“Everybody just wants to get high.

Sit and watch a perfect world go by.

There’s not much space between us.

Drugs or Jesus.”

— Tim McGraw



Ashley Judd appears to have a perfect life. She is a rich and famous actress who seems to do the right thing. You can find copies of her sister Wynonna’s mug shot. You won’t find Ashley’s.

When given the choice between drugs or Jesus, it seemed obvious which Judd sister would go which way. Or so we thought.

Ashley revealed this month that the emotional distance between the two sisters was not far apart. What differed was how they presented themselves.

Wynonna’s problems are public. She has battled addictions and has been honest about her fight. Ashley seems perfect. No one would dream that she had her own demons.

Both sisters were cut from the same cloth. They had a rough childhood and came from the same troubled family. Both sisters dealt with their unhappiness differently.

Everything about Wynonna cries out for help whereas nothing about Ashley does.

Many families have a perfect child and a difficult one. It is difficult to realize that both children have their own unique set of issues.

Being the sibling of a perfect child can be tough.

There is a scene in “Saturday Night Fever” where the parents of Tony Monaro (John Travolta’s character) are ashamed when his older brother left the priesthood. Monaro tells his brother, “If you’re not so good, then I’m not so bad.” The road to perfection has victims and collateral damage.

I have always connected to screwed-up people. Just like Wynonna, you can immediately see that I have a problem with food. I understand people who have problems. I couldn’t always relate to someone such as Ashley.

I can now. She has problems. I have problems. Her sister has problems. We are all trying to solve them.

A recent issue of the New York Times had a great story about the search for an anti-addiction pill.

The author frames a “drugs or Jesus argument,” but in different manner than Tim McGraw.

There is a debate as to whether addiction is a biological or a psychological problem. If the problem is biological, pharmaceutical drugs might cure it. If the problem is psychological, counseling and support would be the best treatment.

After 100 years of effort, no miracle drug has come along.

Jesus has had better success in curing addictions. Alcoholics Anonymous, Overeaters Anonymous and all 12-step groups have a faith-based component, and all ask people to gain strength from a higher power.

Naomi Judd had it right when she said, “Love Can Build a Bridge.”

Addictions are a tough bridge to cross. Someone who gave up smoking 10 years ago told me that she is fighting an urge to start again. I don’t smoke, so I don’t understand. She doesn’t understand why I can’t quit going to McDonald’s. I don’t understand drinking to excess, and I really don’t understand a quest to be perfect.

Actually, I can understand the perfection thing. I am a situational perfectionist, as anyone who works with me can attest. Even though it puts tremendous stress on people, I’ve considered my perfection to be a positive trait. I’m sure Ashley felt the same way. Unlike with booze or drugs, there are societal rewards for remaining perfect. Even if there are severe costs.

I have a friend who reminds me of Ashley. She seems perfect, but her greatest fear is public embarrassment. I’ll bet Ashley had the same problem. Wynonna is probably like me. Public failure doesn’t bother us because we have experienced it before.

I’ve never had a mug shot, but if I ever get one, I will smile into the camera like Wynonna did.

I admire Ashley for telling the world about her struggles. For someone who has always striven to appear perfect, going public had to be difficult.

Everyone wants to watch a perfect world go by, but the line between drugs and Jesus is a very thin one.

Ashley’s decision might help others fall onto the right side of that line.

Don McNay is chairman of McNay Settlement Group, where we want everyone’s finances to be perfect. You can write to him at don@donmcnay.com or read other things he has written at www.donmcnay.com. His award-winning column is syndicated on the CNHI News Service. He is on the board of directors for the National Society of Newspaper Columnists.

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