Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Demonizing those who struggle with addiction.

So this is happening in my county right now....the superintendent of schools was arrested in June for a dui.... .16 bac. That time, because of his position in our small county, he was not kept in jail, was not booked until about 4 weeks later, and they called his wife to come and pick him up. Fast forward to early Nov. He was just arrested a second time, after crashing his truck during school hours with a bac. of .19. He is an elected official so they can not fire him. He was offered treatment but denies having a problem. His attorney presented a monetary offer to the board for him to resign.... he leaves his position having made for this year, including his severance package, 300,000 dollars of our tax dollars.

There has been so much discussion about this situation on our county pages on FB. Lots of holier than thou postulating about what should happen to him, how he is such a poor example for the kids....although I don't know of any school aged kids who even know who the superintendent of schools is, but technically, that is true.....his behavior has been a poor example. He has shown tremendous poor judgement.

What has struck me is all of the talk of tough love. The seething rage toward him. Any mention of him being really stuck, or really sick right now, of course, by yours truly and a couple other lone voices.....has been met with such vehement outrage and talk of enabling and making excuses for his poor behavior. One woman asked me, "How would you feel if he had hit one of your kids and killed them?" UGH....I don't know.....I would hope I could forgive him for my own sake.

The large amount of money, the threat he posed to the public's safety...all of which are very true...are the reasons given for this intolerance, not just of driving under the influence, but of him as a person. He needs tough love, we can't enable him...one gentleman is determined to "raise his bottom." How, I don't know...it seems that he is using the public humiliation factor.

I asked.....what if we hold him accountable, he pays all of his fines, serves any time in jail that he needs to, he will probably be court mandated into some form of treatment or show that hes going to meetings or something, whether he wants to or not....what if we make him suffer the natural consequences, but we are kind to him? What if we don't call him names on social media, or post derogatory cartoons about him, what if we consider that he or his wife could be reading these comments, what if we step back and allow him the dignity to figure this out with the guidance of the court system and any court appointed treatment?

I am surprised by the prevalent voice being, in essence, "Stone him!"

Then on the flip side, it came out that our most known mentally ill resident...he has stood in front of our McDonalds for years, rocking and talking to himself, had all of his stuff stolen. So everyone pooled together to get him a new change of clothes, a new sleeping bag, some food gift cards, socks, a new walkman with batteries and even a simple weatherproof tent with a tarp, to sleep in.  We all buy him food and get him coffee each day and call him by name, and have for years. He sleeps up the street, behind a store...by his own choice. He feels safest there.

So what is the difference between this ill gentleman and the ill superintendent of schools? Why the disparity in treatment?

Addiction/alcoholism  is still presently viewed as a moral choice. Mental illness is something that you are the victim of. This has to change. The shame, the stigma, the spiritual walls, the judgement...it all needs to come tumbling down so everyone can heal....the afflicted and the families of the afflicted....

Happy Thanksgiving everyone.....Much much love to all. My big boy will be home the day after Thanksgiving and I will have all of my girls with me tomorrow. I will try to get a family picture to share....

Annette

7 comments:

Dad and Mom said...

This is a good post.

As you know and wish more people knew, addiction, alcoholism and mental illness respects no boundaries. You stature, rich, poor, young, old, man or woman, nothing matters.

It is time we drop the stigma so that we can begin to help people instead of persecuting them.

Birdie said...

Public shaming has gone way too far. I think of the dentist that killed the lion a few months ago. I personally find what he did reprehensible but he is just one man. How many others out there are doing the same thing? Same as this many with this man and his DUI's. How many of these people wanting to stone him will go out and do the exact same thing tonight?
But here is where I will be the devil's advocate. Curious what you think. When I was a teenager one of my best friend's mother was hit by a drunk driver. He left the scene of the accident, went to the nearest pub and continued drinking. She has spent the rest of her life in a wheelchair, has a brain injury and has not been able to care for herself since. The family had to sell their home because it was not barrier free. Her marriage eventually ended. She lost the job she loved and the income as a school bus driver. The driver was never charged with DUI because they couldn't prove it. He didn't think he had a problem. I am not sure what love and understanding can do in a situation like this. He showed no love. He showed no understanding. Her life was destroyed. His life continues, sad as it is.
The driver you speak of is not appearing to show any concern or remorse for his behavior. I think I can understand the anger that people are showing but think the public shaming is not necessary. What is the right way to deal with this? Or is there are right way?
What do you think?
xo

Annette said...

Oh don't misunderstand me....I think he totally should have been booked that first night, spent the night in jail, had an arraignment hearing in his orange jumpsuit....like every other drunk driver. I think our City officials were classic enablers in this situation. I think he should suffer every consequence of his actions. Kindness does not equate to condoning, dismissing, or enabling. What I would hope for is to see generalized concern for his wellbeing and healing. An acknowledgment than none of us are above getting stuck in a behavior. Compassion. An understanding that when in addiction terrible things happen.

Birdie said...

Life is so crooked. It would be so nice if it were just a straight line and everything had an easy answer.
Addiction is so very hard at the best of times. Throw in a DUI in there and it gets so complicated. A friend of my husband's lost his license while driving drunk. It end up costing him thousands of dollars. It appears he learned his lesson because though he still drinks he doesn't drive afterwards. But that is just one small part isn't it? He may not be driving be he is still so sick with the disease.

Mary Christine said...

Having spent the majority of my life working with the mentally ill, I can tell you there is plenty of stigma. And listen to the rhetoric about guns/mental illness being blamed for all of the problems of the world.

I fell ln love with a man after he had a very public fall from grace following his alcoholism affecting his elected position. They were going to recall him, and he resigned before that happened. His life was RUINED. Trashed. He was dead from mysterious causes within a couple of years. It was so sad. He was a wonderful man, as many alcoholics are.

Many alcoholics are incapable of remorse until they get sober. And it may take years.

I wish people would just tone it the hell down. Public outrage is not productive.

SoberMomWrites said...

The difference? Money. People want to help those less fortunate but hold disdain for those they perceive as more fortunate.

What the untrained heart does not see is that addiction is the second greatest equalizer. It does not discriminate.

The greatest equalizer? Death.

Eliseo Weinstein said...

Arrested for DUI the first time, I guess we all make mistakes. Then this teacher of children, is busted a second time, I say he loses his job and sits in jail for a long time rather than his wife being able to just pick him up. I think the DUI laws are too lenient in this country to begin with.