Family secrets are those things that everyone close to a person or situation knows or suspects, but never talks about. Often the thoughts aren’t even put into words. When they are, they come with adjurations: “It’s no one else’s business!” “What would people think?” “We don’t want people sticking their noses into…!” “It would ruin his (life) (career) (reputation)!” “We don’t talk about that!” “How dare you say that about your uncle!” And so forth.
Frequently such secrets involve substance abuse. Just as often, they hide other sorts of abuse, addiction, and other unhealthy behavior from child molestation to spousal abuse, bingeing and anorexia to cluttering. In every case, this pervasive form of denial prevents individuals and families from getting the help they need. And all too often it “protects” people with mental illnesses. Failure of a variety of people to look at the facts and deal with unpleasant issues prevented Adam Lanza from receiving the evaluation and treatment that he needed.
If Adam Lanza’s mother had sought help when she noticed his peculiar behavior, instead of convincing herself that he was merely suffering from a mild form of Aspergers Syndrome (which does not involve the same sorts of behaviors at all), things may have been completely different. If the other folks in his life, from family members to teachers, guidance counselors and other professionals with whom he crossed paths over the years had not failed to take the extra steps necessary to bring attention to his problems, things may have been completely different. If his mother had not had a perverse streak that caused her to keep firearms in a home with a troubled family member…. If… If… If…
My point here is not to defend Adam Lanza. What I’m trying to do is point out that keeping secrets does not enhance other people’s lives. People with self-destructive behaviors — whether they are using drugs, mentally unstable, or otherwise functioning outside the boundaries of a healthy life — are the business of the people around them. The havoc wreaked every day by people who are having difficulty controlling their lives and impulses affects us all, in one way or another.
And then there was Adam Lanza, and the others.