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Waking up to Hot Air


Photo by alancleaver_2000 via Flickr

A famous right-leaning commentator was on the Today show this morning arguing with Matt Lauer about drug abuse, Whitney Houston’s in particular. Lauer held his own against this commentator’s strange attack on the media’s so-called silence on the severity of Houston’s drug problems. But the commentator was insistent that the media deserves a lot of blame for not doing more.

He didn’t clearly indict their callous joy in reporting every instance of odd behavior, disheveled appearance or vocal limitation. He didn’t seem to care about that so much, instead insisting that people other than the addict have control over addiction. If addiction has ever touched his family, he must have always been blessed with enough wherewithal to have a space the size of a continent between that person and himself. Those of us whose families  have been touched by this insidious disease, especially those of us who have sought help from experts, know that other than always being honest about the behavior you witness and how it has impacted your life, and pointing out where services can be obtained, there is little you can do to help a substance abuser. In regard to witnessing behavior, titillation aside, the media had not been silent. They reported suspected drug abuse, and the confirmation of that fact when it came from the abuser herself.

I believe that judgement of someone else’s personal life choices, those that don’t touch my life, should remain in my own head. Yes, sometimes I will have a somewhat judgemental conversation about the day’s news with someone close to me, but that’s more about processing information, the continuing reasonably private process of deciding what I think. At least I hope that’s what I do. None of us can stop judgemental thoughts from entering our minds. We have them because there are times when we need to. We can’t be safe from the dangers of the world if we suspend all judgement. Judgemental thoughts are reflexive for that purpose. What we do with them, how we treat people and show respect, is the thing that defines us.

I was upset, too, when I heard the news about Ms. Houston. I feel so sad for the pain her family is feeling now. But I was also upset because it triggers thoughts for me of the immense pain that addiction brings to families who are touched by it. I’ve lived with someone else’s addiction blowing hot down my neck. Even if an addict gets help and gets clean, abuse may have weakened their body and brought another host of health problems to impact both body and mind. A family can be in tatters long after a remission — if they’ve been lucky and it came. If it doesn’t come, the pain of that reality and the helplessness of being witness to it can make an innocent party feel like they bear of world of guilt for not ‘doing something’.

I still carry scars from my inability to affect positive change in the life of an addict. I’ve been upset about being hurt, about being angry, about time and money I’ve wasted in the fight, about trusting when I didn’t realize I shouldn’t. Now I’m angry again because I wish jerks like the one I heard this morning would work on educating themselves and shut up until they know what they’re talking about.


18 thoughts on “Waking up to Hot Air

  1. People love celebrities, especially when it involves scandal — the other day I got the most hits on my blog in months when I posed a simple question about Chris Brown, while very few comment on whether we can trust Mitt Romney or not or what to do about the plastic polluting our planet. These situations present themselves as opportunities for the pundit and his or her listeners to feel smug and superior.

    We all make choices. Whitney, and others like her, made some wrong ones that ended up costing their lives. I feel sorry for her, that for all her beauty and talent and success she believed in herself so little. Maybe we should spend our time talking about how to raise children, women, with self esteem and confidence. Time better spent, I’m sure.

    • It’s such a shame when one bad choice takes hold and knocks out better choices with that dreaded domino effect. Self esteem and confidence are like innoculations against most of the bad stuff. Thanks for saying so.

  2. Bravo! Re, thanks so much for posting this. The whole celebrity obsession thing has gone way too far. I get that she’s an icon., but it’s no one’s business what goes on our personal lives even if we are celebrities. People who spread these rumors and the press are complicit as well.

  3. Hey Sparks,

    I hear you, although I didn’t see the show. Everybody’s a critic and it becomes disgusting after awhile. The media follows a celebrity’s every breath and everyone knew Whitney’s problem, the effects were so widespread.

    Your point about the struggles of families and friends is well taken. There is never just one victim to the effects of drug addiction…

  4. love these self-righteous morons so ready to make pronouncements on someone’s life tho’ they know nothing but the gossip they hear…nor do they care about the circumstances. they oughta spend their time on this subject talking about rush limbaugh and his addiction. good post Re. continue…

  5. WOW. Reading this elegant, thoughtful, exquisitely angry essay makes me grateful that I am not reading or following the gossip postmortem that I knew would take place and would not stomach.

    It sounds as though this caught you off of your guard, and I sit here amazed at your ability to turn this awful moment with a dumb, thoughtless commentator into a strong statement about addiction, addicts, and everyone affected by both the addict and the addiction. (Including the addict him/herself.)

    Thank you for writing this piece. Thank you for sharing your thoughts. Thank you for speaking up about the way you process material and how you deal with the natural judgmental behavior we all experience internally. Just… thank you.

    • It did catch me off guard, but it hit a real sore spot, subjects I’ve been thinking about for a long time. Thank you for so nice a comment, Ms. Bluebird. It feels good to know how much this spoke to you.

  6. Perfectly titled! This is precisely why I’ve reserved judgment – I know nothing about what it’s like to witness someone I love addicted to a substance, nor do I understand a thing about addiction, except the obvious hurt it inflicts on the addict and his/her loved ones. The one thing that I DO understand, however, is empathy, so that’s what I have for all those affected. Anything other than that, is stifling and unproductive.

  7. It so often happens that these “pundits” who pontificate have no real experience of what they are talking about. You can respect someone’s point of view if they’ve been there and had some experience of the subject. Here, the prigs are often highly educated (sic) upper class types whose addiction is money and the pursuit of it………….and the sound of their own voices. Good post, Ré. Well said.

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