Sick to Sick
SEPTEMBER 7, 2017
An old article from Slate.com recently caught my attention. And by old, I mean OLD by interwebs standards. The article is dated November, 2013. But I’m just reading it now, which is common, I’m not the most up-to-date person out there.
The article’s title caught my eye immediately: No one brings dinner when your daughter is an addict. (To read the full article, read here). Essentially, the author writes about how their fridge and freezer overflowed with meals when his wife was diagnosed with breast cancer. Visits, cards, well-wishes, and meals upon meals upon meals flooded their home. His wife recovered and the meals waned to a full stop.
He continues his story, but picking up years later. Another tragedy has hit their family. But unlike the first one, this tragedy is addiction (drug and alcohol); his daughter is being consumed by addiction. This time, unlike the first time, the only thing that’s overflowing is silence. No visits, cards, well-wishes, and no meals. None. The family is under strain again, but no one reaches out to help them.
I’m left asking why?
But I know why.
The reason for the void as opposed to the abundance of meals and help is because addiction is still seen as my fault. Addiction is still that thing that causes us to shake our heads in disappointment, whisper a condescending “That’s a shame…”, and run through our mental list of judgments: the parents must have done something wrong…obviously she made a bad choice…I can’t believe that any rational person would let that happen to themselves…tsk tsk tsk. So, if this was something that should have been (and could have been) avoided, then it makes sense that help was withheld because help is only for those who are real victims, and an addict isn’t a real victim. Those who have been in accidents or diagnosed with a terminal disease are real victims because they didn’t ask for this, and obviously the addict did.
But that’s an ugly lie.
A victim is a victim whether the victimization is from without or from within the person. An addict is an addict not because they set out to become one, but because they couldn’t not be one. No child sets out to be an addict just as no child sets out to get sick; the child who grows to be an addict and the child who receives the terminal diagnosis are both equally blind-sided by the brokenness of our world and human experience. Finding yourself in rehab is as outside of your control as finding yourself in the oncology ward.
And as Jesus reclined at table in the house, behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and were reclining with Jesus and his disciples. And when the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” But when he heard it, he said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.” (Matthew 9:10-13)
Jesus leveled the playing field of what it means to be sick. We’re all sick. Because of Jesus, there are no degrees to the trueness of being a victim, we are all real victims. We are all in need of a physician; we’re all in need of mercy, of tenderness, of love–from the biggest and strongest of us to the smallest and weakest of us. When everything has been leveled out, when all human beings are placed on the same ground, then extending a hand in love to the family struggling with their daughter going through rehab is as important as extending it to the family struggling with the fact that their mother has cancer.
We are the sick loving the sick.
Find More from Lauren Larkin here.