A few months ago, I wrote one of my most popular and talked about soapboxes ever, on the issues of addiction, suicide, and the devastating effects they have not on the person who engages in them, but on the lives of everyone in their wake. You’re welcome to read it in its entirety here:
To summarize, here’s an excerpt from that Soapbox:
Habitual Addicts lie, cheat, and steal from everyone, literally everyone, until they have run out of people to do such to. And then they find new people or ways to feed their weakness, for that’s what it is; it isn’t a disease, or illness, it’s a weakness that they choose not to overcome. Just as those who commit suicide do so in the backdrop of their own weakness. The fact that these people “felt there was no other way out,” is of no consequence to me for that further highlights their weakness. There is always, in the United States, a way out, another choice to be made, and a different path to be chosen. Those with any sort of regard for the people in their lives find such avenues. The rest destroy the people they purport to love and care for. Sympathy from me? Negative. Disdain and disregard? Absolutely. Call me whatever names you want for having such a strong opinion, but one thing no one with any intellectual honesty will ever be able to call me is weak, cowardly, or quitter;
I asked for it and I got it. Here, in all of its glory, is an email I received in response this weekend (thanks for getting on that) from a listener I have renamed “Sharon.” The only omissions, other than her real name, from the original letter are those of a personal nature which I have chosen to withhold because despite being the horrible human being that I am (as you’re about to read) I do actually have standards and there’s no need to in any way reveal the identity of the letter writer by divulging personal details. I’m betting friends of Sharon will recognize her stupidity anyways:
I happened to read your March 9th soapbox entry about addicts and people who commit suicide and it had to be the most disgusting thing I have ever read. You are why there is such a stigma around mental illness. How wonderful that you are such a wise and strong person that you can stand there and judge other people who are weaker than you. You say that no one can call you weak or cowardly, but I beg to differ. The fact that you call people who suffer from depression and commit suicide selfish is, in my opinion, weak and cowardly. Instead of showing compassion for people and using your public position to help break down the stigma, you spew that garbage. I literally became sick to my stomach reading what you wrote. When you are in that dark of a place (as a suicidal person is), you can’t think clearly or rationally. You feel so bad about yourself that you think it is better for everyone if you are gone. Stopping the pain, including the pain you honestly believe you are inflicting on others, is all you can think about.
I am sure your rant came from a place of pain because someone you care about is struggling. And to be fair, I know what it is like dealing with an addict, so I can relate to some of what you said.
You say that the suicidal addict should be blamed and judged. What will that solve? Do you really think that will force people to get better? Addicts and people who are suicidal already feel unworthy, they already think poorly of themselves, so shaming them will not help them. Compassion, understanding, support – those are things they need. “Those with any sort of regard for the people in their lives find such avenues.” And those who have never suffered the pain of addiction or depression should do everything they can to help those people find the avenues and the tools they need to make a different choice.
I know this will fall on deaf ears. As you have so clearly pointed out, you don’t care what people think of you. You are narcissistic, pretentious, and condescending. I used to listen to your show. I thought it was funny and I agreed with some things you said. I honestly hope that this is just part of your act; but if it isn’t, if you truly believe the things you wrote, then I am glad I stopped listening.
Let’s start with what we agree on; I don’t care at all what Sharon thinks of me, and I care very little what most people think of me, because I don’t look to others for validation, rationale, a moral compass, or any sort of social popularity. I form my own opinions through a never ending quest of information, experience and common sense and I stand by every word written in the March 9th Soapbox, most notably, those Sharon ignored entirely in her asinine rant. Words such as these:
Intervention Magazine recently did a profile of the common chronic addict, best summed up as follows: Addiction hurts those around the addict most. Spouses, parents, (co-workers, friends), and other family members are left to pick up the responsibilities of the addict, doing more of everything…and bearing the constant strain of the destruction left behind by the addict. Often times, the supporting enablers of the addict are the ones who clean up their mess, and, left to go on too long, the toll is more visible, palpable and measureable on the family and friends of the addict than on the addict themselves.
It isn’t the initial sympathy I am told to have that infuriates me, it’s the thoughtful sympathy that too many engage in and try to force on others.
Of course you should try to help someone that you care about if they’re heading down the road of suicide and/or addiction. It is the most human thing to do; but to what end? That, of course, is a personal decision, but I judge no one who makes it. Whether you simply hand them a phone number and walk away, or you spend years trying to help them manage their challenges, the helping enabler (and that’s what any of us who have experience with this know we are) is never to be blamed or judged. Only the suicidal addict is and should be, and that’s the problem, because we refuse to loudly do so as we must.
Notice that Sharon ignores entirely the findings of the very community she so strongly wants to defend and associate with as reported by Intervention Magazine and countless others who study the field, all of whom acknowledge the basic premise of my article; habitual users destroy the people around them to greater degrees than most ever imagine or comprehend (or care to). The vitriol Sharon expresses towards me, while applying nothing but the best of intentions to the addicted and suicidal, is completely and utterly misplaced. I make very clear the responsibility of society and decent people to help those who want to be helped. Having dealt with more addiction and suicide, mainly in my professional life, but also my personal life, I have had a front row seat to the people who treat and study (and sadly those who are ruined) and there is no light between my opinions and theirs, they just say it nicer. A lost sheep should be given a chance to find its way, the same sheep who loses its way a seconds time should perhaps (if you’re so inclined) be given one last chance, and that same sheep, upon its third relapse into darkness is ready to become wool.
I personally have paid for two people in my lifetime to go through entire rehab treatments. I have tried to help countless others, and along the way I have learned to recognize the difference between those truly seeking help and those seeking Sharon. Sharon personifies the very problem with this behavior in America and makes it worse. She also ignores the true victims; friends, family and loved ones.
Sharon’s need to make these behaviors ok, acceptable, sympathetic, et al provides the safe landing ground for those who need to ostracized and left to finally fend for themselves. True Rock Bottom.
And as for shaming those who are incapable of finding their way, I don’t do it to shame them, I do it to warn the innocent. I care far more about all of the good people who will go down the rabbit hole of despair in a desperate and, in most cases, futile attempt to help or save someone who is too far gone. If we ever find the courage in this country to truly demonize what addicts and the habitually suicidal engage in, my hope is that more of us will find the strength to say “go find Sharon, she’s the only one who will listen to you.” I am not here to enable, protect, or support the life suckers; I am here to give strength and caution to those of us who feel obligated to give up who we are to save the un-savable.
And for the record, neither then nor now, was I “coming from a place of pain become someone I know was struggling,” as Sharon wrote. Rather, I was coming from a place of total freedom and independence because the people I was talking about; the truly vile, habitually addicted, will never find their way into my life again. If a friend, family member, loved one or employee were to be found to be struggling with drugs and/or depression I would immediately help them in every way I could. And once they emerged from getting that help, I would make it clear that they had zero chances left (exactly as I have been advised to do personally, face-to-face by the finest rehab and treatment centers across the country which I sadly, have had to deal with more than most). I will always help, but I will never again become Sharon.
None of this matters, of course, since Sharon can’t read. By even alleging that our show has not used its power to break down the stigma associated with mental illness, regardless of what she thinks of my Soapbox of March 9th), shows ignorance beyond comprehension. What Sharon does is disregard the logic, the innocent, the truth, and the science and instead, she focuses on and becomes engrossed in the judgments, and what she views as totally innocent victims of circumstance. My original Soapbox was right when it was written and is right now. Sharon has been wrong her entire life; and sadly, probably will remain that way.