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.