Separating Fact from Fiction – Notion That We Are Victims of Addiction Is a Myth

     There are many myths about addiction. I’ve summarized several of them in older pieces such as, “Let’s Destroy Some Myths” “Let’s Destroy Some More Myths” and “Some Truths About Addiction.” One such myth becoming increasingly prevalent and dangerous to the entire idea of recovery is the notion that addiction is some sort of evil external entity that goes around randomly attacking our innocent children. I want to focus on this because it is a myth that is promoted and believed by both addicts and parents alike.

     Addicts love this myth because it allows us to manipulate our friends, families, colleagues, bosses, therapists and anybody else we need to manipulate into believing we are but poor, sweet, innocent victims of addiction and therefore cannot help robbing you, lying to you, using you, depending on you and failing in every other facet of life again and again and again. So is it because we were stricken by addiction that we rant and rave, hate everybody and cannot hold a job or pay our bills?

     “Well, you see dad, I was afflicted by this demon of addiction, so I’m a victim. It’s not my fault… and, um, one of the symptoms of my disease is that I can’t get up in the morning on time for work, and when I do show up, I need to get jammed in the bathroom and then nod off in the delivery truck, total it, and then leave the truck in a ditch and walk to the nearest payphone and use the money I stole from my asshole boss (who’s an evil capitalist who doesn’t deserve it) to pick up and get jammed again. Wish I had control, pops, but since I don’t, none of it is my fault and therefore not my responsibility. Actually, it’s probably your fault for not understanding me, yo. It’s also ’cause I’m like offended by people who disagree with me. I mean, if my safe space wasn’t violated, maybe I could stop, but… I mean, free speech is only allowed if people agree with me completely. My teacher said that anyone who disagrees with him about anything is a Nazi and we should, like, reverse offend them and like attack them and break their shit. He also said you were an idiot and like the fact that you’re breathing is a micro-aggression, dude, even though you put food on his table and co-funded the new gym and volunteered to help build the new wing of classrooms. Can get a free safety pin?”

     Lol. Right. I think it’s fair to say addiction is just the icing on the cake.

     “Son, it is not our fault. And you probably shouldn’t call anyone who disagrees with you a Nazi. And please don’t say ‘yo’ to me, especially given the circumstances.”

     “No you dumb, evil, privileged shithead, my therapist told me that it was def your fault, dad, and the f’ed up genes you and your racist ancestors gave me… and she has like a PhD in sociology too, yo (lol). She said that like I use because of all the pressure you put on me to do well in school, to work a job during the summer, to do the right thing, and to treat others as I myself wish to be treated. That’s like evil religious shit. Your beliefs about doing the right thing is oppressing me (even though you have to keep your mouth shut or face verbal and/or physical assault by hysterical, progressive thugs). I mean, anybody with parents like you guys would become a falling down drunk or a chronic heroin user! She also said that if the guy in elementary school didn’t make fun of me so much, there is a high probability I never would have become an addict, so it may have been that kid’s fault entirely.”

     “Did she say anything about all the kids and people you make fun of, or the people you physically beat up yesterday at your protest for peace, tolerance and social justice? Oh the irony.” 


     “Son, while you’re ranting and raving about your tragically naive and incoherent worldview, sabotaging opportunities we’ve sacrificed our lives for you to have, the rest of the people you loathe so much are busy keeping the world turning – fixing houses, stocking shelves, employing people. It breaks my heart that this hatred is really projection and jealousy of those who produce and create and serve. Sadder yet is the fact that you and those lunatics out there are the ones who are dividing us, sowing prejudice, causing civil unrest and threatening freedom. Please, son, I beg of you to wake up and stop being used and manipulated.”

    “F you, Dad. I’ll f’ing kill you. Madonna will blow you up.”

     “That’s nice. Good role model. Almost as good of a role model for young women as Beyonce.”

     “Can I have 20 bucks?”

