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Addiction isn’t a Choice

The suggestion that addicts know they will become addicted, is both insulting and naive. Addiction isn't a choice.

The suggestion that we, as addicts, knowingly take our first drink or drug fully aware we will become addicted, is both insulting and naive. There are plenty of “normal” people who experiment with drinking and/or drugs and don’t become addicts. My brain is simply not wired properly. Unlike “normal” people, I can’t take just one drink. I never have and never will be that girl who leaves a glass of alcohol half-full or turns down a drink because I’ve had enough. I’m an alcoholic. One drink will never be enough for me.

Addiction is a disease, no more a choice than cancer.

Yes, I made a choice to continue to drink after I realized I had a problem, but by then I was already caught up in addiction.

Today, I chose to be sober. I chose not to pick up that first drink today because I know for a fact that it will take me back to my active addiction. I chose every day not to let addiction beat me. I make the choice to take action every day, just like a person with diabetes chooses to eat responsibly and take their medicine.

There’s no shame in illness.

Addiction is an illness with no real cure—only remission.

I did not decide to become an addict, but I do make the choice every day to utilize the tools I need to stay sober. I know today that I am much more than my disease. I’m a mother, a wife, and a friend. I’m a person living with a disease.

Do we treat people who develop lung cancer differently if they smoke? Do we blame people with cancer for taking the risks they did, or deny them life-saving treatment because they might be at fault? No, we treat them as people with an illness that any one of us could have. We understand that some people smoke and don’t get lung cancer and that some people have a predisposition which places them at a greater risk. We don’t shame people with lung cancer for smoking even though it was a risk. We provide these people with support and medicine. We help them fight their disease.

Why is addiction different? Why is there such stigma attached?

I am not proud of anything I did as an active addict. Not a day goes by I don’t play some part of it back in my mind and feel guilty. I used to be so afraid to tell people I am a recovering alcoholic. I was worried about what would they think of me, whether their kids would be allowed to play with my kids. I was worried that they wouldn’t want to talk to me anymore. I worried about side or dirty looks from my kids’ teachers. I thank God I have yet to really experience any of those reactions. I’m sure people talk, or maybe they can’t believe I talk so openly about my recovery. I’m okay with that. I understand that keeping my addiction and recovery a secret doesn’t help anyone, but being honest about it might open the door for someone else who’s struggling.

We all make choices and mistakes we’re not proud of. People who make bad decisions aren’t bad people.

We are all human, and just because we make bad choices, doesn’t mean we can’t change.

I wish we could stop looking at addiction differently than other illnesses that can be triggered, and try harder to provide help instead of judgment. If we could just listen more, make an effort to understand the person behind the addiction, then maybe the next time you heard about that “drunk” or “junkie,” it might be because he or she got sober.

No one makes the choice to become ill—to become an addict, but we do get to make the choice to recover.

photo credit: zubrow via photopin cc

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1 Comment

  1. I’m a mom of a addict and I completely agree with this article. I wish more people could understand and have compassion.

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