Addiction destroys lives. On a larger scale, it harms society as a whole—take the opioid crisis, for instance, which is destroying entire communities and forcing the governments of the United States and Canada to come up with solutions. Things as powerful as addiction are frightening—and they’re also all too easy to misunderstand.
When people grapple with ideas like addiction, they may prefer to look away from harsh truths. They may lean on myths and misinformation that have been passed down to them through their parents and that they’ve absorbed through their culture. All of this only makes addiction more dangerous. After all, how can you defend yourself from something if you don’t truly know what it is? How can anyone recover from something that they don’t understand—and that they might not even be able to admit that they suffer from?
That’s why it’s so important to understand certain truths about addiction. Below, you’ll find some of the things that you deserve and need to know.
Addiction is a disease
Most people know that addiction is a disease. But what does that really mean? In practice, some people ignore the implications of this very important statement. To paraphrase Mitch Hedberg’s famous joke, addiction is the only disease that you can get yelled at for having.
Weighing responsibility and addiction is a tricky thing. Recovering addicts often seek to make amends with those that they have harmed, and nobody should willingly suffer abuse from another person regardless of the reasons. But it’s crucial to understand that addicts are sick, say the addiction experts at a respected Ontario drug rehab facility. They are not making choices, at least not anymore. And they may never have made unusually bad ones: For instance, a typical college drinking experience can be a simple phase for some and the beginnings of alcoholism for others. Experts don’t even know why some people get addicted and others don’t — they just know that it happens that way.
Addiction doesn’t always look obvious
What makes an addict an addict? There are various measures that you can use, but among the most useful is a simple yes or no question: Is your substance of choice affecting your daily life?
By this measure, we can start to see that addicts don’t always fit our preconceptions. A homeless person living from bottle to bottle is certainly dealing with a substance abuse problem that affects their daily life—but so is a professor whose hangover makes him late to class, and so is a boardroom executive whose after-work happy hours are putting a strain on her marriage. If we don’t realize that addicts can lead lives that seem “normal,” we run the risk of missing the signs of addiction—perhaps even in ourselves.
Addiction can’t be “kicked”
To achieve sobriety, an addict must admit that they have a problem and then seek help from professionals. If they do this, they can kick their substance abuse problem—but never their addiction.
The truth is that experts believe pretty much all forms of addiction to be lifelong afflictions. Even after decades of sobriety, an addict is an addict—which is why, despite some alternative thinking, total sobriety is far and away the most trusted and popular treatment.
This may sound a little grim, but it doesn’t have to. Plenty of people have stayed sober and lived happy lives as addicts. If you’re an addict, then you can, too! If you admit that you have a problem and seek help, you’ll start a process that could give you a long, happy life full of healthy sobriety and beautiful memories.