Why the prejudice, anyway?

I was writing something else a few minutes ago, and an idea crossed my mind that I hadn’t ever before considered carefully.

It’s clear to me from talking to people in recovery, especially early recovery, that many of us have resentments about the misinformation and outright prejudice that still seem to exist regarding alcoholism and addiction. I don’t have to run through a litany of the things some of the Earth People believe about us — you know the list by heart. What just occurred to me, though, is a possible reason for those prejudices. Sometimes I’m sort of slow, but since it’s possible there are others out there who are occasionally sub-par in the velocity department, I thought I’d comment on my brainstorm.

It’s easy for me to forget how rapidly things have changed over the past half-century or so — and I lived through it. It may well be that some of my younger friends haven’t considered that at all. When I was a boy (he grates, creakily), passenger airplanes still had propellers, as did all other civilian airplanes. Only the military had jets, and they were pretty primitive by today’s standards. When my father was born, boats still had sails! My mom, who passed away this year at age 99 — good show, Mom! — was born only five years after the first airplane flew. When I was in college, we still used slide rules in classes requiring math. (Look it up) My freshman geology professor (1963) had heard about the theory that the continents moved around, but didn’t think it had much juice.

Now, think about that for a minute. The people who formed and informed the minds of my generation were born back when sailing ships were still considered a useful means of transportation. My generation formed the minds of many of your parents, and a lot of folks my age aren’t even computer literate. Information has gone from one or two newspapers and three or four TV channels (if you lived in an urban area) to the deluge that we have today since my daughters were born.

Most of those older folks were informed by opinions, often religious, that held us alcoholics and addicts to be moral degenerates who lived reprehensible lives and probably deserved whatever we got — and those were the more open-minded ones. I wasn’t too far from that point myself, until I began to suspect that I had my own problems, and I really didn’t get the whole disease picture until I got sober in 1989.

Is it any wonder, then, that a whole bunch of folks haven’t yet gotten the word about us drunks and addicts? For one thing, although this information is of considerable interest to us, it really is pretty far down on the list of things to learn about for the average person.

While it’s true that every addict touches a couple of dozen other people, on average, it’s also true that most of them are only touched to the point of applying whatever they already think they know, not going out and learning about it. The fact is, most folks simply aren’t interested, beyond a tsk-tsk or “Isn’t that a shame,” because they really don’t have much reason to be.

Could you go to a map of Africa and instantly put your finger on Darfur?

I thought not. Same thing.

So, instead of holding resentments, maybe what we need to do is spread a little information when we can. Young people are especially open to learning about our disease, because so many of their peers are victims too, and they have personal contact with it. If, however, we expect very much from the old farts like me, we’re probably doomed to disappointment a lot of the time. It’s just not in their frame of reference.

At least that’s how it seems to me. Your mileage may vary.

One thought on “Why the prejudice, anyway?

  1. tehlanna

    I really like this post. I like how much thought you’ve put into figuring out why some preconceived notions are held, rather than just writing them off as wrong or invalid. And I think you’re right, about young people being more open to learning about the disease of addiction. I come from a thoroughly addicted family, have battled drug (ab)use myself, and lost a husband to a drug-induced suicide. While that does not make me an expert, it made me want to learn more about addiction as disease versus the Roman Catholic notions I was brought up with that label addicts as “less than”. There is a world of knowledge out there for non-addicts, and a lot of understanding to be had; I think they just need to get over the idea that it isn’t up to them to approve or disapprove, and that understanding isn’t condoning.

    I like your blog, thanks for sharing your experience.


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