Everyone has a story worth telling. Everyone has a scar they won’t talk about.
It is pain that connects us all, whether the pain is different or not. That is why I lose my shit when I hear comments that are quite possibly said to diffuse or deflect or to offer some misguided comfort, that are along the lines of: “Just don’t do drugs and you won’t die” or “Make better choices”. Holy shit! Really? Is that the answer all this time? Why thank you, ignorant person. All this time I had no idea! Without you and your sanctimonious knowledge of all things high and mighty, I would never have guessed that my horrible choices could have been so — horrible.
Okay, I might be a bit testy as I have personal issues at stake with addiction and mental health issues, as well as the death of loved ones gripped by substance abuse; but I am pretty sure no family member who has just lost a child or sibling or parent, is comforted in the knowledge that had their loved one just simply abstained from drugs they would still be alive. The polarizing belief that addicts are bad people and in the end, get what they deserve, is the very reason so many don’t get help. When I say ‘addict’ I am not just talking about the strung out, sad strangers I make eye contact with in Vancouver’s Downtown East Side or the meth heads wreaking havoc in my home town. I am talking about the teenagers wanting to try mushrooms and pop some E at a rave. I am talking about all of us weekend warriors who might hit the bar on a Saturday night with some blow in our pocket or those of us who like to smoke a joint on our patio after a long day at work. All of the hard-working, busy parents who like to get together and play drinking games every Friday night while the kids play video games in the basement. Seems pretty harmless, doesn’t it? I am sure many of you are thinking I am wrong. That I am not describing people who would ‘die’ because these choices aren’t really that bad; especially the ones with alcohol because it’s legal. So it MUST be okay, then. Before you dismiss my words and maybe click off this post, I challenge you to think the unthinkable. Just for a few seconds. Imagine that the next phone call you get is one every single person dreads. Imagine the call you take is the one that tells you your spouse or sibling or, the most horrific of all, your child, has just died.
Let it sink in. Maybe its accidental. Most of them are.
Doesn’t really make a difference, does it? Doesn’t help the pain that suddenly grips your entire body and causes you to sink to the ground unable to move or breathe or even scream. So would it help to point out to you that had your loved one not touched that joint or popped that pill, or snorted that one last line, he or she could still be here? I am guessing it wouldn’t. Actually, I’m not guessing. I KNOW it wouldn’t. Because I have been there. More than once. The loss of loved ones so fucking dear to me it rips my heart out just typing about it; and yet, I have had to endure cruel words (whether they were well-intentioned or ignorantly self-righteous) from people who were strangers, and sometimes people I’ve had in my life for decades. I believe that drugs and drug addiction are the only things we as a society feel are absolutely fair game for judgement and the biggest excuse to lack compassion where compassion is truly needed the most.
The fact that abstaining from drugs is the greatest way to stay alive is absolutely correct. Of course it is the easiest way to NOT die. Or at least, not die from an overdose or some other tragic event that the lifestyle encompasses. I also believe people can form their own opinions and believe what they want to. But here is a novel concept: sometimes we should keep that shit to ourselves.
The next time you find yourself wanting to say something trite but true, ask yourself these three things:
- Is it necessary?
- Is it kind?
- Is it helpful?
If you find that it isn’t any of those things, perhaps you could keep that mind-blowing concept to yourself, especially when it comes at a time when a person is grieving or trying to grapple with a life-altering situation. *
Armed with that knowledge, and the awareness that people are just people, with scars they hide and hearts that can break, I try to be mindful that we truly are all the same underneath, with varying strengths and weaknesses that make us or break us. In those times where we break, reach out to someone. And to those you see breaking, reach out to them. The world could use less truth in the form of judgement and more compassion and understanding. And to all of you who are suffering or grieving, know that you are not alone. Your story is worth telling.
*this concept came from a dear friend of mine who is wise beyond her years.