Taking Personal Responsibility Despite Addiction

Compassionate Love Blog: Displaying compassion for those who struggle with mental illness  (c)2016  Nancy Virden, Always the Fight Ministry

I’ve heard a lot of excuses for bad behavior.

I was depressed when I hurt you, so you are intolerant by leaving me.

You shouldn’t have come to my apartment, then I wouldn’t have had to rape you.

My boss is mean and fired me just because I took too long to eat lunch. 

Porn is not adultery, it’s an addiction. That’s different. 

The latest in “my addiction made me do it” is the story of Andrew Caperson, a Wall Street executive who cheated his family, friends, and trusting investors out of $115 million. He says he is ashamed and acknowledges he hurt people. However, according to The Washington Post, he also says he did it to feed a gambling addiction. “The people I harmed are the people I care about most,” he said. *

Oh, I cringe at that statement.

To give you some idea of Caperson’s financial background, there is a building at Harvard named after his family. By gambling, he blew his $20 million inheritance. Almost any observer could rightfully say he had enough money. So why did he gamble for more?

I do not know Caperson or his exact quotes, as my entire knowledge of the man is from the Washington Post article. Nonetheless, his is an oft-repeated sad-sack tale of good intentions turned sour. I struggle with the idea that one can systematically ruin the lives of people he claims to  “care about most.”

After a fix has lost its original appeal, addiction is a desperate, painful, dark place to live. Addiction may be a reason for poor behavior, but never an excuse. That is not harsh, it is reality. An opportunity to speak with addicts and another opportunity to speak with severely depressed people may be coming up for me soon. The pain of these sufferers is not foreign to me. I know the desperation and what it is like to not know one’s options.  I care deeply about people in addiction or emotional crisis.

My past poor behavior that hurt people is one hundred percent my responsibility. I will never say “depression made me do it” because that invalidates the hurt person’s feelings of injustice, and denies my ability to choose. In my deepest pain, I knew right from wrong. Cognitively, severe depression left me unreasonable. Impulses were harder to fight. Inhibitions were skewed. I still take full responsibility for my decisions.

Ultimately, caring is tenderness. It is not self-focused and does not rationalize causing another person’s pain.  Any of us may have warm feelings for our parent, child, neighbor, or co-worker. Nonetheless, caring is not only feelings.  We may worry about these same people and hope they are safe and happy. Still, caring is not just wondering and hoping. We can show remorse for the harm we caused those we claim to care about most, however, repeated actions usually expose our true heart.

In the eyes of the law, ignorance is no cause for escaping punishment. There is a reason for that. How quick are we to rationalize our questionable decisions? Emotions can rule the day or a moment when we want something bad enough. Crime does not become a “mistake” because it was ongoing and out of control. Addiction is a terrible disease, but for an addict to knowingly or ignorantly cause harm, it is not an excuse. Harm occurred, and the addict must take responsibility, make amends, and pay restitution when possible.



NOTE: I am not a doctor or mental health professional. I speak only from personal experiences with and observations of mental illness. In no way is this website intended to substitute for professional mental health care.

If you are struggling emotionally today or feeling suicidal, or concerned about someone who is, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Hope and help is yours.

*A Wall Street Golden Boy Blames Gambling Addiction for $100M Fraud.  Article by Renae Merle – The Washington Post – Thursday, July 07, 2016

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