Recently I spoke with a woman who was frustrated with her loved one, who she claims is “an addict”. She talked about how she had tried to help this ‘addict’ countless times, but he did not get better. She said, “He blames everyone else for his problems”, qualifying the statement by telling me “That is just what addicts do – they blame everyone else. They are selfish people.”
How sad I thought, that her impression of people with addictions, is so negative. I wonder if she had ever analysed the ways she tried to help this person. Did she give him ultimatums or conditions? Did she give him money or shelter or bail him out of jail? Did she ever ask him what he needed to get better? Did she listen to him? Did she love him unconditionally, sit with him or hold space for him? Did she give him compassion? Or, did she just judge him because he didn’t respond the way she expected.
I also found it ironic that she was blaming him for his addiction and his behaviour, not knowing what the cause of his addictive behaviour might be. Did she know his personal traumas? Did she know the chemical make-up of his brain? Did she know what it is like to walk in his shoes…. truly what it is like to be him and not what she assumes he should be thinking or doing?
In my experience, “addicts” are some of the most amazing, compassionate and resilient people on earth. In many cases, these people are desperately trying to find ways to deal with their problems, yet lacking the experience, support and love to do so. Addiction can affect anyone, not just selfish people. Addiction is a faulty way to deal with pain and there are a variety of stages involved. Some people die from addiction and others learn from it and evolve into happier and healthier lives. Regardless of where people are at on the spectrum of addiction, I have noticed that addicts all have something in common: vulnerability. People with addictions know they are not perfect, and they have a beautiful humility that connects them to others in a genuine way.
As a recovery coach and counsellor, and as an addict, I have had the privilege of spending my time with all kinds of people with addictions – people who are trying to help themselves. These people are going through some of the toughest times of their lives but still find it within them to reach out and support someone else. They are far from selfish.
I have also spent plenty of time in my life with people who are addicted, yet not in recovery. These people may be in denial or may never address their addictions. These people know on a root level that they are not perfect as well. They carry this humility, but it shows up in different ways. They might be more apt to project than to be vulnerable, but on some level, they know they are one of us.
If you are free from addictions, I expect you are not free from problems. Certainly, everyone is fighting a battle of some kind. Wouldn’t it make more sense that we try to see ourselves in other people and dig deep to find some compassion for each other? Essentially this is all I am asking in the blog: Know that we are all the same. The addict is no more selfish than the non-addict. We are all trying to live, love and be loved.