The Power Of Words

From an old Facebook thread, this mother’s comment:

“I am sick of hearing addiction is a disease! It is a choice! I have been clean/sober for over 20 years. I made a choice! I chose to put a needle in my arm. I chose to get drunk because I could not handle what life gave. I chose to get clean and stay clean. Life is all about choices. I did not choose this for my daughter, she did! What I need to do is take care of me today. I choose to let her go no matter how much I love her!”

My response is this: This may be a problem of semantics, but it also involves the old chicken and egg confusion. Which came first?  I think the question “Is addiction a disease or a choice?” oversimplifies: I think it’s both a disease and a choice. The soul sickness that most addicts have—from which they seek relief via drugs, alcohol, food, gambling, etc.—is an emotional condition. Call it depression. But when addicts self-medicate with a substance, then the substance often takes over in the body, creating a craving. Then it’s physical. Then it’s addiction.

So I think the mother on FB is saying that there is choice involved: the choice to fight the disease and go into recovery. Many addicts do just that. But there may be a genetic predisposition in some people to be vulnerable to addiction. In any case, the American Medical Association has stated that addiction is a brain disease. And what people choose to do about it—or any disease—is a matter of choice.


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