Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Everyone's Paradigm is Paramount

Self-righteous: confident of one's own righteousness, especially when smugly moralistic and intolerant of the opinions and behavior of others.

I am a self-righteous person. My mom's been accusing me of being so since I was a little girl. And for just as long, I've denied it.

But not anymore. I can and will accept that when I feel strongly about something, I can be so over-the-top self-righteous in proving my point, that I end up angering and alienating people. I think-scratch that-I know I am right and will stop at nothing to convince others to join me on the enlightened side.

This is not a positive character trait. But guess what? I'm not the only self-righteous person out there.

Two days ago I wrote a blog post expressing my frustration about a comment I'd heard on CNN comparing the disease of addiction to the disease of cancer.

Since then, I've been accused of not only being self-righteous but of also being ignorant and unsympathetic about what it means to be an addict. I tried to explain the reasoning behind my opinions (which I understand are just that -my opinions- and not truths). The response? Nothing.  Unless you count the name-calling, insults, and accusations. Then I guess it is something.

Which leads me to believe this: y'all are just as self-righteous as I am.

And that's ok. That's who you are. That is who we all are. We all have our own personal sets of morals, beliefs, and ideas about what is right and what is wrong. These paradigms are based on what we've heard, what we've read, what we've seen, and what we've lived though.

What's more is that in our minds, these "rules" seems so perfectly logical to us, that we can't imagine that anyone else could ever possibly have a different opinion.

The most simple analogy is this: think about the food you hate the most. For me, it's sushi. I hate it so much. It physically makes me feel nauseous when I watch my kids eat an entire meal of sashimi. I can't imagine how they could possible love something so disgusting. But they do. And it's not up to me to change their minds and vice versa.

Somehow I've come to accept that my kids love sushi while I hate it and we've agreed to disagree. Unfortunately, life is not that easy. I am disappointed in myself that I can't translate that same level of acceptance to my beliefs about stuff like Rob Ford, the envirornment, the teaching profession, and of course, addiction.

I really do think that addiction is a terrible disease. I also believe that some people are born with a disposition towards addiction. And I also believe that most of those people are not aware of this disposition and thus, are much more vulnerable to "contacting" the disease of addiction. I believe that once people are addicted, whether it's to drugs, sex, gambling, shopping, or even food, it is next to impossible to quit. I believe that addiction falls under the category of mental illness and should be treated as such. I believe that those suffering from addiction deserve our support, our help, and our empathy.

What I don't believe is that those afflicted by addiction are absolved of all responsibility when it comes to getting better.

I don't believe that addicts are powerless against their vice.

I don't believe that a heroin addict who happens to be a brilliant actor is any better than the crack addict selling her body for a fix.

I don't believe that the disease of addiction can be compared to the disease of cancer.

And this is where self-righteousness fits in. You have your beliefs and I have mine.

I am a Special Education teacher and when students tell me they can't do something because of their learning disability or their ADHD, I tell them that that's not an excuse, but rather it's the reason why they're going to have to work harder than most for the rest of their lives. And that sucks. It really sucks.

It's the same with addicts. It isn't their fault that they're addicts. But addiction isn't an excuse for doing drugs or drinking or gambling. It's the reason they'll have to work harder than most to live an addiction-free life.

I will admit that while I've read a lot about addiction, people's experiences with addiction, and even experienced addiction, I still don't really understand it. I don't think that any of us who aren't addicts can. But what I do know is that drug and alcohol abuse is one of the saddest, scariest things I can imagine. It is literally the most intense fear I have for my children and something I talk with them about so much so that  they're sick of hearing it. If, as a parent, I accomplish nothing more than keep my kids from ever abusing drugs or alcohol, then I'll know I did my job.

I can't watch shows like Intervention and Hoarders because to me, it's belittling that the lifetime of pain and sadness addicts and their families suffer is condensed into little more than 30 minutes of entertainment for the rest of us. I can't listen to songs like Your Love is a Drug by Ke$ha because it seems wrong to compare something as serious as drug addiction to romance. I can't even stand to watch movies and TV shows that have graphic drug use because of the intense anxiety it causes me.

I hate addiction. I hate what it has done to the people I love so much. I hate the helpless feelings I have when I can't make them better. I hate that in order to cope with the overwhelming sadness, fear, and anger I have towards this disease, I shut down and come off as a cold, uncaring, and judgmental bitch.

So maybe I am self-righteous. And maybe I'm even ignorant. But don't, for one single second, tell me I don't care. Because I do. More than you can ever understand.

I discussed this issue with a good friend today and she summed everything up in one simple sentence:

There is a fine line between empathy and excusing; and excusing leads to enabling.

I'm on the empathy side.  Are you?


  1. Thanks Cayla for including me in your blog. I actually can't believe I have time to read it but I wanted to see what you are writing about so I took the time and read it. I think its great that you are sharing your thoughts and encouraging dialogue. I couldn't agree with you more. Empathy and enabling are too different responses. One can have empathy but it doesn't mean they have to enable someone to stay stuck. From age 17-23 I suddenly starting having grande mal seizures for no reason. My parents wanted me to take medication. Everyone kept telling me I should take drugs to help my condition. But I had my own understanding of what was happening to me. I felt I had to take control of my body, my life, stress, and the over sensory stimulation that was attacking my senses. I felt I had to find my center and build strength and have a healthy nervous system. So I took up yoga and started to do dance and get into the healing arts. My seizures stopped and never came back. I became a yoga teacher and dance therapist. I took control of my disease and never let people convince me that I would be sick forever and helpless. We have an incredible innate power to heal. Even today I have a back spasm from teaching a yoga class today. It hurts. But I am finding other ways of walking in the meantime,even if I have to crawl myself around my living room. I can't judge Philip Seymour Hoffman and what he was going through. But the tools for healing are all around us and despite our illnesses, we must strive to try to heal and never make a person feel that they are incurable. All the best. Kim Kinneret Dubowitz

    1. Thanks so much for sharing such a personal story with me. I really appreciate your point of view as it demonstrates the inner strength all of us have inside...no matter how buried it may be.

    2. Oh what a martyr