Disease or Choice
There is no denying that there is a problem in America with drug use and addiction. What there does seem to be is a debate about is whether this a choice for these individuals or if it is a disease.
There will always be those people that say "I wanted to stop smoking cigarettes so I put them down and never picked one up again" and that is great! I have never met an addict that argues the point with that person. I've never met an addict that says "no way, that's not possible". This is because we understand that not everyone is the same and not every addiction is the same. Some people require little motivation to quit something they are addicted to while others may not be able to break free from it no matter how much they want to.
Addicts are Sick
There are some people that have a problem with cutting themselves. They can't stop. Well, if I were to come across one that was bleeding and asking for help "please, I want to stop but I just can't." Should I argue with the person and tell them that they never should have started? Should I tell them that it is just a matter of will power and then go about my business? I recognize that the person is sick. I see that the person needs help for this because they are actually cutting into themselves and are bleeding in front of me so I take them to the hospital and I make sure they get help from a professional.
Maybe addicts don't get this reaction because they are not standing there physically bleeding in front of the person. What I do know is this; it does not matter why they started. It does not matter whether it is a disease or a choice. They are saying "I want to stop but I can't stop myself from doing it". That sure sounds like they are sick and need help to me.
Maybe, it's because of the reputation that alcoholics and drug addicts have earned over the years. I know that when I was actively using, I constantly said that I wanted help. I constantly said that I was ready to change. I was always telling people that I was sorry. By the time I had reached my bottom, I felt like the little boy who had cried wolf too many times. Nobody believed me and why should they.
My Choice became My Disease
I know that I have a disease. I know that it started out as a choice. I chose to use. I know that at some point, it changed from choice to disease. I don't know when it happened. There was no burning bush moment that stands out and screams "YOU ARE NOW ADDICTED!!" All I know is that at some point, I wanted to stop and my body was physically and mentally dependent on using. I would tell myself over and over "I don't want to do this" while I was doing it. What had started as a choice had evolved into a disease.
Why Does the Name Matter
We have a problem in America and around the world. It's called addiction. Does it really matter how it started? Does it really matter what name we call it? People are dying at an alarming rate and a lot of them want to stop and tell themselves that they don't want to do this while they are doing it. We need to stop bickering over the semantics of it and start doing something about the problem. When someone reaches out for help and says that they want to stop but just can't, try taking them to a hospital. Try looking online for an addiction hotline in the area. Don't walk past them and say that it is their choice just because you can't see the cuts and the bleeding on the outside of their body. They are obviously sick, so help them.
I have been clean and sober for almost five years now and I will never forget how bad my addiction is. I lost everything. I became suicidal. Recovery has not been easy for me. I have had to re-wire my brain, my emotions, my thoughts. I have had to grow, to learn and to strive. What was once hopeless is now achievable. Five years ago there was not the amount of public awareness that there is today. There was not the public outcry that there is today. There was not the death toll that there is today. I am now a person in long term recovery and I declare that "There is Hope! There is a Way!" We can turn this epidemic around but it takes all of us to do it.