Tonight we welcome the eloquent thoughts of one loyal Stationary Waves reader who says I have it wrong. I am planning one final post on this topic. Until then, enjoy what EF has to say to me about my take on drug abuse.
I can be counted as one of the people who were “rubbed the wrong way” by your Amy Winehouse blog entry. It wasn’t so much your logic (which I don’t entirely agree with, but that wasn’t my main hang-up) as the tone of your article that offended me.
I felt that your entry oversimplified the issues surrounding self-destructive behaviours. I say ‘self-destructive behaviours’ and not just drug addiction, because if we are talking about self-destructive behaviour as a choice or a series of choices that we appreciate on some conscious level are very likely going to shorten our lives, or at least affect the quality of our lives, we should probably also consider obesity, smoking, 75 hour work weeks, etc. I get the whole ‘you’re not thinking if you’re on drugs and you’re not living if you’re not thinking’ thing, which may not make sense when we swap in other self-destructive behaviours, but your article extends more broadly than this line of rationale. When I read the following statements: “the fact of the matter is that reasonable, happy, self-confident people who are excited about life and their prospects for it don't do drugs”, and “my opinion is that drug addicts are a class of people who are mentally (not physically) incapable of properly evaluating short-run pleasure/pain versus long-run pleasure/pain,” and “because preserving one's life means consciously making self-preserving decisions (i.e. not seeking inhibited or damaged states of being)”, it seemed to me that one could easily use drugs as the X variable self-destructive behaviour. Fair enough if you disagree with my interpretation, but I’m just pointing out that this is how the article sounded to me.
People don’t always overeat or do drugs or cut themselves just because they are bored with reality and/or are too lazy to get a hobby. Some do, but others are plagued by horrible experiences that unfortunately makes it more difficult for them to make healthy life choices or even to want to continue living (ie experiencing the death of a child, or being a victim of sexual abuse, etc.). This is not to say that everyone who has had a terrible thing happen to them is helpless to overcome his or her trauma or should get some special ‘free pass’ to give up on themselves and to check out of reality—I am only suggesting that going for a run or picking up a guitar does not always solve the problem, and if we want to seriously understand self-destructive behaviours such as drug addiction, we can’t just write people off by saying ‘they were weak and lazy and chose this and therefore they need to live with the consequences of their choices and I don’t give a crap about them because they didn’t care about themselves when they were smart enough to know better.’
I appreciate that those weren’t your words, but that’s how the article sounded to me. Several statements sounded quite flippant. And the first thing I thought was, how could Ryan have known what initially caused or then sustained Amy Winehouse’s cocaine addiction? What if she wasn’t just bored with reality? And the second thing I thought was, I really hope that Ryan doesn’t have a son or daughter that one day ends up with a deadly addiction, because I don’t believe he’d stand before the grave of his dead child and think: ‘she didn’t care if she died, why should I?'
After reading the article over a few times, I thought that perhaps I was being oversensitive. But when you used the term “bipolar nutjob” in a response to a comment, I was really disappointed.
Apart from the overall tone of the blog entry, I disagree that drug addiction is (significantly more of) a mental issue and not a physical disease. It’s probably a lot easier to say no to cocaine before you try it once than it is after you’ve tried it ten times, because addiction to heavy drugs almost always has a physiological component to it. There is a program at our local hospital for volunteers to come into a darkened nursery to gently rock and console drug addicted newborn babies while they scream through their addiction pain.
Sometimes people make bad decisions. And sometimes it's a lot more difficult to crawl out of a hole than it was to dig it in the first place.