Addiction. Who are we to judge?

Addiction is a horrible thing. I doubt anyone would debate that. At times it’s hard to relate to and understand. Being a person who has never suffered from a drug or alcohol dependency, it’s hard to see the other side of it. Sometimes I catch myself thinking, “Why did you even START taking _____ in the first place?! What did you think was going to happen?” And I don’t feel sorry for them. Everybody knows drugs are bad for you and if you chose to take them in the first place, why should I feel bad for you if you get addicted? They made their bed, now they have to lie in it. Not my problem. No sympathy from me… But then I have to sit back, reevaluate, and realize that

  I don’t know shit about what that other person is going through.

I don’t know what demons they’re fighting. What past or present situation they’re trying desperately to escape from. It would be easy for me, someone who grew up with a supportive and loving family, someone who has known some despair but not a staggering amount of it, someone who hasn’t lived a too terribly troubling life to think, “How could somebody be so stupid?” But I would only think that because of what I know. And how I’ve lived. So it isn’t right to assume that somebody else knows the same things I know. It really isn’t right to shoot off hateful, insensitive comments on a message board about how dumb and careless somebody is for what happened to them in their life and how they responded to it.

It’s easy to look at those who have fame and fortune and think that they have everything. But as we all would be quick to say “money isn’t everything” we should be so quick to remember that just because somebody has money, a successful career, and lots of friends and family around, that they couldn’t possibly be dealing with any serious problems on the side. But unless that person has people around to recognize their pain and be willing to help them, and to have an urge to help themselves, it’s insanely difficult to stop the cycle that addiction creates.

This article, written by Russell Brand, who’s been sober for 10 years, talks about how insanely difficult it is to remain that way, when still to this day he has ample opportunity to abuse drugs and alcohol and has to fight off every bit of it. And people who haven’t gone through the same thing don’t understand. He explains this:
“Without support fellowships I would take drugs. Because even now, the condition persists.

Drugs and alcohol are not my problem. Reality is my problem. Drugs and alcohol are the solution. 
If this seems odd to you it is because you are not an alcoholic or drug addict. You are likely one of the 90% of people who can drink and use drugs safely.”

We may have a bad day and think, “I just want a drink.” And we’re able to go have a drink or two, vent to a friend, feel better after a night of sleep, and get back to our lives the next day. But for somebody who’s fighting addiction, even if they’ve been sober for quite some time, the urge to use again can be overwhelming… and can be triggered from one bad moment. From what I understand anyway.

I’ve never done a drug in my entire life. Not because I wanted to be a goody two shoes or anything (partly because of that), but because I was afraid of liking anything I tried. And not being able to stop. It was that very reason that I never let myself try a cigarette, though it was offered to me countless times, starting at age 11 and all the way up to last weekend. I had 4 grandparents that smoked most of their lives and all 4 were dead from various health conditions by the time I was 18 years old. I’d heard about how addictive nicotine was and watched my grandparents and other relatives try to stop smoking and how hard it was for them to do it. None of them were in excellent health and I knew I didn’t want that same life for myself down the road. I also had parents that warned me of the dangers of smoking (part of those dangers were what they’d do to me if they ever caught me doing it). I had an elementary school that offered the DARE program and explained to me, at a very young age, what would happen if I took that route. We also talked about the consequences. I had good friends that didn’t use drugs. I had a love of dance and a desire to do it at a high level that made me want to take care of my body so I could be as strong as I could possibly be. Though my childhood wasn’t totally free of heartache and problems, it wasn’t anywhere near as horrible as dealing with some of the things that most addicts deal with growing up. All these circumstances gave me the strength to resist cigarettes and nicotine. And later cocaine. And then other drugs I’ve been offered over the years. But what about people who don’t share the same upbringing? What about those who aren’t lucky enough to have the same influences in their lives? Or what about the ones who seem to have been brought up “perfectly” who still end up barreling down a road to certain death?

It’s easy for us to judge others for their habits, problems, and lifestyles. But again. You don’t know shit about what others are going through unless you live their lives every day. Unless you know exactly what they’ve been through in life. Unless you know every single thing that haunts them day in and day out.

Maybe you’ve had credit card or other debt at some point. It would be really easy for somebody who’s never had to worry about money to criticize you for even opening up a credit card and spending with it; accumulating a balance that couldn’t be paid off in one month, not having a backup savings account, not living within your means. We all know the dangers that credit cards can cause if used recklessly or often. If you’ve ever accumulated in any debt you know that sometimes there were things you could have done differently, but sometimes shit happens and you have no other option. You were probably able to pay your way out of it and come out on the other side, but not without lessons learned. But I’ll bet you didn’t have people scrutinizing your every purchase after that moment. You don’t have your bank account and credit balances put on public display for everyone to comment on. When most of us get started down a wrong path, we are able to find our way back eventually. We deal with our situation, try our best to get out of it, and hope that people will understand and support us.

I would imagine that no addict wants to be dependent on their vice. No addict wants to be living their hell every single day. But their disease isn’t something that listens to what they want. It controls them. It’s irrational. It’s ruthless. It’s unforgiving. I thankfully haven’t experienced it within my own body, but I’ve seen it take hold of others’.

I understand that it’s heartbreaking to watch someone you love lose their battle with addiction. I understand that it’s beyond frustrating to try to help somebody that doesn’t take your advice or seem to want your help. I understand that it can be absolutely draining to pour so much attention and effort into somebody just to have them go right back to where they started. But I also understand that somebody in that position is not of sound mind. They aren’t thinking rationally. So me criticizing them for how stupid they are doesn’t make much sense. Nor does it help the situation in any way.

I’ve been appalled reading comments on various news stories of friends and celebrities both who have lost their battles. Like it’s so easy to just turn off that switch. Know what’s really easy? Holding your tongue and thinking twice about how horrible and hurtful that comment may be to the friends and family of the person they lost. How it doesn’t help anything. How the writer looks like the biggest asshole who’s too busy up on their high horse to give a second thought to somebody who’s so below them. What’s that nasty comment doing to help? Nothing.

I’ve known too many people fight and lose the addiction battle. Some with drugs. Some with alcohol. Some with spending/gambling. Some with nicotine. Some with junk food and sugar. It’s not an easy fight. It’s often one-sided with the odds weighing against the person. If you don’t know an addict’s story start to finish, you don’t have the right to talk shit about them. You don’t have to enable an addict, but you don’t have to judge them either.

 Understand. Listen. Support. Start there…
or keep your comments to yourself.
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  1. Great post and very true. I’m like you, never tried anything besides alcohol, so watching someone struggle is foreign to me.

    But, that doesn’t give me the right to judge and I am so sad others think they have the right to judge.

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