At my treatment facility, I was taught that addiction is like a “Great Eraser”. It erases everything that matters in your life. The first tier of “The Great Eraser” is the financial eraser. It erases money spent on alcohol, pills and drugs. At first, it is a slow trickle of money to feed the addiction, but later, it is like a fire hose pumping money into the addiction monster. The addict or alcoholic will lie, manipulate, steal and connive love ones so they can stay in their addiction. I have witnessed two young teen age boys who ran up tens of thousands of dollars on their mother’s credit card. Later, they pawned their autistic sister’s jewelry to feed their addiction. These young lads would never have dreamed of such horrendous acts while they were sober. This is what addiction leads to. Many family members have paid large sums of money for substance abuse treatment which erases money from their retirement funds. Also, as the addict or alcoholic gets older, it becomes harder and harder to find a job because of their checkered employment history. The financial Great Eraser will cause them to lose everything – jobs, homes, apartments, cars- erase, erase, erase. This is why more than 60% of the homeless population has substance abuse issues.
The second tier of “The Great Eraser” is the relationship eraser. The reality is that the alcoholic or addict hurts the ones that love him or her the most. In the Alcoholic Anonymous book, it says “The alcoholic (addict) is like a tornado roaring his way through the lives of others”. I have been in 2 tornados while living in Oklahoma. They are very centric, very powerful and very destructive… just like the alcoholic and addict. My experience with dealing with 800+ men at is that the younger the men are, the more forgiving the family is. As the alcoholic or addict gets older, the family loves them from a distance and does not want to be sucked into the toxic tornado. They pray and hope by some miracle, that their addicted family member reaches their bottom and starts living a sober life. The alcoholic or addict feels that their family has deserted them – when in fact, their addiction is center of their life – not their family. They live each day, each week, each month, and each year in almost total isolation. The relationship Great Eraser will cause the alcoholic or addict to lose his relationship with his family, friends and God and live in almost total isolation… erase, erase, erase.
The third tier of “The Great Eraser” erases hope, self-worth and finally life. Because of self-destruction and low self-esteem, the alcoholic or addict feels like their life is a waste and they are worthless. They have attempted many times to stay sober and clean but have failed miserably after each relapse. Since substance abuse is a progressive disease, their self-confidence spirals downward. They have lost hope. Some die because of suicide, some die very quickly of overdose and some die slowly of liver and kidney disease. This is the final eraser.
So what is the solution? The solution is TIME. The longer an alcoholic or addict is sober and clean, the better their chances are that they will stay sober and clean for the rest of their life. Over time, the mental urges to drink and drug will diminish if they stay sober and clean. To think that after 30 days of treatment an alcoholic or addict will get cured or recovered is ludicrous. They are typically thrown back into the same environment … with all the problems and triggers still there 30 days later. I would recommend 6 to 12 months of an “in patient” program. This will allow the alcoholic or addict to unlearn compulsive behaviors and to deal with life on life terms without using alcohol and drugs. I would also recommend an After Care program that will slowly allow them to live an independent lifestyle. The After Care Program should be a detailed road map that has an action plan that can be monitored. The real joy is seeing the alcoholic or addict reunited with their family and staying sober and clean for the rest of their life. The miracle can happen, if you let time heal all the wounds.
Brent Burmaster is the Executive Director of Soul’s Harbor Treatment Center located in Dallas, Texas. Brent has a Bachelor of Science from the University of Oklahoma.