Everyone Is Wrong About Addiction

And Everyone Is Right Some of The Time

Addiction is a horrible affliction. Nobody who’s lived through the pain of a serious drug addiction would disagree with that. But it’s those on the outside who are the most enthusiastic about the dangers of addiction. Whether they’re a bible thumping zero tolerance zealot, or a sympathetic bleeding heart preaching the mantra or addiction as a disease, they are almost always not former addicts.

I have long believed this is because they only see the downside of addiction. They may have seen a loved one fight this demon. Or even worse, they may have lost a loved one. They could fear the stereotypical “pusher” on every corner giving free drugs that look like candy to their kids. Or they may be anxious about their own perceived vulnerabilities to these chemicals.

This has created a very one sided view of addiction. The loudest voices are almost always the parents of dead kids, academics with a paper to push, preachers with pews to fill, police officers who need funding and politicians who need votes. The only voice absent from the conversation is the current and recovering addict.

reflecting on acts of desperation

It’s very rare you hear a recovered addict speaking up to demand longer jail terms, more aggressive policing or denying benefits to addicts. Because that is entirely without compassion. Equally, you’ll rarely hear an addict in recovery calling to treat a junky with kid gloves. Because telling someone with a problem that they don’t have a problem, is inherently unproductive.

A former addict has also perspective nobody who has not experienced addiction can possibly fathom. The pains of addiction rarely manifest through the effects or side-effects of drug itself. They come out in the absence of the drug. Whether it is the physical pain of opiate or alcohol withdrawal, the guilt the addict feels when reflecting on acts of desperation they did to get their fix, or as is most common, the shame and self loathing they feel when forced to confront the fact that they are different. And they are different.

If addiction is a disease, then surely sobriety after addiction is a chronic ailment.

No addict wants to be broke. To spend money they borrowed from their grandparents for rent on a high. But they will so long as getting high remains easier than getting sober. If addiction is a disease, then surely sobriety after addiction is a chronic ailment.

If the addict in question has an opiate addiction, getting sober involves basically submitting themselves to 2–14 days of hell, followed by 1 to 48 months of discomfort.

First, Imagine the worst flu of your life. Runny nose, aching joints, restless legs, chronic back pain, extreme photosensitivity, alternating cotton mouth and chronic saliva production, migraine headaches, insomnia, malaise and depression. And now, imagine for just twenty bucks, you can make that all go away. That’s phase one.

If you make it through the detox you enter phase two. This is where you enter recovery. Not recovered, recovery. Months to years of depression, sexual dysfunction, occasional cravings, rationalization of occasional use, insomnia, narcolepsy and false confidence in your sobriety. And certainly not easy street.

No amount of policing, rehab, love or understanding can overcome that. Only desire, grit and determination. None of which can be legislated.

If we as a society want addicts to make it out of the shadows and into the light. We must give them incentive to make it through the pain of detox and recovery. Love and understanding when they’re using is fine, and so is deterrence. But that deterrence should not include punishments for the sober addict.

I believe we should wipe the record of all non-violent drug offenders so they can reenter the job market and have an incentive to remain sober. We should also give them a reason to recover. The carrot and the stick are backwards right now. Punish when they’re using, not when they’re sober. A criminal record never helped anyone.

Nor does talking in muted tones and not inviting the recovering addict to social events when we would have invited the user. All too often, when the addict finds the strength to admit they have a problem, their social circle sees weakness. Rather than bringing them in, we push them away. Leaving them with few options to socialize outside of 12 step groups.

when the addict finds the strength to admit they have a problem, their social circle sees weak@ness

Until we overcome these paradoxes, young men and women will die, and not just die, but die needlessly. Are you comfortable enough in your dogma to allow this?

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