“ADDICTION IS ADDICTION, NO MATTER WHAT THE
DRUG—AND IT’S NOT ABOUT WILLPOWER”
“GENES AFFECT YOUR PROPENSITY FOR ADDICTION,
JUST AS THEY DO FOR ANY OTHER DISEASE”
“ALL AMERICANS HAVE A RIGHT TO ADDICTION
TREATMENT UNDER THE AFFORDABLE CARE ACT”
Let me say at the outset that I am a firm believer in AA, NA and the other 12-step fellowships (just in case you hadn’t noticed). They saved my life, the life of my wife, and that of my best friend, his wife, my son-in-law and many of the other people who are most important to me. One of the other fellowships is helping me work on some other issues that have plagued me since childhood. For me, it works.
It worried me early on, and continues to worry me two and a half decades later, how some people in the rooms seem afraid to allow their knowledge of alcoholism to progress beyond the middle of the last century. It’s as though if they admit that the founders of AA didn’t know every possible thing there was to know, that it somehow calls the entire recovery issue into question.
Now I’ve gotta tell you: if I had a deadly disease (which I do), and if my continued good health and well-being were contingent upon my knowing as much about it as I could find out (which I believe they are), and if I were constantly giving guidance to people with less experience who suffer from the same disease (which I am), I would feel morally obliged (which I do) to find out every single thing that I thought might be useful in educating people about our little problem.
There is no question but that the 12-step model works for a lot of people. Not all, for whatever reasons, but a bunch. I know way too many people who have been helped by it to doubt the point. But let’s get to that word “believers” for a moment.
That’s what I get from a lot of folks in the rooms: that they are True Believers, and that anyone who suggests that the first 164 pages of the Big Book aren’t the be-all and end-all of knowledge about recovery should be treated about the same as an evolutionist at a camp meeting.
As stated above, I’m a believer. But I no more ignore the 80 years that have passed since the first edition of Alcoholics Anonymous than I am likely to ignore the little nuances that the medical community have developed since Sir Alexander Fleming’s discovery of penicillin. I have a theory about the folks I’m discussing — the same one I have about creationists. They’re afraid to learn anything new, because then they might have to get out of their rut and accept a new world view.
I gotta tell you, I hope none of those folks ever need a liver transplant. We’ll just have to give ‘em a shot of penicillin and leave them to recover on their own.
The Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary defines disease as “a condition of the living animal or plant body or of one of its parts that impairs normal functioning and is typically manifested by distinguishing signs and symptoms.”
Let’s take a quick look at addiction based on those criteria. Continue reading “Is Addiction A Real Disease?”
Previously we mentioned that the pleasure center is a portion of the brain over which we have no conscious control, and that it can be stimulated by a variety of chemicals — some of them produced inside our bodies and some that we introduce from outside. We said that the pleasure center rewards us for activities that it interprets as contributing in some way to our survival, whether they be social interactions, exercising, or more prosaic things such as eating. We also stated that these pleasurable feelings, when pursued too far or for too long can create problems. Now we need to examine how that happens….
One of the most insidious things about the disease of alcoholism–and it is a disease, despite the best efforts of thundering moralists to deny the science and the plain medical and biochemical facts–is that it plays on your character defects (which all people have) and, worse, it progresses slowly.