Street Tales: Assuming the blame

I received a phone call at the kitchen from an elderly lady who had read last week’s column of mine dealing with used needles. Although she agreed with the article, she repeatedly expressed the desire to be of more help to the individuals shooting up.

As she was speaking with me, I felt that she was almost talking herself into assuming the blame for these people’s addictions. It is an easy thing to do, and we have to be ever so careful not to do so. It reminds me of a parent when they see pain that their children endure from an accident or some illness; often their silent prayer is to take on their pain and remove it from the child. It can’t happen of course, but it’s all part of trying to alleviate the pain in the child.

Or, what if our child does something foolish and is apprehended by the law; sometimes we go so far as to lay the blame elsewhere or onto ourselves, simply because we don’t want to see our child receive the punishment their folly deserves.

At times we see the blame for our actions placed on others who then pay a heavy penalty for the wrong done; i.e.: if a person gets drunk at a party or at the bar, gets in their vehicle and gets seriously hurt, dies or kills someone else, the blame can now be laid at the feet of the vendor or host.

Even though there is a multitude of reasons for a person to take a drink too many or inject that extra dose; they themselves have to take the blame for the actions resulting from that overindulgence; it is their choice to do so.

We have in place penalties for someone being caught drinking and driving or throwing there empties out onto the street. By the prolific number of cans and bottles by the side of the road, we see that not all are caught; still, should the disposal of needles be any different. After all, drugs are just alcohol in different forms. Each one can and often does produce an irresponsible behaviour when too much is consumed.

I have a friend who often states that “nothing good happens after midnight or after a couple of drinks”. Probably this would include drugs of any kind as well. In other words, the responsibility for words or actions diminishes exponentially.

At the kitchen we see the results of both every day. Even folks who have made huge changes in their lives but continue using ‘milder’ drugs constantly demonstrate the effects of what they still use. One of the first statements used in defence is that the blame for their erratic behaviour lies elsewhere.

A lot of these people are very good friends and it hurts me to throw blame back in their faces, but that is the harsh reality of life. We are, each one of us, responsible for our actions; no one or nothing else, the decisions are our own. Most of the ex-users who have made complete and beautiful changes in their lives will agree that the choice and the responsibility was totally their own; no one twisted their arm to drink or use; the choice was made unilaterally.

I feel that giving indiscriminate aid to the addicted, (whether they are under the influence or sober at that moment), borders on and often crosses the line of enabling. This decision for me is based on the statements made by ex-users and reformed alcoholics. Then when we do this, we are assuming the blame and the guilt for addicts.

In Red Deer we are at the point of having to make some very serious decisions about how we deal with this issue. We have to learn to lay the blame at its source.

Chris Salomons is the kitchen coordinator at Potter’s Hands in Red Deer.

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