When Carrie Fisher died, most everyone I was knew was saddened. All the regular memes of sweet and funny things she had said popped up along with remembrances from other stars who had known her personally. It was all quite loving and lovely. But, mixed in with all that was something else. There were plenty of people, not the majority to be sure, but enough, that kept commenting on these posts with things like “Well, she was a drug addict for years. Her heart was damaged by that…what did she expect?”

You know, I’m not sure what she expected, but I’m pretty sure a massive heart attack on a trans-Atlantic flight wasn’t it. This isn’t the first time I have heard crap like this either. Every time someone with addiction issues dies there is a large contingent of people who love to rush out and claim that they got what they deserved.

Can we please not do that?

Look, if someone reported that Kanye West was decapitated because he couldn’t get his big, fat, head through a doorway, I would be tempted. I really, really, really would. But we need to be better than that.

People with addiction issues are just that. People. With issues. Just like every other person on this planet. It really doesn’t matter if they have managed to overcome them, like Carrie Fisher did, or not, like Amy Winehouse. Neither of them “deserve” anything bad to happen to them, much less death. And yes, doing drugs and drinking are bad for you. Guess what? So is not having good oral hygiene but I have yet to see anyone claiming “Well, he never flossed so what did he expect?”

Why is it that we feel a need to look down on people who suffer from addiction? And it isn’t just drugs and alcohol either. People jump on the obese-bashing bandwagon with gems like “I’m surprised she lasted this long at that weight.” The first question they ask when someone develops lung cancer is “Do they smoke?” as if that somehow makes it ok that they contracted such an awful disease and will die a painful death from it.

Is it because we feel that by condemning them we can assure ourselves that whatever tragic fate has befallen them will never happen to us? Or just because people are judgmental assholes? If you have never had a food, drink or drug addiction, good for you. Great for you even, but you aren’t typical. With 68% of Americans overweight or obese, 10% having drug and alcohol addictions and 24% that are addicted to cigarettes I think we can safely say that even with overlap between the groups, the majority of Americans struggle with addiction in one form or another. Most of them get no help either. They are left to tough it out on their own.

So, when someone dies that has faced addiction, whether they had a handle on it when they died or not, can we please just be gracious? Can we just wish them well on their journey from this life to the next without acting like they got their just desserts? A person is so much more than the snapshot of their most difficult times. One day it might be you or someone you love. Is that how you want their death treated? Like an overdue punishment?

Everyone battles their own demons. Not everyone wins. Let them go in peace.

Melissa Morritt Coble
Author

Melissa Coble is a mom living in Phoenix, Arizona just trying to survive the teenage years with a lot of laughs, an occasional rant, and copious amounts of wine. You can find her counting the days until her nest is empty on her blog An Unfit Parent and on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

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