There's a popular news article floating around which shows a disturbing image of a couple in the front seat of a car, passed out from drugs, with a child in the back seat – wide awake. I'm not sure how long the poor child was there for or how the story ended. I didn't read much into it because my empathetic soul can't handle it. I'm not exactly sure why I read the comments because it's not usually my thing. I guess I am a bit curious about how people view addiction. Being the child of an addict, I know that my views are a lot different from others. Addiction isn't easy to understand if you haven't dealt with it before. Addiction isn't black and white. It took me a really long time to realize that addicts aren't evil – they are sick. I am not making an excuse for them, but there is a point with addiction where it's beyond your control. They need help – meaning that they cannot do it on their own.
Addiction is defined as being physically and mental dependent on something. Dependence is the state of relying on or being controlled by someone or something else.
The age old question remains – does a person choose to be an addict? This is a controversial topic for many reasons. It's controversial for people like me, who have been burned by an addict. It's controversial for addicts themselves. It's even more so controversial for people who have never had an up-close experience with addiction.
1. Addiction is not a choice – stop saying that.
I used to think addiction was a choice. I used to think that my mom chose to be an addict. That she chose the drugs over me. I've said it countless times from childhood into adulthood. It wasn't until a few years ago that my eyes were opened. I grew up a lot, I began to forgive my mother, and I became best friends with an addict – which ultimately changed my views on addiction forever. Her raw and honest emotion while struggling with this monster, made me realize that every addict goes through this. I will never forget the day she told me that she stared at that little pill and said “I can't believe a tiny pill is controlling my entire life.”
Addiction is not a choice. Experimenting with drugs is a choice, but nobody chooses to be an addict. Nobody chooses to have their life ripped away from them. People don't choose to lose themselves, but it happens. Why? Because the drugs are controlling them physically and mentally. Addiction needs to be taken seriously and we need to be a little more empathetic to addicts because they were once just like you and I.
2. Anyone can become an addict, regardless of their childhood, family life, etc.
Addicts are people. Don't forget that. You may not always see it or feel it, but they do have feelings. Their hearts are full of love, hopes, and dreams. The difference is that they don't pursue them or express them like an average person does. They have moments of clarity, in between their ups & downs, when they think just like we do. Inside every addict is a beautiful soul wanting to escape this monster that has taken over their body. There's a human being in there. Have you ever looked into an addict's eyes when they weren't high? I have and it's absolutely heartbreaking. You can see their soul fighting to be freed.
Inside every addict is a beautiful soul wanting to escape this monster that has taken over their body.
The terrifying thing about addiction is that it could happen to any one of us. All it takes is one bad decision – one moment of weakness – one dance with the devil. I've made it my life's goal to physically stay away from peers that do drugs. I don't want to be around anyone that is dependent on a substance. I could never watch someone that I love stick a needle in their arm, swallow a pill, inhale a chemical, and snort a substance. Just the thought of it makes me nauseous. I've had a pretty shitty childhood, but I'd never put myself into a situation where I'd be tempted to get high. I'm smart enough to know that it could happen to me, too. I'm conscious enough to understand that too many people depend on me to be the smart one.
3. Addicts aren't evil.
The drug is evil. The supplier could definitely be considered evil, but the addict? Nah. The addict isn't evil. They may do things that are beyond imaginable. They my lie, cheat, steal, and harm others – but is every addict pure evil? No. It would be easy to lump addicts into a category and call them evil or crazy. It would be easy to pretend that they were born that way. What's difficult is to look at someone who has harmed you and say, “No. They aren't evil. They are human. The substance is evil.”
I know that addicts aren't evil because there are too many that I love. Not every addict lies, cheats, and steals. Not every addict would kill to get their fix. I know addicts that would give their last penny to someone they love, even if it meant they'd have to sell themselves to get their dope. If you think all addicts are evil, then you have never truly loved one.
4. Helping an addict and enabling one are two different things.
There's a big difference between helping an addict and enabling one. Our world has no room for enablers. If you truly love an addict, you won't enable them. There comes a time when you just have to say ‘NO'. Below are a few examples to help you understand the difference between helping an addict and enabling one.
Helping an addict: getting them proper treatment, giving them an ultimatum, sticking by your promises, supporting them through their recovery, being a sponsor for them, giving them an open line of communication, saying no to repeat offenses, etc.
Enabling an addict: giving them money, bailing them out, allowing them to fool you more than once, allowing them to get high, blatantly buying them drugs, pretending you are okay with their addiction, etc.
