Monday, July 25, 2011

Every One is Someone's Child

It seems that in the media spotlight there are always public figures behaving badly, Hollywood superstars partying too hard, Rockstars found dead or near death due to drug overdoses etc while in the smaller print are our local folks sometimes doing all those same things. It's easy to judge, it's easy to say "THAT would never happen to ME" , "No one in MY family would ever do THAT" but really is it our place to judge?

Amy Winehouse was found dead this week... guesses are she is probably dead from a drug overdose or likely some related cause to her well known drug and alcohol problems. While it's hardly surprising that she has succumbed to her addiction is it really our place to judge? Is it really our job to decide she "DESERVED" such an end?? I have seen some pretty ugly comments about her just as we see any time someone in the public eye dies of such a tragic cause. Our first reaction is that somehow the addict had it coming; they made a choice to put a harmful substance in their bodies to excess. Addiction is a disease, a PHYSICAL compulsion for THE thing that we can no longer handle alone. The saddest part of addiction (in my opinion) is that often the behaviors that accompany the worsening addiction often alienate the very support system that a person needs to overcome the disease.

Fifteen or so years ago Kurt Cobain was found dead of an apparent suicide. His drug and alcohol addiction was also well documented. I remember thinking as I looked at my very young children that the worst outcome of his death could be for him to be made into some sort of folk hero. I didn't want his death to be so romanticized that other young people would want to emulate his life and even worse his death. Many years later my second daughter, Anna, is fascinated with Kurt Cobain but fortunately not in a way that makes me fearful. She feels cheated, sad and angry that he squandered his talent and died too soon. She feels angry that the world pulled at him so much, everyone wanting a small piece of him until he felt there was nothing left for himself. She feels sadness that his daughter is growing up without her Dad, and with a Mother who is drug addicted and therefore unavailable to her.

I have people in my extended family that have struggled with alcoholism, with drug addiction, with other addictions to harmful substances and behaviors. Some found ways out, some died of their addictions, and some are forever changed by their disease. I made a comment this week on a friend's Facebook page that I felt that most of us are addicted to something. Some of us are "lucky" that our addictions are more socially acceptable such as food, money, attention. Some of us may even feel arrogant about our addiction and that it doesn't hurt anyone. Addiction is a disease that causes the sufferer to put "THE" substance ahead of everything else, they are driven to that one thing to the exclusion of everything else, they don't care how much it hurts other people because for however short the time they feel better, they feel in control and the world is ok. In the light of day they may see how destructive their illness is and they may ask for help. They may even ask for help over and over and over and still not make it out of their disease. They may lie, cheat, steal and hurt other people to gain access to "THE" substance. I had one family member on the occasion of another's death from addiction assure me he was OK... that he wasn't using and had cleaned up his act. He was dead just a short time later from the same disease.

All of these people are someone's children. Heaven help us all if we can't truly be sorry for another person's child's death!! They were all once tiny babies at their momma's breast, their tiny hands held on to Daddy's as he helped them take their first steps and all the other things that children do during the course of growing up. NOTHING makes them less their parents' children. I pray that none of my children struggle with addiction. I pray that if they do that I am able to find them the right treatment and support. I pray I never receive a phone call as Amy Winehouse's parents did this week to tell me my child is gone. I pray that the world might be a little more kind when such a tragedy occurs. I can only imagine the agony these parents have endured for many years and how much I am sure they wanted to help their child. According to reports she tried treatment many times so it's clear (to me at least) that she wanted help and wanted to win her freedom from her addiction. I am not sure I understand the feeling that whenever something tragic happens that we must assign blame. We are all human, we all fail each other in some way. We could all stand to be a little kinder along the way!