One of the positive by-products of a celebrity’s death due to drug use is the critical re-examination of drug laws and societies general attitudes towards drug use and addiction. Many people have been using the death of this man as a platform to call for greater support and understanding of addicts, and I think that is both sad and yet positive. I am a strong supporter of decriminalizing drug use and trying to support users and addicts rather than punish them so things that help people see addicts as potentially positive contributors to society instead of a plague of dirty, nameless, faceless, homeless, less-thans are good. People liked and respected this actor and so seeing him die due to drug addiction gives the compassion-team more leverage. Kudos. (In a twisted way). But I think that at times addiction-advocates go too far. Currently the internet is filled with pity articles saying that people do not understand how terrible addiction is, that it is not selfish nor the fault of the addict, and even blaming NA and sponsors for not properly caring for their charges. Basically, people tend to go over the edge and tip the scale. Addiction is a disease… therefore an addict cannot be blamed for their actions.
I call bullshit.
Yes, addiction is a disease. There are those of us who will never understand the mental and physical torture that an addict suffers. However, even when you have a disease you are still ultimately responsible for the choices you make regarding that disease. Addicts CAN be selfish. They CAN make selfish decisions. Why is that important? Because if you fail to make that distinction of responsibility then you fail to recognize the hard work involved in the thousands of addicts who choose to get clean and stay sober. You minimize their struggle. “Oh, if you CAN get clean and do not tragically die of an overdose then you weren’t a REAL addict… not like the addicts who CAN’T gain control.” Yes, addiction is a disease. That does not mean that we need to make it a free pass to selfishness. It does not mean that we need to blame society and the individuals surrounding (and trying to support) an addict for their failures. Yes, society could be more supportive. Let’s fight to make those changes. But at the same time let us be realistic about addiction. Let us recognize those currently in the struggle. Let us help others. And, let us recognize that there are some people who do not want help, who are ultimately, yes, selfish.