During any tragedy, we inevitably ask ourselves the questions “Why?” and “What could I have done differently?” Only to come to the awful answer of, “If Only.”

Over the weekend, one apparently wonderful young man lost his life in a terrible car crash and his best friend has wrecked his car, as well as his life, possibly irreparably. In answer to the “Why?” comes the answer “If only Josh Brant would have gotten counseling and treatment for his probable addiction to alcohol, might all be right with the world?”

In all the accounts I have read and heard, none have mentioned counseling or treatment whatsoever when Mr. Brant was a student at Illinois University, and got his first DWI. Obviously, his time he spent in jail did not correct the problem.

People ask me daily how I come to understand if a person is addicted. I have several criteria, one of which is repetition. If a person has a particular behavior (driving drunk) experiences severe consequences (jail or probation), and does the same thing again, addiction is a real possibility.

Addiction is further defined by a lack of choice. If you come in from working in the yard in July, when it’s really hot, and when you open the fridge you see a can of Coke, a bottle of water, and a beer, which do you automatically grab? Or do you consider the merits of each? If you automatically reach for the beer, then at least a conversation about addiction is warranted. Addicted folks don’t drink or use because it’s fun, or they just want to, it’s because they don’t know how to do anything else. They have lost their ability to choose to use or not.

While there is no cure for addiction, we know as fact that treatment works. Countless people live full, successful lives and have been in recovery from alcoholism and other addictions for 5, 10, 25 years, and more. You know some, you may not know who they are. We also know that assuming responsibility for one’s behavior is critical to the process of recovery, but without the skills necessary to change those behaviors dooms not only the addict to failure, but their friends, family, and teammates, as well.

My heart breaks for Jerry Brown‘s family and the whole Cowboys’ organization who lost two teammates this weekend. My heart also breaks for Josh Brant and his family.

If Only…

Delaine Faris, MA, LCDC is the Executive Director of the North Texas Recovery Foundation. For more information, please see www.ntrecovery.org.