This morning I took a short trivia quiz online about the life of standup comedian Richard Pryor and read the comments about Richard Pryor by others who took the quiz. Most of these comments were negative. Examples:
"I don't like Richard Pryor."
"He swore too much."
"He was Vulgar."
"He was a drug addict. That's why he wasn't great."
As a child and adolescent I grew up in a family where there was drug addiction, alcoholism, domestic violence and corporal punishment. One of the few things that gave me relief back then, along with hope and laughter were Richard Pryor albums introduced to me by my father (thanks Dad!).
As I read comments about Pryor, the famous Native American Proverb came to mind, "You should never judge a man until you have walked a mile in his moccasins." Below is the comment I submitted.
"At the turn of the century Rolling Stone Magazine selected Richard Pryor as the greatest stand-up comic of all time. Richard grew up in a brothel and was sexually abused as a child. There is a strong link between childhood sexual abuse and addiction. Early in Pryor's comedy career a prominent comedian tried to convince Richard to "Stop swearing" and "Be completely clean" with his comedy routine. According to Pryor, "When I followed that advice I had a nervous breakdown on stage. I decided I needed to be true to myself. My comedy reflects the fact that I grew up with, thieves, hustlers, pimps and prostitutes."
It is important for us as addictions and recovery professionals to accept clients for where they are, i.e. stage of change, as people, (you are not what you have done) and their pathway/style of recovery.