Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Publish Day - Ink Blog - Druggie minister

I live in Canada's largest province, Ontario. The minister of health is a guy by the name of George Smitherman. Last week, he outed himself, admitting that during the 1990s, he had been a regular user of what he called "party drugs." Although he refused to say precisely what those drugs were, his admission is pretty shocking given who he is.

This being a writing week for me for the newspaper, I thought it would make for a worthwhile discussion with readers. After all, it's not every day that someone at the very center of power admits he was a drug abuser.
Minister's admission a brave wake-up call
Published Tuesday, May 16, 2006
The London Free Press

Politicians typically aren't known for being gutsy heroes. Ontario Health Minister George Smitherman may change that. His admission last week that he was addicted to illegal drugs in the 1990s took a lot of courage.

It isn't easy to admit you've been a drug addict. Society tends to stigmatize its addicts, assuming they're directionless losers who crash out in dilapidated houses and forage for their next hit.

But Smitherman doesn't hang out in drug dens. As a provincial cabinet minister, he's got much more to lose than the typical crack smoker stereotypically sprawled across the back of a dimly lit room.

The minister's admission shatters the stigma and reinforces what has been increasingly obvious for too long: drug users and abusers don't exist solely on the fringe of society. They're everywhere. Friends, colleagues, neighbours and close family members can all fall under the spell of addiction.

How many among us would have the guts to admit it? How many among us would have the guts to applaud those who do?

Your turn: Was this a smart or a dumb move for our esteemed minister? What - good, bad or indifferent - might possibly come out of something like this?


Anonymous said...

I'd like to know what prompted his admission. Given his position, he has a lot at stake. It seems odd to me that--out of the blue-he'd just decide to share this info. I suspect there's more to the story.

Anonymous said...

I'm kind of torn. One part of me applauds Smitherman's courage to come forward regarding his past, but the cynical side of me has to wonder if this has some sort of a political spin attached to it. Or like in the case of some celebrities who have dark pasts, Smitherman may have decided to come forward before his political enemies decided to do it for him. That way it puts the kibosh on a potential scandal.

Anonymous said...

As a recovering drug addict, any one who has the courage to "out themselves" brings to the fore the FACT that not only down and out junkies use drugs and alcohol. Maybe he might be a role model of good change.

Maybe he just might help someone with his news. And maybe he might never go back to the pit of hell in a moment of weakness, and maybe Ontario will support him and not stigmatize him and punish him because of his past.

It's not like he was a pedophile or abusive. or he stole millions of dollars from Ontarians.

Unknown said...

I applaud the courage but the skeptic in me mistrusts most politicians regardless of party affiliation, Carmi.

carmilevy said...

I, too, have my thoughts about the origins of his decision to announce. Politicians, after all, are intensely pragmatic creatures. They never do anything for the heck of it: there's always an end goal.

I gave cynicism a rare day off when I wrote this. I was hoping to highlight that little ray of hope. The 170-word box doesn't give me room for much else. That can either be a blessing or a curse. I'm going to choose to assume the former, because I can always write the other side of an issue on another day.

Anonymous said...

Seems like the majority of us are addicted to something, whether it's liquor, drugs, food, shopping. . . When I hear that someone is an addict, I really only feel sympathy.

Moon said...

I chose to take it as a very couragous thing, the fact that it can only give hope to some who would otherwize believe it's too late to do anything good with their life if they were addicted etc
Other politicians have come out in the past about things but only after it was found out and would have come out with or without them breaking the news themselves.

I prefer to see the positives in this and applaude his actions.

Mrs. Falkenberg said...

When I heard about it, my first thought was "So?" but that could be because our premier has a heroin dealing record, and that has jaded me. I want to know why Smitherman decided to out himself. There has got to be a bigger reason than "I just wanted to get it off my chest."

Ontario Emperor said...

It just shows that we've come a long way in the last decade. In 1992, U.S. presidential candidate Bill Clinton claimed that he "didn't inhale." Now we have people admitting that they used drugs in the past. I feel that we're better admitting. (And no, I have not used any illegal drug...since 1983...)

Anonymous said...

If this man is truely in a mode of contrition and IF, I repeat "IF" he is in some program of recovery like some recovery people get involved in to help them heal and get past the "past" then making a statement about his past is part of the process of recovery for those of us who wish to make amends to those we had harmed in the past and to make restitution be that monetarily or spiritually to another human being or the god of our understanding.

If this is a publicity stunt to garner himself support and goes nowhere and we find that this had nothing to do with recovery, then I will eat my words and tell you that what he did was for the wrong reason.

How he plays the future based on this admission will tell us just where his motives were for outing himself. When one makes a drug or alcohol addiction, one must always remember to check their motives. Ralph Klein is an alcoholic, and he said so himself, but just what has he done outwardly to show his movement to truth and action in good ways?

One must always be skeptical when a politician lets go a specific truth from ones past. Is it honest or is it political? I try and sit on the fence and give people the shadow of a doubt, but "an addict is an addict" for the rest of ones life even if they are off the drugs, how one lives their life afterwards shows us just where they are in their outer affairs.

We will see where this admission takes him. It can go both ways.

That's an addict giving you some honest truth about recovery.

Always check your motives...


OldLady Of The Hills said...

I think it's a good thing because it shows that someone in a power position can be as vulnerable as someone not in any 'position' at all. It is an admittance of something by someone that I'm sure a lot of people would never have suspected of using any kind of drugs. And the fact that he doesn't anymore is a positive thing and may give hope to others who feel there is no hope for them.

Pickalish said...

If you ever wanna write about the "other side" of this coin, I'm sure I could fill you in. My thoughts on this are that someone was getting ready to 'out' him, and he wanted to beat them to the punch. I'm sorry, but I have a really hard time applauding him for courage. Maybe it's because all of this hits a little too close to home or something.....Hi, my name is Pickalish, and I am bitter.