Attitudes towards addicts

This is something that has been preoccupying me for a while, starting from an incident at work. The cafe I work at gets rid of the sandwiches at the end of every day, and I absolutely hate food going to waste so instead I started packaging them up and giving them to the homeless people of the high street on my way home. One of my work mates aired his opinions about that; apparently, I was being naive. According to him, most of the homeless were only there because they would rather spend their money on drugs and alcohol. They have plenty of money for food, but they prioritise destructive habits.

It’s not a particularly shocking revelation that he thought that way; a lot of other people at work agreed to some extent. Others have said that some of the homeless deserve the help while others are just making stupid choices and therefore don’t deserve sympathy. It’s something I’ve heard time and time again. And it upsets me, because quite frankly I don’t care what choices lead to them being in their position, they don’t deserve to die. Having an addiction shouldn’t condemn anyone to starve on the streets. I don’t care what they choose to spend their money on; not one of them deserves that.¬†It seems ridiculous to me that having that opinion apparently makes me so radically left wing? I am firmly of the opinion that an addiction is a disease; no one is making the conscious decision to be so utterly dependent on drugs that they would sacrifice the roof over their heads and put up with so much degradation from the public. It is beyond me how people can have so little compassion for people in such an awful position.

Lets be real; addiction is a form of self-harm. When you would rather spend your money on drugs that have a devastating toll on your health, that is self harm. It is an illness and should be treated as such. Now, I agree that the only person who can break the cycle of any mental illness is the¬†person suffering from it, but help and compassion make a hell of a lot of difference. The worst thing I see is people who I know have suffered from mental illness and have self-harmed having no sympathy for addicts, saying it is their own fault and that their decisions are stupid. I self-harmed. And yes, it was a bad decision and I knew it wasn’t good for me. Did that stop me? Not for a long time, and the temptation to relapse was there even longer. Even though is has been around four years since I stopped, the urge still resurfaces every now and again. Every one who has ever self-harmed knows this, and addiction is exactly the same. For both addiction and physical self-harm, one bad decision can escalate until it takes over your life and becomes the only way you can get through a day. You don’t stop to think whether it is logical or not. So surely you’d think people who had been through this would be empathetic? Unfortunately this is not always the case.

I’m really not trying to shame people with this little rant, but I hope this might make people rethink their attitude towards any addict, especially those whose addiction has lead to them becoming homeless. It isn’t as simple as ‘they are the ones choosing to spend their money on drugs so it’s their fault’. While I have never been addicted to any substance, I feel deeply empathetic towards those who do. Self-destruction is something that coincides with many mental disorders. Anyone who exhibits this behaviour isn’t doing it because they want to be a burden on society and get their hands on your spare change. There is a myriad of reasons for addiction and self-harm. But I think it is undeniable that it all stems from some sort of pain, and that always deserves compassion. Apathy is our worst enemy.

Blessed be )O(