Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Fair and Equal???

I just wrote a post about the philosophical meaning of fair and equal as I feel about the concepts to me. I read the thing to myself a couple times and thought to myself, what a load of crap. Just spit out what you wanted to say without justifying.

Fair and equal are not the same thing. Given a choice I'd rather be treated fairly every time over being treated equally. Fair means sometimes my expectations of myself and the expectations of others of me are much greater than for others. Fair means a recognition that my skills and abilities in some areas are below par and due to my nature I may never reach average or adequate in some peoples eyes. I want this recognition of me as an individual. I do not want to be just lumped into a mass and treated equally.

This subject is particularly striking today. Our system here in the US is based upon "all men are created equal." To me a fallacy in concept. None of us are equal. We all have differing strengths and weaknesses. Unfortunately, fairness is impossible to achieve on a mass scale so we settle for a flawed but easy concept of equality.

As parents we tend to waiver between fair and equal. How many of you with more than one kid has caught yourself saying, "If I do this for ____ then I have to do that for ____." A recognition that maybe you are doing something for one person that they need but in an effort to be "fair" we try to make everything "equal". Guilty as a parent here at times, equal is so much better than hurt feelings or explaining yourself.

This is weighing on my mind today because Alex is once again in court. This time he could be looking at up to 90 days in jail for driving on a suspended license. He got caught driving to work a few weeks ago and I didn't even know he had a suspended license. The harsh reality is that when he was using he got his license suspended and got caught once driving then too. Now he is facing the consequences. I am all for consequences but this is where the concept of fairness and equality get thrown into the mix and I struggle.

I don't envy judges and probation officers. How do you look at a person and recognize sincerity versus a con job? What does our justice system have in place to facilitate rehabilitation and restitution instead of punishment? And how do people in the system make an educated decision about a person when from what I have seen in courtrooms you usually get 10 minutes with a public defender and 3 minutes in front of a judge?

Why am I whining? I was an advocate for locking him up when he was using, we wanted him locked up and believe each time he was incarcerated that was a step forward that helped all of us to get to the point we are today. We are at a point today that my son is a different individual with very different values than he had 6 months ago. 6 months ago my son was suffering from an active disease and its symptoms called addiction. Today he is struggling but his disease is in what I think of as remission. Never cured but controlled.

My hope is that today in court someone recognizes that the young man standing in front of them this morning is not the same person that has been in that room so many times before.

case continued - waiting on background reports. (whatever that means, I'm not very literate in all this court stuff)

16 comments:

LisaC said...

I know that some would read your post and say (or think)"Well, too bad for Alex but he has to face the consequences of his actions." However, I have been and continue to be strong in my belief that when an addict is in remission (I like that term) or clean and trying, they deserve some extra assistance. If they can't experience some positives with regard to getting clean (which is sooooo very hard for them) they will be driven to return to drugs. So for Alex, I hope the court sees something good in his eyes, recognizes his progress and gives him the break that maybe will help keep him on the right path. And thanks for your comment on my post the other day. I really appreciated your perspective.

Dad and Mom said...

Lisa,

Thank you. As I have come to accept addiction as a disease I look at actions and behavior in a more clinical method. I see symptoms where others may see weaknesses.

I have seen people with alzheimers become physically abusive but we recognize that behavior as a stage or symptom of the disease. I have seen people with cancer become harsh and mean spirited due to the constant pain and frustration with the disease, again a symptom and progression of this disease. I have seen diabetics act drunk and drive with not a drop of alcohol in their system, a symptom of the disease. Most all of us understand, accept and work with that person through their disease to relieve the symptoms with the hope that the disease is controlled or enters remission. The afflicted is comforted or protected from themself. This seems not to be the case with addiction.

I know societal attitudes are not going to change over night but as more and more of us begin to understand this thing called addiction then hope must grow that one day treatment will be the way we deal with this disease instead of punishment.

There is hope, treatment of other mental illnesses is still sorely lacking but they have made tremendous gains in 50 years since we believed as a society an asylum was the place for all people "different".

Heather said...

I tend to believe that fair and equal at least when we are talking about the law, crimes and punishment are totally different then when you are talking about how you treat your children when deciding curfews. The premise that all men are created equal? I take that to mean equally entitled to the protections of our laws and equally responsible to abide by them.
Having said all that I know the pain of watching someone face charges clean and wanting to shout out that this person standing here in front of you today clean would NEVER do what they did using. Unfortunately, the using addict and the wonderful person they truly are share the same body.
I also see the commonality of addiction being a disease like cancer and alzheimers with the big distinction that active addiction is a choice. Alzheimers is not, you can not go to a meeting, work a program and regain your the proper functioning of your brain and behavior when you have alzheimers. There is a choice involved in addiction, not to be an addict, but to live in active addiction.

BMelonsLemonade said...

I hope the court will also recognize this. But, the fact of the matter is they may not. I think it is important for Alex to know where you stand on this. If he does end up doing the 90 days, it will be easier for him to know you wished he had not. If he does end up doing 90 days, it will be frustrating for him...and could serve as a trigger. I think it is important for him to know you stand with him in your frustrations, and that this is just a minor setback on this path to the straight and narrow. There are always minor setbacks on the road to recovery...when they happen, it is the support of your family and friends that help you stay on track. When we know they believe in us, it makes it harder to quit, it makes it nessacary to go on, and it makes us realize that we have someone on our side. I really hope that the judge will be able to see the great strides he is taking. If he is in any type of outpatient counseling or treatment, they may decide not to lock him up because the treatment he has been working so hard on is more important. If he has a PO that will advocate for him, it could also help. Best of luck...

