August 25, 2012

Overcoming addiction takes time, support

I recently attended the Drug Court graduation in City Court of a young woman who has made changes she never imagined possible just a couple of years ago. And, she is not the only one who didn’t foresee her turn-around.

She was in City Court for repeated arrests, all related to excessive drinking and violent behavior. She spent time in jail, at inpatient treatment, in residential programs and on probation.

We spent more than three years together, as judge and defendant. It was wonderful to come back and be part of celebrating her achievements.

Through many years as an attorney and judge, I learned not to be in the prediction business. If I tried to do that, I would be wrong much of the time. I certainly would not have predicted this young lady’s success, as she seemed quite unwilling to stop drinking and commit herself to treatment. She is “Exhibit A” for why it is important not to close the door and to keep pushing and encouraging.

As judge, I saw the people who had been arrested, whose lives were so out of control that they committed crimes. Sometimes, it was driving while intoxicated; sometimes, it was stealing from family or friends, or assaulting them or damaging their property, or worse.

Being arrested can be a wake-up call that prompts a drug abuser to get treatment or an opportunity for a judge to order it. As painful a decision as it may be, calling the police when your loved one breaks the law may be the best way to help them.

Life may not have to get that bad. I am sure that it is extremely difficult to watch people you love destroy themselves. Even though you think they won’t listen or are afraid of “rocking the boat,” it is important for family members to talk to the drug-abusing person. Be honest, but not accusing or judgmental. You want to help, and let them know you will be there for them but won’t enable their drug use.

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