5. Rehab doesn't “fix” an addict.
If you think an addict can be “fixed” or “cured” then you've got another thing coming! Rehab can only do so much and once they are released into the world, then it's all on them. Rehab teaches an addict the necessary tools that they need to overcome their addiction. An addict will always be an addict – but they can be a recovering addict. Rehab is incredible as long as the addict wants the help.
6. Contrary to popular belief, jail or prison is not the best place for an addict.
I could start a whole blog based on this topic alone because, honestly, it pisses me off. Our country is completely insensitive when it comes to drug addicts. Addicts get thrown into jail, right alongside of rapists and murderers. They aren't offered any sort of rehabilitation. They detox in jail without any help. Most addicts are dealing with some sort of mental disorder (bi-polar disorder, ptsd, depression, etc). None of their issues are treated or, even recognized. More times than not, being untreated in jail/prison causes depression. What happens when an addict is depressed and doesn't have professional help? They self-medicate… with illegal drugs. It's a cycle that repeats itself and jail/prison is the easiest place to score whatever you want. People will walk into jail clean and come out as an addict. It's that bad!
As much as I love this country, I hate the justice system. It's cruel and unfair. Why do drug addicts get sentenced to years in prison and violent offenders are set free with a slap on the wrist – back in the streets with their victims. It doesn't make sense and it makes me sick. This stuff is true. Research it. Talk to a few addicts.
7. In America, you have to FIGHT for help with addiction.
This goes along with #6. Not only do you not get help for your addiction in jail or prison, it's nearly impossible to get help in the real world. If you don't have money, then you can't get medical help for your addiction. If you aren't a rich and famous addict then good luck getting help! Rehab centers cost thousands and for most addicts, who's families have disowned them, they are out of luck. Basically, they have to kick the habit on their own or they don't quit at all.
I know what you're thinking – there are free rehab centers or facilities/churches that help with this sort of thing. Pump the brakes on that thought. Most cities don't offer that sort of help, especially crime-ridden ones. Rehab hotlines can only do so much – the clinical and psychological help these lost souls need, comes at a cost – a big one. To put this more into perspective for you, I have a friend that tried to get help. I mean she was absolutely desperate for help. When she spoke to the facilities that “help” with this sort of thing, she was told that free addiction help would come only for those that have: 1. Committed a crime because of/for their addiction 2. They tried to commit suicide or overdosed because of their addiction. Let that sink in for a minute. You have to do harm to get help. Isn't the point of getting help to prevent something like this from happening? You can't make this stuff up, people.
You have to do harm to get help for addiction. Isn't the point of getting help to prevent something like this from happening?
8. Addicts need help, even if they don't want it.
I know the saying goes, “You can't help someone that doesn't want to be helped.” I agree with that saying to a certain extend. Yes, you can only do so much before the person you're helping has to take over. Sometimes, however, people need a reality check. Sometimes people are so involved and caught up, that it takes something (or someone) impactful to really open their eyes. Maybe you know someone suffering from addiction that doesn't want help, but maybe you can show them that they do have your support and that you're willing to fight with them and for them to get them the help that they need. Maybe, just maybe, a little love and compassion would give them the what they need to want help. It may sound far fetched, but it depends on the person.
9. Families of addicts suffer just as much as the addicts themselves – in different ways.
If you think that addiction is only harmful to an addict then you've never loved one. I've heard way too many times,”Who cares? It's their life and if they want to kill themselves then let them.” No! That's wrong in so many ways. I don't care what you say – call me too involved, nosey, or even hopeless. It's our responsibility as the human species to care for other humans. Every single act of kindness can make a difference. It's important to acknowledge that an addict's decisions aren't only affecting themselves, but their families as well. I know from personal experience the pain and suffering felt when someone you love is making terrible decisions and when you're watching as their lives slowly fade to black. I've never felt as much sadness as when I saw someone I used to love, someone that I always respected, in jail, about 20 lbs lighter. It broke my heart to see him lose his inhibitions, his looks, his great reputation. An addict isn't the only one that suffers – everyone that's ever loved them feels the pain.
10. It's not easy to love an addict, but they need to be loved.
If there's one thing you shouldn't do to an addict is give up on them. Everyone else has given up one them. That might be what drove them to drugs in the first place. Chances are that they've already lost friends and family – they don't need to lose you too. Someone has to have their back. Someone has to listen to them. Someone has to believe in them, especially because it's pretty hard for them to believe in themselves. It's not going to be easy. It's going to be very difficult. It's going to hurt you, a lot. You're going to look at life in a completely different way and it will not be pleasant. They need you to love them. Give them a reason to get clean. Give them something to look forward to.
Be sure to read other posts in my Addiction Series
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