Let's use compassion to treat addiction

Whenever I’ve known someone to get into a car accident, I’ve seen enormous amounts of support: People head to the hospital in droves and offer any assistance they can.  Seeing that much support tends to fill me with belief in our humanity.  People care, it would seem, and will help the injured recover from there wounds and will do whatever is needed to ensure a speedy recovery.  There’s little doubt that the outpouring of support is helpful and therapeutic, both for the injured and for the involved families.  No one has to convince anyone that supporting an injured person’s recovery is a good thing.

However, when a person attempts recovery from an addiction, I don’t see the same outpouring of support.  What I do tend to hear is the word: responsibility.  I hear it in such contexts as, “well, it’s his responsibility to get clean if he wants to,” and, “it’s her responsibility to get help,” and so on.  And while I agree that any type of recovery requires the responsibility of following an established treatment plan, I think it’s rare that anyone recovers from anything without help from someone.  It’s just that it’s easy to help someone with a broken leg; whereas it may not be so easy to help someone who’s hurt us in some way as a result of his or her addiction.   However, I think the best way to help someone recover from an addiction is to forgive.  As a matter of fact, I think it’s our collective responsibility.

Of course, we have the option of responding to any situation with anger.  And I can understand why anyone who’s been hurt would be angry.  But, as a long-term solution, anger just leads to fear, which then leads to hatred.  Nothing good could come of hating.  Rather, it’s better that we seek to understand the monster of addiction such that then we can then understand what a substance abuser may be facing.  If we can gain understanding, then we can forgive and be a resource of comfort and safety so that healing can then begin and continue.

I believe that it’s my responsibility as a treatment provider to provide clients with as much information such that they can find their own respective paths to recovery.  It is my responsibility to meet clients where they are, not where I think they should be and it is my responsibility to engage clients from a place of compassion and not judgment; after all, no one has ever appointed me to be the judge of all that’s right and wrong.

So then, next time you approach someone in your life who struggles with an addiction to drugs and/or alcohol, try to see him or her the same way you’d see someone with an injury.  It may lead to better situations for both you and him or her.

  1. Hmm…forgive…a word to remember along with optimism. Forgive. And patience. I may not be dealing with addicts, but as I wander around here in the Internet, I also see people that have the air of pessimists. It seems hard to deal with them, and I don’t want them to affect me, so I thought that staying away from them would be a good idea. But now, I’m thinking about it…they can still be saved, so why not just start with baby steps in helping them first? Do your best and have fun, Tobby! Keep calm, look at the bright side, and friendship for the win, too!

    Hm, I do think that no one in the world would be able to improve really well without help from someone or something, or in other words: inspiration from the world around them.

    Thank you very much for this post to reflect on, Mr. Blea! 🙂

  2. Hmm…forgive…a word to remember along with optimism. Forgive. And patience. I may not be dealing with addicts, but as I wander around here in the Internet, I also see people that have the air of pessimists. It seems hard to deal with them, and I don’t want them to affect me, so I thought that staying away from them would be a good idea. But now, I’m thinking about it…they can still be saved, so why not just start with baby steps in helping them first? Do your best and have fun, Tobby! Keep calm, look at the bright side, and friendship for the win, too!

    Hm, I do think that no one in the world would be able to improve really well without help from someone or something, or in other words: inspiration from the world around them.

    Thank you very much for this post to reflect on, Mr. Blea! 🙂

  3. I found this post very moving and and honest in how it describes the treatment of and stigma relating to alcoholics and addicts. I do believe the vast majority of people look at it very simply, in that those who ‘choose’ to drink or to use in excess hurting themselves and those around them can simply ‘choose’ to stop when they want to. I have heard people suggest it’s about the indivual persons strength and willpower and as you quite rightly say ‘taking responsibity’. My own experience shows me the huge amount of strength and willpower an addict has to show on a daily basis in order to survive and without the right amount of support and treatment unfortunatly this can result in that person ultimatly losing the battle altogether and even then people say ‘Why didnt he just stop?!’.

    1. You hit it square on the head. I believe, with every ounce of my being, that once compulsion joins forces with biology, overcoming an addiction requires external resources Though many people do quite cold turkey, most do not and need support and, in some cases, medical treatment. The problem is that there aren’t enough resources to combat addiction.

      Asking a substance abuser struggling with an addiction to “choose” to stop is like asking a tree in winder to “choose” to bloom leaves. Thank you for the great comment!

      1. Thanks for sharing your latest blog, Juan. As always, your compassion rather than your judgment is apparent.

          1. Yes, I have a lot of thoughts about VAM, perhaps too many for this response, and none of them are positive. While it may look good to the public, it is a bogus form of assessment. Here in Indiana we have something similar which is called the RISE rubric. Teachers’ salaries are based partially on students’ test scores. Because of the choice of assessment that our district used (which was wholly inappropriate because it was used to show student reading levels), the teachers in Donna’s school who had previously been ranked as highly effective were only able to be ranked as effective. Both Donna and I could go on and on about this, but the bottom line is that the VAM is just one more way to push merit pay and all of its accompanying negative consequences.

  4. I found this post very moving and and honest in how it describes the treatment of and stigma relating to alcoholics and addicts. I do believe the vast majority of people look at it very simply, in that those who ‘choose’ to drink or to use in excess hurting themselves and those around them can simply ‘choose’ to stop when they want to. I have heard people suggest it’s about the indivual persons strength and willpower and as you quite rightly say ‘taking responsibity’. My own experience shows me the huge amount of strength and willpower an addict has to show on a daily basis in order to survive and without the right amount of support and treatment unfortunatly this can result in that person ultimatly losing the battle altogether and even then people say ‘Why didnt he just stop?!’.

    1. You hit it square on the head. I believe, with every ounce of my being, that once compulsion joins forces with biology, overcoming an addiction requires external resources Though many people do quite cold turkey, most do not and need support and, in some cases, medical treatment. The problem is that there aren’t enough resources to combat addiction.

      Asking a substance abuser struggling with an addiction to “choose” to stop is like asking a tree in winder to “choose” to bloom leaves. Thank you for the great comment!

      1. Thanks for sharing your latest blog, Juan. As always, your compassion rather than your judgment is apparent.

          1. Yes, I have a lot of thoughts about VAM, perhaps too many for this response, and none of them are positive. While it may look good to the public, it is a bogus form of assessment. Here in Indiana we have something similar which is called the RISE rubric. Teachers’ salaries are based partially on students’ test scores. Because of the choice of assessment that our district used (which was wholly inappropriate because it was used to show student reading levels), the teachers in Donna’s school who had previously been ranked as highly effective were only able to be ranked as effective. Both Donna and I could go on and on about this, but the bottom line is that the VAM is just one more way to push merit pay and all of its accompanying negative consequences.