It takes no prisoners. The death of Charles Kennedy last week reminds us of that. It isn’t picky or selective, it doesn’t discriminate. Give it an inch and it will take a trip round the planet and then some. Mr Kennedy has been remembered for his achievements in politics, for his amiable style and humanity in an hostile playing field. And so he should be. Any death through addiction is a tragedy.
It is so misunderstood. So easy to judge. As if the homeless alcoholic on the park bench somehow thought that alcohol would be a good career choice. Or the heroin addict gouging out in a derelict tower block surrounded by dirty needles and other peoples urine, somehow saw it in a film aged 7 and aspired to be just like that when he grew up.
No. It is not a lifestyle choice. It happens to some and not to others. Like diabetes or cancer, some suffer addiction. Sadly it is a disease with impossible demands. The insatiable need for more, and more. There are a few who can afford the financial demands, there are none who can afford the eventual consequences.
For those who can’t afford the financial demands, options are bleak and the resulting behaviour is often difficult for others to stomach. So we judge.
I don’t for a minute condone certain behaviours. Some have suffered horrendously at the hands of others who are in addiction. It’s truly tragic.
It’s all tragic. But there is no choice. Affordable or not, wise or foolish, the need for the next drink, smoke, score always wins out. Some will be remembered well. But for those who had to resort to stealing, manipulation, prostitution, to sustain a behaviour they hated themselves for; they most likely will be remembered for those things. Again, tragic.
It is easy to see behaviour we don’t like or understand and cast our judgement. Addiction is perhaps so misunderstood because of the behaviours it often leads to. But most of us try a drink at some point. So understand this; if you don’t suffer the horror of addiction, then it is merely that when you took your first drink, you played Russian roulette and won.
Addiction is not about poor will power or having an immoral bent. For about 10% of the population, substances in the body have far more dire consequences than for the rest. It is nobody’s fault.
This blog feels perhaps that it may be asking a lot in terms of challenging our attitudes around those who suffer with addiction, especially if you have been the victim of addiction driven behaviour. But mostly I urge compassion. Charles Kennedy is warmly remembered. He could afford his drink but paid with his life.
Perhaps with compassion will come patience, and with that a little understanding.