Addiction: The Stigma Vs. The Truth

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Addiction, while many people know it is a disease and are coming around to the idea that addicts should be treated as sick people not bad people, still carries with it a stigma. This is because addiction to some doesn’t look like what they know to be a disease. What people know as a disease doesn’t normally cause people to steal, lie, cheat or put drugs in their veins. Many people are under the belief that it can’t be a disease because someone with a disease doesn’t choose it. Giving way to the false belief that addicts after a certain point are still choosing to get high; that they are choosing to do it to themselves; and that they are choosing to do things like prostitute themselves, steal, rob, give up their children and whatever else to get their fix. 

Well here is the truth. 

The physical allergy of addiction explains pretty perfectly how addiction works as a disease. The physical allergy that addicts and alcoholics alike have, is just like any other allergy. In fact, I am going to go ahead and compare addiction to being allergic to bees.

So say for instance we are allergic to bees. What happens when we get stung by a bee? We break out in hives right? Do we choose to break out in hives? Absolutely not, it just happens. The reaction is something we can’t control. Now lets put this in the context of addiction. Someone with the disease of addiction, when they drink or use drugs, has a reaction much like someone who is allergic to bees does, but they don’t break out in hives. They break out in something else. What happens when someone with addiction uses drugs or drinks, they have a reaction and the reaction is the craving for more. This craving for more overrides every rational thought in an addict’s mind. It overrides every physical part of the addict’s body that tells them they need to survive and instead tells them to get high or drunk. And the addict and alcoholic doesn’t choose to have this reaction. Just like we don’t choose to break out in hives when we get stung by a bee. The reaction is automatic, almost instantaneous and unable to be controlled. 

Which brings me to my next point. The reason addicts are able to get well is because they stop putting drugs and alcohol in their bodies. But what they have to do to be capable of that is change their behavior, their soul and their mind. They can’t do this while using because of what I explained before. While they are using they have no control. This is why it usually takes outside help in the form of treatment or detox, for the addict to stop using drugs and alcohol. But once they do stop for a period of time they can begin to make decisions that will allow them to stay sober instead of continuing to get high.

But this change in the mind and the behavior takes time. And if they don’t continue working on these changes they may end up using drugs or drinking again. If they do end up using drugs or drinking again (relapse), the allergy comes to into play creating the reaction which is an inability to stop.

This allergy is why someone who is an addict or alcoholic will always be one even after they stop using drugs and alcohol. Even if they stay sober for the rest of their lives, they can’t change their physical makeup, they can’t change what would happen if they ever picked up drugs and alcohol again. Just like someone who is allergic to bees can’t think their way out of being allergic to bees, doesn’t become “unallergic” to bees after not being stung for awhile, alcoholics and addicts can’t change what happens to them when they drink or use drugs nor can they change what happens when they drink or use drugs regardless of how long they have been sober. What addicts and alcoholics can change, once they are clean, is the things in their lives that will help to protect them from ever picking up drugs and alcohol again. But in the midst of using this is nearly impossible. 

What alcoholics and addicts have when they do anything they need to do to get high or drunk, what addicts have when they steal to get high, or hurt people, put their children last, sell their bodies etc., is an inability to stop and say this isn’t a good idea, and it is because of their physical allergy. It is because of the allergic reaction, the phenomenon of craving, which compels them to do whatever they can to get high, and there is nothing they can do about it unless they are able to stop for some period of time. Why do you think you always hear the words of broken promises from alcoholics addicts? Why do you seem to hear them say “I am drinking even though I don’t want to.” It isn’t because they actually would rather be drinking and it isn’t because they didn’t mean it when they made those promises. It is because the allergic reaction that alcoholics and addicts have to drugs and alcohol is a craving for more that can’t be shut off. This is why those who are addicts and alcoholics don’t choose to shoot heroin until they are dead and they don’t choose to do horrible things to get high and drunk. It is the disease that compels them, not who they are as people. 

No one wakes up one day and says I want to use drugs and be incapable of stopping. No one decides to prostitute themselves to get high. No one decides to use drugs despite the fact that they may lose their children. It is this physical allergy. These people are not well. If getting stung by a bee caused you to do those things would you want people to say that you chose them for yourself? Absolutely not. If you say that drinking and using drugs causes addicts and alcoholics to choose to do those things you are basically saying that someone who gets stung by a bee decides to break out in hives and choke. It is the same thing. 

So this is addiction. This is the stigma vs. the truth and this is the reality. Addicts and alcoholics need help not judgment. They need a way to stop so they can begin making changes. What they don’t need are harsh moral speeches about how they need to be better sons, daughters, mothers or fathers. They need a way to get some clean time so they can begin making the spiritual, mental, and behavioral changes that it will take so they never drink or in our analogy, get stung by a bee again. 


And here is the other part of the truth. The truth is regardless of how I try to explain it there is going to be a person out there that just simply refuses to see it this way. They will refuse to believe that alcoholism and addiction is a disease. It may be because they have a disease themselves and saying addiction is a disease means it invalidates the whole disease concept. It may be because they have hatred in their heart towards someone who has personally hurt them due to their drug addiction or alcoholism. They may still refuse to believe it because they are ignorant, uneducated or afraid. Whatever the case may be, the facts are the facts. Luckily, most addicts and alcoholics don’t expect the rest of the world to “get it.” We don’t expect anyone to understand. But if my words can help one person finally see how this disease works and destroys lives, its worth it. There are one too many people who die, overdose, or end up in jail because of addiction and alcoholism. And they are further destroyed by the idea that they are heartless people with no morals. They are swept under the rug. The only time anyone feels sorry is if their favorite celebrity dies. It is time we start realizing that is this is a disease that affects millions of people within the United States alone. That for every addict or alcoholic, there are 10 people who are touched by the disease through association. This is an epidemic. This something that can’t be kept under the rug. This is something that is killing human beings because they don’t have a choice. It is time we help give them one by offering a way out. 

If you or someone you love needs help from addiction or alcoholism please don’t hesitate to call us. We will do absolutely everything we can to find a solution for you or your loved one.