I say that because I should not be writing this right now. I'm supposed to be grading papers, but I saw something today that made my To-Do list go out the window and compelled me to write this blog right this second.
I read an article posted on a former co-worker's facebook page about a Saturday Night Live skit. It was poking fun at medicine's like NyQuil, but it was called "Heroin AM." I found myself frustrated, saddened, disappointed, but especially angry reading the article and seeing the skit. However, I realize something like this allows for a teachable moment.
Drugs aren't funny. At all. Not even a little bit.
Drug use and addiction are used in jokes more often than people probably realize. I never paid any attention until my brother became an addict later dying from a heroin overdose.
Here are a few examples...
In conversation, if someone says something a little crazy, shocking, or a little outside the box... someone will say "are you high?" or "are you on drugs?" Every time I hear this, I think about my brother who actually WAS on drugs and what that actually WAS like.
On sitcoms, drugs are used in jokes a lot. How I Met Your Mother is one of my all-time favorite shows. There is an episode where Lily is trying to sell her paintings to make money to even out the floors in the new apartment her and Marshall bought. She is on the street corner with a few paintings next to a gentlemen selling socks. She asks him what he will be doing with the money he makes and he tells her he's probably going to buy some heroin. He also says that if she makes any money, he'll probably steal it so he can go buy heroin with it. Meanwhile the audience laughter is in the background.
Restaurants and bars also make reference to drugs in an insensitive way. Take HopCat for instance... popular bar in Grand Rapids and East Lansing. They have something called "crack fries." Anyone who has used this drug or knows of someone struggling in an addiction to it would probably NOT compare fries with it.
Addiction is a disease and an epidemic in our society. Unfortunately I know it's not the only one that is used as punch lines for jokes (depression, heart disease). Try to picture how uncomfortable it would feel to you to be "making fun" of cancer in this way.
People in my own life, who know what my brother and my family experienced, have poked fun at drug use in my presence and in my sister's presence. My initial reaction is to grab them by the arms, look them straight in the eye, and yell, loudly, "DID YOU REALLY JUST SAY THAT TO ME?!" But instead, I try to reign that in and teach when I can. I'm sure I will always be sensitive to this. Maybe some might tell me I'm being too sensitive and should be able to take a joke. But after going through what we went through and watching my brother go through what he went through, I'm not sure I'll ever like to "take" this particular kind of joke.
I have blogged before about the hurtful things people said to me about having kids while Josh and I were struggling with infertility; this is no different.
Please, please be careful what you say. Be so kind with your words. The more things like addiction are seen as a joke, the more they get taken as a joke. The more people "make fun" of addicts, the more unsafe addicts will feel to share about what they're going through or ask for help. Making jokes about drugs and drug use is: not funny, not a joke, and not okay.
"Be kind. For everyone you meet is fighting their own battle."