Addiction and Accountability

It is no more accurate or fair to villainize an addict or alcoholic for their symptoms than it is to villainize someone with the flu, multiple sclerosis, or brain injury for their symptoms. To do so is wrong, often heartless, and as absurd as deciding someone is a failure in life because they have a fever.

What the person with the addiction has to fully digest is this; they are accountable. Just like anyone else with an illness or medical condition, they are responsible for taking the steps necessary to get well. The kindest, though not at all the easiest thing for loved ones to do, is hold the addict or alcoholic accountable.

Lindsay Lohan’s situation, now being chewed on by the ratings-mean-more-to-us-than-human-life members of the media, is a case in point.  Danny Bonaduce, who, as a child starred in “The Partridge Family,” reportedly said the fear that comes with a stint in jail might be a healthy thing for Ms. Lohan – true – but added that “rehab does not help” – not true. Ms. Lohan’s father, who apparently has done anything but pay any real attention to his in-danger-of-dying daughter is romping around the talk show circuit. The point is, we all have people in our life who are so tangled in their own dysfunction that their influence on us, if we accept it, is anything but helpful. Surrounding dysfunctions of people and circumstance aside, the addict is the one responsible for getting well.

As an alcoholic I hit my “bottom” in 2001. I was arrested, fired from a job, and destroyed a five-year relationship. That the circumstances surrounding the arrest were linked to a set-up was what my mind chose to focus on. They set me up, the bastards. Case got thrown out of court didn’t it? All conveniently true. Had it not been true I would have lied and said it was true anyway.  Truth was something I aligned myself with only when it worked for me, or so I thought.

Anyway, in my first months in a 12-step program I was talking with a NYC Firefighter who had something along the lines of 20 years sobriety under his belt. I spun my tale of they-set-me-up woe to him. He listened patiently until I’d finished. “Okay,” he said. “I’m going to believe you. But here’s the real question, it’s a yes or no answer. Was there anything about Peter Kahrmann that contributed to these things happening in the first place? Yes or no?” I knew the answer and said it. “Yes.” Had I not been drinking, had I not been active, none of what befell me would have happened.

And so when Lindsay Lohan or anyone else facing addiction bemoans the circumstances they find themselves in, Ms. Lohan recently referring to her jail sentence as “inhuman and degrading treatment,” what they need to get, really get, is the simple but difficult to digest fact that had they not been using, they wouldn’t be in the pain they are in. Had Ms. Lohan stayed sober, she would not be going to jail.

The real inhuman and degrading treatment is inflicted by the addiction. The addiction, not the legal system or the drug rehab system, is the enemy.

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One thought on “Addiction and Accountability

  1. I came across your blog this morning and feel compelled to comment. As a pediatric nurse who has worked in the ER for 20 years I take exception to some of your comments on addiction. First of all, I congratulate you on your sobriety. However, to insinuate that a person with brain injuries is as accountable for his disease process as the drug addict is, in my opinion, is a self righteous way of excusing the addict's behavior. Do you realy believe that the 6 month old baby diagnosed with an incurable brain cancer is as responsible for his disease as the sex addict who cheats on his spouse, or the gambler who spends his grocery money on VLT machines? Do you equate kicking a nicotine habit with overcoming a diagnosis of lung cancer in a non smoker? In my experience, most addicts come clean when they are forced to. When the destructive behavior wrecks their marraige, career and/ or health they decide to clean up. A form a self preservation, if you will. However, the MS patient, the child who requires an amputation due to cancer or the young mother with ALS doesn't get that choice. THe true nature of their disease is out of their control. Addictions are self destructive choices that are out of control. Society has "medicalized" addiction, and as a result we now see as soon as someone gets busted for inappropriate behavior it's because they have some addiction, or disease like Bipolar, and society would like us to belive they couldn't help themselves. I agree with you that EVERYONE is accountable for their actions. TO say that addicts have no control is enabling….how do they finally stop when they decide to? It is because they were able to and chose to.Again, congrats on your sobriety, and for opening up this debate!

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