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This is not one of those posts where I try to be level-headed and diplomatic

February 2, 2014

I didn’t plan for my first post of 2014 to be an angry rant, but then a celebrity overdosed on heroin and the usual flotilla of sanctimonious douche canoes descended. Heads-up: there is a lot of swearing below. Sorry not sorry.

Fucked-up Things People Say about Addicts who Die of an Overdose

“Why should I feel sad about someone who chose to take drugs?”

Because they are a human being who was probably in a lot of pain, and most non-sociopathic people are capable of feeling sad when other people are in so much pain that it causes their death.

“They made bad choices. It’s their own fault.”

Ever played chicken as a teenager? Ever jaywalked? Ever texted while crossing an intersection? Ever drank too much at a party and passed out? Ever ridden a bike without a helmet? Ever got behind the wheel even though you barely slept the night before, or answered that one really important phone call while driving? Ever taken a shortcut across railroad tracks? Ever stood on the top part of the ladder that says “no step”? Ever swam out further than the lifeguard told you was safe? All of these things are bad choices with potentially fatal consequences. Unless you are a fucking saint you have no right to judge.

“There are better ways to handle pain. I have been depressed before too and I didn’t take drugs to deal with it.”

How nice for you. You have not lived the same life with the same circumstances as every other depressed person.

Most people don’t decide to become addicts.  Most of them start experimenting with alcohol and drugs in youth, when their judgement and ability to understand long-term consequences is not fully developed. They want to feel good and escape from reality. They do not believe it will snowball to the point where they are no longer in control. By the time it does, it is already too late.

“Addiction is not a disease. Taking drugs is always a choice.”

Never mind the fact that medical science is just maybe a better authority on this than you, let’s pretend that you’re right, and every time a person overdoses, it is entirely an act of free will. So we shouldn’t feel sympathy for these people because……… ? They were in such misery and had so little regard for their own well-being that they didn’t give a shit about what they were doing to themselves? If that causes you to feel less sympathy rather than more, you are not someone I want to know.

“People who turn to drugs are stupid, weak and cowardly. They get what they deserve.”

If you were crossing a bridge and you saw a person about to jump to their death, what would you do? A) Call the police or try to talk them down. B) Shrug your shoulders, decide that they are too stupid, weak and cowardly to bother with, and move on. C) Push them off.  If your answer is anything other than A, you should probably be seeing a psychiatrist.

“You can’t help people who won’t help themselves.”

I am the last person you need to tell this to. I gave up. I stopped trying to figure out how to help my brother when it became clear that there was nothing I could do. That doesn’t mean I stopped caring, or that I shut him out, or decided he deserved it. And it certainly didn’t make the fact of his death any easier. I hate, hate the fact that the way he died diminishes the significance of his death in some people’s eyes. Like it was any less traumatic. Like his life was somehow less worthy of our remembrance.

Both my brother and Mr. Hoffman did try to get help. I can’t speak for the actor, but in my brother’s case, he jumped through all the ridiculous hoops necessary to access the badly-underfunded services that do the best they can with pitifully minimal resources. It was not enough.

“I’m entitled to my opinion.”

Yes, you are entitled to be an insensitive and condescending prick. What good is that doing anyone? Do you think it helps already-tormented people to be told that they are weak and pathetic and shameful? Do you think it helps grieving family members and fans to hear that their grief is pointless and misplaced?

If you have not personally experienced the heartache of watching someone you love descend into this disease – and I sincerely hope you don’t, because it is not something I would wish even on a judgemental asshole – you have no fucking clue what you are talking about. Keep your ignorant and harmful opinions to yourself.

  1. David Casseres permalink
    February 2, 2014 10:38 pm


  2. February 3, 2014 10:56 am

    I personally haven’t seen any of the sanctimonious comments you mention, but I’ll definitely take your word for it. I’m till reeling from the news of PSH’s death, someone so young, so talented, seemingly ‘having it all;’ yet someone full of pain that he just could not live with anymore. It’s incredibly sad, as it is for anyone in similar circumstances. Thanks for sharing about your brother, you must miss him so much. There but for the grace…

    • February 3, 2014 12:51 pm

      They’ve mostly been on mass-shared posts from George Takei and Upworthy and the like. I should really stop reading the comments on those posts. I don’t think it’s good for my heart.

  3. February 3, 2014 4:36 pm

    I am sorry about your brother. I’ve never met anyone who says or thinks things like this either. You must keep away from them. Surely most people, if they think at all, say “there but for the grace of god go I” which seems to me to be a sensible approach (and I am an atheist).

  4. mworfolk permalink
    February 8, 2014 3:02 pm

    I am very sorry about your brother, as well. It’s awful to lose a loved one, period, but then to have people be so judgmental…unbelievable.

    This is an excellent post. I think fewer people would say hurtful comments like these if they realized we can never really know what others are going through, or what has led them to the difficult situation they’re in. When someone says, “Well, no matter what, I would NEVER do that in their shoes,” I ask, how do you know? You can’t know exactly what it is like to be them.

  5. greenspace01 permalink
    June 11, 2014 4:58 am

    I’m so sorry for your loss.
    yes, I saw those kinds of comments after PSH’s death, and after Cory Monteith’s, and Amy Winehouse’s… smug, ignorant, judgemental people who have no clue what they’re talking about.
    and if they *do* have a clue – if they’ve got clean from an addiction – I think it’s even sadder, because they’re judging their own past like that, and will give themselves hell if they have a relapse.
    wonderful replies to all of those shallow knee-jerk responses.

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