(Note: Title blatantly stolen from the linked article.)
This is an amazing article by Mike Tanier. Ignore the fact that this is about an NFL quarterback. It’s about a person and specifically a type of person that many of us know. The guy who just doesn’t know when the party is over.
Manziel is like so many thousands of people in America. His problem is more public than others but it’s still the same one faced by your old school buddy. The only difference is that Manziel brings his NFL millions and an entourage to his never ending party.
The questions so many ask when faced with these people – friends, coworkers, family members – “Why can’t they stop?” or “Why can’t I help them?” have no easy answers.
I have a long held belief that people will make choices based on what’s best for them. The same is true for addicts. The problem is that what they see as “best” is, so often, their addiction.
An alcoholic may want to play in the NFL, make partner in the law firm or build the perfect marriage. But what an alcoholic really wants to do is drink, and that short-term goal keeps stepping in front of the long-term ones.
Here’s the worst part: An addict doesn’t want to seek help. An addict doesn’t want to be told to seek help. That’s what “bottoming out” and the language of recovery are all about. The alcoholic really wants to keep going, long past the point at which any healthy person would realize that “partying” is no fun anymore.
If the addict is lucky, they “bottom out” into a place where people are willing and able to help. If they’re not lucky, the consequences are dire and, sometimes, fatal.
So, what can we, as a society, do? Again, there are no easy answers. For people currently suffering from addiction, the best thing may be patience and a desire to be there for them when they crash.
Long term, there are things that can be done though I don’t know if we’re brave enough to do it. Nothing can stop every tragedy but maybe we can make them more rare.
The biggest thing that society can do is to stop treating the use of addictive substances like a normal part of life. Alcohol is addictive. Marijuana is addictive. Nicotine is addictive. Pretending that they’re not by encouraging their use or treating their use as a good recreational activity is just asking for more cases like Manziel.
I’m not saying we should go back to prohibition-style bans. (I think people can make their own choices even if they’re not the ones I think are right.) Rather, we need to discourage the recreational use of addictive substances. More importantly, we need to stop doing so hypocritically.
How well do you think that MADD ad against drunk driving is working when shown during a show that features drinking alcohol? How about those DUI public service ads that show during a ball game right before the string of Coors and Budweiser ads?
In the end, as long as the use of these substances are encouraged by society there will be widespread problems with addicts.
Another thing society can do, which Tanier calls out, is to not write off people with addictions.
We need to understand that there’s a difference between sowing wild oats and succumbing to an illness, that an alcoholic isn’t always a gutter wino or a middle-aged man waking up alone with the shakes.
We need a long look at how bad a sickness like whatever Manziel’s going through can be and how long the course of illness can run. Watching Manziel’s behavior can teach us why our nephews or old buddies didn’t stop after the first car wreck, pink slip or police incident.
We also need to take Miller’s advice and not “write off” Manziel. Better to criticize and condemn his behavior than ignore and forget him. He’ll someday realize that the fun ended long ago, and he’ll seek to seek help—not publicist-mandated, career-salvaging help, but the real kind.
And, like the father of the Prodigal Son, be willing to welcome them back with open arms when they are ready to seek that help.