Most people are wired to only extend empathy toward things/situations they have experienced. Yes, that is a generalization, and generalizations aren’t cool. I get that. But it burns a little, don’t it?
Death is always shocking to people, even when the death is expected. Old age is old age and death is the end result of aging and a body breaking down. We all know this, yet we still grieve when someone we admire/love/know dies from old age. When the death is sudden or unexpected, it throws everything off. When the death is early and brought on by a disease—say heart disease, colon cancer, prostate cancer, ovarian cancer, breast cancer—most people react sadly, offering peace and light to those left behind.
Most people do not offer this same courtesy to addicts.
Most people associate addiction with criminal behavior, deviant behavior, behavior unbecoming and wrong-footed. As soon as someone is revealed as an addict, they immediately end up under a very intense microscope, every movement tracked, every syllable analyzed, every moment in their history questioned for motive. I have had people in my life who have questioned things I did as a child because they somehow think it had something to do with my addiction[s], some kind of clue they could have seen, some other route they could have pushed me into to keep me clean and unsullied by drugs, alcohol, and crime.
A fool’s errand, really. Only I could make the choice to stop and grow and change, just as it is with anyone in this world.
When a public figure dies from their disease, everyone suddenly becomes an expert. It’s as if Drew Pinsky has implanted his ideas into the heads of every girl and boy and those ideas have grown into adulthood ideas about authority and understandings surrounding addiction-based behavior. When a public figure dies from their disease, the Statlers and Waldorfs of the world take to social media and fire off their salvos, things like “what a fucking waste,” “what a selfish man, he left behind X amount of children,” “what an idiot,” etc.
If the world had a Clapper hooked up to it, I would have clapped the world off yesterday afternoon.
So many stones tossed. As usual, the same talking heads say the same shit they always say, waiting for the next morning to get their bylines out there, their Op-Eds masquerading as essays, their public demands it.
Addiction is a disease and the war on that disease is never-ending.
I have seven years clean right now. A fraction of my life. Every day is a battle even when it doesn’t feel like a battle because the disease, much like every other disease, is fatal.