Everyone Could Use a Little Understanding and Compassion

05 February, 2014

I've sat with this post for the last 36 hours debating on whether or not to hit the publish button. It's a hard topic to talk about. It's a topic that most don't want to talk about and if you do, well you had damn well have personal experience to fall back on, because otherwise, "you don't know what you are talking about". But whether or not you have a personal experience with something, directly or indirectly, its important to remember that we are all effected and can all help someone who is in need.

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Celebrity deaths always throw me for a strange loop. To have any sense of sadness over the death of someone you’ve never met seems odd to me, yet we do feel we know him or her. Or at least the part of themselves they share with us through their movies, music, art, etc.

But it also takes subjects we find difficult to discuss on our own and shoves them in our faces, making them hard to ignore.

On Sunday, when I read about Philip Seymour Hoffman passing I wanted it to be another one of those weird Internet hoaxes, but as we all know now, it wasn’t. The reaction on social media, especially Twitter was weird. It ranged from celebrating his brilliance as an actor to folks being angry that his addiction to heroin took him from the worldAnd then I read a comment that stood out from the rest. Not because it was heartfelt or poignant. It was harsh, ill-informed and one might say downright cruel. I’m paraphrasing, but it asked that we not celebrate the life of a drug attack who was selfish and deserved what he got, leaving behind three kids with no father.

Here is the thing that most people don’t understand or refuse to understand.

Addiction, in any form, is a disease.

Sit with that for a minute.

It is a disease and needs to be treated and respected as such.

When was the last time you heard someone say, “Dammit Bob. Why the hell did you go and get cancer? Have you thought about what that will do to your family? Why didn’t you think of them?”

No. We tell them to fight it, to be strong and that we are with them 100%.

No one wakes up in the morning, looks out their window and says to themselves, “Today I’m going to get addicted to smack!" or "It seems like a good day to become an alcoholic.”

Our society has this weird notion that if rogue cells in your body aren’t attacking you, then you need to brush it off and get over it. You need to put on a happy face and live as if nothing is wrong.

I don’t know what it is like to live with an addiction. I don’t know what it is like to have all my waking thoughts focus on getting my next high or drinking my next drink to numb the pain of life. I don’t know what that feels like. I don’t know what it feels like to be pulled away from everything and everyone one I love to satiate a need so deeply implanted in my brain that it takes over everything.

But I do know what it is like to be called selfish because of an intangible disease/illness that doesn’t show up on a catscan or MRI. I do know what it feels like to try and tell someone I love that I need help because my brain is working against me. I know what it is like trying to explain to someone that my brain telling me that I’d be better off if I just downed that bottle of sleeping pills with a side of vodka so I won’t wake up in the morning. And I know what it feels like to have that someone roll their eyes at me because “being happy is a choice and I don’t know why you just can’t be happy”.

I imagine having an addition, whether it be to drugs or alcohol, is the same in that people just want you to “stop smoking crack” or “just don’t drink alcohol” because it should be so simple to “just stop”.

But not everyone “can just stop”.

And it’s not about strength or will power or whatever trait people think someone with an addiction is lacking. It's not about them doing this "thing" to hurt someone else or to get back at them for something. It's not about the addict being selfish and looking beyond themselves. Addiction is a disease and those who are fight it need our love and support, but also our compassion. Because fighting a disease is hard, not matter what form it comes in.

Authors note: Before anyone jumps all over me for those above statements regarding cancer—I know all too well the effects cancer can have on a loved one or in my case many loved ones.  I’ve watched it rip holes in the very fabric of my family.


  1. Beautiful Meg. Glad you hit the publish button.

  2. I can't believe people would talk like he deserved to do, that's so horrible. :( Well said, and I completely agree - while I can't relate to the addiction, I do understand that it is more powerful than just choosing to say no. So sad tho.

  3. Addiction is a scary thing. I just wish more people to try to understand it rather than push it aside because it "isn't their problem".

  4. I'm glad you shared this post. I'm with you on the mental thing; a very good friend of mine is a (several years sober) alcoholic and I've known him both on and off the wagon, both up and down and good and bad and it really is something else. It's so true that people don't just get up and decide "hey, I want to be a junkie, I think I'll start today." And honestly, having seen addiction recovery (in several forms, not just this one person) - and my own experience with emotional healing and depression recovery, in a lot of ways, they are very similar and some of the paths are even the same. Either way, they are both diseases that a person doesn't choose to have.

  5. Couldn't have said it better myself, Meg.


Thanks for reading!