In recent years, it is infinitely popular to share the tragic social media posts of anyone who has been arrested. I say tragic because often times people like, love or post a laughing face on these posts. Not to mention ugly comments condemning individuals, particularly those arrested on drug charges. Sadly, as a society, we clearly demonstrate a lack of understanding and empathy by these actions. So let me tell you what I see when I see these posts.
Most often, I see a person struggling with addiction, a person who has no recourse within our systems for help that is so desperately needed. They have no job, no way to support themselves or the awful addiction that eats at them daily. But for the grace of families who love them, they would likely go hungry and homeless. In fact, the only means available to them is to sell whatever their drug of choice may be. I’ve been working in this field for 20 years and it’s always the same. It boils down to a simple need and the money to satisfy that need. If you looked closely at someone in active addiction, you would see a broken soul. They can’t work because feeding the addiction to keep from being ill is all time consuming.
In writing my Master’s thesis I chose: Predicting and Preventing Violence in Young Men – a Lifespan Perspective as my topic. Those of you who know me personally probably understand why I chose this. I looked closely at young men imprisoned in their late teens, their crimes, their circumstances. Overwhelmingly, these young men were drug users. The surprising thing was somewhere in their history was some type of trauma. I spoke earlier about the significance of trauma as being a gateway to drug use and have intensive research to back up those views. These young men all experienced either physical or emotional abuse, the loss of someone close to them, being bullied in school and a myriad of other traumatic occurrences.
Perhaps to some it is satisfying to see these young men locked up for long periods of time and hence our pleasure in posting to social media their crimes. Perhaps some really believe that we should, “throw away the key.” We are perpetuating a culture of incarceration above health and mental health care, a culture of “men don’t cry.” of the world isn’t fair so you have to tough. But maybe, somewhere under the ignorance of our attitudes we could find a heart of compassion one that would want to make a difference in a more significant way than posting grand jury indictments, sentences that are often completely inappropriate, and laughing smiley faces.
As a country and as a community, I think we can do better. One of my favorite sayings on social media has been;
“Be careful of judging an addict too harshly, they may just recover and be the one who leads your child out of the darkness.”
There is only one capable of judgement and it isn’t me or you. So the next time you hit that share button, remember, there is a family crying, praying, begging for help for their addict.