Thursday, September 27, 2007

Addiction Kills: The Compassion Factor

“The whole idea of compassion is based on a keen awareness of the interdependence of all these living beings, which are all part of one another, and all involved in one another.”
--Thomas Merton

Why do I write about addiction on this blog? I've received numerous emails asking me that question in various ways. A few were angry that I included addiction on a blog about disabilities.

And my response was that I do consider addiction to be within the scope of this subject matter. I've met addicts whose entire life has been turned so backwards and upside down by their drug or alcohol usage that trying to work is out of the picture for either a long time - or forever - and they have to dedicate all their efforts to staying clean and sober. I've met far too many addicts who have just died from their addictions.

Our society preaches tough love toward addicts. This is for good reason since the disease of addiction causes much self delusion in those who suffer from it. However, the key word in that sentence I want to draw your attention to is the word suffer. Addicts do suffer. As selfish as they are in their full blown addiction, as much as they cause harm to others, they also harm themselves. When I work with addicts I'm often left wondering how on earth they could treat themselves the way they do. And this led me to pondering the compassion factor.

The difficulty I have with the way society deals with addiction today is that they hold up addicts in the public pillars for ridicule to the detriment of acknowledging addiction is a disease. Sure we have famous people doing stupid things. And what they do is often indefensible. And we have a right, perhaps an obligation, to teach our children that these people are examples of "what not to do".

What we don't do, and what I make a small, feeble attempt to do on my blog, is fully educate our children about addiction. For example, do we tell them that addicts are always addicts? Do we explain that addiction is a disease? Do we explain that it takes courage and bravery to go through recovery and get - and stay- clean and sober? And do we stop and think about the effect on our children of how we handle the subject of addiction? What happens if we have a teen or young adult - or famliy member - in recovery? How does media coverage of addiction affect those groups?

We need to handle the subject of addiction where we educate about the topic, not sensationalize it. I think our media is making so much profit off of poking fun at and publicizing the addictive behaviors of stars and public figures that the balance toward educating the public about addiction is way off. There are very few stories about public figures who are recovering addicts who put together long periods of recovery. The cameras stop whirring and go back to the slapstick active addict falling down on the streets of Hollywood.

When I use the words "compassion factor" I'm not suggesting that we enable active addicts or approve of what they do. I support tough love . But let's look at the whole, tragic picture of what addiction is, I guarantee the compassion factor would cut down on many peoples' somewhat insatiable appetite to watch public figures who are addicts fail - in their recovery efforts to save their own lives.

{Please click on the label below to see more posts about addiction.]


Anonymous said...

I applaud your handling of this subject matter. There aren't enough places online to get information about addiction from a spiritual point of view. However there are plenty of places to see the same old stories about stars who use drugs. Sad.

Casdok said...

It is sensationalize to much by the media, they have a lot to answer for.

grieving dad said...

Parents who have a child who dies from addiction to drugs would agree with this. I do.