reality that we just can’t live like that anymore, all of the self-awareness in the world won’t change a thing. I had to be done to be able to hear (that’s why we call it the “bottom”). In other words, I may be calling out for help and you might even be willing to respond, but unless I’m at the end of that rope (preferably with no not to hang onto), giving me the help to climb up won’t do any good, you just give more rope with which to hang on – and therein lies the rub. How do you know if your kid/husband/wife/brother/sister is at the end of that rope? How can you know that this will be the time that they finally get the message.
You don’t. You can’t. All you can do is untie the knot. If you want to see a real commercial about drug/alcohol abuse, this is a good one:
Along that line, about 40 miles from my house, last weekend, a family’s adopted son broke into their home to steal from them in order to feed his drug habit. When the father presented resistance the son beat him to death with a baseball bat. He then went after his mother and his younger brother. Last I heard they’re still in the hospital in critical condition – his mother and little brother. Do you really think he was calling out for help as he was caving his dad’s face in, or is he calling out for help now that he’s in jail – soon to be prison, for the rest of his life. Better yet, how about his friend who drove? He’s facing a murder wrap too, just for driving the nineteen year-old over to the house – do you really think if the robbery had gone off without a hitch, nobody was hurt and the duo had scored for the weekend that, whilst sitting amongst the pile of whatever drug they were into, he’d stop and realize that it was all wrong and call out for help? Nope, the call only comes after there’s no knot to hold onto. I actually heard the driver at his plea hearing on that same radio station a couple of days ago and it broke my heart. His bottom is a lot lower than mine was (good God, is it lower), and to hear the uncontrollable sobbing, that feeling in his voice (because I’ve been there, I know this feeling) that said, “Oh my God, what have I done, what was I a part of – how did it come to this…” Well, we have to sleep in the bed that we make, I only hope that he gets what he needs to straighten up when he makes parole.
So, what does all of this have to do with fitness? I commented in a post the other day that someone recommended caution with exercise because one could become “addicted’ to the release of endorphins. While I suppose this could be possible, though I’ve never seen it, when you consider that I could have been either one of those kids given the right circumstances, the question you have to ask yourself is this: Is that such a bad thing?
We think not. Other than the recovery program that I work on a daily basis, cardiovascular exercise – and thus, the people that I exercise with – is the single best thing that I’ve ever done for the rest of the human race… Simply because I’m not that guy.
This has the possibility of being a very controversial post, it’s built into the topic and can’t be helped. While what I have written may not be your experience, it is mine. Though I have generalized quite a bit, I haven’t experienced a situation in my nineteen years of working with others to help them fix their problem (and thereby mine) that would suggest that I’d left something out. If your experience is different, my apologies. I’d love to hear about it in the comments section.
Excellent post. I never really thought about my problems with addiction in the past in the light of my actions were cries for help. My actions were meticulously calculated manipulations in order to further feed my addiction. I agree wholeheartedly in the points that you bring up, down to the “exercise addiction” garbage that less fit people try to impose on those of us who find joy in working out. Again, though, great post.
Jim, thank you for your passionate post. I have not been there but when I did an internship at a drug counseling facility years ago, honestly, I learnt more from clients than from text books. There are many who want to help addicts, including those promoting such advertising, that have not had the experience, but depend on what “scientific researchers” have to say. This can create inefficiency.
That said, different people at varying levels of addiction may react differently, so who is to say that that is not someone else’s experience? At the end of the day, whatever the medium, all those who execute these PSAs can hope is that their efforts brings someone one step closer in managing his/her struggle.
Wishing you the best,
I can appreciate your experience, but I can tell you – for certain – having used the tactic dozens of times, that these “calling out for help” experiences, 100% of the time, in every single instance, are used as manipulation. We’ll say whatever we have to so you’ll believe a sob story and let us go about our binging.
Please allow me to give you an example of a conversation that involves “calling out for help”:
“Dad, I can’t stop drinking – I never can tell once I pick up the first one where it will lead. I need help”.
We rely on people like you to believe that by getting busted we’re really only pleading for someone to help us so we can get back to doing what we do. If that weren’t the case, sentencing someone to meetings would have better results than 3% (that’s about how many people last five years alcohol free after some form of treatment).
Drunks are just as bad as politicians – we’ll say anything you want to hear if you’ll leave us alone. Take it to the bank. The PSA that I complained about, while I’m sure the makers had good intentions, only contributed to the ignorance of normal people who can’t understand what it’s like to be that lost.
Well, there are many people out there who love to control through manipulation, so I have no reason not to take your word for it. Perhaps it is my own reservations about painting everyone with the same brush that gives me a moment of pause.
We don’t love that we’re manipulative – it’s a matter of survival, you can’t be as messed up as we are without a little slight of hand.
I was thinking about the discussion we had going last night when I just happened to choose as a totally random reading for the evening, page 62. Check it out, if you did an intern at a drug (and I assume Alcohol) counseling facility, then you will know to which book I’m referring – it’s a big one.
Should you doubt what’s written on page 62, check out the first three words on 112. That’s how we roll.
We (I am referring to myself in that general characterization of course) must keep it simple, lest we lose ourselves in the intricacies of what’s “fair” or “right” or “not our fault” – none of which matters in the end. That may not be “fair”, but I’ve never seen a person fall short who has followed the path (most say rarely, but that’s not been my experience). Unfortunately it’s not a very wide path.
Thank you for the spirited discussion. It does a fella good.
One of the biggest books I had was a DSM IV, and that was back in the 90s. I am no longer in the area, so if that is what you meant, I don’t have it still. I enjoyed the discussion as well, and appreciated all you had to offer. Keep fighting the good fight, and have a fantastic weekend.
[…] “I Was Asking for Your Help” by bgddyjim. Raw, passionate truths about addiction are explored. The post itself and the discussion that subsequently ensued were quite educational. […]
Hi Jim. When you have a free moment, please go to http://essaykaywrites.wordpress.com/2012/05/06/ive-been-tagged-a-spider-web-game/) to see a post in which you have been featured. I hope it brings you joy, and feel free to pass that joy around.
[…] for your help” when her parents found her drug paraphernalia. I tore that commercial apart here. The notion that people, take Rob for instance, are asking for help when they get busted, is […]