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Shackled by Deeds in My Jail Made of Choices

by David Knowles

I have personally spent a great deal of time working professionally with individuals who struggle with addictions, more specifically addictions to controlled substances. I have given presentations to many parent groups, school groups, government entities and addicts. I have taken occasion to pick their brain so to speak in an effort to understand how one arrives at complete slavery to a particular drug. There is in every case a string of choices, decisions that have led to other decisions, which in turn led to other decisions, each choice locking them into a pattern of conduct difficult to break.

Let me be more specific and use the life of an actual person, who for our purposes we'll call Jim. Jim grew up in a typical middle class Utah household and was raised by loving religious parents who, no doubt did their best to give Jim the tools he needed to make good decisions. Jim married a nice girl, and was able as a young father to start his own business, which became very successful. Eventually Jim was able to build a big house in a nice neighborhood. He stayed active in church, in his children's lives, and was always attentive to his wife. Jim at a point in his life made the choice to use methamphetamine. No doubt that this decision was reached through another string of bad choices. The meth use at first seemed to help Jim cope with his busy schedule. Each time Jim made the decision to use he forged another iron bar for his personal prison cell. With each use Jim's dependence on the drug grew making the next choice to use or not use many times more difficult. In a short period of time, his work began to suffer as his attentions turned toward his new taskmaster. Jim's loving wife struggled as she watched her once loving and attentive husband become abusive to her and their children. She watched as he lost the business that they had worked so hard to build up, then the house. Finally when the ultimatum was given he chose the master that he was serving over his family.

Jim spent the next couple of years in and out of jail as he racked up several felony charges for possession of Meth and theft, having been reduced to steeling construction tools and pawning them to buy his next fix. Jim's string of choices culminated in a jail cell. The reason I know so much detail about Jim's life is because I read all of this in a suicide letter as I was investigating Jim's death. Jim had hung himself in his jail cell just one week before his release date. The last sentence in the letter stated something like this " I have no choice but to kill myself, when I get out I will use again".

Let us take a close look at Jim's level of personal freedom. Before his decision to use meth, his options were almost without limit. He could have decided to do a million different things with his life. Jim's personal freedom left a myriad of doors open to him, including the most important, the opportunity to raise and have a positive impact on his children, not to mention the opportunity of a loving and lasting relationship with his wife.

Perhaps you can see where I am going with this story. Each time Jim made that conscious decision to use he also gave up some of his personal freedom literally enslaving himself. Like a sinister game of chess, the pieces of Jim's life were given away the loss of each piece making it that much harder for him to win until Jim's prison cell was complete and emotionally he was trapped in a cell forged of a million choices. Unfortunately Jim used the only bit of freedom he felt he had left to perpetuate all of the other bad choices, he chose to give up.


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