Not too long ago we got a call from our daughter who said her best friend while growing up had called her for help. In that our daughter lives far away, she called us wondering if we could help her friend. We said “of course.” It seems this girl, let’s call her Sally, was about to get kicked out of Motel 6 where she’d been living for a month. Our daughter said she’d fallen on hard times recently and feared being on the street with her 3-year-old daughter. We paid her bill and had them sleep at our home.

We found out she’d been in and out of jail for drug possession. Being novices (a nice way of saying dupes or ignoramuses) we led with our hearts, not our heads. We thought we could help her. We insisted she agree to not have any drugs with her and not take any while with us. (I shudder when I write this about how ignorant we really were – as if you could ask any drug addict anything and expect any kind of truth or compliance. Ignorance is bliss… and dangerous.) Of course Sally insisted she would never do that. Right…

A week later after numerous episodes of drugged out behavior and catching her setting up a drug deal, we told her to leave. Fortunately, she had a car and left without a hassle. It was so tough to ask her to leave and she played on our compassion.

About a week later we found out she was living in a WalMart parking lot, and weakened we took her back in, providing she go to detox. She did. After she got out, we continued to try to help her by letter her stay and working with her nearly all our waking hours.

We spent the next three months taking her to her 12 step program (which she often missed with the best of excuses), support group sessions, to drug counselors, methadone clinics, parole officer meetings, a court appointment, and even found her a job. Finding housing was impossible – no one rents to someone with a conviction, especially for drug related crimes such as hers where she had forged prescriptions. And for good reason. But we Quixotically pressed forward. Dumb.

In the end, after she did something to endanger us, stole from us to get drugs, and used them in our home. We had the police remove her. We felt terrible to do so, but should not have felt bad at all. Sally is solely responsible for her actions and should not be in a place where she can harm anyone, including her child (who now lives with relatives).

I tell this story so others may understand how naïve they are and in hopes they will not get themselves into a situation that costs them a great deal of time and money. They really aren’t qualified to help people like Sally.

Who Can Help the Sallys of the World?

But who is qualified to help drug addicts? Drug counselors certainly are heroes on the front line of the War on Drugs. They are tough, realistic yet compassionate. They know soft answers do nothing. Drug addicts are nearly impossible to “cure” although it can happen. I know several and you can tell how much of a chance they have of staying clean by their humble attitude that insists it is a day to day challenge.

They tell me getting clean won’t happen until the drug user has hit rock bottom and is determined to change. Even then, change for the better is no guarantee that change is permanent. Once a druggie, always a druggie. That’s why they go to supervised group meetings and introduce themselves as “Hi, I’m Sally, and I’m an addict.” Once an addict, always an addict in the process of recovering.

Yes, it is possible. Yes, there is hope, but that all begins by clearly knowing the problem and deciding to do something about it. No magic cures.

I know of several people that are alcoholics and druggie – and they’ll tell you that’s what they are because once you start, it’s a life long fight to stay sober… with two prime exceptions.

  • An incredible strong will. I spoke at the funeral of Carla Bates, a good friend in Akron, Ohio. I quote from the eulogy I gave: “Carla Bates would tell you “I grew up in the ‘hood and was on hard drugs and prostitution to pay for it by 16, followed by the use of tobacco, alcohol and the rest. In my 20’s I was a junkie with a junkie husband who tried to hit me and I knocked him out. I could see my life was in ruins and decided, that day, that enough was enough. I quit everything that day.”

I asked Carla many years later when she was in her 40’s how she could quit hard drugs, tobacco and the rest when others spent years in rehab. This wonderful person who died too young (from a brain tumor), had great compassion but little tolerance for excuse makers and whiners. Her answer was profound: “If you want to, you will. If you don’t, you won’t. Your choice.”

  • A strong will and the powerful spiritual conviction to buoy that up. Our neighbor’s son was hooked in his teens. They suffered through his ups and great lows for nearly twenty years. Once day it was enough to force him to his knees, and the witness he received was so strong to him that he changed and kicked the habits – yet knowing he could never try any of those addictive substances again or he’d be what the Anti-Nephi Lehites feared they’d become. After years of being sober and very active in the church he was called to serve as a bishop and has been a powerful ally to helping members on the road to sobriety.

What is society to do about this horrendous situation that kills many people, be they addicts who overdose, die of bad health, or the victims of a drug addict’s actions?

What is the solution that the pros, addicts, clergy and counselor have universally proposed? They are far from unified.

They all do maintain that the only real, sure solution is to focus on the children and do everything possible to stop them from starting use of addictive substances.

Parents are starting to wake up and shrug off the nonsensical notion that “children have privacy” and we can’t snoop on our kids. “Must respect their privacy.” Truth was stated some time ago in General Conference that children have a right to modesty, but privacy is at the parent’s discretion.

I recall one parent being aghast that my father openly said he eaves dropped on our conversations during sleepovers, listened while we talked on the phone, and would read anything we’d written anywhere. “Don’t you trust your kids?” was the banal reply. The answer should be, “Heck no, they’re kids under my stewardship and I’ll do anything I can to protect them.”

Parents better know everything about what their children do, who they associate and why their moods or behaviors are changing.

There’s no such thing as an alcoholic or druggie who never took a drink or puffed on weed or had their first pill.

Time to get vigilant for our children’s sake, our sake and society’s sake.

The Drug Problem

Everyone seems to have an opinion on how to solve the drug problem. None of them work very well so I feel free to offer mine, just to get the conversation rolling in another direction.

I’m probably wrong in my conclusions, but I approach solutions by trying to isolate the problem and find basic principles to guide the solution. Some key principles:

  • People have their agency. They make choice and must be held to the consequences.
  • People ALWAYS work best from their own self-interest.
  • Do no harm to the innocent.
  • A wheel in motion is going somewhere. We’ve got to keep trying things. As Churchill once wrote, “When going through hell, don’t stop.”

With those principles in mind I suggest we find an area in rural Utah, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, and such places that are about one hour’s drive removed from regular folks. Tiksi, Russia comes to mind as ideal location, but that’s for another solution and a bit extreme.

Use tax dollars to create a community – perhaps buy up an existing small town that just might be pleased to sell. Give addicts a choice. Go to prison or move to this town that will be governed by fellow addicts along with their cadre of professional drug counselor who are there to guide.

Let them run it themselves. Let them police themselves. Yes, they can “escape”. Incarceration isn’t what this is about. If they do leave, it’s an automatic prison sentence.

Let them live in an environment that they create. Let them determine within Constitutional guidelines (a new idea for some in D.C.) a society of their choosing. In that many addicts take drugs to rebel, they’d no longer have that excuse. It’s their community. Let them have an initial subsistence level of aid, but wean them off that (another novel thought) as they create their own industries.

Some will space out with the freedom. They’ll get drugs and spend their time in a drug stupor. Fine. Their live and they’re not hurting anyone. BUT, those around them will all know what is going on. No fooling a recovering addict. They’re tougher on addicts than anyone. Excuses will be ignored. Lies ridiculed. Yet, most recovering addicts tend to be quite compassion in a tough way.

If people do well, the positive accomplishments will give them greater self-esteem. With other recovering addicts around them who understand an addicted life and don’t buy into the lies, and with no one to really rebel against, perhaps this positive, understanding environment will help the addict get straight.

In the meantime, they become productive and less of a drain on government welfare rolls and many will be paying taxes for the first time.  Many will apply to move out and be granted reentry into normal society. Many will have a compelling urge to stay and help. Great.

Just a thought. Crazy, yes. But no crazier than what we have now which is a tortured status quo. Maybe my looney idea can stimulate some better solutions. For their sake and ours.