I just watched the first season of Nurse Jackie. It was edgy, interesting and fast-paced (a good show, not a mind-blowing one). The main character is a nurse in a busy emergency room and she’s also an addict which she, in the first season anyway, is successfully hiding from almost everyone in her life. She’s married with two girls and has a lover on the side, the hospital pharmacist and frequent drug source, who she rendezvous’ with on the job.
I watched a few of the Special Features and in an interview, Liz Brixius, one of the creators, made a peculiar statement. She said: “Is Jackie an addict? Yes. AND she’s a great nurse. Is she an addict? Yes. AND she’s a great wife. AND she’s a great girlfriend. AND she’s a great nurse. She’s all of ’em.” (If Brixius had thought to, she’d likely have added “great mother” and “great friend.”)
This sensibility – that a person can be an addict AND be great at their work and interpersonal relationships -caught me up short, especially given that the other producer in the interview, Linda Wallem, comments that, “We [she and Liz Brixius] are both in recovery.”
One of the best definitions of addiction I’ve heard is a person is doing something they know is bad for them but they can’t stop (alone). If someone is successful or great in all or almost all areas of their life – despite tendencies toward excess – perhaps they are not in fact an addict, but something else. Because so far as I understand it, addiction is not static and it takes prisoners, not only the user but the other people in the user’s life. It worsens. People are hurt. To suggest someone (albeit a fictional someone in this case), could be a great this-and-that as well as an addict is troubling (the term “functional addict” notwithstanding). Because the addiction, whatever it is, always comes first. And if the addiction comes first, that which comes behind it, either suffers or gets less, whether it’s a job, a spouse, children, family, or friends. That certainly has been what I’ve observed in real life.