Lion Goodman implores his nephew, who stole prescription drugs from him, to return to his recovery and create a better life for himself and those who love him.
Editor’s note: Lion Goodman’s 18-year old nephew*, who became addicted to drugs, was placed in a special school for recovering teens. Claiming to be fully “recovered,” he visited Lion, and at the end of the visit, stole some of Lion’s prescription drugs. This is Lion’s letter in response to his nephew’s letter of apology.
Thank you for your letter, which I received this week. It was from the heart. You described your situation perfectly, along with your commitment to get better.
But it did not contain an apology. I would have liked it better if it had. You didn’t say, “Lion, I’m sorry for betraying your trust.”
You acknowledged that you betrayed my trust. I appreciated that. You told the truth. I appreciated that. You recognized where you are in this long battle with addiction. I appreciated that. But I would have appreciated an apology.
One step of clearing your bad karma is to apologize. When you recognize that you screwed up, recognize also that you owe something back: first an apology, and second, to make amends. You took responsibility. You said, “I did it.” You said, “I want to earn back your trust.” But you didn’t say, “I’m sorry I ripped you off. I’m sorry I betrayed your trust in me.”
I’m not suggesting that you feel shame (which is negative self-talk, self-criticism, or self-abuse). The feeling I suggest you explore is remorse. It’s the sincere recognition that you’ve harmed someone, and you feel sorry that you did, and you want to make up for it.
Anything we do wrong can be cleaned up. But trust is built very slowly over time, and is broken VERY quickly and easily. It will take a long time for me to trust you again. I believed in you and your recovery, David. I didn’t think twice about letting you stay at my house.
My part in this debacle is that I didn’t treat you like an addict. If I had, I would have locked up my medicine cabinet. I treated you like a responsible adult who was solid in his recovery. That was my mistake. I’ve learned a lesson, too.
The other question you DIDN’T ask in your letter is: “How can I make this up to you?” Amends are best made when you can talk with the person you hurt – and let them tell you what it would take for them to feel like you repaired what you broke. And if you can’t do that, then you raise the stakes on your amends, and do FAR MORE than balancing the books. If you steal $10, you pay back $100. If you take pills from my bathroom, you counsel ten young men on their recovery, and sponsor them in A.A. or D.A. Then trust can be rebuilt.
I don’t need the pills back, David. I need you back – as a responsible, clean adult who is trustable and trustworthy, a man who knows that he faces a lifetime struggle with addiction, and will do whatever it takes to make a good life, a life that works, for himself and others. An unselfish life that looks at others to see what they need, not looks inside his sad little broken self and asks, “What do I need to just get by today?” Remember: The Soul cannot be broken. Your Soul is intact and whole. It’s just your personality that feels broken.
I want to trust you, David. A trustworthy man, a man of integrity, is a great friend to have. An addict is a terrible friend to have, because you know that his addiction will always take first place, and he will screw you in a minute if he has to, in order to get high. He will sacrifice your friendship for a pill, or a needle full of shit. That’s no kind of friendship. An addict’s real friend is the pill, or the needle, or the spliff – the objects that are always there to make you feel a little better, until you sober up, and realize that the hole inside you is still empty, so you look for something else to put in there.
One of my best friends, a medical doctor and a rescue expert and trainer, took himself down, and he took my friendship down, and he took my investment of more than $200,000 in our company down the addiction rat-hole. He ruined our business, ruined our partnership, and ruined the chance we had to make our business successful. He ended up losing his medical license, losing his home, losing me as a friend and partner, and losing the battle with drugs. The drugs won, and he ended up in jail for attempted murder. That’s how far he had to fall—he had to lose everything—before he could put his life back together again.
What do you have to lose, David? Your dignity? Your hope? Your future? You’ve already lost your freedom, and your contact with your friends. What’s left? Your mother’s support? Your uncles’ support? The people who love you? Your talent and your gifts? Your opportunities for happiness and success in the future? What are you willing to sacrifice?
Everyone has a bottom line, a bottom they hit before they recognize that it’s going to be either the drugs (alcohol, or other addictions) or their life.
I hope you’ve hit bottom, because I don’t want to see your parents suffer any more with your bad decisions and bad ideas. I love you, but I don’t love that you ripped me off and screwed up your own recovery.
I know that you’re on the road, and that road to recovery is full of bumps and curves. I know you’re doing your best, and learning your lessons, but it is important to me to tell you my truth.
You have a long way to go to re-gain my trust, young man, but it’s possible. You can do it. I’m one of your biggest supporters. But it’s going to take your will and your commitment to be stronger than the lure of drugs and getting high. Because they will always be there to tempt you. Always. The temptations never go away. And if you enter the music business, they will be everywhere around you. Do you know how many great musicians have been lost to drugs? Too many.
Are you strong enough, David? Have you lost enough? If so, I look forward to seeing you on the other side. If you’re successful, I will be there cheering for you, as one of your biggest fans. If you don’t, I’ll be sad, shaking my head, saying “So much potential in that young man…. And he threw it all away.”
What will you choose, moment by moment and day by day? I hear your commitment in your letter, and I appreciate that, but I know what it’s like to have a big gorilla on your back, constantly biting your neck and encouraging you to make really bad decisions. It’s a mighty battle. You’re a strong young man. I hope you succeed.
I would be happy to hear back from you. I will continue to pray to God and Goddess, and to your Spirit Guides, to help you along this difficult path.
I await your decision, and your possible future.
With great love, and support,
*The name, age, and other details about the young man in this story have been changed by the author to help protect his identity.
Photo: Flickr/Francesco Bertocchini