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.