The Hot Topic of Disease

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Seems there is a great deal of conversation regarding de-stigmatizing “addiction.” Addicts don’t want to be shun any longer. We want the community, our family, to see we have a disease. We want to be granted forgiveness for our illness. After all, no one is angry at you if you have diabetes or cancer. Why is everyone so mad at us addicts?

I’ll suggest why: The addict’s mentality, “If only people could see I have a disease then I could get better. If I get treatment and I drink again I can’t help it. I have a disease.”

What does “disease” mean? The origins are rooted in dis-meaning “to be without or apart” and ease-meaning “comfort.” In this sense aren’t all humans diseased in some manner? 

Are some diseases a choice and others not? Are we saying that disease is or is not a choice? And if we are saying it is or is not will this determine our approach to recovery?

I certainly hope not. Call it a disease, call it not a disease. Recovery is the same: put a correction into the error that created the disease. Disease is the result of lack of harmony. So what do addicts need to do? How do addicts cultivate harmony? What is the model for our future health? How do we start to put in a correction?

  1. Awareness that your behaviors are harming you and/or others.
  2. Make a decision to get healthy, which includes abstinence.
  3. Education on addiction and what it means for your future lifestyle.
  4. Get a support/trust group.
  5. Proper medication for related conditions (i.e. depression) that could present a relapse.
  6. Continue to evolve as a contributor to society and as a person with a purpose.

This is one recovery model for addiction. This is one approach you can take. Stop pinning the responsibility where it doesn’t belong. Addicts can feed the disease mentality. It gives them a get-out-of-jail-free card. They just blame their behavior on the fact that they have an addiction. Because of their addiction they cannot help their behavior.

As a recovery life skills coach (and recovered addict) I can say from personal experience that smashing some of the beliefs about addiction can only benefit addicts. The best success (actually only success) I have had with addicts is to get it out there for what it is—a choice! Once you know it’s a problem and choose to not follow a recovery model you are making a choice. This is called free-will.

Addicts, stop moving forward in the world as if you have a right to drink and drug at the expense of others. You will need to find a new way to have fun, ramp down, socialize, have sex, party, celebrate holidays, ramp up, vacation, cook dinner, play golf, write, go to sleep, go to work, et al.

And the reason people appear so tough on you is because you need someone to be tough on you. You have used (abused) your substance of choice, the people who love you, and yourself. As if that’s not enough you’re too afraid to dig deep and see who really lives within you—your delusion is killing you, not the drink. You need to stop. Or as I repeatedly say in coaching, “you get to stop.” It’s a choice! It doesn’t matter that you’ve failed before. Choose again.

I do not care that you miss it, you need, and it’s the way you function. I understand it is like oxygen for an addict. That however, can no longer be your excuse. There are solutions and the solutions work.

There is a solution for your condition and you don’t want it. That’s your disease. You want to find another way—and that my friend, that’s a choice.

This is your battle. This is your burden to face and overcome. This is your moment to step into your life. You have so much to offer the world. Stop giving so little and taking so much.

Do the work to be recovered. There is much within your power, your control, to change. There are so many willing to help. If you think you may have the disease of alcoholism get the help you need.

Addicts do think and function differently, but that doesn’t mean we don’t recover. You “get” to be willing to listen. Choose recovery.

Do the work to be recovered.

No Responses to “The Hot Topic of Disease

  • “Stop pinning the responsibility where it doesn’t belong. Addicts can feed the disease mentality. It gives them a get-out-of-jail-free card. They just blame their behavior on the fact that they have an addiction. Because of their addiction they cannot help their behavior.” This circular logic is why non-addicted people “shun” addicts.

  • “Addicts do think and function differently, but that doesn’t mean we don’t recover. You “get” to be willing to listen. Choose recovery.”

    I remember all the meetings I went too I kept hearing this in many different forms and for some reason it always bothered me ONCE I got Sober! You see I found when I took away the alcohol and drugs my thinking was just like everyone else’s!
    So once I realized this and “TOOK RESPONSIBILITY ” for myself and my OWN actions and learned the root to all of my problems where in fact my own creation and my own way of thinking I started learning I could change my negative thinking into positive thinking and be part of the rest of the world and not just this world that so many want to keep you in and make you feel like you are “Different” for I felt different all of my life and that was some of the reason I did what I did!
    Just like every disease if you keep thinking you have it you will surly keep it!

    • Steve, Thanks for coming over. As we recover we take responsibility. You always have a positive outlook on overcoming challenges. I love that!

      • Thanks! I have been checking out your blog and other sites on recovery and been trying to figure out what direction I want to go in for sure with mine. (LOL) I have been basically bouncing around trying to get a feel for what I would like to do and see what area I have the most interest in I guess and the bottom line is I have been very successful in Staying Sober! I guess you can say I have become an expert in that area! lol But I am still one drink a way from a drunk like everyone else! Have a Great Day! Keep up the Great Content! I love how you make me think!

