Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Let's Change the Conversation

Once I started learning more and more about addiction, a funny thing happened. I began getting a little ... how should I phrase this? ... annoyed/offended when I heard the way some people referred to alcoholics and drug addicts. It started making the hair on the back of my neck stand up a little. Now, I certainly don't want to pretend I didn't do it. I most certainly did and sometimes I judged harshly in my mind as a way to put great distance between myself and my fellow addict. I'm sure I made poor choices of words when describing some people. One develops a sensitivity to others in recovery (and those actively using) once one educates oneself about addiction.

There isn't any person to blame for this. Society has taught us that we are the way they are because we refuse to stop drinking. That we are bad people. That we are horrible people and if you don't label us this way, you just aren't seeing us for who we are. Society says, "They know they need to stop, but they won't. It's their fault. They hurt themselves and cause damage to those around them. They ought not to be pitied, but blamed. Perhaps even incarcerated or institutionalized where they can no longer cause harm and think hard on what they have done." We are taught that this is an appropriate response to someone suffering from addiction. Okay, I understand that certain things happen in the wake of one's addiction. Car crashes, manslaughter, theft, parental neglect. Lots of things that are tragic and punishable by law. And those who have taken a life or harmed someone in an illegal way ought to serve for that. The addiction itself, the source of the pain and damage, should be treated. If it isn't, that person is going to continue causing harm to themselves and those around them.

When someone on television or even a person I know uses the word "alcoholic" with a tone of disgust, I at first feel hurt. I take it personally. I believe that they are disgusted with me. But after a second or two, I realize that they are simply not properly educated about it. And unless they struggled with it, why on earth would they need to be? I certainly didn't think I had a problem for a long time. I know I was judgmental and critical, too.

We need to change the conversation about addiction. I'm not sure how that happens. If we live in a world where everyone involved in the struggle is anonymous, how in the world is society to catch up with those in recovery who are close to the issue and educated? 

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