There’s an ancient legend about an Emperor who loves the trees in his kingdom as much as he loves his people. One day a local farmer noticed that one of the Emperor’s trees was dying. After careful examination it was determined that the cause of the problem was that the tree had been planted in bad soil. The Emperor’s men dug the tree up and transplanted it in a Vineyard five miles from the farm. It didn’t take long for the tree to respond; it fully recovered and was stronger than ever. The Emperor was very pleased with the good news. Now that the tree had recovered, the Emperor ordered his men to return the tree to its original home on the farm. The men promptly did as ordered. Two weeks later the farmer reported to the Emperor that the tree had died. The Emperor’s men determined that the bad soil had caused the tree to perish. The whole kingdom mourned the loss of the beautiful tree.
Does this legend sound familiar to you? It should if you know anyone that has ever been treated for addiction by traditional methods.
Let me tell you another story. Johnny is a heroin addict. His parents do an intervention and he agrees to go to treatment for thirty days. Johnny goes into the detoxification unit for a few days and is then moved into the residential treatment program. Johnny does fantastic! He really seems to grasp recovery. He enjoys the meetings and the counseling sessions. Johnny really wants to stay sober! He writes his family and tells them about his recovery; home is five hundred miles from the treatment facility. After thirty days Johnny graduates, they give him a coin and take him to the airport. Johnny is happy to be home, but feels alone and disconnected. Two weeks later a farmer finds him overdosed sitting under a tree. The whole town mourned Johnny’s death.
Does the story sound familiar now? During the first story you were probably thinking, why would they return the tree and re-plant it in the bad soil? In the second story, you probably weren’t thinking anything was wrong. That’s what I want to help you to see. The stories are the same!
Until we start to address addiction as a community problem, people are going to continue to die. If we send people away for thirty days and they start to get well and then send them back to an unhealthy community they are going to get sick again, it’s common sense. We have to deal with the “bad soil.” When we do that, we will see a dramatic change for the better.
It starts with community education, acceptance, support, and training. Long-term aftercare works to solve the addiction equation. Recovery community centers with individual and family support, recovery coaches, family recovery coaches, case managers, prevention and relapse prevention professionals, and other support services will have tremendous impact.
Addiction impacts not only the individual and the person’s whole family, it impacts the whole community! It’s time to start the healing. Together we can do it, alone an addict is like a tree that was planted in bad soil waiting to die! Every life counts!
©2015 Rev. K. T. Coughlin Ph.D.
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