Guinevere Gets Sober

Recovery news, reviews and stories, by Jennifer Matesa.

Is It OK to Make Fun of Lindsay Lohan’s Addiction?

In a meeting the other day a woman who hardly ever speaks piped up:

“Why is it OK to make fun of Lindsay Lohan’s addiction?”

The television show Glee had Gwyneth Paltrow playing a substitute Spanish teacher trying to “make it fun” for the students by including pop-culture references: “Lindsay Lohan is really crazy, right? repeat! … How many times has Lindsay Lohan been to rehab? Five times!”

Lohan is currently doing a court-ordered stint at the Betty Ford Center after having failed a drug-test on probation.

But my friend at the meeting had a larger point.

“We’re the last group of people in society that it’s OK to make fun of in public,” she said. “Everyone knows it’s wrong to call a gay person a ‘fag,’ but anyone can still call an addict a ‘junkie,’ and nobody cares.”

Lindsay LohanI thought about it. I have no particular affinity for or aversion to Lindsay Lohan as an actor or a person. I’ve never seen her in a film so I don’t know her work—all I know is that she’s a rich famous young woman living very publicly with addiction.

People no longer hop on television and make fun of, say, gays or minorities or women. Listen to old comedy stuff—Steve Martin’s Let’s Get Small, for example (and Steve Martin was pretty tame for his time), or practically anything from the 1970s—and you’ll hear all kinds of references to these groups that would never fly in a routine today because of the awareness that gay-ness is not a choice but a state of being, that minorities don’t like to hear themselves denigrated in public, much less pay to do it.

But there’s still a great deal of ignorance that addiction is an illness. People continue to believe it’s a moral weakness, as evidenced by the lack of social prohibition against calling addicts “junkies” and “crackheads” and “drunks” in common conversation. A non-addict calling an addict a “junkie” is like a straight person calling a gay person a “fag” or a “dyke.” (It’s even more similar to a mentally healthy person calling a mentally ill person “crazy” or a “nut”—which people do quite often.)

The Glee bit doesn’t make sense in another way, either. Society requires Lohan to get help, and then rips her to shreds for getting it.

The deep prejudice it reveals is this: society does not believe addicts are people who need help. The belief is that “junkies” are people who need to be segregated away from the rest of society. In other words, locked up. In jails or institutions.

Which is where we wind up if we keep using.

But to stop using—when we try to stop—we need help, not ridicule or contempt.

Help was the miracle for me. I asked, and I got it. Miracle.

3 Comments

  1. My daughter, Hayley’s, recovery is a miracle. There is no other explanation. I know readers will say that she was just ‘ready’ – – – that she couldn’t have gotten sober without really wanting it. But – – – the fact that she WAS ready, that I had contact with her on her birthday last April and she was reminded of the possibility of a ‘normal’ life, that she allowed herself to listen and be receptive to a recovery plan, that she walked away from that crack house and controlling drug dealer/’boyfriend’, that she didn’t kill herself with an overdose – – – all of those ‘coincidences’ that came together to create the ‘perfect storm’ for recover, is a bloody miracle. Peggy

  2. I’m sure it’s a double-standard, but only addicts can make fun of addict behavior. We can laugh at the stupid things we used to do or say, because we have the joy surviving ourselves & of being on the other side. I tend to take it personally when people make broad statements or stereotypes about people who need rehab or who are trying to get sober. I remember feeling the way Lindsay Lohan probably feels right now, and it was excruciating. Wanting to change, knowing that you will die if you don’t stop but knowing you were powerless to help yourself…. I don’t ever want to feel that way again. I pray that she will make it this time.

  3. I find similar things can happen in the rooms, at least in the area I am in. People who are “chronic relapsers” are often ridiculed, and I hear comments that are very insensitive. I find it sad to see someone relapse, and then circle the drain, often for years. I don’t think harsh criticism is really what they need.
    A friend of mine recently relapsed, and ended up on the psych ward after attempting suicide. A 12 Stepping Blowhard showed up and began hammering on him that he failed, and that he wouldn’t have failed if he’d just done a FOURTH. It was highly inappropriate and I told him so. Anyway, my point here is that some of us do it too and it stinks.

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