The answers to the addiction question(s) lie in accountability.

I’ve been in a lot of discussions lately about addiction. As our readers know, we cover it consistently in these pages in an effort to steer people towards the resources and perspectives that could potentially guide them out of and away from their troubles. I truly believe that normalizing the many conversations that hover around and within the addiction epidemic in this region, state, and country will have a deep and lasting influence on the many people searching for elusive answers to complex addiction questions.

The more we talk about something, the less intimidating, less enormous, less impossible it becomes. More people examining the same topic will lead to increased perspective, collective thinking, and collaboration. In this case, the people struggling most beneath the weight of the issue—addicts and those who care for and about them—will also feel less ashamed, less socially exiled, and more likely to both join in the conversations, and take a more productive, active role in the recovery effort.

But normalizing conversations involves confronting tough questions. One of the toughest: Are you part of the problem or the solution?

This question is about as tough as they come—because at the end of the day, almost all of us will look in the mirror and, if we’re honest, have to admit that we’re likely part of the problem.

So much of our society, our culture, our modern existence is built around not wanting to feel or experience discomfort or pain or loneliness or loss or shame, etc. John Lennon famously said (many decades ago, mind you): Why do people take drugs of any sort? Why do we have these accessories to normal living to live? Is there something wrong with society that’s making us so pressurized, that we cannot live without guarding ourselves against it?”

American life, especially, is marinated in multi-level pressure these days—most of it circling around achievement, status, position through possession, and self-worth as it relates to all of these things. There’s little room left for mistakes—particularly big ones. Particularly ones that position you on the fringes of this success-based system.

And of course, there’s nothing wrong with success, ambition, drive, and/or a desire to not participate in a lifestyle that merely skims over these features. But there is an accountability issue that must be discussed again and again concerning the addiction crisis—in order to meet it head on. Accountability across multiple layers within our local, and larger, culture. And it starts with tough questions.

As parents, why do you think your child became an addict? Seriously, dig down deep—be honest with yourself. There’s almost always a reason. Sometimes, we have to change our own behavior as much as the addict needs to change theirs.

As doctors, why do you over-prescribe? Seriously, if you do this type of thing, what do you ultimately gain by doing it? Is it just about greed—or something more? Is that why you went to medical school?

As community members, why are we so quick to condemn and deport members of our own group who struggle with challenges that we seem to have navigated? Additionally, why are we so quick to agree that “something needs to be done,” but then stand in broad defiance when the evidence of a problem eventually arrives at our doorstep (example: a treatment facility within city limits)? This is a tough one; both sides represent valid and ongoing concerns. But where is the compromise? How does a solution emerge if people on one side simply cross their arms and say NO?

As addicts, why don’t you try harder? Why do you say you love your kids, your family, your friends, and then abandon them with seeming disregard for a substance that is wrecking everything? What compels you to manipulate and/or play the victim with such skill and consistency when that time and energy could just as easily be spent trying to improve yourself and your situation? What will it ultimately take for you to wake up, shoulder true responsibility for YOUR mess, and start digging your way out?

Obviously, these questions are general ones— they don’t apply to everyone. And it goes without saying that addiction recovery often requires a range of approaches until one particular method seems to work best. But ultimately, answering tough questions involves asking tough questions. It’s the only way to the root of a complex issue. And probably like you, I’ve got about a hundred more.

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