Why We Should Treat, Not Blame Addicts.

The morality of addiction led to my freshman year college roommate’s death. The shame from the belief that, “good and successful people aren’t addicts’ kept her from seeking help. That same moral judgement also prevented her otherwise loving parents from acknowledging the terrifyingly obvious truth about their daughter. Her wonderful and loving parents could not get past their belief that, ‘good parents don’t have drug addicted children’.


As a society we must move beyond this crippling moral judgement.


There is a saying in the recovery world, “I don’t have a substance abuse problem, I have a living problem”. This is meant to convey that often people use substances to escape their reality or because they lack proper coping skills.

Prior to becoming addicted, substances work well to masque the stress or pain or disease experienced in living day to day life. We often do a brilliant job of educating our children academically and yet spend very little time teaching life skills. To my mind, this is one explanation for the excessive substance abuse problem in the World today. Particularly if by ‘substance’ we mean, food, nicotine, caffeine as well as alcohol and drugs.


From what I understand about addiction, in the beginning, substances are the solution to life’s challenges; they are not the problem, they are the solution. Of course this changes over time – it is impossible to know how long it takes for the substances to become the problem. We just know that at some point, for addicts, the same substances that initially were the solution, actually become the problem. It is subtle and it is terrifying and once it happens there is no going back. Addiction can’t be un-done. Instead, the only way out, is through acceptance and treatment and hopefully that is done via the medical community with the love and support of friends and family.


All too often, those resources aren’t available; either practically or financially and/or the legal system is involved. It is said that one in 12 people are affected. This effects too many of us for the solution to continue to be one of disregard, secrecy and shame.


In my grandmother’s time, alcoholic women were sent off to a ‘sanitarium’. This is what happened to my great grandmother, a well accomplished author who likely also suffered from manic depression and used substances to self-medicate. While I grew up thinking she died at an early age, and that my grandmother lost her mother as a pre-teen. Apparently that’s what ‘good families’ did – they sent embarrassing alcoholic women off to the sanitarium. It was never spoken of.

While I find this abhorrent, what happened to my college roommate wasn’t that different. They both suffered from the disease of addiction. Almost a hundred years of medical and social “progress” separates them but they both died unnecessarily from the same disease because of their families’ unwillingness to get beyond the moral judgement.


We have got to be better than this. We must proactively address the myriad reasons for substance abuse and when needed, encourage early diagnosis and medical treatment with the love and support of friends and family.


This article was written by a user named JCH as part of a discussion titled Why We Should Treat, Not Blame Addicts Struggling to Get ‘Clean’ and can be viewed on https://disqus.com/by/disqus_TatOE76Pop/

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