I was driving home from work the other day. Same route, same timing. Nothing unusual about this mundane sliver of my day. I was approximately five minutes from touching down on the homefront, when I pulled behind a small stationary sedan at a red light. The car donned a bumper sticker that read: “REHAB IS FOR QUITTERS.”
At first, I thought nothing of it. I’ve seen worse jokes decaled on T-shirts and coffee mugs, some pushing the envelope on racism, sexism, and agism. But then I considered the addict in recovery who might pull up behind this car, or even worse hear this joke directed to them in conversation.
This “quitter joke,” seemingly innocent to many, is at least irritating and for the most part, impertinent.
To the recovery community, this joke is downright insulting – the equivalent to any other offenseive duratory slur. Even the really bad ones. We do not have to name them here. In our ever politically correct society, certain words have become taboo. These words, which we all know, can lead to public backlash, probation or even termination when used carelessly in public forums or workplaces. These words and phrases are so forbidden, I’m even afraid to scribble them here, in the purest academic and intellectual sense.
Do you think anyone would be fired for uttering the joke, “Rehab is for quitters?” If you have witnessed someone get penalized for this joke, in any way, please share your experience.
Back to the topic of the uber-taboo words: It has taken great evolution and understanding as a society to move toward eradicating these from our lexicon. When we are young we hear these words. Most of us are exposed to irascible figures who spew such terms of hate. Some of these people don’t realize they are guilty of an offense. Perhaps they were born of an unaware generation or lack sensitivity due to their upbringing. Our hope is that as we grow older and wiser, we learn not to use these words and spread the message. We strive to correct others who use them ignorantly and explain why it is offensive. Education on the subject is key. We all know that no one should call a disabled person a “retard.” Nor should anyone call a Hispanic person a “wetback.” And we should all come to recognize that no one should call someone in recovery from substance abuse a “quitter.”
Why is that when an alcoholic in recovery refuses a beer, it is more common for us to call that person “a quitter,” than calling a diabetic who refuses candy, “no fun?”
It’s like calling a cancer patient “baldy,” or a pregnant woman, well pregnant. You deserve that slap across the face. The same goes with the “quitter” joke.
Recovery from substance abuse is one of the most difficult diseases to overcome. 50% – 90% of those new in recovery will relapse, even after rehabilitation. Imagine you are diagnosed with a disease that has no cure, but only a challenging and arduous recovery. Oh, and your biggest obstacle to this recovery is yourself. Your uncontrollably obsessed brain, your dependent body, and your entire social stratosphere are all against you. And the daunting truth is that most people do not understand this disease and might view it as your own moral failing, or a choice to reject self-control. No one judges a cancer patient. No one admonishes someone managing cystic fibrosis.
So the next time, you see or hear the joke, “rehab is for quitters,” remember that it is offensive and derogatory. Put it in the same box as the other taboo terms we should be omitting from everyday communication.
Afterall, admitting that you are powerless to your addiction is the complete opposite of quitting. It is the beginning of a potentially new and better life. It deserves your support, not your lame jokes.