“In sickness and in health” is one element of the traditional vows couples exchange when pledging to stand by one another for the rest of their lives on their wedding day. Typically, we think of sickness as getting a disease through no (completely direct) fault of one’s own — cancer, heart disease, a car accident, etc. — and most of us could never think of leaving our significant other or spouse if they found themselves physically ill as a result of those circumstances. But when it comes to addiction, a compulsive dependence on certain substances that often has far-ranging effects on the loved ones of said addict, the weight of those wedding day vows often falls by the wayside.
While, by all accounts, Khloe Kardashian dropped everything to be by her estranged husband, Lamar Odom’s, side when news broke that he was found unconscious in a brothel, it didn’t take long before people started accusing her of abandoning her husband when he needed her most — and breaking their marriage vows.
It wasn’t until Khloe parted ways with Lamar that the world heard of the NBA player’s reported drug problem. And while the Kardashians certainly didn’t do their in-law any favors when it came to addressing those rumors, the criticism of abandonment likely has more to do with an opportunity to take a jab at the reality family — because who doesn’t love those — rather than an expectation that a wife must stand by her husband’s side as he abuses drugs.
Addiction is certainly a sickness, and while it’s not entirely fair to say chemical dependence is a choice, the success of treatment most definitely falls more in the hands of the addict than it does with with other illnesses in which a surgical procedure or a medication may provide the cure. It’s for that reason that shows like Intervention exist to push addicts to realize they need help and facilitate that treatment, but on this show you often see parents, friends, siblings, and spouses warn their loved one that this is their last chance and they won’t aid them in killing themselves any longer. Sometimes that means no longer giving them money, kicking them out, or even divorce.
The thing is an addict is not only dangerous to himself but those around him, and in the same way no one would expect a wife to tolerate physical or mental abuse from a partner, it’s not fair to expect someone to accept indirect abuse from an addict either — vows or not. The thing is, in leaving, what you can’t do is play the victim if you were complicit in the addiction all along.