Wednesday, April 7, 2010

The Serious Episode

Back in college, I took *one* acting class. (I wanted to act far more than I wanted to write expository essays on Elizabethan poetry, but I was convinced that I needed to just move to LA and do it "for real" - hence the unrelated BA degree. Sigh. *bangs head on desk*)

The instructor told us that if you paid attention, almost EVERY humorous sitcom had The Serious Episode. And it's pretty true really, especially any sitcom in the 80s or early 90s. Even Sex & the City had breast cancer, soooo it does sort of hold for a lot of funny shows. Seinfeld? Not so much.

What the hell does this have to do with rare albino rain forest chimps OR my blog?

This is The Serious blog. You've been warned.

Recently, someone very close to me was put in a position of having to help somebody else get to rehab. The addict had gone completely off the rails, badly, and my wonderful person took time, effort and care to help this addict get to treatment. Watching someone crash and burn isn't pretty. It's hard. Seeing someone reach that infamous "bottom" in their lives is very emotional, and sometimes as bad as it is, it's only a step on the way down and not even the bottom it would be for you or me.

I've written about it before and it's a subject dear and literally NEAR to Your Favorite Writer. I talked about this situation with a BFF of mine who is in recovery and we agreed that once you open your eyes to the disease, it's EVERYwhere.

There are so many people who get through the day with drinks on lunch hour, or pills in the ladies room, or a line before work, you wouldn't believe it. Maybe you know some of them, or maybe you are one of them. No judgment here homies, we're all friends in Sammo's blog world.

The truth is, you wouldn't look at someone with cancer and say, what an asshole, they really need to get it together, they're worthless, they can't hold a job, etc etc. You'd NEVER say that. You'd say, shit, they have CANCER, that must be HARD. How would I continue to work if I had cancer? That would be terrible! And you might say a prayer, or light a candle, or think good thoughts.

With an addict though, you look at the mess that INEVITABLY comes of their addiction and choices and you say, How many times does it take of: getting arrested, losing your family, getting fired, etc etc? How do they not get it?

The deal is this: if they COULD control it, they would. It's a DISEASE. That's why you see entire families ravaged by alcoholism and drug addiction. You see families ravaged by breast cancer too, but you don't judge it the same way.

The behavior that comes with addiction is what's so easy to judge. I've been lied to by addicts, cheated on by addicts, stolen from by addicts, and put in danger by addicts. It's easy to blame the person and not the disease that's running the person. The only thing that YOU can do is LOVE the addict in your life, and offer help when it's WANTED.

Recently, I saw Dr. Drew (whom I desperately WANT to dislike, yet can't) talking about (and I'm paraphrasing here) how the idea of an addict crying for help is laughable. They don't cry for help unless their lives have spiraled so out of control they either realize it and know they need help, or they're forced into seeking help by the court system, etc. Addicts will self destruct *every single time* until they accept they have a problem and need help getting it.

Addiction is a disease that touches everyone by extension. If you live with one, you become part of their world. You set boundaries that are broken; you might hide liquor bottles, or threaten divorce if they don't get sober. You might wait years, or a lifetime, hoping for that "moment of clarity." It might come, it might not. Every year, drug and alcohol addiction kills more people than cancer. More people than car accidents. More mothers, father, sons and daughters than you'd imagine.

If you know an addict, love them, reserve judgment, and stay concerned, but detached. Their battle is theirs, not yours. If you are an addict, there is help and you only have to seek it. Millions of people live successfully and well in recovery. It is a battle that CAN be won. ONE DAY AT A TIME.

I believe firmly in the 12 steps which of course begins with step one: Your addiction has control and your life has become unmanageable.

Acceptance, they say, is the hardest step. Addicts almost always think they have things under control. I only drink after work, I only take this many pills, so-and-so is an addict, NOT me. Realizing that you don't have anything under control is the hardest part, but can be the turning point.

I just urge everyone to open their eyes, their hearts and minds to this disease. Make a difference by loving someone who is fighting drug or alcohol addiction. They're some of the best people I know.

Comments, questions, whatcha got for me?