Dear Walter
(Introduction to Letter)

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The following is a letter to Walter whose name has been
changed not to violate his privacy. Walter was placed
in jail on drug charges. He wrote Dr. MacLeod about
taking care of his bail so Walter could get out of
jail. Walter had known Dr. MacLeod since he was
much younger and was in Dr. MacLeod’s congregation
at one time. Dr. MacLeod investigated the situation
and wrote the following letter.

 


Dear Walter:

I miss you. However, I see no reason to get you out of jail
as long as you will not make any conscious effort to
control yourself or guide your life positively.

All you seem to consider is “feeling.” Alcohol in excess
makes you feel good. Unless you can discover there are
things more important than just how you feel there’s no use
in getting you out of jail. You will just return to what “feels
good” instead of what is healthy for you. It is unbalanced living
that ultimately affects you like an unbalanced diet made only
of desserts, sugar and no vegetables or meat.

You need to grasp emotionally the plain facts, the feelings
good for you short range are not always good for you
long range. You seem to do short range “feel good” thinking
and planning instead of longer range “be good and do
better” that will make you a healthier person.

Will power is out of fashion now, but it is a good concept.
Learning self control is necessary. You need to consider the
future and what this constant short range
thinking “of feeling” is doing to you and those
you care for. For example, it is killing you slowly.
All this feel good stuff is just a way of
suicide. It is a self-destructive path.

I think you need to be kept in jail at least until you
dry out. Yet what good is drying out if
you haven’t grown up? You will start drinking etc.
again. And you’ll be back to death’s door. Therefore
why get you out? You are in better shape in jail where
you can’t kill yourself through “feel good” drinking
and pills. (I am naive enough to hope that non-availability
of drugs is enforced in jail.)

I hope you will understand. But I have an idea you will be
angry and rage at me since you want to get back to whiskey.
and killing yourself through “feel good” pills etc.
I feel at least in jail you are alive and safe if
unfortunately you are miserable. If let out I believe
you would continue killing yourself through lack of
self-control on self-destructive chemicals.
I sympathize with you and I know your family is dysfunctional
and crazy and on drugs too. Others have lived through this.
Since you know they are dysfunctional, why do what they do?
Sooner or later you have to outgrow them. You can, but it will
be hard.

I am not going to get you out of jail so
you can kill yourself on “feel good” stuff: alcohol,
dope and pills. Someone has to be an adult in your life and
I guess it is up me to try to get you to grow up. As you have
said I am the closest thing to a Dad you’ve ever had.
So I may as well go the whole hog and talk like one.

Read your Bible. Some of the important things it
teaches are 1.) God loves you and therefore you
should love yourself because He does. It also teaches 2.)
that you must learn or develop conscious control of
your impulses and 3.) to learn to do actions founded on
long range thinking and not just do short term “feel good”
strategies.

I know it will be hard for you to believe, but you
will actually be happier doing long range thinking
than short range “feel good” thinking once you get into
the habit of considering the type of thinking you are doing.

My worries about your health come from discussion
with medical doctors about your health. They
point out to me the way you are undermining yourself
health-wise through all this “feel good” excessiveness.
Since I do not want you to die, I feel strongly
it is better for you to remain in jail. Of
course you will disagree with me.

I am sorry my decision will cause you suffering, but I
must do what I think is right and follow up my
conscience on doing what I can figure as best for
you. I could not suggest your finding and
discovering your own conscience did I not follow mine.

Of course I will continue to send you money or see
you get spending money, reading material or whatever.
Just let me know.
I do not know if you will understand this comment,
but it grieves me that in America the way people without
means are treated for alcoholism is by putting them in
jail where they may receive no help for their addiction.
It is totally unfair to put simple self-destructive people
who just wanted to feel good or get out of psychological
misery into jails with seriously violent criminals.

However, your situation places me in a dilemma. If I
get you out on bail to drink excessively and or dope
mildly, the physicians say I will be assisting in your
present weakened condition at your suicide. You know
all this. I can’t get you out and assist at your suicide.
(That’s a moral principle) Besides I care for you. (That’s
personal. You are like one of my kids. Known you for years.).
I can’t help to kill you. Watching you drink excessively enough
to ruin your health is like watching you bleed to death.

On the other hand I hate to see you in jail where I
know you are miserable. You are surrounded by criminals.
Yet inside you are a fine person and a good young man. I worry
about your situation far more than you may think. I also
recognize your many virtues.

I am reminded of Socrates who said to a young man
asking if he should get married, “Either way you you will
regret it.” If I keep you in jail, I’ll regret it because
you will experience a miserable quality of life.
If I get you out and you die from excesses carried too
far, I'll regret it more since you will be gone from me.
My decision must be that I will suffer more from your
death than your misery. And that it is better for you
to be alive and miserable than departing from an earth where
you can do much good service to others and, perhaps,
be happy. Besides I will miss you.

My only possible decision is to keep you alive and
pray you will get your priorities straight and your
will power working on healthy propositions such as
affirming life.

Under pressures of life in jail, remember the words
of the Apostle when in bad circumstances. I always do.
“Nothing can separate us from the love of God through
Christ Jesus.”

Affectionately,


James MacLeod
 

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Dr. James MacLeod may be contacted through the Neill Macaulay Foundation.