Anonymous said...

Hi. I love your blog. I am a teacher and at our school we are always trying to explain and teach our students that: equal is when everyone gets the same, and that fair is when people get 'what they need'. It's amazing how students are able to understand this concept when it is explained to them. I hope and pray that your son's judge treats him fairly, and gives him 'what he needs' to continue in his battle against drugs. Prayers being sent to all of your family.

Sue said...

I understand completely what you are saying. My son is also facing consequences to his actions and I am very fearful of the end result. As yet he does not have a record but was recently with a friend from his past who is still using. He said he was trying to help her but of course the trust is gone so I am not sure of that. Anyway turns out that she tossed a cigarette from his open car window which caused them to be pulled over by an officer. She had drugs in her possession and even though she admitted they were hers they were both arrested. My son was released the next day on his own recognizance and has a court date in a few weeks. He does not have enough money to pay for an attorney but is working. He came out of rehab in Jan and spent 6 months in sober living before I allowed him to come home only because he completed school with a certification and is now working, none of which could have happened if he was using. He is very quick to blame her for this incident but I pointed out that in the end we are all responsible for our own actions. I am sure he knew that she had or probably had drugs on her just as your son knew he was driving without a license. I hope and pray that your son's consequences will be minimal and will somehow support him in his recovery.All we can do is let them know that whatever happens we still love them and will always support them in their recovery.

Annette said...

I guess what I am wondering is...what does Alex thing and feel about this court date and the possibility of living out the consequences of his actions, or not? Because ultimately it is up to him to go into court and convey what he wants that judge to know. I also know that in my experience, when my daughter is healthy and doing well, she wanted to take responsibility for her actions. She wanted to do what it would take to make it right and I could see the pride it gave her to not be skirting around the issue but facing it head on...whatever the price.

Barbara said...

Ron, I get you 100%. There have been times I rejoiced at Keven's jail sentences, but last time I was in a very similar situation knowing that Keven was DOING SO MUCH BETTER and his offense was not directly related to using (he had a knife which is against probation). He was looking at anywhere from 90 days to 16 months!! I wanted him to get the chance that he got... continued treatment vs. jail. I hope that for Alex too. He's on such a good path right now, why mess with it? Life is never fair. Sometimes we get what we deserve, sometimes we don't and that goes both ways with positives and negatives. I hope this makes sense I'm kind of scattered.

Syd said...

If he drove when the license was suspended, then he broke the law. I too am sorry that he did that. And I hope that the judge sees that he is a different young man than before. But if he does not, then it is Alex's responsibility to do the sentence and realize that he isn't really unique. There are many people who don't always get a fair shake. That is just life. And most of the time, we have to deal with that.

kim said...

Ron, I see this situation like Syd does. Alex consciously drove knowing that his license was suspensed. He broke the law. He will pay the consequences based on the court's decision. Fairness and equality have nothing to do with the outcome of this event. We are all glad Alex has been doing better, but if he allows this setback to throw him into active using, then his recovery was not very strong. However, I understand your thoughts about the concepts! As a parent, you know Alex and his daily struggles, whereas the judge only knows the young man who has broken the law yet again. My son is in the same boat. I just pray that no matter what happens, our children continue the fight to save themselves from addiction.

dadtruth said...

Alex situation is a prime example of why being in "remission" of the disease is not the same as being in "recovery." Had Alex had a AA or NA sponsor he would have worked step 7 & 8 and quite possibly avoided a jail term. Regardless, this would have strenghtened his recovery and would give a clear indication of his "willingness" for long term recovery. It will be interesting to see how Alex responds to this situtation. Will this be a positive consequence that promotes long term recovery or will dad & mom begin seeing relapse signs? What's the plan?

Dad and Mom said...

Alex has a good attitude about the court stuff. Maybe better than dad. He stresses about all of the dates and sometimes conflicting dates but he says he's OK with working through them.

I spoke to him about jail and he alreasy knows he has to do a minimum of 5 days, sometime in another county. The time has not been set yet. He told me the difference is when he was using the stress of jail centered around no drug availability. Now he says he does not want to go to jail but if he has to he has to but when he is released he is released and goes back to life, just like now.

So as you can see he probably has a better attitude about it than dad and mom but that would be no different for dad and mom if it was one of our other kids going to jail and not having a history of addiction.

Erin said...

It's never an easy thing having a child go to jail, I have been there, I hear your heart in this Ron.

Annette said...

Alex sounds like he is doing great. It is what it is. If he has to go he is ok with that, of course he doesn't want to, but he has *accepted* that that may be the natural consequences of his actions and he is ready and willing to take that on. Wow! That is huge Ron. I am really happy for you guys! :o) These are huge indicators that he may have turned the corner and is on his way. I will keep praying.

Erin...sometimes going to jail has been the best blessing I could hope for. My daughter would be off the street and safe and I knew exactly where she was. I could sleep well on those nights.

Dad and Mom said...

Funny how the tables have turned.

When he was using he did not want to go to jail and we wanted him in jail.

Now that he is not using he is accepting it and we are stressing over him going.

WHAT A SCREWED UP WORLD!!! LOL

yaya said...

It seems the Recovery Journey is sometimes filled with just as much drama as the Addiction Journey.