I have a few friends and family with addictions. Don’t we all?
A few others have legitimate health reactions to some scents and substances which trigger physical responses, especially perfumes. I once knew someone who had intense and immediate reactions to perfumes. Even in places prohibiting their use, she would suffer immensely in part because people insisted that perfume reactions were all imaginary. I’m not directly addressing this example because it belies a willful disregard for others. We all know that most of the scents we use aren’t for our own enjoyment; we often simply can no longer perceive them. Anyone using perfume in an area in which they are prohibited is probably not the best person. The same is true for those smoking in public places.
While I understand the frustration of addictive exposure, I’ve noted that some people take their frustration a step further and lash out at those who still partake in the activity that is an addiction for some.
The problem with addiction is that it belies the blue car syndrome. Suddenly, because blue cars are our kryptonite, we focus on them. Their presence diminishes our lives. If you suffer from alcoholism, your entire life will seem as if it is awash in advertisements, users, and alcohol. Likewise, cigarette smoke will waft from a distance of fifteen miles to invade your nose if you have quit smoking or suffer from a physical reaction to smoke.
Alcohol, caffeine, perfumes and scents, marijuana, tobacco, and many other things are ubiquitous. They simply aren’t avoidable, much to the chagrin of those with issues or addictions.
Good people don’t go out of their way to expose their usage to those with addictions or aversions.
Good people with addictions don’t vilify those who partake in the very thing that is their downfall.
It’s impossible to engineer our society or spaces in such a way as to eliminate addictive exposures for everyone.
The tentative ability to live our lives without purposefully infringing on someone’s debility is precarious.
Because the majority of people don’t have addictions or physical reactions to most substances, it is wrong to label those who partake as being deliberately rude. Most people want to avoid causing pain and discomfort in other people’s lives.
We can each do our part to maximize one another’s ability to live a full life. It’s unreasonable to demand that everyone else forego a pleasure because it might trigger someone with an addiction. It’s equally unreasonable for those partaking to blithely insist that their enjoyment shouldn’t consider the needs of other people. The balance will always be imaginary and difficult.
The first step is to stop assuming people are living their lives without regard to other people.
Most people who smoke don’t smoke with the intention of diminishing another person’s enjoyment of life. The exposure of others is an unintended consequence of their choice.
I’m simply expressing my discomfort with the issue of vilifying those who inadvertently expose others to addictive triggers. I’m also acknowledging that the frustrations of trigger behavior is real and sometimes agonizing for those with addictions.