Road to Recovery
Traveling the ‘AA Highway’
No joke, there really is a highway in Kentucky named the “AA Highway.
In the mid-1980s, construction on this highway began in Alexandria and was supposed to end in Ashland, hence the name ‘AA Highway,’ but its destination was apparently re-directed so it now spans from Alexandria to Grayson.
I’ve been traveling the so-named highway for many years now, one mile at a time, and have been blessed with many traveling memories.
As some of you may know, I have been involved with the start-up of The Gatehouse, a long-term residential substance abuse treatment program for men in Randolph County. We began a tradition last year of taking our new board members to Cincinnati, Ohio, and familiarizing them with our model program, The Prospect House. On one of our Cincinnati pilgrimages, three of us picked up the familiar AA Highway in Grayson. From our recovery stance, we mused over one particular seemingly ironic road sign that so accurately parallels the recovery journey: “Stay Alert on the AA Highway!” True words…
My mind drifted back many years to an incident I had in that small Bluegrass community. My former wife, daughter and I were traveling from Cincinnati to West Virginia to visit my parents. At the time, I had a 4-door extended cab Ford Ranger pick-up truck. From the time we left Cincinnati, the two gals were arguing amongst themselves, but before long my daughter Chyanna also began sharing her attitude with the driver. They switched places, and Chyanna’s mom climbed in the back, stretched out and went to sleep. The switch helped temporarily, but midway between Maysville and Grayson on the AA Highway, Chyanna’s attitude made a full-on comeback and was focused solely in my direction now. My patience and tolerance eventually came to an end and I pulled off on a side road when we arrived in Grayson. I got out of the truck, walked over to the passenger side and opened the door. Chyanna and I walked to the front of the truck so we wouldn’t wake her mom and had a “come to Jesus meeting.”
I hoisted her back in the front passenger side, and then we got on I-64, heading east toward Huntington. Chyanna was still sulking about getting reprimanded and covered her head with her blanket, making a point of her own. Finally, peace and quiet radiated through the cab, and I was grateful to hear only the hum of the motor. As we quietly traveled along I-64, we crested a hill just outside of Grayson. There were two Kentucky State Police cruisers on the right shoulder, positioned at an angle as if expecting someone. Well, as soon as I passed, they were on me before I could even look at my speedometer. I pulled onto the shoulder and they blocked my truck from the front and the back. Before I could roll down my window, they had their guns drawn on either side of my truck. The officer on the passenger side was right up against the door and the one on my side was back just a little. At their demand, I handed my license and registration to the officer on my side, while the other officer motioned for me to roll down the passenger side window. Chyanna pulled the blanket off her head and appeared somewhat amused by all the activity. Her mother awoke from the backseat, not quite so amused. The officer on Chyanna’s side pointed to me and asked her, “Do you know who this man is?” Chyanna laughed and said, “Of course, that’s my dad!” After a series of other identifying questions they realized that their child abduction report was unfounded and the tension subsided.
Apparently, an aware, concerned and well-meaning citizen had seen me walk Chyanna from the front of my truck and then lift her into the passenger side. When they saw her head covered with a blanket, they called the KSP to report what they thought was an abduction in progress. These officers were all about business at first, but turned out to be exceptionally nice once they realized the misunderstanding. The rest of our trip was a lot of fun and once we arrived at my parents’ house, this bright-eyed little girl told of her exciting experience with her dad – the ABRUPTER!
I think about that experience often while making that particular trip and am grateful that there are still people out there who pay attention to their surroundings and are not afraid to get involved and report what they see, or think they see. Do we take the same stance where substance abuse is concerned?
From the family or loved one’s perspective, how do we respond when we see what appear to be the signs of an addiction in a loved one? Are we prone to look the other way and go with the “out of sight out of mind” approach? Or, do we make any number of excuses, rationalizations or justifications for their behavior? Or do we try to manipulate or control them and whatever pathology is driving them? Or, do we confront and level?
One thing for sure is that there are natural consequences for whatever approach is taken. Take a few minutes and try an experiment. Take each of the questions above and think about your own situation. For each one, ask yourself a couple questions – what’s the payoff for me and what are the costs? At the end of the day, I want to be able to live with whatever decisions I make. I also want to be true to myself and responsible to, not for, my loved one. There are support groups and resources available for families and friends of addicted loved ones. Al-Anon Family Groups (www.al-anon.alateen.org) is one such resource and www.theagapecenter.com is another. Both links offer a refined search tool that can be tailored to your specific geographic area and/or problem focus.
Tidbits of wisdom heard through the years:
- The three Cs pertaining to addiction: “I didn’t CAUSE it, I can’t CONTROL it, and I can’t CURE it.”
- “Say what you mean, mean what you say, but don’t say it mean.”
- “If I think like I always thought, I’ll feel like I always felt, I’ll do what I’ve always done, and I’ll get what I’ve always got…”
- “Don’t turn feelings into decisions.”
- “Control is only an illusion.”
- “It’s easier to resist the bait than to struggle with the hook.”
- Acronym for LOVE: Let Others Voluntarily Evolve
- Acronym for QTIP: Quit Taking It Personally
Finally, on the lighter side comes this one:
Three people, one of whom was a codependent, were in line to be executed at the guillotine. The first person stuck his head in the hole, the rope was cut, and the blade fell, only to stop an inch above the person’s neck. The executioners saw it as a sign from God and so decided to let the person go. The next person put his head in the hole, the rope was cut, and again, the blade stopped an inch above the person’s neck. That person, too, was released. As the codependent walked up for his turn at the guillotine, he turned to the executioner and said: “You know, I think I know how to fix that.”