Another One Bites the Dust

Too many times the people affected by addicts are forgotten... Why the sympathy should be shifted.

The title of this blog is harsh; but it rings true.  There are two predictions we can make about most celebrities – one is that they will most likely get divorced if they marry another celebrity; and the other is that they have a high likelihood that they will die as the result of an addiction or overdose. So when someone like Cory Monteith, Amy Winehouse, River Phoenix or Philip Seymour Hoffman (the list goes on…) succumbs to such a tragic ending, does it really come as a surprise?

Addiction is cyclical.  Someone can be sober for months or years, but that craving for drugs and/or alcohol usually creeps back up on them sooner or later.  Meanwhile, many addicts rationalize sobriety for a period of time as invincibility, and think that if they just have one drink or dabble in a drug just one time they'll be fine.  The power of addiction is so overwhelming that it leads them back on the path they were on before, sadly.   Robin Williams comes to mind most recently when he says, “One day I walked into a store and saw a little bottle of Jack Daniel's. And then that voice – I call it the 'lower power' – goes, "Hey. Just a taste. Just one,'' he says candidly. 'I drank it, and there was that brief moment of "Oh, I'm okay!" But it escalated so quickly.'

Many times addicts will “recover” temporarily; but all it takes is the one DUI to crash their car, popping one too many pills, shooting up one too many times, that ends it all, for good.  You can just pray that they have more than nine lives, and if they don’t, they don’t take out anyone else with them when their time comes.

I think the word “recovery” is a fallacy when it comes to addiction.  Addicts don’t recover.  Addiction is not curable.  An addict’s propensity to crave their be-all-end-all drug of choice may go into remission, but they can never truly become immune to the forces of their substance desire. Addicts say that they have “recovered” before…but the inverse of that statement is that the addict has relapsed before, and chances are they will relapse again.

Addicts are selfish.  The addict that denies this is in denial that they are an addict.  Addicts know that they are not in control, and the drugs or alcohol that they can’t put down is what is in their driver’s seat.  Even if unconsciously so, they choose their vice above all else – above their friends, families, jobs, and even God when they’re hooked.  An addict in withdrawal will do ANYTHING to get more of the juice that pulses through their veins to get them high or achieve that calm.  It doesn’t matter what the cost is to his personal life, professional life, anyone else’s life, or his life, period. 

When an addict is doing drugs or drinking, they’re not thinking of the others they love. They aren’t thinking of the tragic aftermath and how it will affect those around them, if and when they die of an overdose or an accident that results from being under the influence.  They aren’t thinking of the torment that they cause the people who care about them, who have to sit by and watch them suffer every day, drinking or consuming drugs destroying their lives.   Addicts don’t care about the fact they are pawning off the responsibility of raising children, running a household, or in some cases earning an income, on someone else. They are hooked on being high – and nothing and no one else matters.  They justify their behavior during their unsober or denial periods by saying that they need their drug, that it’s like a non-addict being deprived of the air they breathe if they can’t get their drug. (Sorry, but they won’t die if they can’t get their fix.  Getting their fix is what will ultimately cause their death.) They have extreme tunnel vision that revolves around their constant craving.  This is selfish.

This selfishness should not be missed or tragedized.  Celebrities that meet their demise through addictions should not be honored and idolized.  Sure, we will miss their talented contributions to our world, and those who knew them personally may miss the sober version of them; but the reverence surrounding their drug-overtoned deaths encourages others to follow in their footsteps.  Those who are easily influenced feel that they can get their 15 minutes of fame by dabbling on the drugged dark side, too.

Where was the applause for Hoffman’s sobriety?  He didn’t light up my twitter feed until his death by overdose.  He had his moments in movies, but will he be remembered more now for the way he went out than for what he did?  I don’t support honoring the addict, which historically propels them to a post-mortem popularity greater than they achieved while living. 

People can spot addicts...but many are enablers...not trying to get help to them, or get them to someone who can help.  Many friends and family are usually in denial that there is a problem when they look at a loved one with an addiction.   They don’t want to upset the addict more and cause them to dive deeper into drugs.  They are afraid of what others will think if they find out that their mother/brother/husband/friend is a “druggie”.  They want to shelter their children from the knowledge that mommy or daddy has a problem and it’s really bad.  (My belief is that there is a genetic component to addiction, and education of children rather than camouflaging the truth about a relative with a drug or alcohol problem, is the start to making a younger generation self-aware and observant of the signs that they need help, from the first sip - or prevent that first dip into drugs entirely.)  Forcing an addict to get help is futile in most cases anyway - because if the addict doesn't want help, there's not much hope for recovery. 

