Addiction: The Choice

Recently I saw someone I was Facebook friends with post an article about the frustration the writer had at addiction being called a disease. The writer wrote about his/her opinion, and it is an opinion which is kind of like assholes: everyone has one and they all stink. The basis is that addiction is a choice. Plain and simple. It compared addiction to children on the cancer ward dying of terminal illness. Because those are apples and apples. So, contrary to my sarcasm I do believe people have the right to believe whatever they want to believe. One of the most amazing things about America is that we all have the right to be assholes.  And, sadly now I can’t be Facebook friends with that person anymore, because the one thing I won’t do is begin, entertain or participate in any Facebook arguments. I look on Facebook for entertainment, and there was nothing entertaining about that. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized I wanted to share my opinion.

In my opinion the writer (not the person who posted it) is a fucking ignorant dick face. In my professional opinion, actually. If a person were inclined to look at addiction from the moment of picking up a joint, or sticking a needle in their arm, then yes that action is in fact a choice. But the decision was made so far before that. I certainly do not think that my child’s drug addiction is comparable to the pain and suffering a parent would go to if their child was battling brain cancer. But isn’t comparing addiction to childhood cancer like saying don’t feel bad if your grandfather dies at 98 because kids are dying at 3. There are just somethings that are not comparable.Otherwise,  no one in America should ever complain about their coffee order being wrong because there are starving children in Africa. And certainly no one should ever be inconvenienced by their pet’s death because women are being sold into sex trafficking in many countries. Also, no one should complain about having MS, fibromyalgia, muscular dystrophy, dementia, clubbed feet, cleft palate, blindness or deafness because families in China are only allowed one child.  Do you see how ridiculous all that is? All of those things are hard to live with, especially getting a wrong coffee order! How can one be more or less important than another?  I have MS. It affects me in different ways. And some days are harder than others. I would be pretty effing pissed off if someone told me I didn’t have a right to have a feeling about that because of some other non related incident.

I don’t like when people compare addiction to other diseases because they only see the act of using the drug as the issue but the disease has taken over long before that happens. The choice might be in which drug a person takes but the disability is much deeper than that. The disability is in the mental illness that causes the addiction. Or the self-deprecation, or the lack of self-esteem or the sexual abuse or other childhood trauma the addict suffered from that drove them to such a low point in life that drugs seems like the only option. Why is it when a life-long smoker suffers lung cancer we only see the cancer not the action that got them there? Or when a diabetic loses their eye or a foot because blood sugars were not monitored or diet was not restricted we only see the loss of the eye or foot not the action that got them there? And I am not saying that we should be less compassionate with those folks either, because I’m not. What I am saying is that all diseases deserve compassion regardless of how they happen. If someone was critically injured in a car accident because they were speeding would we be less sorry for them? Or be willing to help them less?

I have use my energy getting out of bed every day. I have to use my energy going to work, checking on my addict, raising my children, being a good wife, and a good granddaughter to my aging and ailing Bibi. I have to use a ridiculous amount of energy determining the many ways I cannot and should not help my addict because at this point helping hurts so having to take time to explain why it’s asshole-ish to compare addiction to child cancer is really shitty.  Saying that someone is an addict and it is a disease does not mean that they aren’t accountable for their actions. Saying that addiction is a disease does not absolve the addict of any responsibility. I know that addicts often have the “poor me” attitude but the reality is that the attitude is part of the disease. It doesn’t mean that we (by we I mean any and all of us not an addict but dealing with an addict) have to put down the red carpet to take all the shit they dole out.

Accepting that addiction is a disease is acknowledging that the addict is sick. That’s it. It doesn’t require some big action or some large hand-out. The society at large is not expected to make a protest, start a petition or drag an unknown addict off the street to personally see to the recovery which would be useless anyway. It takes no effort. If you are a family member of an addict it may take some hard lessons on how not to let the addict run all over you. But if you are lucky enough to be on the sidelines of addiction, if you are a spectator then spectate, not speculate. Making judgments and having opinions takes more work than doing nothing.  The addicts are not the people reading those articles and letters because they are high somewhere, mindless, numb and oblivious to anything anyone else thinks. If they did read them they wouldn’t give a shit what anyone thought. So that means the family members, like me, are the people left reading them, and realizing how cruel the world can be. It is hard enough to see our addicts so fucked up to then be subjected to the asshole opinion of ignorant, uneducated on the subject dick faces that feel that somehow their asshole opinion should have an impact on us. Are we supposed to see that open letter or article and think Gee my addict decided to do this so I hope they die? Or they should be banned to an island in the middle of nowhere? Or, even better, they should be locked up with pedophiles, murders and rapists? What is bashing the weak suppose to prove? What is it suppose to accomplish?  Before supporters of this rhetoric answer that, really think about it. Don’t just respond to act tough or fill in a blank. Think before you speak.

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5 thoughts on “Addiction: The Choice

  1. Pammy says:

    Well said. I am sorry that another person’s ignorance and bias put you in a position to have to respond. Comparing one disease to another is a senseless, futile exercise and implying that some are more deserving of compassion than others is ridiculous and cruel.

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  2. kathi shangraw cotugno (megan kvedar's aunt) says:

    Thank you, I get so frustrated with ignorance and stigma for addiction.lost my son feb 4 2016

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  3. Melinda says:

    While I agree children with cancer and adolescent or adult children with addiction are vastly different, I would like to comment on your statement:
    “I certainly do not think that my child’s drug addiction is comparable to the pain and suffering a parent would go to if their child was battling brain cancer.”
    I don’t think your, or any parent of an addicts pain and suffering is any less than that of a parent of a child with cancer. Certainly, the pain and suffering is in a different form, but just as great. I don’t know of anything that makes a parent feel any more helpless and confused than addiction. All the things you would normally do to help your child are the things you shouldn’t do. Helping is hurting. Not helping is heart wrenching. Friends and strangers shame the addict and their parents. “The addicts parents must have done something wrong for their child to be so screwed up.” Utter bullsit from ignorant people, yet we as the parents also blame ourselves and continually try to find our mistake that caused the addiction. I can’t understand what it is like to be an addict and no one can understand what it is like to be a parent of an addict, unless they live it. I don’t know if your blog is helping outsiders see this, but it is helpful to others going thru the same thing to know we aren’t alone. Thank you for that!

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    • You’re right. I don’t try to assume what a parent watching their child of cancer feels like, so no one should assume they know what I feel like. It is painful. And it’s the kind of thing sort of goes without words. If my child had cancer instead of addiction I would have casseroles coming out of my ass, and friends feeding my animals, and mowing my lawn, doing anything to help but it’s not that kind of disease. And because I can still do those things it lessens the sympathy. Not from my friends or family because I have a great support system but many people don’t. More people don’t than do. And, I did not have that support system for the first year because I did not tell anyone she was addict. I didn’t ask for help or reach out to anyone. Once they knew it was a different story but being able to express the horror is sometimes as bad as living it.

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