Thursday, January 30, 2014

One Day at a Time

Many, many criminal cases involve the use and abuse of drugs.  Still today, alcohol is the most abused drug.

When a defendant pleads guilty, or is found guilty after trial, a presentence investigation is usually performed by the probation department to help the judge determine a fair penalty for the crime committed.  When drugs or alcohol are involved in the crime, a chemical dependency assessment is almost always a given.  When the finding is that the defendant is chemically dependent, treatment is a condition of probation, as well as a requirement that the defendant will not use or possess alcohol or controlled substances. 

Probation may be for a year (for a misdemeanor offense) to several years on probation (for a felony offense).   That means that the defendant cannot use alcohol for the entire term of probation.

I will often tell such defendants something like this:

Today, I have told you that you cannot have an alcoholic drink for the next three years.  I don’t know if you can do that.  Your probation officer doesn’t know if you can do that.  And you don’t know if you can do that.

But, there is one thing I think on which we can both agree:  Today, you don’t need to take a drink.  Get through today, and let tomorrow take care of itself.  You can make it for three years, if you do it one day at a time. 

Chemical dependency is a terrible, chronic disease.  If it were like, say, strep throat, and a shot of an antibiotic would cure it, so many lives would be so much better.  But, chemical dependency is a chronic disease.  Like diabetes, it requires constant monitoring and vigilance to keep it in check.  Like diabetes, there is no cure.  There is only remission.  No one is ever “cured” of alcoholism.  The disease is in remission – the person is in recovery. 

Even the most successful inpatient treatment programs have a “success rate” (the person is chemical free for 3 years) of less than 50%.  The disease is insidious. 

It is not hopeless, however.  I have had several folks tell me, with great and justified pride, that they have one, three, five or more years of sobriety. 

Those people, without exception, tell me that life is better sober.  I offer them my heartiest congratulations.  

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Next Week:  An Impressive Place to Work