'Addicts Are Selfish' — Why Sympathy Should Be Shifted in Addiction-Related Deaths

Blogger Laura Madsen reflects on the heartbreaking causalities of addiction.

By Laura Madsen, The Lady in Red Blog

The title of this blog is harsh; but it rings true. 

There are two predictions we can make about most celebrities – one is that they will most likely get divorced if they marry another celebrity; and the other is that they have a high likelihood that they will die as the result of an addiction or overdose.

So when someone like Cory Monteith, Amy Winehouse, River Phoenix or Philip Seymour Hoffman (the list goes on…) succumbs to such a tragic ending, does it really come as a surprise?

Addiction is cyclical.  Someone can be sober for months or years, but that craving for drugs and/or alcohol usually creeps back up on them sooner or later.  Meanwhile, many addicts rationalize sobriety for a period of time as invincibility, and think that if they just have one drink or dabble in a drug just one time they'll be fine. 

The power of addiction is so overwhelming that it leads them back on the path they were on before, sadly.   Robin Williams comes to mind most recently when he says, “One day I walked into a store and saw a little bottle of Jack Daniel's. And then that voice – I call it the 'lower power' – goes, "Hey. Just a taste. Just one,'' he says candidly. 'I drank it, and there was that brief moment of "Oh, I'm okay!" But it escalated so quickly.'

Many times addicts will “recover” temporarily; but all it takes is the one DUI to crash their car, popping one too many pills, shooting up one too many times, that ends it all, for good.  You can just pray that they have more than nine lives, and if they don’t, they don’t take out anyone else with them when their time comes.

I think the word “recovery” is a fallacy when it comes to addiction.  Addicts don’t recover.  Addiction is not curable.  An addict’s propensity to crave their be-all-end-all drug of choice may go into remission, but they can never truly become immune to the forces of their substance desire. Addicts say that they have “recovered” before…but the inverse of that statement is that the addict has relapsed before, and chances are they will relapse again.

Addicts are selfish.  The addict that denies this is in denial that they are an addict.  Addicts know that they are not in control, and the drugs or alcohol that they can’t put down is what is in their driver’s seat.  Even if unconsciously so, they choose their vice above all else – above their friends, families, jobs, and even God when they’re hooked. 

An addict in withdrawal will do ANYTHING to get more of the juice that pulses through their veins to get them high or achieve that calm.  It doesn’t matter what the cost is to his personal life, professional life, anyone else’s life, or his life, period. 

When an addict is doing drugs or drinking, they’re not thinking of the others they love. They aren’t thinking of the tragic aftermath and how it will affect those around them, if and when they die of an overdose or an accident that results from being under the influence. They aren’t thinking of the torment that they cause the people who care about them, who have to sit by and watch them suffer every day, drinking or consuming drugs destroying their lives.  

Addicts don’t care about the fact they are pawning off the responsibility of raising children, running a household, or in some cases earning an income, on someone else. They are hooked on being high – and nothing and no one else matters.  They justify their behavior during their unsober or denial periods by saying that they need their drug, that it’s like a non-addict being deprived of the air they breathe if they can’t get their drug. (Sorry, but they won’t die if they can’t get their fix. Getting their fix is what will ultimately cause their death.) They have extreme tunnel vision that revolves around their constant craving.  This is selfish.

This selfishness should not be missed or tragedized.  Celebrities that meet their demise through addictions should not be honored and idolized.  Sure, we will miss their talented contributions to our world, and those who knew them personally may miss the sober version of them; but the reverence surrounding their drug-overtoned deaths encourages others to follow in their footsteps. Those who are easily influenced feel that they can get their 15 minutes of fame by dabbling on the drugged dark side, too.

Where was the applause for Hoffman’s sobriety?  He didn’t light up my twitter feed until his death by overdose.  He had his moments in movies, but will he be remembered more now for the way he went out than for what he did?  I don’t support honoring the addict, which historically propels them to a post-mortem popularity greater than they achieved while living. 