The approach of “tough love” doesn’t always work.  If it does work, it doesn’t come with a permanent promise that they will never fall back on the path of self-destruction again.  Sometimes the toughest love you can give an addict is to walk away.  If they won’t make a choice, you have to – for self preservation, and in some cases, the protection of yourself and your family.  While a choice like that seems selfish on the part of a non-addict, if an addict is not capable of seeing beyond the drinks or pills, you as the friend, the brother, the mother, the lover, the son, the wife, or the mentor can only control your own actions, and after doing what you can, hold onto the fact that you have done everything within your power to do the right thing.   It’s ok to choose self-preservation over an addict’s selfishness.  After you’ve thrown out the half empty bottles, and flushed the pills, begged them to go to AA meetings, and feel hopeless, the only thing that you can do is take control of your own actions and stop trying to curb theirs.  It’s not fair to you to wait for the resulting abuse, the suffering at the hand of an addict, the emotional torment, the financial drain, and more.  And if there are children involved – that’s when the protective mommy claws or the daddy fangs should come out to protect them from the disintegration that lies ahead, when the person you love isn’t that person anymore because they are a drugged up vicious version of themselves.

Addiction isn’t a celebrity disease. It affects the person down the street from you.  It’s the face of your next door neighbor or your co-worker.  It can take the form of your father or your brother.  There are so many more closet addicts who cover-up their addictions more than any of us realize, until they can’t hide it anymore because it reaches the point where the person loses control and the drugs take over.  We just hear about the famous people crying, dying, and getting caught in the cross-fire of booze and pills because, well, they’re famous; but infamously, addiction makes its mark in the lives of many outside of the spotlight, too.

So while my heart goes out to the families and friends affected by Philip Seymour Hoffman’s death, I have a hard time conjuring up sympathy for the choices he made, and for the times that those close to him chose to brush off the fact he had a problem.  Granted, many people who know that someone is an addict try to help, and I have respect for them and share sadness with them, too.  But there are enablers.  Enablers can be forgiven for past choices to ignore that their loved one has a problem, only if they take the toughest stance that they ever had to, and don’t sugar coat the fact that drinking in excess daily, or drugging up isn’t the norm.  There’s no shame in calling it like it is.  If people don’t break the cycle of enabling, and instead bide their time watching their beloved addict self-destruct, the end result will break the cycle for them - when their loved one is gone, and their hearts will be broken, too.

Even if you don’t enable an addict, the choice for someone to do or not do drugs is their own.  To be the friend or relative of a do-er is not easy.  Addicts will place blame on the people they surround themselves with stating that they are the cause of their stress, their unhappiness, depression, or whatever they surmise is the cause for them to turn to drugs or alcohol.  They will justify that their vice is the only thing that makes them feel better.  It’s not your fault.  You should never accept blame for someone else’s addiction.

