Terry Gorski tells one of my favourite stories. Heard many years ago when I first started working with people in recovery, it goes something like this.
“One day, walking in a frozen wintry forest, I almost trip on something. When I look down I see a snake, coiled around itself. From it’s markings I see it’s an adder. It’s not moving, I wonder if it’s even alive. I extend my fingers cautiously, touching its scales. Not just cold, it’s actually frozen solid. I take off my scarf and carefully wrap it up, cradling it in my arms as I walk home swiftly. I draw up a velvet cushion on the grate next to the fire and gently lay it down – not too close, but close enough that the warmth of the fire will gradually thaw it out. I sit watching. Finally, there’s movement. The snake unwinds and as I lean in, with a touch of a smug smile playing around my lips, I suddenly feel a sharp stab of pain. “Ouch!” I cry. “What was that for? After all I did for you, saving you from the frost, this is the thanks I get?” “Yes” the snake replies (naturally, it is a magical snake) “I’m a poisonous snake. I’ve always been a poisonous snake and this is what poisonous snakes do. They inject venom into their victims, because what poisonous snakes do is kill their prey.” “
The moral of the story? There are some people in life who are like snakes. They are intent on destruction. No matter how kind you are to them, how sweet, thoughtful, kind or considerate, you will be rewarded with a bite. It may not be fatal, but it will hurt.
Now, I don’t like to think that there are people like this. I believe fundamentally that we have the power to change and grow. But therein lies the rub. We may have the capacity, but some people don’t have a desire to change, they are content with who they are and how they treat people.
We used to tell this story to folk in an in-patient treatment facility. A warning that when they went back out into the world from the safe confines of a drug and alcohol free unit, there would be people intent on bringing them down. Could be family members, friends, acquaintances, dealers – and how could they be on the lookout for poisonous snakes? How could they distinguish between those with venom and those without?
I don’t tell this story often any more, but I did have chance to relate it lately to someone who had chosen to be in relationship with yet another partner who could neither commit nor remain faithful despite their agreement. At the risk of changing the analogy, some leopards don’t change their spots. If you need help figuring out destructive patterns you keep repeating please contact me, I’m good at recognising them and helping people shift into a healthier set of decisions.
Read more Terry Gorsky wisdom here.