Revisiting Addiction

myburdenislight.pngI came across an article written addressed to “The Girl Asking Us to Stop Calling Your Drug Addiction A Disease“. The essence of the article was for this girl to stop asking for this and that the author was going to “educate” people on how addiction is in fact a disease.  Mostly, according to the author, because it is incredibly offensive to call addiction a choice not a disease.

My first reaction was, “Oh no let’s not offend the addict! Heaven forbid we should offend them to the point of anger and quite possibly some personal introspection. No we wouldn’t want to do that!” It’s this kind of pussyfooting around that has gotten us to the point where we have an “epidemic” of heroin use, thousands of people with multiple rehab stays and a generation that thinks that drug use is just part of their growing up. The author who is female serves up excuse after excuse for addicts stating that they cannot control themselves and would not choose this life therefore it’s a disease excuse as many others have, ineffectively in my opinion.

Her first volley to try to destroy the argument that addiction is a choice is to quote the National Institute of Drug Abuse stating that drug addiction is, “a chronic, relapsing brain disease that is characterized by compulsive drug seeking and use, despite harmful consequences.” So let me get this straight, I have to actively seek drugs out and then ingest them to have this disease? Uh huh, ok. It goes on to state that, “It is considered a brain disease because drugs change the brain—they change its structure and how it works. ” Hmmm, so I am putting something deliberately in my body and altering my brain chemistry, yet it’s a brain disease? Did NIDA even pay attention to what they were saying?  No child of two comes down with alcoholism or a 4-year-old suddenly is addicted to heroin. Yet those same children can come be found to have cancer, diabetes, MS and the list goes on. In fact I am offended by those who would lump addiction in with these documented diseases that truly were not a choice.

The next few lines in the article speaks about becoming tolerant of your drug of choice so you need more of it to get the same high and it is “seemingly impossible to break the habit.” Now I am not sure if the author was aware of her choice of words, but she demolishes her own argument with the word “habit”. Habit is defined as “an acquired behavior pattern regularly followed until it has become almost involuntary.” A behavior pattern? So you don’t necessarily have this behavior pattern till you CHOOSE it. “Almost involuntary”, we have all heard the saying that almost does not count unless it’s horse shoes or hand grenades. Almost implies that it can be done if one CHOOSES.

I agree with her next supposition that no one wakes up one day and says, “I am going to become an addict” and yes, there are several factors that come into play to create an atmosphere to become an addict, but then she again obliterates her own argument by saying that there has been speculation by psychologists and medical professionals that alcoholism runs in families. I agree with the part of the statement that it can run in families, but the likelihood that it happens in families is because that children grow up to see their parent, sister, brother, aunt, uncle and so on having a glass, or two, or three at dinner, of wine and deciding that it’s acceptable behavior and taking it a bit farther. There is no alcoholism gene, no one is born with Captain Morgan stamped on a gene in their system that creates alcoholism from birth. In that same paragraph the author then goes on to say that, some may find that drinking is a way for them to cope with other issues, such as stress or struggling with mental illness. She’s right, most addicts are looking for an escape from the problems in their world and drugs or alcohol make those problems seem very small or they go away all together. However, a person comes down off their high and the problems are still there which in turn makes the want for escape even more pressing and they indulge in even more of whatever. This is exactly where God comes in if many would just let Him, 1 Corinthians 10:13, “13 There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.” We are all tempted, we all have had many moments of wanting to escape, but the only true escape is in Him.

The author wraps up her article by stating that she wants to stigma of “oh poor me” attitudes to be done with for everyone that addiction has touched. The she goes on to assume that if addiction is a choice and we believe that we would be as heartless to tell a parent whose son or daughter died from an overdose , “well they chose it.” As a Christian woman, heck even as a human I would NEVER say that to a person who has lost a loved one, no matter the circumstances. THAT offends ME!

Her final thoughts are that we need to stop criticizing, bashing, and shame addicts, we should love and support them. I agree wholeheartedly with loving and supporting them, however that does not mean that we let their addiction become ours, or that we are ok with their sin much like we would not be ok if a person were committing adultery or murder or any other sin.

Addiction has been given a pass as a disease and rehabs that medically treat this “disease” haven’t worked so far. This is proven out by the fact that success rates are based on a person remaining indefinitely in a program. If the CDC is reporting that 91 Americans per day die of a heroin overdose, then please tell me what is working in the way that we approach this “disease” because I can’t find it?

Instead of giving addicts another way to justify their addictions, we need to point them to the only ONE who will fill the hole they are so desperately working to stuff with alcohol or drugs. Jesus is our sufficiency. We place so much on ourselves that isn’t ours to carry and then we try to stifle the noise when Jesus told us in Matthew 11:28-30, “28 Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” Alcohol and drugs have never given anyone rest, it’s never been a light load to carry, and until we stop excusing the behavior and taking an honest approach to this the load will get heavier and the burden unbearable.

So to the author of the article I hope that I have instilled in you that we most certainly need to love on and support addicts, and point them onto the road of true recovery, but writing them a blank check to explain their addiction isn’t working, but there IS another way.

 

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5 thoughts on “Revisiting Addiction

  1. Says the person who has obviously never fought an addiction…. Brain chemistry is both physical and psychological. It is affected by numerous factors. You’ve obviously never run into a 16 year old alcoholic or a 14 year old meth addict, or a 15 year old porn addict whose father started watching porn with them (or abusing them) at the age of 7.

    Would you tell the woman with lung cancer “well, you chose to smoke, so your condition isn’t a disease”?

    Why do most addicts feel uncomfortable going to church? Because of people like you, with attitudes like you – “Just make better choices!” Your judgment of those of us who do struggle keeps people AWAY from Christ and the church. Congrats on filling that stereotype.

