Nevada’s got a Youth Offender Court Program for kids aged 18-24 years old with drug problems. The local paper seems to love it, they definitely romanticize the program, and seem to be in it’s corner, lamenting that the budget is too small and that it may be cut. I don’t know much about the program personally, but these things are nothing new. Courts have been sending people to treatment programs for years, this program just seems to be run a bit more hands on than the average drug court program. In the end, it’s just another ‘control model’ approach (as Mark Scheeren, author of the JTHP would call it) to helping substance abusers. There is much ado about the fact that family members are dragged into the process, but again this is nothing new, and ultimately this can be as dangerous as it is helpful because it draws the attention away from the real problem – that the substance abuser himself needs to learn to make better choices for himself. We don’t know if it’s successful, so there’s not much more to be said about it at this point. But there is something interesting in the comments of one of the attendees.
20 year old Jack Armstrong, an Oxycontin user, has gone back and forth with the program, at times appearing successful, only to violate the rules again by testing positive for drugs. The latest news on his plight includes a video interview where he reveals an important insight. In the video he says:
I need to start doing things to better, not today, but to better tomorrow. And I think that’s what it all comes down to, an addict doesn’t think that way, an addict is like ‘right now I’m feeling this way, and that I know what I can do to feel better right now.’ That’s all I’ve come to know.
This cuts right down to what is most important for people with substance use problems – recognizing the difference between short and long-term thinking. The substance abuser thinks in terms of immediate gratification rather than long-term success and happiness. Unfortunately, Jack will probably be criticized for believing this. He is in a program that views addiction as a disease rather than a matter of choices/morality. He will be encouraged to take it “one day at a time”, he’ll be distracted by being told that his mother is an enabler and “as sick as he is”, and taught that the only way for him to stay sober is to keep constant involvement with other addicts like himself. In the meantime, he has found the key to change, he’s on the verge of making a major change, and it could all be squashed and stamped out by this program.
Jack, if you’re reading, let me tell you that you’ve got it. You found the solution. You need to focus on building a better tomorrow. All the stuff about not knowing whether you’ll use again tomorrow is nonsense – if you want a better tomorrow you can make it happen. YOu can make choices to create a life that you enjoy better than the escapism of substance abuse. Please comply with all the demands of the Youth Court Program so that you can get out of it as quickly as possible, and then leave all this recovery nonsense in the past, and go live your life, building a better tomorrow. Long-term thinking is key, and you’ve realized that. Don’t lose sight of this important insight.
Treatment professionals scoff at any suggestion that we should look at what an addict thinks, they claim it’s a problem of genetics, that the brain is hijacked by drugs, that the impulses to use are automatic and controlled by the lower brain or “lizard brain”. They don’t believe that thoughts like Jack’s are important or even relevant to changing a substance use habit. They encourage short term “one day at a time” thinking, and discourage long term thinking, when it is the one thing that a person with a substance use problem desperately needs most. My advice for everyone is to listen to Jack’s insight here, escape the recovery culture and system as quickly as possible, and go build a better tomorrow.
Oh, about the title of the post – it comes from a saying I used to hear someone say a lot, and I thought it was offensive at the time, but now I realize it can make sense. The saying goes “it’s hard to soar with the eagles when you’re surrounded by turkeys”, and it means that you can be dragged down by the people around you. In this case, Jack Armstrong is capable of soaring with the eagles, but the drug court program’s staff and participants are the turkeys, holding Jack back with their backwards beliefs and self-defeating philosophies.
link to an article about Judge Cedric Kerns’ Youth Offender Court Program.
link to an article about Jack Armstrong’s plight within the program
link to a video interview with Jack Armstrong