By: C. W. Stratton
Judgement: We’re All Experts on Others
“Judging others is easy because it distracts us from the responsibility of judging ourselves.” ~Charles Glassman, Brain Drain: The Breakthrough That Will Change Your Life
Trying to discern another person’s level of commitment to recovery is such a challenging task. When interacting or observing others, there is a tendency to judge or compare their actions and behaviors to ours. There are those who enter the process who may have a sincere desire to change their lifestyle or patterns of behaviors that lead them through the doors of recovery but are having difficulty understanding the many concepts involved. The challenges may result in not fulfilling specific commitments or responsibilities to themselves and others. This can have the potential for a direct path to relapse. Not that relapse (use of substances) is always the result, but certain behaviors become clear to those interacting with or observing the person.
Through the eyes of the onlookers, some predictable conclusions are:
- “They’re not really committed.”
- “They aren’t ready.”
- “They’re in relapse mode.”
- “They haven’t hit bottom.”
- “They haven’t yet surrendered.”
- “They’re probably still using.”
Judgement Misses an Opportunity to Genuinely Help
Although no legitimate evidence supports those above, the negative consensus about the person is made. How does that person move past the obstacles they are facing, without real help from the onlookers?
The negative consensus or inaccurate observations can prevent some people from reaching out to that person; to give assistance and guidance. This can have a negative impact on the person who may have a sincere desire to recover. It can also impact the person’s ability to grasp and understand some of the basic concepts they are relayed on a daily basis; one addict/alcoholic helping another.
Judgment Reinforces the Individual’s Shame
How can they grasp this if they are being judged from a distance? The judgment passed on to a struggling person can have a traumatizing effect.
Some of us can recall a time during our active addictive when we were judged in such a critical way that we may have continued using substances because we refused to deal with what we were feeling as a result of the judgment. Click To Tweet
Hopelessness instantly ensued:
- “What’s the use.”
- “They’ll never trust me.”
- “No one cares.”
- “I may as well keep using.
- “I’ll never be able to beat this.”
- “This is my life, and I better accept it.”
During active addiction, many have yearned to be free of it but weren’t quite sure how to go about it. In recalling this period in some of our lives, we can almost experience those exact feelings and emotions in this very moment. Those feelings were definitely unwanted, and today many would go to any length to not experience them in their recovery today.
Some Reasons for Judgement
So, why would some people be so inclined to pass judgment, point fingers, re-traumatize, and reinforce the attached stigma on to someone who is struggling? There can be so many reasons for this behavior:
- Lack of genuine acceptance of one’s own addiction.
- May want to others get better, but not better than themselves.
- Lack of understanding about addiction itself.
Some have the built-in forgetter and don’t want to remember where they once were.
Obviously, there may be other reasons that judgment is passed, but the goal is to clearly understand that judgment is more prevalent than many realize.
Passing judgment onto recovering people has the potential to perpetuate the stigma that we all long to reverse.
As we fight our addictions and try to persuade the outsiders that it's a serious illness that shouldn't be stigmatized, we must remove the judgement that actually exists within the walls of the sacred places that we meet to heal. Click To Tweet
Judge Not, Least You Be Judged
There are those who may not agree that the feeding of stigma occurs within the rooms, but when we are passing judgment, down-playing other’s recovery and pointing fingers, we are doing just that. It’s like, “how dare you talk about us and stigmatize us, we are only allowed to do that to each other.” This doesn’t seem like the right way to battle what we are facing.
If you’re in agreement or not, we must reassess our true intentions and our genuine commitment to the recovery process as a whole. We may not connect with everyone that we meet and we may not agree either with everyone, but to help each other without parallel is paramount to what we do.
The recovery process is a difficult road to travel for many. Adding more obstacles for an individual to overcome doesn’t seem supportive in any way. There are those of us who have those hard-liners:
- Get over it.
- Suck it up.
- You’d do whatever when you were using.
- Man up.
- Get off the pot or s*!t.
- It’s a feeling, it will pass.
Yes, these are many of the things that are heard, but think about the struggling person who may be looking for assistance or hope. These statements may seem beneficial but when relayed, the potential of individual shutting down increases. No, we can’t hold everyone hands, but at least lend a hand or ear.
Remembering Our Early Recovery
It may be the individuals first attempt at recovery and are unsure of the process, but they continue to show up; with some difficulty. Most individuals who have sustained their recovery for a significant period may have attempted this numerous times before they reached a comfortable place to continue moving forward in the process. There are times we lose sight of this and as stated previously, the “built-in forgetter” comes into play.
In our recovery, we must remember that sometimes, we fall into this trap: “No sooner do I conquer a bad habit than I become the biggest critic of anyone who still does what I just stopped doing.” ― Judah Smith
When individuals enter those rooms seeking help, why not actually help them. Of course, there may be a display of inconsistency, denial or some manipulation on the part of the newcomer. If we truly understand addiction and the lifestyle associated with it, we know that’s all part of the package. We didn’t enter those rooms absent of denial, lying, inconsistency, and manipulation. If we did, why open those doors? We could have chosen a different path. I always remember that act of using substances is only the symptom of the problem. Now that the individuals are no longer using let’s address the issue. Judgment is so insidious and damaging to the already damaged individual. We want the outsiders to view us differently when it comes to stigmatizing addiction, but we must start from within the rooms of recovery to supportive of the efforts.
“We are outstanding lawyers for our own mistakes and excellent judges for the mistakes of others.”
Craig W. Stratton MS, ASCAS
Combining his passions with a purpose is one of his goals. He has worked to help marginalized populations understand their addictions and introduce them to the benefits of recovery, as a Case Manager for the homeless, and those in Drug Treatment Court.
He has also counseled adolescents, adults and couples over the last 14 years in various agencies, and worked extensively on Alternatives to Incarceration, to offer treatment and not incarceration for nonviolent offenders.
Craig is an Adjunct Professor at Hudson Valley Community College, where he brings his personal experience of 17 years in recovery as well as his education to his students, ensuring that the next generation of substance abuse counselors understand knowledge of addiction, but more importantly, know a representative of the addicted population.
Bringing this human element to his classes, advocates for recovery and will help remove the stigmas and myths associated with faceless addicts. His unique perspective to various aspects of recovery besides not using is another of Craig’s strengths.
Writing, and recovery heals the heart