Lawmakers Behaving Badly and How We Can Change Perspectives

One of the downsides of being a therapist is that when you meet neurotic people and they learn what you do for a living, they will immediately ask something stupid like, “Are you analyzing me right now?”

Nope. I’m off duty. Plus, not only are you not interesting enough to analyze. Figuring you out would be the proverbial “shooting fish in a barrel.”

In social situations, when folks hear that you’re an addictions counselor, a high percentage will immediately defend their use of alcohol.

Right…except I wasn’t addressing it. If you’re defending something that isn’t being attacked, you might want to take a look at yourself.

“We see things not as they are, but as we are.” Anais Nin

I see things differently by virtue of my profession but moreover, my perspective is a product of my life experiences. My experience is that when a person acutely fears judgment they’re insecure and likely live with anxiety. When a person proactively defends their use of alcohol, they are, or are becoming, concerned about their drinking.

In today’s BDN, Christopher Cousins offers a detailed history of Maine legislators “behaving badly.” My ADHD brain somehow connected the concept of “lawmakers behaving badly” with the trashy late night ads for “Girls Gone Wild.”

Corruption. Disgrace. The perversion of innocence. Our society loves a good scandal. Unfortunately, our expectations are at an all time low. Hearing about the immoral/unethical behavior of elected officials (if it captures out interest at all) simply further solidifies our cynicism.

In reading Mr. Cousins’ list of 11 scandals, I noted two drunk driving incidents, one use of marijuana and one reference to alcoholism. Shall we conceptualize these as “bad behavior” or should we consider them cause for concern?

There’s no question these choices can be viewed as immoral. It is my hope however that our legislature is going to implement policies that reduce our current epidemic of addiction. Heroin is at the forefront of our consciousness currently, but this recovery adage comes to mind:

Addiction is addiction is addiction.

If an elected official shows red flags for addiction, they will not get my cynicism. They’ll get my concern. I can be sarcastic and jaded with the best of them – what I also know is that when people do things that are out of character, I can greet them with compassion and ask, “How can I help?”

Everything else just perpetuates a status quo that isn’t working. I’m not suggesting that we should ever excuse high risk decisions or not hold elected officials to a high standard. I am saying we can view individual choices as indicators of a larger problem. I want our legislators to support recovery – therefore I will support the recovery of legislators as I do all other human beings. None of us are immune.

Jim LaPierre

About Jim LaPierre

Jim LaPierre LCSW CCS is the Executive Director of Higher Ground Services in Brewer, Maine. He is a Recovery Ally, mental health therapist and addictions counselor. He specializes in facilitating recovery (whether from addiction, trauma, depression, anxiety, or past abuse) overcome obstacles, and improve their quality of life. Jim offers a limited amount of online therapy to those with very flexible schedules.