Wolf or Man: the choices we make in addiction and in recovery.
What do our favourite characters from childhood have to do with the drugs and alcohol killing our inner child? And why does one of Houghton House’s directors carry a wand? J.D investigates this week. Through a wolf. With a mouse.
I’m a sheriff.
And I walked into a bar this week. I know, I know, stay too long in a barber shop and you get a haircut. But I didn’t drink, the choices we make in addiction and in recovery. I was there on official business. I needed to get ahead of a case where someone got beheaded – and the Woodsman, drunken sot, had answers to very important questions. After all, his axe happens to be very decapitatey.
I was going to try Good Cop. But…
…then some hoodlum, Grendel*, got in my way. Tried to stop me from having my little chit chat with suspect numero uno.
Maybe I could have gone about it differently, but I decided not to take any of Grendel’s sh!^. After I shoved him aside, things got ugly… fast. Grendel dropped his human-guise, becoming the gargantuan monster he truly was, and grabbed me by my shirt with his humongous marble-grey hand. I was smashed onto the floor, and then hurled against the wall, right next to the pool cue rack.
That’s when I let out the wolf inside, breaking a cue in half, and hammered it into his massive shoulder – and followed that up with a jawbreaker, because now I’m half transformed into a howling mad lupine.
A couple more furious fist-smashes, and then a jackhammer kick, and he crashed through the pool table, stunned, the fight flung out of him.
I now had a choice: break off his arm, or walk away.
I chose to walk away. Because, the Fables of Fabletown already distrusted me: there was the whole Three Pigs real estate crash, not to forget predations on girls wearing red riding hoods. I’m the Big Bad Wolf, but I desperately wanted to earn their trust. Like the trust I lost in active addiction.
As you’ve probably guessed, I’ve been playing a computer game. Something I do time to time in-between writing and other creative pursuits and not having a life.
It’s called The Wolf Among Us. The game is set in 1980s New York, where a community of Fables have founded a neighbourhood that’s shielded through magic from the mundane world’s eyes. They’ve fled their various homelands during the Exodus, and now try eke out a living here.
You live a couple of apartments down from Mr and Mrs Beast; constantly chastise Mr Toad – a slumlord – for not using his three-foot amphibian-hiding Glamour; sometimes find one of three littles pigs sleeping on your couch; and work with Snow White – the assistant to the deputy major Ichabod Crane** – to find a killer from within Fabletown.
Mr and Mrs Beast are having marital difficulties – you could get involved if you want, but I personally didn’t. Mr Toad casts a beady eye on his tenants; getting information from the self-serving prat makes playing Bad Cop tempting. Colin the pig never fails to remind you your debt for blowing his house down. And you’ve got a thing for Snow White – not that anyone could blame you: underneath the ice princess veneer, she’s a kind-hearted civil servant who wants to do her best for the Fable community.
Meanwhile, you’re both man and beast. And the choices you make throughout the game lead to one becoming stronger than the other.
Addiction is like that. I’ve made a lot of poor life choices. Some of them could have resulted in very, very bad things happening to me. I, by the grace of whichever deity you believe in, haven’t been locked in jail, haven’t lost everything I own, haven’t been exiled by my family, haven’t died – unless this blog is being typed out by John “I See Dead People” Edwards.
I still have hope.
Because, fortunately, I chose to go to Houghton House, and get help. I didn’t always choose to listen. Which just made things more difficult for me, but I’m a kind of a (har har funny, not funny) lone wolf that way.
Alex Hamlyn, one of the directors at Houghton, made plenty of bad choices himself in active addiction. A wolf of ravenous hunger came out, and he nearly died in a remote part of India using copious amounts of drugs. Legend has it that he was so full of narcotic poison, the mosquitoes biting him exploded like little fireworks of blood.
When he got clean, he made a choice to help people, in the way he’d been rescued from drugs, thanks to folks as caring as him. Now he’s got over 22 years clean time, and he’s spent it taming the wolf in others.
He chose to open a drug and alcohol rehab for the chemically dependent, not an easy thing to start up. But if he didn’t, I – and a lot of people I’ve met through traversing the road of recovery – wouldn’t be in line for a fairy tale ending.
He’ll kill me for saying this, but he’s a Fairy Godmother to many addicts. I personally think the pixie wings suit him.
We’re not bad people. We addicts are consumed by our own terrible hungers. But we don’t have to be beholden to bad choices of the past. We don’t have to let the wolf out anymore.
There’s the real chance for a happily ever after, because – through places like Houghton House – you get to write how your own story of drug dependency ends, and so finally close the book on active addiction forever.
*Known for hunting Vikings in mead halls.
**Known for being chased by Headless Horsemen.