When you know an addict, you have to always live with one eye open and with a doubt in your back pocket, waiting for the other shoe to drop.  With a lot of luck it won’t – but there are no guarantees.  As an addict takes their life one day at a time, we need to take theirs in the same manner, not holding onto a promise of sobriety that may never last.  Sadly, that’s probably the most sobering reality there is when it comes to addiction.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Russell S. Glowatz February 10, 2014 at 04:12 PM
I am so disappointed that Patch editors allowed this ill informed article to be published on their page. The article is reckless, presenting half truths interspersed amongst a lot of opinion. The author obviously has some knowledge on the subject, and through what she has written has readily proven that some knowledge on an issue could be more dangerous than complete ignorance. I encourage her to look up the definition of selfishness and then self-centeredness in an addiction context. Most addicts are not selfish, they are simply self-centered in many ways. The two words imply two very different things. You seem to think that an addict is out there partying having a great time at the expense of everyone else, yet you never touch upon the self-loathing and pain and suffering an addict goes through. It's not fun. Nothing about it is fun. I wouldn't wish it upon anyone in this world. I hope this author one day takes the time to learn more about addiction, so perhaps she will one day be well informed enough to responsibly take on the topic in an article. Go out and talk to addicts, talk to their family members, go to a rehab, or a 12-step meeting and hear these people speak. I'm certain if you do, you won't find people calling themselves "recovered," nor will you hear them talking about how they feel invincible. You will hear them pouring their hearts out on the floors to a bunch of strangers that share their same affliction, as they know it's the only way to save their own life. I truly hope you do this one day, and after you do, I hope you take the time to sit back and reflect upon what you wrote here today, and then apologize to all the addicts that you've so poorly misrepresented in your piece...then after that, apologize to their loved ones that suffered along side them as well.
Diane Russo February 10, 2014 at 04:49 PM
I had a hard time getting beyond the writers' opening, "There are two predictions we can make about most celebrities – one is that they will most likely get divorced if they marry another celebrity; and the other is that they have a high likelihood that they will die as the result of an addiction or overdose." Couldn't take anything that followed that seriously. Obviously it was written by a person with no first hand experience with facts or addiction. I'm sure she was very proud of her blog and all of its self righteous opinions even though they were misguided. At some point life may catch up with her and she will understand the true meaning of addiction and she'll stop bashing those that struggle with it. And she might also need to apologize to the thousands of celebrities that won't die of an overdose.
JaeRokk February 10, 2014 at 05:26 PM
Laura I applause you and your blog article. I think there is a lot of truth here and there is a lot that people don't want to hear. You have a freedom of speech right and by-God, you did an amazing thing with it. Everyone else can go cry about it elsewhere.
Lori A. Sammon February 10, 2014 at 05:43 PM
What a closed minded blog. You must also believe that people who have cancer deserve that too. It is idiots like you that don't believe that addiction is a disease. Obviously, you have no friends or family that face a horrible addiction on a daily basis. I wish that for you -- yes I wish a close friend or family member of yours has an addiction so that you might change your tune and become a more understanding, compassionate person.
Ermenegilda Zenga Uomo February 10, 2014 at 09:20 PM
Clearly the writer of this article has been hurt by an addict. Are some addicts assholes? Sure. Are all addicts assholes who deserve punishment and humiliation? Absolutely not. Do some people who find themselves feeling envious of others presume drug abuse when none exists? Yes. Frequently... This truth must be acknowledged. All too often innocent folks are harassed about medications they may be taking because of corporations who are trying to control peoples health care choices. This results in increased illness, pain, and anxiety. Everyone suffers. Having said that, if a person truly is an addict, and the addiction is truly causing harm to themselves or their loved ones, fear of shame based, religious rehab programs can keep them from getting the help they need. The problem in this scenario is that as soon as someone admits that they need help, or even entertains the notion of asking for help, the tough/love sadists march through the door, choice is obliterated, and the addict becomes a punching bag for those who are too desperate, scared, lazy, or fed up to try a more healing, empathic, dignified approach. I guess what I am saying is that there is a middle ground. There are shades of grey. And judgmental, shameful, articles are a part of the problem rather than a part of the solution.
Paul J Mondschein February 11, 2014 at 07:18 AM
As a Recovered Alcoholic/Addict I share some of what this person has to say but people can and do change with the belief and trust in God. "When we became alcoholic, crushed by self imposed crisis we could not postpone or evade, we had to fearlessly face the proposition that either God is everything or else he is nothing. God either is or he isn't. What was our choice to be?" BB pg. 53:2 You can believe that people can not recover forever or you can come to the realization that you just might not know everything. God has all power.
Revive Community Church February 11, 2014 at 09:05 AM
Hurts, habits, hang-ups. The sobering reality is that mankind IS selfish, all of us, to varying degrees. (One simple example would be that most of us, if starving, would feed ourselves first over a starving stranger etc.) We are delicate at times, strong other times, both brilliant and stupid, but all in all, quite an amazing creation on this earth, and yes, NONE of us are perfect. We all have, hurts, habits or hang-ups along with amazing ideas, passions, talents, purposes, in addition to a strong desire to be loved. You mix that concoction up in various degrees of strengths & weaknesses amidst the population, and the outcome will reflect varying degrees of either transformation and healing from a hurt, habit or hang-up, or no healing at all, which at times can cause death, as you mention. It all depends on many circumstances, most of which we have to understand and swallow, we just don't have control over, not even our money can pay for that control. Loved ones are sometimes hurt the most, because we see the errors and wonder why choose "that' over me? Why can't you just stop it? We are hurt. It is not your fault. Hurts, habits, hang-ups, we carry that with us because we are human and are not perfect. Some of us may call this sin. Thankfully the hope for transformation, does exist and it is free. To the author, please do not give up hope. It is impossible for mankind to imagine how to begin to tackle such a problem, but I might suggest you walk into a "Celebrate Recovery" meeting found online near you. Some are led well, others are not, as I mentioned, none of us are perfect. There is a helpful book written by Jon Baker called, "Life's Healing Choices" which describes how and why, we humans, including you, can still hold onto hope. Here is a link:http://www.amazon.com/Lifes-Healing-Choices-Freedom-Hang-ups/dp/1476726582 I was once an anorexic and I married a cocaine addict. We are transformed, healed, cured, however you want to call it. Those habits and addictive thoughts are just not a part of us, or our daily thinking anymore. As impossible as it may seem, my husband's mind has been transformed for over 30 years now and is now a volunteer Lead Pastor at a church plant. The reality is, you CAN be transformed by the renewing of your mind! We experienced it ourselves and see it happening in our midst. Many blessings to you.
Khandrola Dechen February 11, 2014 at 10:17 AM
Lori Sammon - you are the evil one to wish tragedy upon the author. I assume this hit too close to home. Hope your addiction is in remission - a better word than recovery, I agree, Laura. And I DO have experience with addicts and the wasteland they leave behind. Selfishness is what they are all about. Russel G: Check you constitution. We still have freedom of speech. Better for you to not emulate the opinions of people such as Stalin and Hitler.
Louise Bombara February 11, 2014 at 04:05 PM
Very sad, but this author has clearly lived it and speaks as one who has loved an addicted person.


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