First of all, let me just say thank you from the bottom of my heart for the response to the original post I wrote earlier this week about addiction.
I wanted to clear up a few things, answer a few questions and address a few issues in the wake of it. I wrote it initially because the words just needed to get out of my head. I've told quite a few people that I really don't even feel like I wrote it, I was just the person attached to the fingers that typed it out. It came from my soul.
The difficulty in writing something like this is that I wrote it for my own reasons, which are related to my own personal experiences with addiction in many different forms. I never wrote it thinking for even one second that it would go viral. It was not done to capitalize on the moment, it was not even a celebration of PSH as an actor, though I will miss his contributions to the industry. It was a response to the way people reacted. The assumptions made about him. The assumptions made not just about him, but about everyone out there struggling the same way he did.
It wasn't about him at all, really. It was about the addicts I have known and loved. It was about the people I have known, the struggles I have witnessed. The demons in my own head.
His death just forced all that to the surface for me.
There are a few things that I wanted to clarify, that I probably should have written more in depth about at the time but didn't either because I didn't think about it at the time, or I did and chose to try and condense my words.
The greatest of which is the issue of what causes addiction, something we may not ever have clear and convincing scientific evidence of. We see what we see, though. We observe what we observe. I did not state in the post that every case of addiction has mental illness as a precursor, though I believe many of them do. There will certainly be people who don't relate to it at all. It's not intended to be all-inclusive, nor would I ever presume that it could be.
There most certainly appears to be an element of genetics involved when it comes to addiction. Some people are just more inclined to be drawn toward drugs, alcohol, food, whatever it is. Some families seem to have clusters of addiction. Whether it is an actual issue of genes or just the force of habits and learned behaviors from a lifetime of living with and around other addicts, I can't say. I just know that some people have a predisposition to it.
I know this because I am one of them.
I walk the line.
I have been forthcoming about my personal issues in the past.
There are people who may not have that predisposition, who can use drugs socially, who can drink without hesitation, and it never causes a problem. For some of them, though, these people without the predisposition, they may find themselves addicted anyway simply because the item they use creates its own physical addiction.
Nicotine, heroin and cocaine are the ones that come to mind immediately. These drugs are inherently addictive and create dependence in people who might otherwise be able to fight it off, purely because of the chemical compounds involved and their effect on the body.
Along with all that, there is the underlying issue quite often of mental illness. I say this only because it has been the case in every single addict I have ever known, most commonly depression. In many cases, because of the stigma about mental illness in general, people are resistant to believe they have a problem, resistant to seek help, and in turn seek out ways to self medicate...which can lead them down the path of addiction.
Some of the comments left indicate that people misread my words. I never intended for anything in the post to be an absolution of responsibility on the part of the addict. Quite the opposite, in fact. Attempting to understand why people become addicts and why it is so hard for them to get clean doesn't equal helplessness at all. They are without a doubt the most essential piece of the puzzle. Without a desire to get better, without the determination to get up and fight the fight every single day, no amount of resources, no amount of support will ever make a difference.
Those of us who have been there understand that. Those of you out there who haven't been there should consider yourselves lucky. Honestly.
Do addicts choose to use? Yes, of course they do, at least initially. Once they are in it, though, the issue of choice isn't clear cut anymore, it's not cut and dried, it's not black and white. Some drugs mess with the messages in your head. Some drugs force your body to get more. It's not as simple as just deciding to stop, particularly for people with severe addictions that can only quit safely with the help of detox.
The physical aspect of addiction is only one piece, and most would argue, one of the most inconsequential, at least in the long run. The reason people relapse is precisely because addiction isn't just physical. It's bigger than that. It's more complicated than that.
Our mental health system isn't equipped to help addicts. Even where there are services available, the resources are usually lacking to help pay for it. Not all insurance covers rehab, for those people who even have insurance. One of the lesser discussed aspects of the Affordable Care Act is that all plans sold on the exchanges are required to include coverage for substance abuse.
This is huge, and might finally be a step in the right direction.
We need to do a better job for addicts in this country. We need to do a better job for all mental health conditions in general. We need to have a better understanding of the co-morbidity often present between them. We need to stop believing that drug use is simply a criminal issue.
Mostly, though, we need to remember what it's like to care about people.
We need empathy and compassion.
They, the addicts, need it maybe more than anyone else does.
Does that mean that I am claiming you should always be there, be subjected to abuse, throw money at treatment centers for people who refuse to try? Of course not. In all of this, you have to understand that all the help in the world won't help someone who doesn't want it, someone who isn't ready, someone who won't get up and fight every day.
You can't love them enough to fix them.
You can't love them enough to keep them clean.
You can't love them enough to make it all better unless they want it to be better.
It's a painful realization, one that I've had to come to before. It sucks backwards and forwards. You can only do what you can do until you can't do it anymore. Then you have to do what you have to do to protect yourself.
No one will fault you for that if they understand what it is like. Those who would can't possibly know.
Another of the topics I wanted to clarify a little here is the subject of religion, which is something mentioned quite often in the comments. I didn't talk about it because I am not a religious person. I am spiritual, but not within the confines of a religion per se. I have known addicts to get clean even without a belief in God. I have known people with all the faith in the world who didn't make it. My opinion is a simple one - whatever works for you, cling to it, but don't think that it will necessarily work for someone else. Each person has a different path, a different inspiration, a different reason.
I honor them all. I respect them all.
I think that is all the issues I wanted to clear up. I think. I'm probably missing something, but I can count on you all to let me know.
Again, thank you for sharing this important message.
Peace and strength to you all.
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