Aerosmith front man Steven Tyler was spending some time at his home in Maui, between concert dates, when he decided to contact the local Drug Court to find out when the next graduation ceremony would be. True to character, Tyler said he would be there to address the graduates on their special night. It is something that Tyler has been doing regularly for several years.
As he often does, Tyler took the occasion of the Maui Drug Court graduation to tell graduates and their families his own personal story. He encouraged them to not forsake AA meetings and other scheduled sessions if they wanted to remain sober. What’s more, Tyler knows intimately what he’s talking about.
Tyler began doing drugs in the 1960s. He entered his first rehab programme in 1984 as a heavy cocaine user who had all but abandoned his family and friends. By his own admission, Tyler is a better alcohol and drug addict than he is a musician. He says that without the support of AA after his rehab, he would have lost it all.
From 1988 through until 2004, Tyler says he remained sober. However, prescription medication given to him after foot surgery sent him right back to the depths of addiction. He credited rehab and support group involvement for helping him regain his sobriety. Tyler cannot say enough about how important support group meetings are.
“I had it all. I didn’t care,” he said. “And I hurt my family and my children and my friends. If it wasn’t for the program of AA, I would have nothing.”
To his credit, Tyler is one of those recovering addicts who put a lot of effort into making sure he stays sober. No matter where he is in the world, he finds a local AA meeting to attend while he’s in town. He says that walking in and sitting down feels like home even among people he has never met before.
Drug Courts and Support Groups
We constantly talk about the need for individuality in drug and alcohol treatment. The Steven Tyler story is a perfect example. For him, the importance of AA meetings is such that he is willing to seek them out no matter where he is. For the graduates of Maui’s Drug Court, being given a second chance is a strong motivation to stay away from drugs and alcohol. According to Drug Court officials, only 2% of their graduates find themselves back in court for drug or alcohol related offences.
Drug court is such that it allows participants to make a choice regarding their futures. As Maui Police Chief Tivoli Faaumu explained at the recent graduation, people always have a choice. Those who make the choice to complete rehab and remain faithful to support groups are less likely to find themselves in trouble again. Those who choose to return to a lifestyle of drugs and alcohol only find themselves in a worse position down the road.
Regardless of how we treat individual alcoholics or drug addicts, we must always be careful never to eliminate the reality of personal choice. Some see drug addiction and alcoholism as a disease; that’s fine. Others see the problem as one of a lack of self-control; that’s also fine. Nevertheless, at the end of the day, the individual makes the choice to use addictive substances. Likewise, only the individual can choose to stop doing so.