An addict fell in a hole and couldn’t get out. A businessman went by. The addict called out for help. The businessman threw him some money and told him to buy a ladder. But the addict could not find a ladder in this hole he was in. A doctor walked by. The addict said, “Help, I can’t get out.” The doctor gave him some drugs and said, “Take this; it will relieve the pain.” The addict said thanks, but when the pills ran out, he was still in the hole. A renowned psychiatrist rode by and heard the addict’s cries for help.He stopped and said, “How did you get in there? Were you born there? Did your parents put you there? Tell me about yourself, it will alleviate your sense of loneliness.” So the addict talked with him for an hour, then the psychiatrist had to leave, but he said he’d be back next week. The addict thanked him but was still in his hole. A priest came by and heard the addict calling for help. The priest gave him a Bible and said, “I’ll pray for you.” The priest got down on his knees and prayed for the addict, then left. The addict was very grateful and he read the whole Bible, but he was still stuck in that hole. A recovering addict happened to be passing by. The addict cried out, “Hey, help me! I’m stuck in the hole!” Right away the recovering addict jumped in the hole with him. The addict said, “What are you doing? Now we’re both stuck here.” But the recovering addict said, “It’s okay, I’ve been here before. I know the way out.”
Let’s be honest, it’s just as likely that the addict who fell in the hole either dug the hole and forgot it was there or simply dug too deep, realized they couldn’t get out, and made up the excuse that they fell in because that’s a better story than the truth.
In the end, it doesn’t matter how we got in the hole. What matters is that we are in a hole; therefore, we must recognize that we are in said hole. This person is clearly aware that they are in a hole because when someone walked by, the addict called out for help. That’s a major step in the right direction. Doing the next right thing begins with the understanding that a) I am in a hole, and b) because I cannot get out on my own, I must need help.
The businessman, to some extent, is an enabler. He was relatively hands off, attempting to help primarily by throwing money at the problem. How many times have we as friends and family thrown money at the addicts in our lives? Here’s the money you need to pay off that debt. Here’s the money you need to pay your bills or car payment or mortgage. Here’s a free 30 or 60 day vacation at a treatment center. You’ll be clean while you’re there, but best of luck when you’re back on your own in the real world.
Or, like the doctor, we throw drugs at an addict. That makes sense. Let’s take someone who is hooked on opiates and give them different opiates in hopes that they’ll quit. Subutex, Buprenorphine, Suboxone, Methodone, Nalaxone. There are reasons you can’t get into a lot of treatment centers on these “step down” drugs. People are getting high with these drugs. People are hooked on these drugs. And even if we use things like Vivitrol, a so-called anti-addiction drug, to deal with substance abuse disorders, we aren’t treating the underlying causes of addiction. We aren’t dealing with the spiritual disease. We are getting rid of the substance but not healing the person.
The psychiatrist tries to root out the underlying causes of addiction, but the addict is not in a place to find those answers. The addict is in a hole. The addict has hit rock bottom. All the addict needs is a way out. The needs are much more basic here than digging deeply into the human psyche. Much like the immediate euphoria of acting out, what the addict needs is to not be in the hole. The addict is ready. Don’t overthink the situation. One day at a time, one moment at a time also means that we must figure out how to deal with first things first.
This addict must have been in the hole for a really long time because, as anyone whose done so is well aware, it takes a fair bit of time to work your way through the entire Bible. Should we pray for the addicts in our lives? Absolutely, but that’s not enough. And one of the things we fail to recognize time and time again is that what’s best for an addict is often taking care of yourself. Taking care of an addict tends to be an unhealthy endeavor, both for the addict and for you. And the answers are in the Bible. The 12 Steps, after all, were derived from Scripture. But we’re not supposed to throw a Bible at someone and hope that they figure it out. We’re supposed to live together and work together in holy community.
And then comes the recovering addict – a person with the experience, strength and hope to help us on our way. But we won’t discover that until they join is in our hole. Sometimes we’re lucky, and they jump right in with us. But we have to be willing to accept that help. Occasionally, we have to seek that out. We have to recognize that the old-timers aren’t just know-it-alls with unattainably high standards. We have to hear and understand their underlying message: “It’s okay, I’ve been here before. I know the way out.”
– Alex Walker
P.S. If you’re interested in reading a similar story that Jesus told in the Bible, check out the parable of the Good Samaritan here.
Hollow Creature by Annabelle’s Curse inspired the title for this post.