Mental Illness Isn’t Cancer

I found this short reflection on the difference in experience for a family when first the mom/wife went through breast cancer, and later a daughter went through addiction treatment and recovery.

Because of course, addition is an illness, as are mental health issues. But we don’t treat it, or them, as if they were.

When the wife had cancer, people brought casseroles.

Maggie was disciplined by her college for breaking the drug and alcohol rules. She began an outpatient recovery program. She took a medical leave from school. She was admitted to a psychiatric hospital, diagnosed, released. She began years of counseling, recovery meetings, and intensive outpatient rehabilitation. She lived in a recovery house, relapsed, then spent seven weeks in a drug and alcohol addiction treatment center.

No soup, no homemade loaves of bread.

When the daughter was fighting addiction, people brought none.

I have often wondered how sane a world it would be to live in one where we helped people with an illness instead of criminalizing them. Nutty, I know. But we persist in thinking of addiction as a moral failure, a failure of discipline.

2 Replies to “Mental Illness Isn’t Cancer”

  1. There’s a reason why groups like AA and Alanon continue to thrive; people with addictions and people who love addicted people need support, and the culture doesn’t provide that.

    Scientifically minded people scoff because they see AA as “religious” and Religious organizations discourage members using AA because it isn’t “Christ-centered”. AA and Alanon wisely just stay out of it and stay open.

    You have to respect organizations run only by the members for a buck per member, per meeting, if that.

  2. Speaking as a cancer survivor and someone who has lost too many loved ones to it, no, mental illness isn’t cancer. It’s a hell of a lot worse in many ways. Cancer can kill you, and surviving means lots of aches, pains, physical and mental issues you never had before, learning a new ‘normal’. Mental illness, including addiction, on the other hand, can torture you endlessly (or so it seems).

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