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Saturday, May 11, 2019

Caring means sharing: Do Troubled People Care?

In this life, I think everyone has run across people who are troubled or tormented, perhaps maybe even themselves or a close family member or friend. We've all heard the arguments, "pro" and "con", defending and condemning people with hangups and addictions.  By "pro" and "con", I mean arguments that seemingly 'defend the addict' vs. those which seemingly 'condemn the addict', but I digress. These positions boils down to whether you choose to focus on placing blame and culpability on the troubled person OR whether you chose to focus on understanding what is troubling them. I believe it is not an either/or. I believe there is room for both culpability and understanding. One particular perspective that has grated me over the years is this: If he/she cared enough... I will dive into that perspective later, but first let me introduce the culpability/blame vs. understanding model (using arguments I've seen, heard and thought of) and see where I end up.

Culpability/Blame Model
  • If she hadn't taken that first drink...
  • If he hadn't abuses his medicines...
  • If she hadn't gambled away his money at risk at the casino...
  • If he/she cared about his/her family than his or her own 'happiness'...
  • If it (family/friends/job) were important enough for him/her.
  • He is not really trying...
  • She is trying to avoid getting in trouble...
  • He is making excuses...
  • She doesn't care...
  • I've faced adversity and didn't need a crutch....

Understanding Model 
  • She grow up in a rough home...
    • Poor
    • Abusive
    • Addictive/codependent family.
  • He didn't know his dad, mom, ...
  • The 'role models' she did have taught her the wrong lessons...
  • He was taking addictive pain meds for an injury and got hooked...
  • She was just trying to cope with adversity in childhood, young adulthood, etc...
  • He had no way to know or no one to tell him that that the path and/or friends he was choosing were risky...
  • She never meant to hurt anyone...
  • It may seem obvious to us, but to someone his circumstance...

To a 'blamer', the addict is intentionally engaging in destructive behavior for their own selfish desires with callous disregard for how it affects others.  They might see steps taken by the addict to get sober as half-hearted or insincere.  They might view such efforts as a way to avoid having to face punishment.  In short, they believe the addict is totally about themselves.  In short, when others say an addict doesn't care about others, they mean he or she is pretty much a jerk without a conscience. 

To "understanding person", the addict is a person caught up in his or her own personal struggles.  The addict can be in their 'sober' moments is capable of being a compassionate, caring, loving, thoughtful person.  However, the addict, when their addiction takes hold, when they are triggered, are overwhelmed by their 'needs', by withdrawal, by unbearable impulses, it is not necessarily that they don't want to exclude considering others, but they are overwhelmed by their addiction.  In other words, it's not that they wouldn't want to care, but they are not in a good place.  In some ways, it can be a vicious cycle, their addiction has caused harm to themselves and others.  Realizing this in their sober moments can be overwhelming and further push their addiction cycle.

--

From what I see, it's not always clear-cut like.  It is not always, blame/shame the troubled person or understand them.  We must consider a few things first.

  • Has the person been clinically diagnosed?
    • Is their behavior indicative of a sociopath?
    • Is their behavior indicative of an addict?
    • Is their behavior indicative of having another mental disorder?
  • Has the person tried to get help?
  • Has the person shown in their more lucid moments regret or remorse?
  • Has the person shown a cold, calculating, planning side or do they seem in the grip of something?
  • Has the person ever had a good role model to give them a reference point?
  • Has the person ever been given the tools they needed to help themselves or to deal with damage done?

I guess my take has always is this
  • People, whether their legally/morally/ethically troubling behavior is a result of hurt/addiction or just a callous disregard for others, they still have to face the consequences of it.   You can be understanding of how their behavior or actions were born and what they are driving by, but ultimately it cannot go 'unpunished'.
  • People often have points in their life in which they have a choice and make the wrong choice, like taking the first drink or hanging out with people their better judgment tells them not to.  Choices like this can put us on a bad path and they need to own it. But we should be clear that sometimes the extent of the poor choice is it or wasn't isn't totally clear to them at the time.  I'd venture to guess that many who smoke that first cigarette or joint or take that first bottle, for example, envision the lifelong struggle they are submitting to. 
  • If their behavior is a result damage done to them and/or an addiction born out of coping, consequences should include an intervention by mental health professionals or a program designed to help such people.  If their behavior is born out of a callous disregard for others, no capacity to have any empathy, even when 'sober', then the problem is larger than an addiction.
  • If they were put in a circumstance in which 'they never had a chance', that should be taken into account before deciding they are 'irredeemable'.  That is to say, they never had a chance to develop good coping skills.  Still negative behavior should have consequences regardless.
  • Understand that it is easy to label people troubled by addiction as not caring about others or not wanting to get better bad enough or whatever.   Sometimes that might be true.  Sometimes when given a chance, they do prefer their lifestyle.  Sometimes they just may be too broken to easily help themselves or for that matter help or 'care' about others. In other words, the weakness of their emotional state in conjunction with the nature and strength of their addiction is just too potent a combination to easily rebound or recover from.  

I believe most people have some good in them.  In the movies, Anakin Skywalker (aka Darth Vader) had been a caring young boy and caring young man before he was seduced by the Dark Side of the Force.  But as his son Luke had suspected and discovered in The Empire Strikes Back, deep inside his tormented suit, lived a good man who was seduced and addicted.  It took seeing the Emperor attempt to kill his son, to push him to overcome.  So, before we write off those who struggle with and succumb to addiction even to the point destroying themselves let's look a little deeper.  Like the Emperor, they truly may not care and love that which it brings them. Then again they may be the tormented soul that is Anakin, who wanted to do the right thing but caught up as a result of his struggle and fears and ended up doing the wrong thing.

Just my some thoughts.  Apply them as needed.

Yours truly,
Rich

--

It's true I did extend the invitation
I never knew how long you'd stay
When you hear temptation call
It's your heart that takes

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