Myth: Good People Don’t Become Addicts

When I was a child, the issue of drugs and alcohol was presented one dimensionally. “Good girls and boys’ didn’t drink or do drugs.” If we simply behaved, we never had to deal with the ugly problems of addiction. Poof, it was just that easy.

Or so I was told.


The complete avoidance of the real issues of addiction left me with the impression that anyone seriously addicted to anything could not be a good person. Period. They were people to be afraid of. People whose primary purpose was to give oneself a warm and happy feeling for not being like them.

Sure, if asked, I would have publicly said, “I’m no better or worse a person than anyone else.” But inside,

“I believed that substance abusers could have avoided their problems if they really wanted to or if they had just been better in their past—like me”


It was with this feeling that I began working on a year-long documentary about the homeless population. Many of the people we worked with were either recovering from a serious addiction or still actively addicted to alcohol and/or drugs.

For the first time, I was exposed to addiction, and I began to realize there was more to addiction than I had ever known. These weren’t inferior people; I didn’t deserve to have a higher status in life for being better than them.

Slowly my perspective changed from thinking these were bad people to realizing that they were hurting people; people who were trying to escape emotional and physical pain. People suffering from a mental illness or who lacked family support. People suffering from youthful errors and more.

“I came to understand that these weren’t bad people, but hurting people”

Everything became crystal clear in my thinking late one night when we were filming one of our subjects, scrounging around a campus. Of course, the setting was anything but quiet. All around us we could hear the roar of frat parties and for the first time I realized that in many ways, these college parties were far more threatening than the people we had been filming for months. How could are thinking be so backwards?

Society doesn’t condemn college students for having fun, right? They aren’t likely to sign petitions and try to abolish fraternities. In many houses, encouraging your child to get involved in a society is encouraged, not discouraged. How could our societal thinking be so muddled up?

In this video, one of our employees shares how she also came to this realization:


Just like Suzanne, my own filming experience put me face to face with my own prejudices. I finally understood what until then had been abstract: Drug users, alcohol abusers, recovering or past, and everyone in between . . . are just people. Sure we’d all say that publicly. But do we really believe it deep down?

I’m no better or worse than any of them. They are no better or worse or more dangerous than anyone else.


This is a perfect month to remind ourselves that we are no different than our friends and loved ones struggling with an alcohol or drug addiction. How will you encourage someone today?