About a week ago I got this site started, but have been so busy I have not posted anything for several days. I hear, or read on social media, quite often that addiction is not a disease, it is a choice. This both infuriates and saddens me at the same time. While addiction is not a disease in the typical sense such as cancer, AIDS, or any other manner of deadly affliction, there comes a point where the alcoholic/addict no longer has the capacity to make a choice. Addiction strips a human being down to an animal who acts almost singularly on instinct. That instinct is to feed the beast. While I will not discount the choice factor, as a choice is what comes before addiction, the question becomes does an addict/alcoholic really have the ability to choose? You might ask yourself “Why does my father/mother/sister/brother keep doing this knowing he/she is just gonna go to jail, hurt his/her family, and possibly die?” The only answer I, as an addict who has been clean and sober for a few years, can come up with is that the addiction blinds the individual to the reality of the world around them. The AA big book talks about being unable to distinguish the false from the real and for me that was all too accurate. It never dawned on me while I was still using, that other people were affected. I mean, I was only hurting myself right? Nope. How many nights did my mother lay awake terrified that she was gonna get a call that I had died? How many times did my little brother get promised that I would be there for his basketball games, only to be disappointed by me not showing up? More than I could possibly imagine I am sure. Those who denounced the disease concept always chalk it up to the choice argument and that using the disease mantra is a way to try and escape responsibility, which for some it might be. However, it seems to me the disease factor is less about not being responsible for my own actions, but coming to terms with the fact that I am mentally unhealthy while using and my capacity to make a rational, informed decision is almost non-existent under the veil of the addiction. I wish it were as easy as getting locked up for a DUI or possession charge and then deciding “I didn’t like that, better stop drinking and drugging.” That thought may cross the mind of an addict but there is also the thought that maybe next time I won’t get caught, next time I will be able to control everything better. If you are unconvinced that is okay, but I beg you that if you are dealing with an addict/alcoholic who is still under control of the addiction please do not write the whole thing off as being as simple as deciding to stop. I decided to stop hundreds, if not thousands of times before I finally got some help. It never worked. Making a decision is useless without supporting actions. I would suggest, not only to those who do not believe in the disease concept, but anyone dealing with addiction within the family or social structure, to watch Pleasure Unwoven by Dr. Kevin McCauley. He breaks down the way that the chemicals work on the brain and notes addiction as a disease OF choice. You can find the video on youtube if you would like but please, for the sake of whoever you might be dealing with follow these three suggestions for helping an addict/alcoholic:
- Do not enable! Don’t give money, don’t provide housing, do not pay their bills, do not assist in any way that might feed into the addiction. There is much information on enabling you can find on a simple Google search.
- Do not believe their bulls***! If they are always going on and on about how good they are doing, how they are staying clean but struggling to pay bills, etc. don’t hook in. Addicts are typical in getting people to believe they are doing great but their circumstances are just keeping them down, again you can Google search more information on some of the common lies addicts tell to keep you engaged.
- Do not love them to death!!! The saddest fact of addiction for me is that some people who are dealing with an addict/alcoholic in the family think that they know what is best for their addict. The reality could not be further from the truth. This false belief can be a contributing factor for continuing in the addiction. No one can be objective about someone they care about, so when the counselor (someone who is licensed, preferrably) or treatment provider says “This is what your son/daughter/husband/wife needs” the correct answer is “Okay, how can I help you help them?” not, “No he/she just needs to get a job, get new friends, change living situation, get away from bf/gf’,” ad infinitum. Let the treatment provider guide the treatment and keep your opinions the heck out of it!
I sincerely hope this can help someone. If you have questions or would like to share your story please feel free to contact me by email: firstname.lastname@example.org. I would love to help or just hear some feedback. God bless!