Stop Making Excuses for Hunter Biden’s Behavior. It Hurts Others Fighting Addiction
Hunter Biden is doing a great disservice to people who struggle with addiction. By constantly emphasizing that he has a “disease” and can’t help himself, Biden — along with his enablers in the media — has infantilized, or made childish, people who have addictions. Hookers, extortion, cocaine in the White House? Feel bad for me, man, I’m a crack addict!
Enough. As one who drank way too much when I was younger, and even indulged in other ways in the 1980s, I get the medical aspect of addiction. I understand dependency, how something like alcohol can become “normalizing” just so you can function. I also understand the cold sweats, the tremors, your body coming unfamiliar to you, the cuts and bruises you wake up with on Sunday morning.
What Fighting for Sobriety Taught Me
Yet I also understand saying “No.” I understand those moments when you decide to sit at home and watch TV alone rather than go to the party because you know the party is not safe for you. I understand the love for your friends and siblings, the realization that they have lost sleep wondering when you are going to turn up dead, that leads you to clock months and months of self-help meetings. After more than three decades of sobriety, I understand thinking of others.
It’s time for Hunter Biden to do the same. He should check himself into a hospital, attend round-the-clock 12-Step meetings … do whatever it takes. Because right now, Hunter Biden is making addicts look like self-absorbed children who can’t be bothered to care about how their behavior affects other people. Ignored are the millions of people who have fought the battle to get themselves clean, who are loving, responsible people who are cherished by others.
Two Flawed Models Competing
A few year sago journalist Christopher Caldwell wrote an incisive essay about addiction for First Things. Caldwell notes the tens of thousands of Americans who die from overdoses every year. He argues that medical intervention and incarceration are both flawed approaches to addiction.
The medal model of addiction has become, like everything else, contaminated with political correctness, with caregivers insisting that we use a disease model and certain terms for addiction, and leave out the moralizing. And tossing addicts in jail doesn’t fully get the nature of addiction. Caldwell writes:
Both [approaches] leave out the addict and his drama. Medicalizing the heroin crisis may not stigmatize him, but it belittles him. Moral condemnation is an incomplete response to the addict. But it has its place, because it does the addict the compliment of assuming he has a conscience, a set of thought processes. Those thought processes are what led him into his artificial hell. They are his best shot at finding a way out.
Caldwell goes on:
In 1993, Francis F. Seeburger, a professor of philosophy at the University of Denver, wrote a profound book on the thought processes of addicts called Addiction and Responsibility. We tend to focus on the damage addiction does. A cliché among empathetic therapists, eager to describe addiction as a standard-issue disease, is that “no one ever decides to become an addict.”
But that is not exactly true, Seeburger shows. “Something like an addiction to addiction plays a role in all addiction,” he writes. “Addiction itself . . . is tempting; it has many attractive features.” In an empty world, people have a need to need. Addiction supplies it. “Addiction involves the addict. It does not present itself as some externally imposed condition. Instead, it comes toward the addict as the addict’s very self.”
Addiction plays on our strengths, not just our failings. It simplifies things. It relieves us of certain responsibilities. It gives life a meaning. It is a “perversely clever copy of that transcendent peace of God.”
Shrugging Off Our Duties
“It relieves us of certain responsibilities.” Such as, say, not leaving a bag of cocaine in your father’s office. The only false idea in Caldwell’s essay is that addiction “comes towards the addict as the addict’s very self.” It would be more accurate to say that addiction is a false self. A drink or a drug may enable someone to loosen inhibitions and be more themselves, but once addiction begins to take hold, the authentic self begins to disappear or become frozen in time.
I stopped drinking when I was twenty-six, at the end of a ten-year period when alcohol went from a fun form of decompression to a necessary drug to simply feel normal. As the addiction progressed, there were increasing episodes when I was not myself. There were arrests, ruined relationships, blackouts. One night I angrily argued with my parents, and woke up the next day in tears. I had reached a point where, rather than meeting my very self, I did not recognize who I was.
Restoring the Self Which God Created
When I stopped drinking, my authentic self began to return. This is the self that God created, the self that finds its full flourishing in walking with Jesus Christ. The authentic self is a self that evolves, changes, enjoys new hobbies and makes new friends — all the things that addiction prevents. The authentic self is dynamic.
In the twenty-five years since that last drink, I’ve had times of indescribable joy, terrible grief, laughter, professional accomplishments and disappointments. I’ve fallen in love (a blissful experience if done sober), and I buried my parents and a brother … all without taking a drink. I learned to swing dance and wrote books.
In short, I’ve lived the life I almost missed. Sometimes these days a friend will mention the old days, my drinking days, and laugh about how crazy I was. I do too. I have humor about who I was, as well as love and compassion. I can look back and know it wasn’t the real me. Thanks be to God.
Mark Judge is a writer and filmmaker in Washington, D.C. His new book is The Devil’s Triangle: Mark Judge vs the New American Stasi.