People can spot addicts...but many are enablers...not trying to get help to them, or get them to someone who can help.  Many friends and family are usually in denial that there is a problem when they look at a loved one with an addiction.   They don’t want to upset the addict more and cause them to dive deeper into drugs.  They are afraid of what others will think if they find out that their mother/brother/husband/friend is a “druggie”. 

They want to shelter their children from the knowledge that mommy or daddy has a problem and it’s really bad.  (My belief is that there is a genetic component to addiction, and education of children rather than camouflaging the truth about a relative with a drug or alcohol problem, is the start to making a younger generation self-aware and observant of the signs that they need help, from the first sip - or prevent that first dip into drugs entirely.)  Forcing an addict to get help is futile in most cases anyway - because if the addict doesn't want help, there's not much hope for recovery. 

The approach of “tough love” doesn’t always work.  If it does work, it doesn’t come with a permanent promise that they will never fall back on the path of self-destruction again.  Sometimes the toughest love you can give an addict is to walk away.  If they won’t make a choice, you have to – for self preservation, and in some cases, the protection of yourself and your family. 

While a choice like that seems selfish on the part of a non-addict, if an addict is not capable of seeing beyond the drinks or pills, you as the friend, the brother, the mother, the lover, the son, the wife, or the mentor can only control your own actions, and after doing what you can, hold onto the fact that you have done everything within your power to do the right thing.  

It’s ok to choose self-preservation over an addict’s selfishness.  After you’ve thrown out the half empty bottles, and flushed the pills, begged them to go to AA meetings, and feel hopeless, the only thing that you can do is take control of your own actions and stop trying to curb theirs.  It’s not fair to you to wait for the resulting abuse, the suffering at the hand of an addict, the emotional torment, the financial drain, and more. 

And if there are children involved – that’s when the protective mommy claws or the daddy fangs should come out to protect them from the disintegration that lies ahead, when the person you love isn’t that person anymore because they are a drugged up vicious version of themselves.

Addiction isn’t a celebrity disease. It affects the person down the street from you.  It’s the face of your next door neighbor or your co-worker.  It can take the form of your father or your brother.  There are so many more closet addicts who cover-up their addictions more than any of us realize, until they can’t hide it anymore because it reaches the point where the person loses control and the drugs take over. 

We just hear about the famous people crying, dying, and getting caught in the cross-fire of booze and pills because, well, they’re famous; but infamously, addiction makes its mark in the lives of many outside of the spotlight, too.

So while my heart goes out to the families and friends affected by Philip Seymour Hoffman’s death, I have a hard time conjuring up sympathy for the choices he made, and for the times that those close to him chose to brush off the fact he had a problem. 

Granted, many people who know that someone is an addict try to help, and I have respect for them and share sadness with them, too.  But there are enablers.  Enablers can be forgiven for past choices to ignore that their loved one has a problem, only if they take the toughest stance that they ever had to, and don’t sugar coat the fact that drinking in excess daily, or drugging up isn’t the norm. 

There’s no shame in calling it like it is.  If people don’t break the cycle of enabling, and instead bide their time watching their beloved addict self-destruct, the end result will break the cycle for them - when their loved one is gone, and their hearts will be broken, too.

Even if you don’t enable an addict, the choice for someone to do or not do drugs is their own.  To be the friend or relative of a do-er is not easy.  Addicts will place blame on the people they surround themselves with stating that they are the cause of their stress, their unhappiness, depression, or whatever they surmise is the cause for them to turn to drugs or alcohol. 

They will justify that their vice is the only thing that makes them feel better.  It’s not your fault.  You should never accept blame for someone else’s addiction.

When you know an addict, you have to always live with one eye open and with a doubt in your back pocket, waiting for the other shoe to drop.  With a lot of luck it won’t – but there are no guarantees.  As an addict takes their life one day at a time, we need to take theirs in the same manner, not holding onto a promise of sobriety that may never last.  Sadly, that’s probably the most sobering reality there is when it comes to addiction.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go to your home Patch site, navigate to the blogs tab, then click "start a blog." Questions? Email moderation@patch.com.