     Right. To paraphrase some quote I saw recently, “If an addict likes you, you’re probably enabling them, and if they are pissed at you, you’re probably trying to save their life.” Okay, so now that we’ve blamed anything but ourselves, whose responsibility is it to get better?

     Part of the problem with this attitude is that addicts then carry their narcissism and mental derangement far into recovery, which arrests recovery entirely. We often think,  

     ‘Well, if only my mom and dad would work on their issues too, I could stay sober. If only my boss would stop being such as asshole, I could get better, but since he’s an evil, capitalist asshole, it’s no wonder I keep relapsing. If only my girlfriend would support me more and drive me to the clinic, I could get clean yo. If only people would stop disagreeing with me and thinking for themselves, I would recover, but since I get offended so much, I def have the right to keep using. If only I had a better apartment, if only the town I lived in didn’t suck, if only I could have a $25 minimum wage at taco bell, if only money could be redistributed to me since that is only fair, I’d be okay.’

     Do you see the problem with failing to take full ownership for becoming a addict, maintaining our addiction and character defects, and failing to recover? This is precisely the frame of mind that PREVENTS recovery. Only when we own all that we’ve become and all that we’ve done will REAL change, freedom, strength and success begin to manifest, both internally and externally.

     Sadly, parents also love the myth of the supposed external virus of addiction because it comforts them and confirms their narrative that the addicted child is a victim. They even blame themselves believing it’s their genes. This helps them to excuse our atrocious behavior and reckless self-destruction. Needless to say, our parents are not in any way, shape or form to blame for this, but it is natural for a parent to try to explain away the condition and behavior of an addicted child. It is natural to want to see us as victims – as if someone abducted us one day, held us down and shot us up with the disease of addiction.

     Unfortunately, none of that is true. The addicted child turned themselves into an addict, genetic proclivity or not.

     The problem is that by believing this false narrative, you do yourself and the addict a disservice. Living in a world of denial prevents you from seeing the way things are, which then prevents you from being a voice of truth and reason, which may aid or push the addict towards actual recovery if and when they come to you. It also prevents you from letting go internally and emotionally.

     But to be clear, you as parents have ZERO fault in us becoming addicts. Nothing you did or said or didn’t do or say is to blame. You are 100% faultless. We alone mutated ourselves into addicts by our own selfishness. I understand this myth may help parents to stop blaming themselves for why we became addicts, but they don’t need to adopt this myth in order to do so. In fact, the truth of us being fully accountable for our addiction excuses you from any blame far more than this myth of us somehow catching or inheriting addiction. Trust me, it wasn’t you or your genes.

     To actually develop the compulsion to drink or use, to set off any genetic “predisposition” to drink or use, we have to voluntarily put a hell of a lot of time and effort into it. Sure life is tough. Sure we suffer and struggle at times, but guess what? That is what life is. Everybody suffers in one way or another as we addicts do, it’s just that they find the strength not to cower and go down that road. We all become who and what we become all on our own.

     The funny thing is that the very thing that addicts need is the opposite of what they do. To free ourselves from our fear and depression and spiritual angst and sickness, we need to run towards tough things, not run away. We need to do what makes us uncomfortable. We need to face challenges rather than remaining isolated in our comfort zones. We need to work hard and put ourselves out there. We need to stop fighting the painful thoughts and feelings within, but rather own them, accept them, sit down besides them and let them come. By doing so, they will naturally lose power and eventually move through us and disappear. Facing reality, facing the world, and doing what makes us uncomfortable but which is good for us and others is the way to dissolve all of those things that make us weak and vulnerable to begin with.

     So we should not endorse this philosophy that we are weak and vulnerable. Addicts should not be coddled, nor should we coddle ourselves. By doing this, we are literally casting ourselves as damaged for life and crippling ourselves from achieving real strength and freedom from the chains that bind us.

