The book begins with a description of my own descent to active opioid addiction, my climb back to sobriety, and my efforts to remain sober. It is important that I share my own story of addiction and recovery for several reasons. First, all addicts have some amount of internalized shame from addiction-related behavior. It is difficult for an addict to read a discussion about addiction without at some point feeling that the comments blame the addict for his bad behavior. This is especially the case if the discussion includes the type of dialogue that the addict must hear if he is to recover; i.e. comments that imply some degree of responsibility and accountability on the part of the addict. By sharing my story I want addicts to know that I am one of them and that I have done what they have done, including many shameful behaviors wrought by desperation during my active addiction.
A distinction must be made in order for addicts to benefit from this text. The distinction is between assigning accountability for the sake of making a person feel bad, versus attempting to instill the accountability and ownership of behavior vital to the addict’s recovery. While there is no value in the former, the value of the latter is to deflate the grandiose ego of the actively using addict, and to help the recovering addict recognize and process repressed shame. There is another important distinction that will help the reader understand the points made in this book: the distinction between the cocky false ego of the using addict, vs. the true ego of the individual. The true ego may be buried deeply within a person; so deeply that it seems to not exist. But except perhaps in sociopaths, a true ego lies inside each person, and it is that sense of ‘me’ and that ‘truthful reality’ that allows recovery to grow in treatment, and that I am trying to reach now. The true ego of the using addict, despite the false external cockiness, is fragile and insecure. It is difficult for the insecure, using addict to lower his defenses and allow his true self to communicate with the outside world. Hopefully the addict reading this text will have some recognition of what I am referring to. If you are an addict, I hope you are tempted to lower your defenses and drop your cocky front, and open your mind to my comments. I urge you to pay attention and to trust my comments on a deeper level.
All this talk about the ‘real person’ gets to the second reason I am sharing my story. Beyond the shameful behavior caused by our addictions, addicts have a number of common character defects related to addiction, including some present before our using and others that were caused by our using. I want the addict reading this text to know, as I write about character defects, that I share the same character defects. If you understand my point about the two sides of personality or consciousness, the ‘real’ side vs. the ‘cocky front’, I urge you to let go of the fear that could prevent you from taking in what you need to hear from this book. I have been there. I know that confusion you sometimes feel over the nature of the ‘real me’. I understand feeling that ‘nobody understands me,’ and the thought that ‘therefore I can’t trust anyone to help me.’ I know the fear that ‘if I start to accept that I have a significant problem, there will be no end to the horrible reality and no end to all that I will have to own up to.’ If my comments cause anxiety, I urge you to drop your fear and allow the messages in this book into your conscious awareness, so that you can discover a way to move forward.
The third reason I am sharing my story is because in 12-step programs, sharing our stories is the tradition of first step meetings that welcome newcomers. Since many readers of this book are newcomers to understanding addiction and Recovery, sharing my story is the most appropriate way to start.
After my story, I share the stories and comments of addicts who have written to me. In all cases the information has been changed only enough to disguise the identity of the writer. Sharing the stories is intended to keep the information true, and relevant to practical applications of buprenorphine. The stories will help the reader learn to identify patterns of addictive thinking that are common to all opiate addicts, as the patterns are repeated in the stories of one addict after another.