To Live With an Addict Is To Live With Shame
- As an adult, it felt like someone in the passenger seat was pulling the steering wheel into the path of an oncoming truck on an unfamiliar curvy mountain road. It’s scary as shit and fraught with stress, instability and humiliation.
- As a child, it felt confusing and gross, like the unspoken elephant in the room you thought you created by bad behavior.
- In college, substance addiction didn’t look much different from substance abuse, which most of my friends identified with, myself included.
I long for the day when at least “shame” isn’t part of the addiction trifecta, but alas, this is the world in which we currently live. Shame is a worthless emotion, and right up there with guilt in my top reviled emotions. Fear is not a good motivator even if it temporarily arrests a particular behavior.
“Addict” Is Not a Dirty Word
I am quite desensitized to the word “addict” but it occurs to me that you may not be. In Drug Rehab parlance, anyone who is addicted to a substance or activity is on the addiction spectrum and identifies as an addict. At least the rehabs with which I’m familiar. There may be a caste system based on the drug of choice, but this is a social convention, not a medical or practical one. Rehabilitation centers treat all addictions the same with the same protocols. Meth addicts get the same counseling as pill poppers. Alcoholics are no better than the coke heads or gambling addicts. At least that’s the way it is in Rehabilitation World. The only distinction that matters is that some addicts can afford to get rehabilitation and the ones who can’t usually languish or die.
You can hold addicts accountable without the unnecessary (and counter-productive) element of shame. You can demand that addicts face the consequences of their actions without humiliating them. You can respond to the action, not the actor.