Nothing turns off an addict like feeling judged and nothing fuels active using like shame. So why is it that those are the main arrows in the quiver? A well meaning Darrel Strawberry made some very inflammatory comments about Doc Gooden, and while the intention may have been “tough love” my sense of this is, it didn’t help.
The Pathology of Addiction
After Gooden missed a personal appearance, Strawberry called Gooden a “complete addict junkie” reinforcing all the negativity that addicted folks are bad people. While the behavior certainly is frustrating, it is the pathology. Expecting someone in active addiction to act differently is like complaining the lake is wet. When someone is in the mire of addiction, their behavior will be poor. That doesn’t mean Gooden should skirt consequence, quite the contrary. It may be the consequence that brings him to a point of being willing to try. What he doesn’t deserve and what won’t help is a public flogging, asking Gooden to wear sac cloth and ashes for his “sin”. Addiction isn’t sin, it’s pathology. Not to mention: “get thee to a nunnery” Mr. Strawberry.
There is no zealot like the converted. One of the problems with modern recovery is that people who have stabilized take leave of empathy and compassion for an evangelical mission. Like the tea party, that road is too narrow for many people. Strawberry sits in judgement of his buddy because he “won’t listen”. That may be true or it may be true that the message Strawberry delivers doesn’t resonate with Gooden.
So what would be better? Compassion goes a long way. “Doc says he missed the event because of a health issue, that is true. My best guess is the health issue of which he speaks is addictive disease. My hope is Doc reaches out for help, if not from me, then from someone”.
Strawberry has a very specific brand of faith based recovery. Which is great, but only if it’s great for you. Often times faith based people feel at odds with science based advocates. The truth is, we are closer than we think. Isn’t scientific inquiry and working toward knowledge a God given gift? Even the AA big book says “we know but a little”. Certainly God would expect man to put in some effort toward understanding.
I don’t think Strawberry meant any harm, I think he meant to help his buddy the best way he knows. More than anything, when public people demonstrate dynamics in a large scale media forum, it offers the culture a chance to have a dialogue. The dialogue here is: what does tough love really do? If it’s the way to go, why are the rates of recovery so abysmal? One of the unyielding tenets of recovery is “when nothing changes, nothing changes” and that’s what we do. We yell, we shame, we judge all with the intent that the addicted person will “come to their senses”. Logic never applies, so stopping that tactic would seem prudent at this point.
Doc Godden has a long history in his sparring with addiction, it’s widely known. What Strawberry did do well was bring the issue into honesty, he didn’t enable and that’s a great strength when trying to slay this beast. One of the best helps is forming an alliance, and “junkie” won’t do that. Strawberry is living in fantasy if he thinks it will.