If your child had a drug or alcohol dependency, would you rather they were locked up in prison, or helped? No one turns up on careers day in school saying 'I want to to be powerless over alcohol, and/or addiction and I want my life to become unmanageable by it when I grow up'
'By the time I was thirteen I had my first drink', 'by my fifteenth birthday I had smoked my first spliff', 'by seventeen I was injecting heroin', 'I stole off friends', 'I sold my body to feed my habit', 'they locked me up and put me in a mental institution', 'I was repeatedly abused', 'I had a blackout and woke up in a cell', 'I lost my home', 'I slept on a park bench' are only a few things an addict/alcoholic may say.
The reason why people chose to use drugs are very personal issues and personal choices. The media and community chooses to see a criminal, but unless you know someone who has battled with addiction you have no idea the pain that person has had to suffer. Addiction and alcoholism is a world that only those so close and so involved in will ever truly understand.
Addiction and alcoholism is like a job, it becomes work. From the moment addiction and alcoholism begin they have started the worst job in the world, with a lunatic of a boss screaming at them from inside of their own mind, without a single moment off. And the more the addict/alcoholic uses/drinks the worse it gets, as the addict/alcoholic then becomes the living dead.
Addiction and alcoholism is a greedy disease, first it will take your money. Then it will take your friends and family, your home, your ability to function in society, then it will start eating away at bits of your body until it takes you alive, body, mind and soul. Very often the addict/alcoholic would prefer to give it's life away than give up the addiction/alcohol.
Addiction and alcoholism robs an addict of almost all of their psychic energy to love, create and live full, complete lives in harmony with The Universe, God - (whatever you choose to call this force), and others.
It's no good telling people who suffer from 'addict brain', that they shouldn't have picked up drugs. "Drugs are addictive, so don't take them". "Just Say No" approach seems so obvious to outsiders but Addicts operate on a different spectrum from everyone else - and this is what a lot of people can't understand.
Many addicts/alcoholics who have managed to arrest their core addiction, have embarked upon a spiritual, and metaphysical journey, a Voyage of Self Discovery, that even they say is beyond their wildest dreams. So if you then make drug addiction/alcoholism into a story, it could be a pleasure to hear about. The boy kicks out to the world, the world kicks back a lot harder, he is lost and then he's found - the happy ever after.
However recovery does not always unfold with a happy ever after, it becomes too ordinary, the daily meetings, going to the doctors, trapped in the revolving door of relapse, getting sick, cleaning up, dealing with shame and resentment, and then using/drinking again. This is how addiction and alcoholism most resembles a disease, because a lot of diseases don't go away on their own either, you just keep on managing them. A trip to the doctors, exercise, take the medication, - that is the same story as fighting addiction and alcoholism, and telling them it can take a life time.
Stigma, shame and disgust will not solve the problem of addiction and alcoholism, neither will choosing to ignore it. It will not stop the crime, the heartbreak and the damage that the addicts/alcoholic leaves in their wake. Rage, self-righteousness and condemnation never find solutions to problems. Understanding will!
Next time an outsider chooses to judge an addict/alcoholic they see at work, sat on the park bench, pass on the street or read about in the paper maybe they should try and understand rather than judge. Have they themselves never made a mistake? How wonderful it sounds to have no defects of character. To have never made a mistake. To have never gone the wrong way in life. To have never got lost in something that's got it's grips on you that's so tight, and to have no understanding of it. Next time you chooses to judge try and remember that is someones, brother, sister, son, daughter, cousin, friend, parent, colleague or loved one, as everybody has somebody, and anybody can turn to alcohol/drugs when they are vulnerable. Who are you to stand and judge?