The disease concept is one that is very difficult for addicts and alcoholics to wrap their mind around.
After being on the receiving end of judgmental stares and accusations from family members, friends and employers many of us have convinced ourselves we are bad, rather than sick people.
By the time an addict or alcoholic enters treatment, he or she has compromised their integrity, hurt family members, made a fool of themselves at work and experienced any number of embarrassing consequences. Our own guilt and shame keeps us trapped in the cycle of addiction. We feel horrible about what we’re doing, yet we can’t stop. As a result, we pour more alcohol, pop more pills or take another run to the drug dealer to avoid the pain we are forced to confront when we’re sober. The problems we are creating as a result of our substance abuse continue to mount, in spite of our most sincere efforts to avoid them.
The reality is; addicts and alcoholics are bodily different from those who do not suffer from this condition. Our brain chemistry will simply not allow us to have one or two drinks without spiraling out of control. We can not use drugs recreationally like so many people can. Try though we may, we will always fail to control our drug and alcohol use due to our own biology. It really is that simple.
Being an addict or alcoholic is not about being “less of a man” or some weak-willed woman –it’s about genetics, something we are all powerless over. Just as a person with diabetes can not physically produce the insulin they need to sustain life, so the person who has a propensity toward addiction can not manage their use of mind-altering chemicals. This concept sounds like hogwash to those who do not understand the disease concept and many even propose that such a suggestion is insulting to those with diabetes and other life-threatening illnesses.
Remember, The American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) defines addiction “a primary, chronic disease of brain reward, motivation, memory and related circuitry. Dysfunction in these circuits leads to characteristic biological, psychological, social and spiritual manifestations. This is reflected in an individual pathologically pursuing reward and/or relief by substance use and other behaviors.”
In layman’s terms, this means the world’s most renowned medical doctors have defined addiction as a disease or illness and they treat it as such. This is great news for those who suffer from this condition –it serves as validation that we are not bad people trying to become good. We are sick people who have a desire to be well. This realization is quite freeing for those who stay stuck in self-destructive behavior because they believe they suffer from a moral deficiency.
If you believe your use of drugs or alcohol has gotten out of control, you can get help. Still not convinced you have a disease? Don’t take our word for it. Check out these credible resources to learn more about your condition: