I'm certain I've written many times the phrase, "We live in a society that …"

There have also been occasions when I may begin a conversation or paragraph with a generic, "the school system," or "politicians," or in some contexts, "the church." What usually follows is some generic, systemic, experiential criticism that needs to be addressed. Usually by someone else changing an attitude or behavior because I'm not really part of the problem.

It is a use of "we" meaning "all y'all" because I understand what needs to change and clearly "everyone else" does not. My vocation and my attempts to share thoughts in various formats make me especially vulnerable to this sin. This is the reason self-reflection is so important. It makes it possible to see how I'm just as much a part of the problem as everyone else -- even if I think I'm not.

Good counselors and good physicians understand there is an "identified" patient and there is also a system to which that patient belongs. The system in which one is located often has a great influence on one's illness or wellness. Sometimes recovery becomes nearly impossible because a person is trapped in an unhealthy system -- even if some in that system appear to "have it all together." Sometimes what needs to happen is for those who are perceived to be healthier to make some changes that make healing possible for those who are not as healthy.

I have come to believe that engaging with those who struggle with areas of life with which I do not struggle -- because we all have weak spots; it's just that some are more socially acceptable or easier to cover up than others -- is a good way to overcome the accusatory "we." It is also helpful to engage with those who may have differing views on solutions to our problems. I even suffer to listen to people speak with whom I disagree on most things and find their views offensive. I'm not speaking about the curated, agenda riddled stuff we might see on TV. I'm talking about personal engagement when it is possible, and as safe as possible.

I can speak through experience that doing so changes both people and the distances, that while they may still be great, they tend to become less. To forget to engage those outside of our sphere of comfort and influence leads to group-think and tribalism. It leads to other people or groups being not just the identified patient, but they become the disease that we must be rid of.

There are people that fit that description and some of us may have them in our lives, but they are a tiny number. Even so, I would suggest that most can be healed if conditions and treatment are right.

Turning from the general to the specific, I would like to take a few lines and address addiction. We live in a society that promotes addictive behaviors. Some of these addictions are quite acceptable -- work, for example, or fitness. Some are unhealthy or socially awkward, but not illegal -- gaming, gambling, smoking, social media. Some are illegal -- controlled substances, alcohol if it gets too bad. All addictive behaviors have the potential to destroy what is good in life and kill us slowly.

What I can do about this is to recognize any addictive tendencies I might have and address them as I am able. Then I can engage others. I'm not an expert on addiction or what a severe case does to the mind. What I believe is that such behaviors are a shield against dealing with something that we either cannot or will not address in a healthy way.

We all know this is a complicated and challenging topic. We also know that various addictions have destroyed lives and families. One of the solutions is for us to engage each other on a personal level, even when it is difficult. Being connected to other people and being engaged in life to the extent we are able are powerful antidotes.

Most of our counties in Kentucky have a group of people that are dedicated to fighting addictions that get people in trouble with the law. It is called Drug Court. It involves mental health, life coaches, the judiciary, prosecution, defense, law enforcement, and other community volunteers. Drug court surrounds people who are struggling with life with people who will help them to succeed.

May is National Drug Court Month. Look for it and if you have an opportunity to help, please do. We are all in this together.

Sean Niestrath lives and ministers in Madisonville. You may contact him via email at sean.niestrath@outlook.com.

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