July 8, 2009

Patrick Kennedy Compares Substance Abuse to Cancer

Marc Comtois

Patrick Kennedy thinks that his chemical dependency is like having cancer:

Kennedy said Wednesday that he hopes his decision to seek treatment was another "sign to people that this is a chronic illness not unlike a cancer that goes into remission but then becomes malignant again.''

He said, "This is a chronic illness that needs lifelong attention. You can't ever be cured of it. It needs to be monitored on a day-to-day basis for your whole life.''

I believe that once someone goes down the road of chemical dependency, it's a lifelong struggle to keep from relapsing. I'm not naive to the illness that is substance abuse--I've seen it's affects and know the difficulty it can cause. But it's not like cancer. You don't choose to take a drink from the breast cancer bottle or pop the leukemia pill.
Thanks to his recovery network of physicians, therapists and fellow alcoholics and addicts, Kennedy said, "I was able to stay on top of it without it taking me down the road that it took me down before -- where I ended up on the front pages of the newspapers and tabloids and TV stations. It didn't have to take me down that far this time because I had people there to intervene earlier.''

Kennedy indicated that he took home a number of important insights from his stay at the treatment center. He said one was that the stresses surrounding his father's battle with malignant cancer were a potential threat to his sobriety.

Kennedy also said his round of treatment renewed his belief that his "mission'' of service in Congress is compatible with his recovery from addiction. Kennedy said he intends to run for reelection in 2010.

Yeah, that's pretty convenient, but that's been true of this whole song and dance over the last few years. His convenient conflation of mental illness with substance abuse with this new "it's just like cancer" comparison--when his own father is dying of cancer, to boot--only confirms what many suspect. In Patrick's world, the last one he'll ever blame is the man in the mirror. But heck, with supporters and voters constantly reaffirming the "I'm a victim" mirage he's set up, why would he?

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When are people going to realize that "illness" has a hidden meaning. If you can get it described in the DSM as an illness, insurance may cover it. Does anyone else remember the effort to have "road rage" declared an illness? That would have been a bonanza for the metal illness community. Sort of like the attempt to have "Gulla" classified as a "language". That was about getting more funding for ESL teachers.

Posted by: Warrington Faust at July 8, 2009 3:30 PM

I am an alcoholic, and it is a disease. My wife has Multiple Sclerosis, and that too is a disease. My disease is born from a self destructive, indulgent streak that I have kept in check since I "grew up" somewhere in my thirties. My wife grew up a long time ago, and still deals with MS. To compare the two is an insult to the person whose disease's path is largely uncontrollable. I am personally insulted every time I hear such drivel.

It's okay to be an alcoholic. Really, it is. Just don't drink, stay vigilant and go to meetings. And stay out of public office if you cannot.

Posted by: michael at July 8, 2009 4:21 PM

having survived cancer twice since 1981 and being currently treated,I think it is an inaccurate comparison.
Neither of my cancers,lymphoma nor oral cancer arose from lifestyle choices.The oral cancer is a motherf******-it came back after being "cured" for 10 years.I don't use tobacco.The lymphoma came from Agent Orange exposure.
Kennedy engages in a dissolute lifestyle of binge drinking and drugs.He may have inherited some tendencies from his mother,but I've known people who were the product of two alcoholic parents who never drank.
He likes to get high.End of story.

Posted by: joe bernstein at July 8, 2009 4:27 PM

I just wonder if Patrick was high when he decided to make robocalls for Ralph Mollis. That's why I haven't voted for him the past two elections.

Posted by: rhody at July 8, 2009 5:08 PM

Typical Liberal: "It's not my fault...I'm a victim!

Posted by: George at July 8, 2009 9:20 PM

At a time when the country, as a whole, requires strong leadership, it is imperative that he, and all like him stands down.

Step back, take care of your issues - preferable, very privately - and make way for a leader.

