shame on you


I had coffee with a friend the other day. He lost his grandson to a heroin overdose a short time ago. The young man had struggled for years with addiction. He had been in and out of treatment and recently finished 90 days of rehab. When he got out, his grandfather asked him how was doing and he said, “I’m scared.”

The next day he was using. 36 hours after leaving treatment, he was gone.

My friend lost his son-in-law…this boy’s father…to drug abuse years before. And my friend’s daughter continues to struggle. He has told them all the same thing:

“I won’t give up on you, and I won’t toss you to the curb.”

“I’ll be mad when I see you steal from me,” he said. “I’ll be sad when you relapse. I’ll be frustrated when I see you struggle. But I won’t ever give up on you.”

Hope is a powerful thing, though it doesn’t always win. If hope can raise people up, shame can crush them.

Most of life’s difficult problems won’t be solved over night. There is no silver bullet…no magic answer…but the question is, will you stay at the table when things get tough?

Too often, people choose to punish and shame in an effort to change behavior. They are willing to cut people loose rather than give them another chance.

My friend’s daughter said to him, “You can’t shame me.”

“Shame is a part of my daily life,” she said. “I shame myself. If you try to heap more shame on top of that, I won’t even feel it.”

I’m not a psychologist, but a basic understanding of human nature doesn’t require a degree.

If you marginalize someone, will that lead them to fall in line? If you belittle them, do you expect they will try harder? If you shame them, will they see their own potential?

Mel Duncan describes the conditions for peace as “keeping one’s heart open so it can be broken, and broken again.”

When our heart is open…when we find the cracks and space for active compassion to grow…we become open to the possibility for change.

Life is difficult. It’s hard to keep hope alive. But considering the alternatives, it may be our only choice.

3 thoughts on “shame on you

  1. Been there, done that, addiction is a disease, clean since August 17, 1981. There is help if addicts want it. Recovery is a better place to hang out with others who have found a way.
    Research the recovery movement and collegiate recovery if you want solutions

  2. As a recovering drug addict, alcoholic, bulimic/OCD/self-harm shopping addict I agree with this post in that compassion for the addict is important. My family were quite accepting when I admitted I was using cocaine day and night and rampantly bulimic. But they did force me to go into treatment. Probably because I am very determined when I want to be I got recovery straight away and have never relapsed since I got clean at the beginning of 2005. So my family didn’t have to go through an endless cycle of relapses which is maybe why they remain tolerant. With my friends who are still using who I am trying to pursuade to get clean it is frustrating to hear the excuses and the fact that they have relapsed yet again. I feel angry towards them but because I cannot easily express anger in recovery I just turn the whole thing in on myself. But I do not practice the tough love approach of cutting contact with them as I think this would be cruel. Tough love can backfire spectacularly leading the addict into deeper pits of addiction and despair.

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