To read Laura's original blog post, click here. If you'd like updates from The Lady in Red blog sent right to your inbox, click here and select "subscribe."

Have you or someone you care about struggled with addiction? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

Julia Barnes February 11, 2014 at 09:32 PM
A lot of missing comments here.....what happened to them?
its me February 11, 2014 at 09:45 PM
Laura is not an author.. Idiot
Julia Barnes February 11, 2014 at 10:03 PM
@ it's me ...calm down..you're losing any credibility or respect you have gained here by name calling.
its me February 11, 2014 at 10:04 PM
OK ok Just stating a fact
Jim Keck February 12, 2014 at 12:12 AM
Film "Pleasure Unwoven" worth viewing http://www.instituteforaddictionstudy.com/specials.html
Zaria Zamek February 12, 2014 at 12:54 AM
Ummm....ok "it's me". Now you are calling me an idiot. You are rude and add nothing to the discussion with name calling. Insults are really pointing the finger back at you. Since Laura wrote the blog, she is an author. Since you make ignorant comments, you are not. Get your own blog, you can be an author too. Until then, perhaps your insulting comments can be over.
its me February 12, 2014 at 08:58 AM
she is not an author, she wrote a blog lol.. You freaking fool
its me February 12, 2014 at 09:10 AM
Imagine waking up with a migraine every day. Then someone brings you a pill and it takes it away - most of the time. Then, after using that pill for a while, they tell you that the pill will kill you, eventually in a decade or so. So you try to stop. But every day that migraine. I challenge you not to take that pill that gives (short-term) relief, even knowing its full (long-term) consequences.
Melinda Murray February 12, 2014 at 10:00 AM
Imagine not sleeping every night. Because every time you here a car slow down you think its a cop to tell you your family member is dead. Imagine having to pay for an alarm system because drugs have become so common place where you live, that homes are being robbed. Imagine coming home to find you have been robbed once again and you can't replace the keepsakes. Imagine being judged by a family members addiction. Imagine your child crying because he doesn't see his cousin anymore. These are all things I don't have to imagine They happened. Along with so much more. A lot of people on here are saying there is no medical research on this blog. Well put it up there please. But be mindful of where you get it from. Studies often have an outcome that suites the company doing the study. Drug court is a good one. They have a good success rate. Yeah for the time a person is on drug court. Once you are done they no longer keep track of people and that's when the numbers fall. But it is a well funded program so we keep it.
Joe Neighbor February 12, 2014 at 10:17 AM
I'm starting to see "its me"'s point because I am getting a migraine every time I see an email in my InBox from "its me." I personally think this blog post is horrible, but so is the reaction from "its me." When I see people defend the post, they are generally saying that they agree that the effects the addicts have on family and friends is horrible. Is that breaking news? I think everyone agrees with that. As children, it's easier to view the world in black and white. People are good or bad. People are selfish or they aren't. As we get older, we should learn that all people are a mix of good and bad, and they may have selfish acts and unselfish acts. Hoffman is a perfect example. I have no doubt that he put his family through a lot of pain, and I have no doubt that his loved ones miss him very much. He also touched people with his acting. When someone dies, we can feel angry, pissed off, sad, pity, joy and admiration - all at once - even for an addict. This is the human condition. We all cause joy. We all cause pain. And for addicts, they can cause some very intense pain. What I really dislike about the premise of this article is that the author suggests that when addicts die, the focus should overwhelmingly be on the selfish acts. Well if I lose an addict that is close to me or inspired me or made me feel good during the good times, I've got other things to focus on as well. And I can choose to focus on the good, without justifying the bad.
Jim Keck February 12, 2014 at 01:07 PM
"Come on a journey that could well change your life! Despite extensive neuroscientific evidence, patients, their families, employers, and policy makers still have a hard time accepting that addiction is a disorder of the brain and not just the result of bad choices..." View or buy "Pleasure Unwoven" DVD at http://www.instituteforaddictionstudy.com/products.html# You can also view much of the DVD on YouTube.
Julia Barnes February 12, 2014 at 01:55 PM