Posted by: SG at July 8, 2009 11:03 PM

Think about it! He is deciding whether or not we go to war.
For all he says about his recovery, he is still in denial because he can't be honest and truly come clean about what is has been doing. If he becomes a private citizen he only has to be honest with his circle of friends and family,but as a public figure, he must come clean with the public. If he can't do that,than he should step down.
Rhode Island doesn't need him, we will be OK.

Posted by: Robert at July 9, 2009 1:20 AM

I'm willing to accept for the sake of argument that alcoholism is a disease. At minimum, I would consider it an affliction, that some people are much more prone to having than others. Perhaps there is a genetic component. I really don't know. I'm not really sure it's particularly relevant to know why something happens, rather than acknowledging that it is happening. I certainly wouldn't be so foolish to put it on par with cancer. Most cancers do not have direct "causes," and therefore, are not avoidable in most circumstances.

Even if you accept the premise of it being a disease, if someone has a disease that materially affects their ability to continue in their current position, I think it is morally incumbent upon them to remove themselves for the sake of everyone else who can be affected by them. Patrick always thinks its about him; it's really about all of us!

It certainly isn't wrong to ask someone who is putting themselves and others in danger -- repeatedly -- as a direct consequence of the stress of his employment, to do something else less stressful. I really have to wonder if Patrick "I haven't worked a @$#&% day in my life" Kennedy actually had a real job, instead of this play one he has in Congress, if any normal employer would be so "understanding" or stupid as to employ someone so utterly incapable of realizing their own personal failings.

Hypothetical, somewhat loose analogy: If a doctor somehow contracted leprosy, would it be wrong to ask him to stop performing surgeries? You probably wouldn't need to ask, because he'd probably have enough sense to remove himself. Suppose it's something less communicable, like Parkinson's Disease ... a surgeon with the shakes isn't going to be a good surgeon. Wouldn't it occur to him to remove himself from a situation where he can negatively affect other people? It's not wrong to ask a leper to not put themselves in a position to make other people sick -- or potentially hurt them. If a bus driver was going blind, wouldn't they have the sense to stop driving, and perhaps do something more sedentary?

Responsible people know their own limits; irresponsible people, surrounded by numerous enablers don't. Patrick needs people around him that will tell him the truth, not use him like an old rag. If his supposed supporters really cared about him, they'd tell him to call it a career. He's still very young, and has a family name and inherited money. There must be something else he can do!

Posted by: Will at July 9, 2009 1:36 AM

Does Congress offer disability pensions?

Posted by: John at July 9, 2009 6:19 AM

Having a family member who was alcholic/bipolar, I can tell you things can change behavior-wise fairly quickly. This job is too stressful for someone like Patrick. Patrick has handlers, but they are not loving friends or family. If he keep up this pace, he'll end up dead like Michael Jackson or my relative.

He looked like hell at the Mem. Day parade. He shook like he had Parkinson's disease. He has too many issues to be trying to do the job he has. If he is not bright enough to call it a career, hopefully someone like a Kevin Vigalante will run against him.

Patrick could be a spokesman for any mental health organization.

Posted by: kathy at July 9, 2009 11:03 PM

"Does Congress offer disability pensions?"

Don't know.
It only recently became liable to pay minimum wage to "pages". I think it became liable for Social Security withholding at the same time. Most "wage & hour" legislation specifically exempts Congress.

Posted by: Warrington Faust at July 10, 2009 9:57 AM

Frankly im tired of mentall ilness beng treated as less of a concern by the entire country. I realize it is not cancer, but it is KILLER just the same. I had a bipolar mother, i sufer form it, my dad died of alcohoims. An anctive alcohoic doenst CHOSE to drink, they CNANOT stop. Clesrly soem of yo have never had exposure to active alcoholism. Wake up. Thre is so much funding for cancer research etc etc and mental health/addiction care gets NOTING. it is wrong...very very wrong. ths tells the mentally ill they are LESS than others. Far from it.

Posted by: diane rainey at July 13, 2010 3:29 PM
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