As an addict and alcoholic who went through an Orange County drug rehab program early in life, I am fortunate beyond words to still be able to say that I am clean and sober to this day, almost 10 years later.
I remember feeling a little intimidated on my first attempts at drug and alcohol recovery, that I hadn’t somehow “earned my seat” or other such nonsense. In other words, at 16, I felt like I was too young for recovery. Shortly after I turned 18 though, something had changed: I didn’t care if I was too young or not.
The thing is, if you drink and use like I did, you don’t get old. You die before you get sober. OC detox centers don’t care if a patient hasn’t even stepped foot on a high school campus yet, so why should you? The disease of alcoholism and addiction doesn’t care if you’re young or old, so why should you? There are so many justifications (notice the word “reason” wasn’t used right there–not an accident) for choosing not to go to drug treatment, but the only real reason one would have for not seeking help for a problem they undoubtedly have, is that they just don’t want to. And that’s fine. There is no judgment there. It’s just a fact. If you don’t want recovery, if you don’t want to do the simple things necessary to find and keep recovery, that’s okay. In retrospect, I didn’t really want recovery my first go-around, but when I did, you better believe I wasn’t going to let anyone keep me from going.
The overwhelming sentiment in the drug and alcohol treatment and recovery community, though, is that many are glad when they see young faces in meetings and active in the Fellowship. Mostly, instead of the taunting I was expecting, it was comments like “I wish I could’ve gotten this thing when I was your age.” More than a few times, it has been something like, “My (son/daughter) is out there right now suffering from opiate addiction. (He/She) is about your age, and it’s comforting to know that hopefully they’ll be able to get this and enjoy the lives we find here.”
Sure, you might get the occasional friendly jab, but I’ve never once had anyone say, “You don’t belong here. You’re too young,” especially after they have heard my story. The truth is, people in recovery are elated when newcomers manage to begin their journey down the road to recovery, whether that happens by way of a drug and alcohol treatment program or some other means of introduction. The Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous describes the feeling as “escap[ing] disaster together and you commence shoulder to shoulder your common journey” in A Vision For You. When you are a survivor in the battle of drug and alcohol addiction, you care little about the circumstances of another’s life, and more about the actual person.
There is a tendency for alcoholics and addicts to get in the way of our own success. We can think about things and imagine how they would turn out, but until action is actually taken, it means nothing. Even if a potential addict or alcoholic truly believes they are too young, at least they will know where to go when the inevitable reality becomes inescapable.