by Kent Sterling
Ignorance is always stunning to me, especially when expressed by those whose thoughts on addiction begin and end with, “They should just stop using,” and “They deserve what they get!”
Understanding the addictions that plague Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay is very difficult for some, who view his drug use as a choice – an irresponsible indulgence of feeling “good” over living a responsible and temperant life.
Anyone who has witnessed addiction up close knows different, and those who think Irsay doesn’t feel like an abject failure because of his relapse possess a dangerous level of misunderstanding of the challenges he faces in recovery.
After watching video of Irsay in Atlanta, I tweeted a brief and innocuous message of support, and received several unpleasant return messages, including, “save the prayers for cancer patients or suffering children.. not self-righteous, self-destructive, drug addicts.”
What an empathic message that is! As though there is a limit to the prayers we can offer those in pain – like rationing positive thoughts is a reasonable life strategy. Pain and suffering is pain and suffering, regardless of the cause.
There is no reason to ask ourselves, “Now wait a minute, if I take time to wish Jim Irsay well, am I costing someone else in need the help my tweeted empathy can provide?”
Addiction, especially for a man like the Colts owner who has seen the pain it can cause through his own father’s alcoholism, torments Irsay, who is all too aware the pain his relapse has caused.
Stopping use requires strength, but letting go of the guilt that comes from seeing the pain in the eyes and hearts of loved ones is incredibly difficult. Add the very public national humiliation caused by his arrest in Carmel, and Irsay has a very, very difficult time looking in the mirror, and a challenging road ahead of him.
It’s easy to mock a guy who was pulled over in Carmel for going 10 miles an hour with a stash of drugs and $29,000 in his car, but there is nothing funny about Irsay’s difficulties in maintaining sobriety today.
Law enforcement will have their say in mandating some penance for Irsay, and the NFL will definitely issue a suspension eventually. Regardless of the addiction, people addled by drugs and alcohol cannot get behind the wheel of a car. Putting innocent drivers and their passengers at risk is unacceptable, irresponsible, and requires a serious consequence.
But that shouldn’t preclude us as human beings from offering positive thoughts to those who made bad choices because of behavior caused by addiction.
Addiction, whether to drugs, alcohol, gambling, porn, or some other destructive pursuit is beyond the control of the user, and expressing a little bit of sympathy and hope for day-by-day success to abstain is the least we can offer.
People who have an issue with that should take a good hard look at their own behavior and stop busying themselves with casting blame.
Irsay is in the midst of a struggle that will end in one of three ways – death, incarceration, or a successful adherence to the behaviors and actions that allow him to ignore the compulsion to use that will reverberate in his brain everyday for the rest of his life.
Whether Irsay has billions or not, he deserves some love and compassion – in addition to all others who face a daunting struggle, not to their exclusion.