you might say that “drug addicts” don’t deserve help. you might think that “they made the choice,” “they need to get a job,” or “they made the desicion to use. they burned that bridge.”
well, maybe so.
you might argue that they are not ever worth helping.
and every.single.time. i would say that i see it differently than you. but more specifically, i would say that i first hand have experienced it differently than you. i would say that it is impossible to lump people in broad categories and state they are all the same. i would share countless numbers of stories about people who are not what you might think. i would insist that addiction is much more complicated than that.
today was meaningful because i spent the afternoon interviewing Veterans in the justice system to advocate for them being placed in treatment with the diversion program rather than going to prison. we completed three interviews. to be honest, this was one of the most amazing experiences i have had. all three had similar stories. one of them made me cry.
without fully explaining the program and the men we interviewed, you should know that thus far, the program has been highly successful in rehabilitating the Veterans involved. the Veterans perceived this interview to be a potential turning point in their lives, and rightly so. this interview could get them moving forward with the diversion program-one of their only possible chances to avoid prison. for me, there is something devastating about seeing people’s feet chained to the floor. i am not suggesting that the individuals got there by accident; i understand they are in the situation based on the natural and logical consequences of their behaviors. what i am saying is that from my perspective, that’s really not a way to live. at 47 years old i heard the story of an adult man and his army career. his upbringing. his rapid decline from his addiction and his periods of sobriety. regardless of how he got to this point and what contributed to what, the point is is that he is here. he has never had the opportunity to go to treatment for his addiction. and if i could describe to you what shameful looks like, i would try. instead, all i can tell you is that the man was embarrassed by his behaviors, ashamed of his addiction, not proud of who is his. when asked (hypothetically) where he would go if he were released, he stated the rescue mission, homeless.
“i’m not looking for a handout,” he explained, “i’ll go to work. i want to work. i’m good at work. what i’m asking for is a chance.”
maybe he was lying. but maybe he wasn’t.
after an hour of interviewing we asked if there was anything else he wanted to say. “i can be an asset to the community and the program and not a liability. i know i can do it. i just need help figuring out how.”
i could write about the rest of the interview and this man’s life. and maybe i should. but what i want to say is that people are not the same. that i am not willing to write everyone off before taking the time to get to know who they are individually. i am not willing to make negative generalizations about a large portion of the population i know little about.
i will not assume that people are incapable of changing; that people’s problems are stronger than their ability to overcome them.
i am not suggesting that everyone would be a good candidate for bypassing their jail or prison sentencing. i am however, suggesting that some people would do better in treatment. i am suggesting that three years of recovery in a program designed specifically for veterans that serves the sole purpose of keeping them out of the justice system could be more effective (and cost efficient) than three or ten years of prison. recidivism rates are high enough; research demonstrates the increased likelihood of returning to the justice system after once being in it. and housing people in jail and prisons are expensive. in fact, more expensive than treatment options. i could go on and on and you could find similar information. you probably could find opposing viewpoints. all i know is that there are two sides to every story. two ways to look at things.
what i am saying is that sometimes people need second chances.
what i am saying is that i have seen people turn their lives around when given the chance, when offered some support.
the amazing thing about people is that they can always surprise you.