"Would Great Ormond Street be so attractive a cause if its beds were riddled with obnoxious little criminals that brought it on themselves?" ~ Russell Brand, The Guardian, March 9, 2013
For us, addiction is real. The Addiction is here, now, for whatever reasons it has entered our lives like a plague, a disease. And that's just the point. Addiction is a disease, not a character flaw or bi-product of inferior parenting.
To all who are at the beginnings of the journey of the self this can be a crucial bit of knowledge to embrace - crucial and difficult.
"What is wrong with us?" we ask. "What is wrong with our family that led us to this awful spiral into which our sons and daughters have plunged."
Hopefully we have moved beyond this loathing and pulled ourselves out of our self-created primordial soup of humiliation. Even so, the prevailing winds of shame swirling all around whisper, "Did you hear?"
We are in the second decade of the third millennium and the conversation surrounding addiction remains an act played out on the stage of hushed tones, insinuations and willed ignorance. It is a tragedy that we have not evolved as a society beyond our deep prejudices against addiction.
Parents of addicts who hear these hushed tones may stumble, fall or become paralyzed. We begin to doubt ourselves. Should we rush in? Should we resume our quixotic pursuit of the fix for what we have obviously caused according to society? We can hear these whispered conversations, a cruel undertone to the joyous chorus we divine as we journey along our pathways to self actualization.
Russell Brand's 2013 article on addiction in The Guardian is a supplication to the general public to understand the true nature of what has afflicted our children. Great Ormond Street he mentions has a mission to "provide world-class clinical care and training, pioneering new research and treatments in partnership with others for the benefit of children in the UK and worldwide." His analogy that brackets critically-ill children with those who have been overcome by addiction is perfection.
Why don't those "obnoxious little criminals" pull themselves up by their own bootstraps and simply get better?
This is what we're up against. This perception that addiction is a result of substandard moral fiber and the addict's conscious decision to live life in society's basement is what our children are up against.
"Have you heard? Joe and Jane's daughter is addicted to pot."
"I hear the Maxwell boy is using heroin."
We can hear them, though almost imperceptible, those hushed tones. Our children can feel them. Hushed tones prevent the conversation from ever moving to a higher plane.
When was the last time someone spoke of diabetes or cancer in hushed tones. For me it was as a child (decades ago!?) when a friend's mother was diagnosed with brain cancer. Now we rally around the families, produce enough meals for a small army, offer rides for the kids and fund raise to defray medical bills. We raise billions of dollars for the cause. We run 10Ks, do jumping jacks, walk miles and miles to nowhere, hula hoop 'til our hips hurt - all noble acts essential to finding a cure for cancer, diabetes, AIDS, MS, or any of the numerous maladies afflicting our population.
No one blames a 17-year-old who has contracted acute lymphoblastic leukemia for her struggle. Even in our most heartless and cruel moments when we look upon the plight of the overweight as a chosen pathway to diabetes we feel compelled to throw a few coins into the Lions Club basket and demand more nutritious meals for our children.
If no one is talking about my child's plight, his disease, I certainly can't share this with anyone. I am an outcast.Communities embrace a "not in my backyard" approach to addiction. If it does not affect my family, my son or daughter, it's not attention worthy.
Addiction is a terrible thing certainly, but as it affects those little addict hooligans who have brought it on themselves, who also happen to be a minority of our young-adult population, there is simply no need to address this proactively. Let those parents who are at fault deal with it.There is no reason to dwell on the drain on resources addiction brings to education, law enforcement or health care.
Addiction is everybody's problem. It is just not perceived this way. As part of our recovery as parents of addicts it is important to know this, own this, then flush it from our consciousness. We develop thick skins. We may feel alone but we can be alone together, we few, we (hopefully) happy few, we band of brothers and sisters, we parents of addicts.
We can continue our journeys, encourage and love our children while not belittling them by interfering in those victories and failures they alone must savor and endure. The hushed tones are obstacles with the same ability to sidetrack us as The Addiction. The hushed tones are however less subtle and cunning. The hushed tones are direct, mean and uninformed. The hushed tones can be a danger to our children, ourselves and society if we allow them to be.
Yet with the hushed tones swirling all around we will prevail. We will continue. We will move along our recovery pathways, our gift from the Great Creator, our blessing from our children, knowing that only our sons and daughters have the key to curing the disease that afflicts them. The Addiction IS a disease and NOT a character flaw.
Our children did not, DID NOT wake up one morning saying, "I'm gonna fuck it all up and tumble into addiction."
They didn't want the mire any more than we wanted it for them, any more than the kids at Great Ormond street or St. Jude's Hospital wanted any of the various diseases that relentlessly dash the hopes of the world's best medical minds.
Knowing this, with our hearts softened and our focus narrowed we can courageously move on. Our sons and our daughters will encounter our unconditional love as they stumble along their pathways. The Addiction can't block the LOVE forever. They will discern our purpose, our journey, off in the distance. They may feel the peace we have found and sense some of the same Universal presence that has embraced us, a calm drowning out the hushed tones with a powerful silence.
And silence, in this case, will truly be golden.
"It hurts me to hear the tone in which the poor are condemed as "shiftless," or sharing a pauper spirit, just as it would if a crowd mocked at a child for its weakness, or laughed at a lame man because he could not run, or a blind man because he stumbled." ~ Albion Fellows Bacon