@ joe neighbor - thank you!! I couldn't agree with you more. We should be able to come here and be able to share our options logically without feeling attacked. This is such a personal and sensitive topic that effects us all in one way or another. The rest of your post was beautifully written and very appreciated.
Julia Barnes February 12, 2014 at 01:56 PM
Jeffrey Scott Wise February 12, 2014 at 02:18 PM
ignorant article by someone who has no fucking clue.
Trissie Badger February 12, 2014 at 02:31 PM
I agree that addicts can be selfish as they are so absorbed in the problem they cannot see clearly and thereby make decisions that are destructive based out of their addiction. I do believe, however that a person can be cured of addiction as I have seen it many times. People can change "with the right program." The Narconon program is living proof of this. No, it may not cure every single one, but its statistics are better than most programs and they don't use substitute drugs to get a person off drugs. They have a comprehensive approach and address other factors that led to the addiction in the first place. People CAN be cured.
Dick Kennedy February 12, 2014 at 03:19 PM
Interesting discussion! I note that the original post was clearly labeled as opinion--right after the title it says "Blogger Laura Madsden reflects....". But a good blogger backs up his/her opinions with facts and/or personal experience. This blog is notable for making many strong and absolutist statements without providing any information to back them up. Patch's decision to post the blog nationally appears justified, based on the number of comments and the fact that a significant minority expressed agreement with the blogger. The comments themselves have ranged from intelligent and worthwhile to inane and insulting. (Comments that include insults of other commenters usually are not worth reading.) The best-written comments were from Joanna, who was unfailingly articulate and polite in explaining Patch's viewpoint. One curious point is that not a single comment mentioned the drug that is one of the most addictive and that inflicts by far the most harm on society: tobacco--480,000 deaths annually, according to the latest Surgeon General's report, more than ten times the figure for all illegal drugs combined. I guess that's because the nicotine addicts, before they die, don't cause a lot of grief and disruption to their families. But their deaths are just as tragic and needless as any heroin or meth fatality. Among actors, Yul Brynner and Telly Savalas come to mind, because, while they were dying from lung cancer, both made public service announcements encouraging others not to smoke.
Eric Ocasio February 12, 2014 at 04:41 PM
This article expresses an invalid and small-minded opinion. It is a coincidence that author seems to be addicted to ranting. Besides being ill-researched this article lacks common sense--let alone sound understanding of the subject matter. I feel like the last thing modern society needs is less compassion--particularly toward the ill of mind, body and/or spirit.
Melinda Murray February 12, 2014 at 04:44 PM
Jim, there are studies that go back more then 40 years where maintenance addicts participated. You do have to dig for them and then find out weather or not they were testing for a facility that was looking for a particular outcome. Also if people died during the study, sometimes it wasn't directly from the their drug of choice so some studies counted them and some didn't. Doctors who deal with addiction, multiple drug rehabs from here to Florida and out to California. Grantees which study people who are addicted to heroin and relapse. Multiple interviews with addicts themselves through meeting with them phone and internet interviews. Last but not least police officers. And yes Jim, addicts tried and succeeded in making my life miserable for a long time. So I don't expect you or anyone to do what have done. Hell I did everything that's available through every kind of program, doctor and wild ideas out there. None of them worked. I hope no one does what I did. Each person has to want it they say. Well its the same for the family. You have to hit your bottom .All the effort has done to the weakest link for so long its hard to break the cycle. We did. We were not going to sacrifice the rest of our family or anymore of our health to keep a weak chain together. Unfortunately Jim these are real numbers. And yes they stink but they are the truth. When I started researching I was so hoping they were wrong or at least they would change after all this time. So far they haven't. And if my comment helps one person to get to there personal end of the rope with an addict they love. Then I am happy. Because it will be that much sooner that they will be better for themselves and the rest of the family. The love for the addict never leaves but you can find a place for it. Where it isn't at you and your family everyday. For me it feels similar to the death of a loved one. But that's for me. You ask my son and he say's maybe someday they will come up with something. Those conversations are very few and far between now. Best wishes to those out there dealing with an addicted love one. Hope you come to the end of your rope soon.
