09.18.2018

How Blaming Ariana Grande for Mac Miller’s Death Highlights a Major Societal Flaw

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The news of Mac Miller’s untimely passing this month struck me. It’s not just because of how incredibly sad it is that the world keeps losing talented people to addiction; it’s because of the undeserved hate toward his ex Ariana Grande that followed. People are cruel, especially online, and they are out for blood. They always need someone to blame.

I can’t think of a single person who hasn’t tried to “save” someone from alcohol or drug addiction. It’s an epidemic that has swallowed America whole and spit it back out into pieces.

Many people don’t understand why or how other people become addicted to drugs. They may mistakenly think that those who use drugs lack moral principles or willpower and that they could stop their drug use simply by choosing to. In reality, drug addiction is a complex disease, and quitting usually takes more than good intentions or a strong will. Drugs change the brain in ways that make quitting hard, even for those who want to. – National Institute on Drug Abuse

It’s practically inevitable that someone you love will have a problem with substance abuse. It’s heartbreaking and only natural to want to help them, or to think that your love will be enough to save them – that your love is somehow special enough to be all they need. Let me be clear though: you cannot save someone who doesn’t want to be saved. Their wanting to be clean has to be more than just words; it has to come from their soul. And let me be even more clear: that is not ON YOU to know if or when that time is. Someone’s addiction is not your fault. Someone’s overdose is not your fault. If they get clean and fully recover, they found the strength within them and were finally ready to do that.

Ariana breaking up with Mac didn’t cause his death – his addiction did. And we need to stop blaming other people for things that they have zero control over. Period.

i adored you from the day i met you when i was nineteen and i always will. i can’t believe you aren’t here anymore. i really can’t wrap my head around it. we talked about this. so many times. i’m so mad, i’m so sad i don’t know what to do. you were my dearest friend. for so long. above anything else. i’m so sorry i couldn’t fix or take your pain away. i really wanted to. the kindest, sweetest soul with demons he never deserved. i hope you’re okay now. rest. – Ariana Grande in Instagram tribute to Mac Miller

If you don’t know me super well, you’re probably thinking well, WTF does she know about substance abuse? Let me enlighten you.

I grew up seeing my dad go in and out of rehab about seven-ish times. He had a heavy addiction to alcohol amongst other illegal drugs. He wasn’t home much when I was young, and I called him on his bullshit even at two years old. I was aware something was wrong with him even if I didn’t fully understand it. I could go to much darker places on here, but I won’t. That wasn’t really who my dad was deep down. He was a good man whose addictions wrecked his life. Thanks to the reinforcement of my mom and grandma (and later, my drug-free dad), I knew it wasn’t my fault. I knew that my dad loved me. He didn’t mean to choose drugs over me and my mom.

I also saw my mom get blamed for his issues. My mom who has never done drugs in her life. My mom who doesn’t even really like to drink.

I knew, and she knew, that it wasn’t her fault. She couldn’t save him no matter how much she wanted to and know matter how much she loved him. He was too far gone for a while. Things got dangerous and she had no choice but to leave. Sometimes leaving is the best thing you can do for someone. Sometimes it leads to the wake up call that they desperately need. It may take months or (more likely) years for it to affect them, but it will.

Our entire life crumbled apart before my eyes, and we had to rebuild it. Seeing that at such a young age really made an impact on me. I had no desire to risk becoming an addict. It turned me off so much that I was afraid to have more than a sip of alcohol until I went to the Bahamas when I was 18. I didn’t want to be like him.

Let me be clear about this as well: you won’t magically turn into a drug addict or alcoholic from having a drink or smoking weed (I’m not into weed, but I also do not believe it’s a gateway drug). You always have a choice. Have fun but don’t go crazy. Practice balance.

You may have noticed I’m writing about my dad in the past tense. He passed away in 2007, just a couple of weeks before my 17th birthday and my senior year of high school. It was not drug or alcohol-related, and we had been in a good place in our relationship for the past several years before. It’s a long story for another place or time, but I still feel his presence with me daily.

My first official boyfriend also had addiction problems, and was grounded basically every weekend that we were together because of it. I tried to be a good influence on him, but I couldn’t save him either. He moved on to more hardcore drugs after high school, but (as far as I know) has turned his life around. He saved himself.

My first love was a major alcoholic. I didn’t want to see it at first so I ignored all the signs. I couldn’t admit to myself that this relationship mirrored my mom and dad’s relationship in some ways. He was perfect in my eyes, as all first loves are, which was far from reality. Surprise – I couldn’t save him no matter how much I wanted to or how much I loved him. It wasn’t enough. His pain was too deep and he had to save himself, which he did 4 years after we broke up. Our relationship had become super unhealthy and scary at times, so I had to make the sucky decision to walk away. I had to save me and he had to save him.

The bottom line is that we have to stop pointing fingers at others and take responsibility for our own paths. You are in control of your own life. You cannot be someone else’s happiness or only source of strength. Support and love those in your life with addictions as best you can, but know when you should walk away too. Know that it’s okay to choose your own happiness and (more importantly) safety. You are the only one who can.

To those who face addiction themselves or who have ever loved an addict, know you’re not alone. This too shall pass.

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