2 thoughts on “Separating Fact from Fiction – Notion That We Are Victims of Addiction Is a Myth

  1. Charlie, thank you for this post. The comment about an alcoholic being angry with you probably means you're trying to save their life made me feel SO much better. You have no idea. I've long thought that the biggest part of the problem in my alcoholics life were the enablers he surrounded himself with. People who I know think they are doing the right thing by moving into his house to ensure he doesn't harm himself; or sitting outside his house all night to ensure he doesn't drive drunk; or running him around to appointments because he's too strung out to get himself there….basically mothering him. They treat him like he's a 5 year old…and he acts that way. Now his new therapist is blaming PTSD. When I asked him once – a couple of years ago – if he thought this might be a factor he was adamant that it wasn't. But now she's suggested it as an excuse (and also the potential source of significant compensation from the military) well, that's what the problem is. Only, there's no real evidence that it is. It astonishes me that the so called 'recovery experts' are just as quick to try and find ANY reason for addiction other than the obvious one – its a spiritual problem. And the way I see things now is that each of those people who attempt to protect my loved one from the effects of his drinking are actually completely disempowering him. And they hasten his journey to the grave. I try to be a voice of reason and lately I've decided that I will no longer tolerate or accept him as an addict. If he wants to communicate with me at all he can get sober first. But I know that since he has all these other people there to protect him there's no reason for him to need me any longer. And our relationship is irrelevant to him. He doesn't see it as any loss at all because I refuse to tell him what he wants to hear. I hold him accountable for his words and actions. And even though I try to do that kindly I'm still metaphorically punched in the face every time. Its taken me a long time to see just how screwed up an addict is. How their entire world view is warped. I've also taken a long time to learn not to listen to his tirades and rants about what a horrible person I am. Although each time it has happened its damaged a little more of my soul. And THAT'S what addicts never understand. They expect that everyone should understand them and their pain….without a second thought to what they do to someone else. And then you have the recovery industry telling you that \”its not their fault\” or \”remember they're sick\”. NO! Sick is being diagnosed with cancer. Sick is losing a limb. Willfully ingesting poison is not an illness. Its a choice. Every. Single. Time. And so while these people are preaching at us that we need to be \”more understanding\” they are also telling the addict that it isn't their fault. And meanwhile NOBODY concerns themselves with the collateral damage….i.e. those of us whose lives and hearts have been destroyed by an addict. The only people who should be rewarded and congratulated for surviving are the actual survivors….but that's another thing – when they DO get sober all the focus is on them and how freakin' great they are for staying sober. And so the narcissism goes on and on and on. Its always all about the addict. I think they are people who are attention whores. They want the world to notice them and look after them. And I am SO VERY SICK OF IT. Newsflash to the addicts who may read this: I didn't deserve to have my life upended by an addict. I didn't deserve to have my kindness and love betrayed. I didn't deserve to be ignored, yelled at and treated like a piece of garbage. The irony of all this is that if the addicts were treated in the way that they treat others then they'd REALLY have something to feel bad about. I've had it with all of them and their unrelenting selfishness.

  2. Amen! We just kicked our son out after the past three years of hell. He had a seizure that almost killed him trying to quit on his own. The hospital worked with him outpatient to stop and we took him back in to help him recover. He went 8 months without drinking but wouldn't go to AA or rehab. He got the bright idea about a month ago that he could be around his friends and not drink. I told him he was dancing with the devil if he did that but did he listen. Hell No! I had told him he could stay as long as he didn't drink and when I caught him he had a million excuses. My husband and I gave him one more chance because we didn't want to mess up his recovery but to no avail. I found him drunk with 8 beer cans in his bed. He had repeatedly told me that he would pay the consequences if he drank so I told him he had hit the wall and to get out. It shocked him because to my chagrin I am his main enabler. He has been out for about three weeks and calls me with horrible things that are happening. He almost lost his job, can't afford the motel, etc. I told him he had better keep the job because the next step was a homeless shelter. He says if he comes back he will be better but I don't believe a word he says anymore. My husband had a cardiac event last week and shouldn't be under stress. I told him that is it, my husband is not going to die of a heart attack because of his alcoholism. I am finally going to go to Alanon. I am as sick as he is because I am weakening and buying his bull. Please pray for me!

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