Responsibility is a heavy word. Every life feels its weight and challenges sooner or later. Response-ability means just what it says – to be able to respond to the needs of self and another or to own the consequences of one’s actions. Response-ability to and responsible-ability for.

Irresponsibility, an even heavier word, is at the heart of many of life’s problems, at least those parts of life we can or should control. Laziness, stubbornness, denial, ignorance and other human frailties complicate any life and the lives of many others.

There is no better example of irresponsibility and all its characteristics than addiction. Drugs, alcohol, sex, gambling, disfigure, cripple and can literally obliterate the true self. Addiction tears one away from the ability to make healthy choices, affecting both body and mind, rendering a life meaningless while abusing the lives of others as well.

Addiction is all about self, though most addicts blame others for why they are the way they are. They refuse to take responsibility for their destructive behaviors. They cannot see beyond their need for a buzz, a fix, that big hit that will never be enough. Never. Until they bottom out, however that may happen – hopefully into the life-saving admission that they are broken and need help – they condemn themselves to a life of insanity which, according to Albert Einstein is “doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results.”

Being responsible, like happiness, depends on each individual, upon the value one places on self. It starts with awareness, or mindfulness, and requires conscious choices to accept what needs to be done and to do it. Addiction fights directly against these characteristics, feeding on self-absorption and destructive choices.

Others may try desperately to help but nothing they offer, even rehabilitation, will work until the addicted person asks for help and accepts it. Until that happens, only tragedy awaits.

The responsible life is about accepting the gift of self, growing and making it better, and helping others to do the same. Being human renders everyone vulnerable to making mistakes along the way. But mistakes can often be our most effective teachers. Every honestly recovering addict realizes that truth. Unfortunately, those addicts still caught up in self-destructive choices are far removed from living responsibly.

As for those whose lives addicts abuse, they need to “let go or be dragged.” An overdose of caring can be as harmful as any addiction, disabling what is really needed – the toughest kind of love. Responsibility is rarely heavier than that.