Melinda Murray February 12, 2014 at 06:15 PM
I'm sorry if I wasn't clear my son talks of his uncle who is my brother and my 2 nephews. My children do not do drugs thus. far.
Jn February 12, 2014 at 08:09 PM
A lot of you guys are extremely ignorant. Your backing up your "facts" on methadone studies really? Jim your just as ignorant for calling recovery "remission" that shows me you have absolutely no personal or professional experience with drug addiction. Melinda seems like all those IOP and inpatient rehabs never did much for you loved one. Hey go figure it's not like those rehabs from "Florida to California" are simply to make insurance money. Maybe your loved one never picked up a big book never got a sponsor never worked the steps. But they tried EVERYTHING right. Well I need to go get dinner with my 3 friends the collectively have over 65 years of sobriety...20+22+25...you guys sure know all the answers with your "methadone" studies...that's the sure way to stay sober oh and those very important 28 day programs hit a couple of those and you'll definitely stay sober
Melinda Murray February 12, 2014 at 08:11 PM
Jim no I have not. Remember the very first scared straight on TV. 30 plus years ago? Every one of the kids who were on that show are dead. And yes from drugs. This I know because I knew some of them. Bergen county area. I did the complete opposite. For 32 years I ran after my brother. Giving him a place to live,food rides,rehab,medical whatever didn't matter. I wanted my children to know you don't give up on family. Wanted my nephews to know I was there for them. That there father loved them. Keep him alive for them. Here is where I fear I did damage. My nephews saw the forgiveness we gave to my brother and how all things revolved around him. They became their father. And did these things with there father. My older ones just somehow got it. The 11 year old said to me when he was 9. "you let disrespect and drugs in our house". That was it for me. He was right. I was blinded by love and loyalty. The three of them are adults and made a choice. We had to make a choice and its the best one I've made in along time. My 11 year old knows you get what you give, Giving is always better and don't sacrifice All for the sake of ones bad choice.
Melinda Murray February 12, 2014 at 08:28 PM
JN, you should read all the comments on the posts before assuming where I got my information from. With all your clean time you may know my family members. One was a speaker, sponsor re-guarded very high in the 12 step program in his clean times. Seems he slipped by many of them as well.
Sara Ita February 12, 2014 at 10:37 PM
"The title of this blog is harsh; but it rings true. " rings true to who? you ? biased much ...
Sara Ita February 12, 2014 at 10:43 PM
and a chemical addiction will change the way your mind works forever... it literally changes the chemistry in your brain .. i say be mad at the the fact the person made the choice to try drugs in the first place, but not at the current state of an addict . To be chemically addicted to a drug is a horrible thing regardless if they keep getting high or not its horrible to feel trapt in a cycle the addict feels compelled and strong armed to do - what in your brief lapses of sanity beg you to stop this entire blurb is just so insensitive no one that struggles with addiction to a substance or experience enjoys it NOT to mention addiction is a disease that affects all involved yes family will be hurt but they probably wont die or end up in jail for life
Zaria Zamek February 13, 2014 at 12:05 AM
@Joe Neighbor: great comment! I enjoyed reading it. Thank you.
Zaria Zamek February 13, 2014 at 04:43 AM
@it's me: Definition: An author is a person who uses written words in various styles and techniques to communicate ideas. Hmmm...seems to me that is what the AUTHOR of the blog did. I am so tired of you and your name calling. What does that even accomplish in your mind?
its me February 13, 2014 at 08:42 AM
I'm addicted to swearing and I cant be cured
Arthur Christopher Schaper February 13, 2014 at 02:21 PM
Christ and Him Crucified grants us life and that more abundantly. The more that you receive from Him life and that more abundantly, the desire for these drugs and empty things falls away, like dead leaves off a living tree: ----------------------------------------------------------------------- errorsofaa.blogspot.com
Luke Harris March 14, 2014 at 08:05 AM
Christians are addicted to sheep
Arthur Christopher Schaper March 14, 2014 at 12:50 PM
Not really. But thanks for sharing - Baaaah!


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