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Addiction is a disease – and you’re reporting it wrong, Kyle Smith!

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not-easy-but-simpleI recently read an article that was just plain infuriating to me, entitled: “Addiction is not a disease — and we’re treating addicts incorrectly”, written by Kyle Smith. Mr. Smith, I hate to let you in on a little secret, but as a recovered alcoholic myself, I have yet to pick up a drink, obsess over drinking, or even have a craving for alcohol in over six years. I believe in the disease concept of addiction, because I have lived it!

Addiction Is A Disease!

I tried many “self-will” and “self-help” theories as it relates to the recovery of alcoholism because at one time in my life, I believed I could cure myself. But after countless attempts, I discovered that no matter how hard I willed myself to stay sober, I would get drunk all over again. It was like my body was drinking to survive. I had literally no control over what I was doing. It was like my brain was playing tricks on me and I was losing my mind. I am not alone; there are others who have had similar experiences.

So, some neuroscientist and long-time drug abuser wrote a book about how addiction is not a disease, but rather a “nasty habit.” Dr. Marc Lewis wrote about it in, “The Biology of Desire.” I haven’t read the book, and maybe it is a good book for people who do have a bad habit problem, but for people who are suffering from a chronic progressive brain disease like addicts and alcoholics, it could be deadly.

Addiction as a disease is very similar to other chronic progressive diseases, as it may have various levels of symptoms depending on the person. Let’s take cancer, for example. Some people who are affected by cancer may recover completely after only a few treatments and never go through treatment again. However, others may have to endure many treatments resulting in temporary recovery, only for the cancer to recur later, and sometimes result in death – no matter how aggressive the treatment was.

Does this mean that the people who experienced only one occurrence didn’t suffer from cancer? No. It simply means that each person’s disease affected them differently.  This is very similar to how addiction affects people. Sometimes people are able to recover after their first attempt, while others may take a little longer and may even need a more aggressive treatment plan.

Furthermore, there is a difference between a drug abuser/alcohol abuser and a drug addict/alcoholic. Someone who “abuses” substances may struggle with what you call a “bad habit” and after serious enough consequences or life changing events, (like love or a new baby) will quit completely. The addict/alcoholic who suffers from this brain disease will absolutely not be able to do this long-term based on self-will alone.

MORE: The Difference Between Heavy Drinking & Being An Alcoholic

If every addict could just fix themselves, it would have happened long before Dr. Marc Lewis wrote a book. Sorry, but not sorry, because it’s true. You don’t think they haven’t tried fixing us with a moral or psychological change in the past? Many addicts and alcoholics were actually considered mentally defective and locked up in psychiatric wards under the belief that they just needed to be cured of their bad habit. How well has that worked out for us? Let’s just keep ignoring the problem and keep saying that addiction is just a bad habit or moral failing and maybe, just maybe it will go away. That’s kind of why were in the place we are in today with drug addiction and alcoholism.

If alcoholism and drug addiction were such a bad habit, then the long-term removal of the drug would alleviate that problem. There would be no obsessing over the substance after, let’s say, 28 days? Or is it more? How many days does it take to cure a bad habit? Why after several months off of alcohol, away from alcohol, and having built this amazing life for myself with no worries and so much potential would I destroy it for just one drink? The one drink that I couldn’t seem to stop thinking about? The one drink that I couldn’t (no matter how hard I tried to fix myself) stop drinking for two years? It was because I was treating my alcoholism like it was a bad habit, and not a chronic, progressive, and deadly brain disease. Once I treated the true source of the problem with a real solution, I was able to recover long-term. It was that simple. Not easy, but simple.

The stigma of addiction is still very strong, but there has definitely been progress as it relates to understanding the disease concept of drug addiction and alcoholism. It’s unfortunate that some people feel that their experience is the only experience that should be taken seriously as it relates to the life and recovery of another addict or alcoholic. Especially when these “specialists” are downplaying a disease that is killing our nation. I hope that those who are desperate for recovery and are suffering greatly from this disease do not solely listen to the advice of those people who think we can fix ourselves.

I just want to let other alcoholics and addicts know who have tried to fix their bad habit by themselves that there is hope and recovery is possible. That you don’t have to do this alone and that treatment does work if you work it!

Written By: Watershed Ashling




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