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  2. Therein lies the problem with assuming too much. My husband was a cross addicted alcoholic for 10 years, so your assertion that I don’t know what I am talking about it incorrect. I also work with families of addicts through our church to learn to place boundaries, follow through with them and consequences for achieving or crossing those boundaries.
    A 16 year old alcoholic or a 14 year old meth addict didn’t just sprout up and have it overcome them. They chose to take that first drink or that first hit. The porn addict has a choice each time they open up a browser and search for it. Even if the father watched porn with the child it doesn’t mean that the child is predisposed to be addicted to it, it means that they were exposed to a horror at a young age.

    I can tell you didn’t read my whole blog either because I said I would never be callous and unfeeling towards another in my exchanges.

    Most addicts feel uncomfortable going to church because they are sinning and church is where sin can be exposed. Placing blame for your choices on everyone else won’t help fill the hole either. Your confusion between judgment of sin and judgment of a person is not mine to own, so no stereotype welcome.

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  3. Just because you have spent time with an addict and their families, that doesn’t mean you understand addiction. Just because you read about dopamine and serotonin doesn’t mean you understand how those chemicals drive an addict. Your posts (I actually read a handful of them) fully paint you as a full-out holier-than-thou Super-Christian. I used to be like you – “Just make better choices!” – but I have been confronted with my own addictive behaviors. Every day, I struggle against my brain chemistry. I struggle to change neural pathways in my brain. I struggle to reshape the chemical reward system in my brain. It is not just an issue of “Make better choices.”

    It is entertaining that you THINK you know why addicts dislike people like you, yet your perception is clearly wrong. The people I listen to at 12-step meetings laugh at you super-christian types because you think you have the only answer, while constantly treating us with disdain and minimizing what you clearly don’t understand. You think we haven’t seen the sideways glances at church? You think we don’t notice that people avoid us? Throw some scripture at us, and throw some Benny Hinn-esque healing our way and we’ll suddenly be healed?

    I grew up in the church. I’ve seen judgement first hand. I’ve been on the receiving end of it, from people just like you, who think they know more than they do. Heck, my own mother is just like you – emailing bible verses to me, sending Focus on the Family and other radio episodes to me. I gave up on listening to them because they’re all superficial simplistic generalizations of addiction, much like your blog post. Do addicts and Christians a favor and stop writing about it. Hopefully then more addicts can find a church similar to the one I attend – one with solid biblical theology and teaching not rooted in judgement, but in love.

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  4. I am not going to engage in a who is better tit for tat with you. I will say spending time with and LIVING with an addict for over 10 years actually gives me more insight than you would like to give me credit for.

    My husband too got sober in a 12 step program, and I attended one myself for many years. However, his did not KEEP him sober and help him continue to walk in truth and while the one I attended helped me in the early times and the height of my husband’s addiction it couldn’t sustain a changed heart. It’s not THINKING that addicts dislike “people like me” it’s the truth and your hostility proves it.

    Loving a person does not mean excusing their behavior. Theology doesn’t guarantee a firm foundation in The Word. I hope you truly have found a church that expresses love, but does not ignore sin.

    I sincerely hope you have found true recovery and a changed heart rather than a place where the recovery is more about, “I beat my wife, I kicked my dog, I quit my job, but I didn’t drink or drug today!” is celebrated more than a changed life. Good luck to you.

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  5. Time to chime in here.

    I was an addict and alcoholic for a great many years. Attended a whole lot of meetings and churches. Like JOHN SMITH. I have seen the sideways looks and had my own mother claim I was possessed by a demon and just needed to be delivered from it. (Eye roll).

    Here is my experience/ strength / and hope. AA was awesome it taught me the 12 steps. Also taught me how to stop drinking with the promise that if I did the work (the steps ) I would be able to stay stopped. They were right. I also sponsored a lot of other folks in the process who helped keep me sober. The steps told me to find a higher power. I did and his name is Jesus Christ. The third step said I had to turn my will and life over to the God of my understanding. I did just that and accepted Jesus not only as my Savior but also Lord of my life.

    The hardest thing for me to wrap my head around was calling it a disease. Sure it may MANIFEST it self LIKE a disease. Even the treatment for it is different then say Cancer, or diabetes, or any other sickness. To ME a disease is something that can be transmitted or anyone can catch. So I totally agree with Leslie that addiction and alcoholism is NOT a disease. It is absolutely a CHOICE. I never once got drunk or high by accident. I never once accidentally tripped, fell down, while simultaneously a bottle of open vodka poured down my throats as it fell over, or tripped and landed on a syringe full of smack and the needle went right into a vein and I got wasted. NOPE NEVER. if I really get honest it is a sin problem not a disease. Every time I got wasted I had made a decision to do it long before the actual act! I had a CHOICE. EVERYTIME. I have never met anyone that choose to have cancer, or any other disease. But I have met a lot of addicts that chose to use.

    So yea I do not look at it as a disease at all. From my experience people call it a disease because they are ashamed of calling it sin. Disease does make it more palatable yeah. I look at it as a sin problem. That has a cure. Jesus paid for it all on the cross and it is our CHOICE to accept it or not. Just like it is our Choice to make him Lord of our life and end up dancing on a sea of glass when we die, or burn eternall, separated from God.

    JOH SMITH. you can call it a disease if you really feel comfortable doing that. I won’t judge you for it, honestly I won’t. I respect your recovery from addiction just as you would have to respect mine. But I will have to agree to disagree with addiction being labeled a disease. Just my experience, yours may be different. But in the end the bigger CHOICE is where are you going to spend eternity when you die???

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