Monday, February 3, 2014

Who Is Entitled?

Philip Seymour Hoffman: an actor whose work I have to admit I have never seen. But that didn't matter to me yesterday when I heard of his death. It was heartbreaking, no matter who he was. He was someone's partner, someone's dad, someone's friend.

This comment on Facebook drew me up short:

He was easily among the very greatest actors of my generation. Though we'll tut-tut the tragic loss, let's also say this: narcotics users are selfish. He just stole from us all the brilliant roles he will never now perform.

Selfish? I responded:

Addiction is horrible. He really, really tried. Can't agree with you on this.

He replied:

Perhaps he tried. But he tried too late. "If once you start down the dark path, forever will it dominate your destiny."

Soon after, @LisaB.Mrs.S. retweeted:

@knottyyarn: How about believing survivors. How about compassion for addicts. How about not indulging that blame-placing urge & remembering humanity.

Yes, I thought. Yes. Yes. Yes.

But then I read these responses:

@commiegirl1: @knottyyarn honestly, I grew up with a daddy who's an addict. My son is my son because his birth mom died from it. I just don't empathize.

@commiegirl1: @knottyyarn I know I would be a better person if I did, but they leave behind so much f***ing wreckage.

And who would know better that they, with real life, personal experience?


Who has the right to pass judgement? Who is entitled to sum it up, give it a name, count the cost and lay the blame? I know I am not. As I wrote on Facebook last night,

On a more serious note, people who have no concept of what addiction means and go online to pontificate are...well, I guess...well, never mind. Sad.

I can tell you this: many years ago, when my first marriage was breaking up, I came dangerously close to having a problem with alcohol. I was overwhelmed. I felt pain and helplessness. I felt sorry for myself, too. Hadn't I earned that extra drink? Yet though I teetered on the edge, I eventually stepped away from that danger. Very gradually, I moved forward.

Why? You could say that God was watching out for me. Or that my strength of character won out as I realized my responsibility to my young daughter. You could say a variety of things, but the truth is that I did not have in my body chemistry that disease which is alcoholism. An addiction.

I was so, so lucky. And I continue to be blessed that I wobbled and struggled and was able to find my equilibrium. Others are not so lucky. Addiction is a disease and the wreckage is immense. My wish is that those of us who are addiction-free or have merely dipped a toe in the water restrain ourselves from passing judgement.

We are not entitled.


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