Saturday, October 25, 2014

This Is What My Ignorance Looks Like

"What on earth was she thinking???"

"Why would he do something like that???"

"I just don't understand how she could make that choice. It makes me sick."

"He's so selfish."

"I could never do that to my children."

"What is wrong with her???"

Do any of these sound familiar? They do to me. These are all things I've said about various people who I saw struggling with addiction and who were making, what seemed to me, to be selfish and shameful choices. Oh I knew that alcoholism and addiction were a disease, but I also knew that plenty of people were in recovery from that disease. If a person's life was getting SO out of hand, if they were being "forced" to manipulate and steal to support their habit, if their children were being negatively impacted, why would they continue to use? Why not get help? Common sense told me that it was due to a persons lack of a moral code, that they were selfish and cared only about themselves, that they didn't want to get help.

That's what my ignorance looked like.

I knew, without a shadow of a doubt, that I would never, I could never, allow my own children to endure such hardship and struggle. I loved them far too much for that. Being a mother was my #1 priority, my children always came first, and I quite simply could never allow them to be hurt in such a way. My moral code and my die-hard love for, and commitment to, my children, would not allow me to be anything like what I saw in those people.

That's what my ignorance looked like.

Don't compare addiction to a disease like diabetes, or cancer, don't compare it to something that people must endure whether they like it or not. A person doesn't choose to have diabetes, but a person does choose to put a drink or drug into their body. How can I feel sorry for people who make the choice to put themselves in that kind of danger? How can we not see that as selfish??? A person with an addiction can choose to stop and get help at anytime and someone with cancer doesn't have that same luxury--and I'm supposed to feel sorry for them??? I'm supposed to show them compassion??? No, that doesn't make any sense at all.

That's what my ignorance looked like

We often make the mistake of believing that an addict, while in their active addiction, has the luxury of making choices based on their moral code. We believe that only bad people could do the things that so many addicts find themselves doing. We make the mistake of believing that we have stronger values, that we care more, that we love our children more, and therefore we would never do what "they" do. But we are wrong.

Addiction trumps all.

It is the deceptive nature of addiction that leads us to believe that we're different. Never once did I believe that I would "allow" things to get as bad as they did. Never once did I believe that I was one of "those people". Never once did I believe that drugs could or would take over my life. I had far too much to live for. As is the nature of deception, I didn't even understand that I was being deceived. I didn't understand that my story was the same as all who had come before me and that I was NOT special. I didn't understand that I was no longer in the drivers seat--whether I liked it or not.

Addiction has a power that we can never possibly understand--unless we ourselves have walked that walk. Our ignorance is the very thing that allows this epidemic to breed and grow beyond our control. My story is being retold and retold and retold--in the lives of good people with big hearts and NO clue.

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