Like many of you, I woke up Saturday morning to the unfortunate news of DMX experiencing an overdose and a subsequent heart attack that has left him in a vegetative state. I learned via a phone call from a good friend and, initially, I was disappointed. My sadness stemmed from just wanting more for Earl “DMX” Simmons, and understanding there’s no easy path for him—and frankly, never has been one.
Many of us have been around long enough to see the ebbs and flows of DMX’s life and career. I have always rooted for him, and I continue to. It’s my hope that he pulls through valiantly.
With all the support that X garners, there are many people who hold opinions that his addiction is his fault. These same people view addicts as people who simply aren’t responsible or who lack control. We live in a hyper critical society, and a side effect of that are people who I deem as “righteousness police”. They give no credence to the fact that individuals make mistakes. They lack insight around how trauma impacts choices. They lack sympathy for those who can’t beat the odds. As it pertains to drug use, some substances are more addictive than others. Whether someone was curious about using a substance or was duped (DMX has shared they he was misled when he started harder drugs), I doubt anyone wants to become an addict.
In my opinion, people are usually particularly insensitive to the fact that when you’re an addict the decision to use is influenced by many things. Once you start using, your brain’s reward system seeks that substance. The messages your brain gives your body are what manifests in withdrawal symptoms. Those are physical responses that can range from severe headaches to body aches, and severe nausea among a host of other things. So when you know someone is living with an addiction, know that their entire system has been compromised in a way that you just couldn’t imagine. These people are in a daily battle with themselves—can you imagine how frustrating that must be? It’s a hard battle.
In undergrad we did a study involving mice where we wanted to study how caffeine in tea and coffee changed their activity. As part of this experiment, one day in the lab our professor decided to induce withdrawal so that we could see what it was like for the animals to instinctually seek the drug of choice. It was very enlightening.
People who live with addiction will never be exactly who they were prior because they now have something new to manage and live with—addiction. That’s why if we made compassion an accessible support for addicts to experience from us, it would heavily aid many who are trying to stay sober.
Our culture needs to shift. Our grace can’t only be extended to the Whitney Houstons or DMXs of the world. There are people in our communities who have their battles. There are people in your family that have real struggles. Be compassionate. Addiction is crippling. Encourage those who are struggling with addiction. Give them encouragement, so they can fight. And know that they’re doing the best they can with what they have. Don’t worry about them disappointing you, they’re waking up everyday trying not to disappoint themselves.
Kahlil is a writer, author, and content creator from Brooklyn, NY. He really thinks that you should be familiar with him by now, but if you aren’t, feel free to be. Follow his work on Instagram @Damnitpops and his thoughts and rants on Twitter @Damnpops