D. Jeffrey Sheldon: Addicts and their families | TheUnion.com

D. Jeffrey Sheldon: Addicts and their families

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D. Jeffrey Sheldon

The following is in response to publisher Don Rogers' column on Project HEART, about the folks who have selflessly given so much to those addicted to drug and alcohol in our community.

Mr. Rogers' piece is excellent; it describes the addict and their often hopeless plight and despair in dealing with their addiction. A good article Mr. Rogers, I applaud your effort and respect your concern.

There is one point I would like to correct, or possibly better state, as I think a whole bunch of "loved ones" must feel shorted by some of what you, unintentionally, did not say.

First, some background. In 1989 I retired from the Los Angeles Police Department, where I worked as a uniformed street policeman, an undercover officer and a supervisor. During my career I put literally thousands of alcoholics, drug addicts, drug dealers, whores, pimps and other law breakers in jail, with really, little concern as to the addict's problems.

... if the addict does not want help there is little one can do.

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That may sound mean and non-caring, but a policeman's job is to make the streets safe — charity, concern and rehab come later, if wanted, and usually from others.

Upon retirement I moved to Nevada County to get my two young boys away from "the ravages of the city."

Fast forward 29 years, my oldest son, Scotty, died a little over a year ago. He was an alcoholic, which killed him at age 38. He was a wonderful, sweet young man. Suffice to say my wife, his step-mom, and I did everything we could to help him. But if the addict does not want help there is little one can do.

That is a very clichéd statement, but very important in this conversation and a statement that the addict, and those trying to help the addict, truly come to understand.

My other son is a drug addict, who lives anywhere he can, often on the street. His "mug shot" was recently featured in your paper. His only concern in life is his drugs and how he will next get them.

Understand, though, he is not stupid, in fact, he is very smart. During his time in the Marine Corps he was certified to repair the hydraulic systems on Marine Corps Harrier fighter jets, pretty serious job, that was until he was thrown out of the Corps for his drug use.

After the Marine Corps, he had many good jobs and many relationships. They all failed because of his addiction. He has been in jail and rehab many times because of his addiction. During these 20-plus years, my wife and I tried with all we could to get him to quit using. Numerous rehab programs, money, a place to live, jobs, fellowship and on. The system has tried to help him, jail, mandatory rehab, probation, counseling and on. But, if the addict does not want help, only drugs, he will "do the dance" but only to get his drugs. The addict will steal, lie and cheat in any way necessary to get his drugs. That is his only focus, say again, his only focus in life are his drugs.

Anyway, after 20-plus years of trying to help the addict, you figure it out, you are being used by the addict to satiate and promote his addiction. It is a hard call to make but must be faced, for your sake and the addict's sake.

With that, the next step, if you have the guts (because it is truly a family and emotional killer), is "tough love." You are done with the addict, he must decide which is more important to him, his drugs or his life!

You cannot do it for him, he must want to do it, he must want to get in a program and be clean. You can't help him. The court, short or permanent jail time can't help him if he does not want help.

That's where it's at Mr. Rogers, bottom line. Do or die!

So, my point in all of this is that there are many more victims here than just the addict, and that "their loved ones have" not "abandoned" them. The addict has abandoned those who truly care for them, in exchange for their drugs. I understand the drugs are "oh so powerful" and I also fully understand that in many cases the drugs are going to win. You have no idea how loud that sentence rings to me.

I commend those like the project HEART folks for their caring efforts, and you for your writing, but please understand that the loved ones, in most cases, have not abandoned anyone.

D. Jeffrey Sheldon lives in Grass Valley.

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