Inescapable Conclusions

My parallel time last year in Overcomers would have found me about to enter the program in earnest in a couple of days.  The first two weeks of Overcomers is filled, mostly, with a daily task followed by one hour of class per week day.  Pre-programmers are also required to attend additional sessions at night most evenings.  While the first two weeks are somewhat frustrating because it seems to be so little work being done on one’s problem and so much ….well just other stuff.  The routine and rules quickly become challenging to one’s state of mind.

Days begin early at the mission.  The lights go on at 5:30 and the men only have a couple of minutes to get out of their bunks.  The first mandatory event of the day is “Pray-in” and that happens about 40 minutes after lights-on.  Chapel is at 7 am so and before an Overcomer goes there he must have his bunk and area clean, himself dressed and ready to go and if he still has one of the daily dormitory tasks then that must be done as well.  Breakfast is also fit into this time before 7am.  I usually skipped breakfast as it tended to be the meal of the day where there was the least variety and frankly quality of food.  We usually had cereal two day a week and those were the days I was most likely to go downstairs for a meal.   I would sometimes head down for coffee…well a cup of brown water with grit in it.  For reasons that remain somewhat obscure we weren’t allowed to make have coffee in the dorm though frankly stashes of instant coffee were some of the more benign and common contraband many of us tended to stash away.  Once I was able to go to Wal-Mart as part of my duties I did procure some instant packets to either use in the dorm with tap water or to add to the lousy coffee we did get in the mornings or at church to make it palatable. 

I guess this brings up the subject of contraband and the rules that had to do with it.  Obviously, being an addiction recovery program, the possessions and substances that clients are permitted to possess are very limited.  Mouthwashes and other personal hygiene items cannot contain alcohol for obvious reasons.  Overcomers are also not allowed to keep more than a daily dose of any medication in their possession.  During the week medication was dispensed by the infirmary and closely controlled.  On weekends the men are allowed to have enough doses of their meds to cover Saturday and Sunday.  Even drugs such as over the counter pain relievers are closely controlled and we were not supposed to have supplies of them in our possession.  This was another frequently broken rule as one quickly learned that it was truly a miserable experience to have a headache and no access to pain medication over night.  Initially I intended to keep these rules myself but later on I began keeping a “stash”.  This presents a bit of a moral dilemma as on the one hand as an Overcomer progresses through the program we are encouraged to see our willingness to violate rules as “relapse behavior”.  On the other hand having a headache or bad cold in the middle of the night stinks.  While in a true emergency a counselor could have been called and come in to access medicine unless the situation was truly serious one usually had to wait until the next morning or even until Monday to get medication.  However, one quickly realized that many guys kept supplies of some meds and a trusted friend would usually share or point you in the right direction if you needed something.  It felt rather odd to be “trafficking” in Advil or cold medicine but the men appreciated the irony of the situation.  One man who provided me with some Advil late one evening when I had a headache briefly put on his former hat as a dealer when he informed me that “the first one is free….cause I know you’ll be back.”

Even with only one hour of class per day quite a bit happens in those first two weeks.  In my case I think the most important thing I learned was that regardless of age or background all of us in the program were more or less the same.  There were young guys sent to the program as a last chance before jail and older men who had wasted a tremendous amount of their lives.  There were meth manufacturers and successful business owners.  (In some cases they were the same man.)  There were the openly rebellious and then there were men like me.  Smart enough not to openly challenge the counselors but inwardly most unconvinced that 6 ½ months of treatment and counseling are really necessary.

At the end of the day though I believe every man who is successful in the program comes to the same unavoidable, inescapable conclusion:  No matter what I think of the most apparently foolish person sitting in that classroom, no matter how unlearned, unwise or self-destructive I may perceive them to be: I’m sitting in the same room with them in a recovery program.

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    • Marissa
    • August 22nd, 2010

    That last point is crucial. The ones who couldn’t (wouldn’t, really) see that they’re no better than anyone else, that we’re all capable of the same sins and failures, are the same ones who failed immediately after leaving. It pains me to see anyone fall back into their addiction, as I know how desperate the situation is.. I just hope, for their sakes, that they find humility.

  1. Excellent post. I’m sorry I didn’t notice it before today.

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