        • Yes, many great recovery sites. I read many that I love. There are great alcoholic writers out there. Been thinking of taking some writing classes myself. I learn so much from other bloggers. I like your point about what you are successful at. You’ll find your way. Do some journal work like A/B journaling and see if that helps. That’s what I tell with my clients. (ps. not that you asked, just wanted to throw it out there.) I really appreciate that you come by and comment. You are a nice addition to the voice over here at SoberID. Lots of love, Lisa

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  • I have a brother who is chemically dependent. He blames his problems on the fact that he was abused growing up and into adulthood. Yes he was abused. But he seems to and it is hard to work through abuse, but he says that is why he has to use drugs. And that his anger is because of the abuse and if he takes it out on you, that you should just understand. Now I don’t agree with that. He is using this as an excuse for his bad behavior. We all can point to some trauma or tragety in our life and make it our reason for our behavior. And sometimes we do. But we have to know that it isn’t an excuse for our bad behavior simply the reason we allow ourselves to use. Sometimes we are just to worn down to deal with something. that happens to all of us. But at what point do we get up and say, “enough is enough.” I choose to be better than this.” I have seen people face horrific trials and overcome a lot of it with dignity and strength and become even better people for it. I will walk the distance with someone who has an addiction if they are putting forth half the effort. If they choose to not do anything at all, I will even try to get others involved to help if the person really needs extra help. But if they choose to do nothing? I can’t stand by and watch them kill themselves and the hearts of those around them. It is too painful. But I will applaud those who make it to the finish line and love themselves enough to care for themselves and others.

    • Thank you for the comment Yisraela. Yes, there appears an incredibly fine line between free will and addiction. We have to cut it somewhere, however. I tend to fall on the side of tough rather than soft. I’m not implying meanness, or lack of love. Simply said, we buy into too many of our own excuses. Recovery moves faster when we don’t baby people. Letting people experience the consequences of their behavior will speed the process along. Sadly, the consequences are often grave. I will keep you and your family in my prayers. For what it’s worth, I think detaching with love, as you are doing, is best for both of you. with love, Lisa

  • The disease model also prevents some people from getting sober because they don’t believe it is a disease. I understand because on many levels it doesn’t make sense, but for me it didn’t matter. Semantics. I don’t care if I have to identify as alcoholic or if I have a disease or don’t. I just know that I was drinking more than I wanted to and needed to stop. I’m willing to call it whatever as long as I get to recover. Which I guess is why this isn’t for people who need it, it’s for those who want it.

    • Thank you so much for that thought. I never understood that until I read your words. You are spot on. (That’s a post in and of itself.) I’m with you … “semantics” … and many of us use semantics as an excuse for just about anything. I know that’s why I wrote the book. I was tired of discussing issues that weren’t relevant to recovery. I appreciate your perspective on recovery. I like thought that is refreshing—eyeopening.

  • This is a brave post on a touchy topic. Kudos to you, Lisa. The longer I am in recovery and working with other alcoholics and addicts as part of that–the more I find myself wanting to say some of the things you are saying. If you call it a disease, then you get to acknowledge that it’s a treatable one. It’s not an excuse so much as a reason to hope. That said, for me it was important to encounter the disease model because it was the thing that finally unhooked me from–just try harder, pray harder, you can beat this on your own. Once I understood that my body processed alcohol differently–that it wasn’t just a moral issue, that I couldn’t have one or two drinks without kicking in the craving phenomenon, where I get More, not less thirsty for alcohol–I felt a huge wave of relief. I wasn’t an horrible person with a weak will, I was an alcoholic with an allergy that meant I couldn’t drink safely. At all. I do so agree, though, that even if you call it a “disease,” whatever the addiction, that doesn’t make you no longer human. And being human means that we have choices and free will and we can be super selfish and immoral in those choices. So it’s both/and for me. I agree that some addicts are just not willing to get the help they need, take the help they need. Once you see you have a problem and that it’s hurting people around you–you get to choose or deny help. What danger of the flip side is that we don’t make it into a simple moral issue, or a matter of choice that anyone should just be able to make. That’s why I’m so glad you promote the ideas of getting help, knowledge, and finding a community. It’s such a delicate balance of compassion and understanding mixed with a message of taking responsibility. I have wrestled with this issue on my blog a couple times and it particularly stirs up certain kinds of Christians if you call it a disease. Thanks for being brave and balanced, Lisa. Kudos! Happy Thanksgiving! Heather
    PS I’m going to order your book right now. 🙂

    • Heather I love your blog. Thank you for the insightful comment. You touched on some important aspects of what I wrote. I appreciate your elaboration and perspective. I think we have much to share with one another. Happy Thanksgiving to you too. with love, Lisa

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