Note: The subject’s name has been changed to protect anonymity.
Stories about substance abuse often follow a specific narrative: The subject’s history predisposes them to addiction; they become addicted; treatment is sought after a harrowing episode; and, now that they’ve triumphed over the disease, they’re on with the rest of their lives—they're better.
Rinse and repeat.
It’s not that James Rogers’s story doesn’t fit. It does—at first. He grew up in poverty with an alcoholic mother. In time he descended into alcoholism as well, falling victim to self-hatred, depression, and despair.
“At one point I could barely eat. I drank only alcohol to survive,” he says. “I feared I would die as my mother had—alone, in a filthy apartment, of alcoholic cirrhosis.“
Rogers—who by the way is a very successful person—soon suffered a “psychologically crushing” experience that forced a confrontation with his alcoholism. His next stop was Beckett Springs’s inpatient detoxification program. “I was treated with kindness and respect there, professionalism and compassion,” he says. “I was treated not as a bad person, but as a person suffering from an illness.”
Rogers’s time at Beckett Springs was rigorous, but it saved his life. The week he spent with its inpatient detoxification service allowed him to return to physical and emotional stability under the watch of medical professionals. Following detox, he was “stepped down” to gradually less intensive (and ongoing) treatment options like counseling and Alcoholics Anonymous.
“Beckett (Springs) is an excellent choice,” Rogers says. “They have proven time and again that they are competent, knowledgeable, and caring professionals who want effective outcomes for their patients.”
But nothing is simple. Especially not alcohol addiction.
According to Rogers, the last several years following his initial treatment have been a mixed bag: “I have had periods of sobriety and happiness, punctuated by a number of relapses and periods of intense physical and emotional pain.”
Rogers’s tenuous hold over his disease—the sense of his alcoholism lurking behind every sunrise—doesn’t square with that narrative of triumph and recovery. But then, it’s difficult to imagine Rogers wholly triumphing over something he describes as “baffling,” “incomprehensible,” and “so powerful as to defy comprehension,” nor over what he says “sabotages reasoning” and “compels one to act against one’s best interest, health, and even sanity.”
What we’re left with is a narrative where the triumphs are many but partial, where the catharsis is ever ongoing, and where there’s always the possibility of a rewrite following a relapse. In Rogers’s words, he “must engage actively in a program of recovery.” There’s no letting up; there’s no break.
If that’s uncomfortable to you, you’re not alone. It’s uncomfortable to think a man as thoughtful and self-aware as James Rogers can’t just get better. It’s uncomfortable to think he might be left stalemated with his disease for the rest of his life—in constant pursuit of betterment, but without the prospect of a wholesale cure.
Still, as uncomfortable as it might be, that’s the narrative we need to focus on. Because if we talk too much about people getting cured and riding off into that sunset, we begin to expect it of everyone. Then when it doesn’t happen—when it can’t happen—there’s frustration: “Why don't they just choose not to have that drink? Why don't they just fast-forward to the part of the story where they’re fixed?”
Well, substance abuse doesn't work that way. Rogers knows it. The caring professionals at Beckett Springs know it as well. And the quicker the rest of us can arrive at that knowledge, the better we'll be able to help those who need it most—not just people like James Rogers, of course, but people like his mother too.
For more information about Beckett Springs, visit their website.