We hear it all the time:
“They have never been where I’ve been.”
“They don’t know what it’s like.”
“How can anyone help if they don’t understand what I’m going through?”
“They’ve never touched a drug in their life, what advice can they offer me?”
As a subculture, those of us in recovery have perpetuated this myth for far too long. This rumor may have began as a defensive cover to shade us from the prejudices of the “normal people” out there. It may be that we have taken the quote recited at our hometown NA meetings a step too far: “The therapeutic value of one addict helping another is without parallel.”
In recovery, we share a special bond that knits us together. We’ve all been there. Each one of us could spout hours of what we lovingly refer to as “war stories” about how bad we had it in our addiction. While it’s always good to know that someone with a much bigger monkey on their back than you made it out of their “good ol days” alive, we must realize that it may also be good to hear from those who have never chased a high, to see how they made it through life without drugs.
Those non-junkies have something we don’t. Something we need… Coping skills. Did someone make it through a nasty break-up without using? How? Do they set down after a hard day with an ice cold sweet tea instead of a beer? How? Coping skills are essential to our recovery. Good advice is good advice, regardless of where it comes from.
However many of us pass up this advice when it flows from the mouth of a non-user. It seems to be a sort of reverse prejudice that keeps us where we are used to being… separated from society. One of the main goals of recovery is to integrate back into society.
Some of the best advice we’ve received for recovery has come from those without an addiction problem. As Much as we separate ourselves, non-users aren’t without fault for separating us from them. Fear of not knowing what to say or how to help has led many to decline lending a helping hand. Many times all we need is someone to listen, someone to care.
Finally, let’s consider for a moment just who saved us from ourselves while we were dead in our sins. Was it another addict? Someone who did all bad things we had? No. It was a man who had never had an addiction problem. A man who had never once even done the wrong thing. A perfect man. Jesus was the ultimate goodie-twoshoes. He was tempted at all points like we were, yet without sin. He lived and sacrificed 33 years of sinless life so that we could be saved and set free from our addictions.
Next time someone who hasn’t been where you have tries being there for you, let them. You never know how much a kind word or a loving correction may bless you, even if they don’t know what it’s like.