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Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Answer to The Addict In My House Blog question Choice or Disease

really hard question. i usually come down pretty solidly on the 'choice' side, although it doesn't really matter one bit whether it really is choice or disease and here is why.

that being said however....I have learned a few things.

1. just because there is a DSM IV diagnosis code does not a disease make. the DSM is a coding system made up for insurance purposes. It DOES mean that there is a DIAGNOSIS.

2. Pint, the oldest granddaughter, is now seeing a Drug and Alcohol counselor, one whom I respect and whose wall is literally covered with illustrious degree's from Ivy league universities. I changed her counselor because her mother is a heroin addict and she is old enough and at risk enough to merit going to the finest and the most knowledgeable in the field to help her process the knowledge she needs regarding the fact that both her parents are heroin addicts, and how she will be able to deal with them and prevent herself from ever walking that road.

2. A. The counselor explained it thusly:

Just about everyone in the United States, and perhaps the world carries the 'addiction' gene.

this does not mean they will become addicts. There are many, many different genetic, psychological and physiological components to addiction.

There are those in the same family for instance. My husband is addicted to food and is now a diabetic. He overeats. He is also addicted to cigarettes. But he drinks only very occasionally. Neither of his biological children smoke or overeat. His father has never lit up or taken one drink, nor does he overeat. His mother neither smokes nor drinks, but does overeat.

I tried just about every single drug out there as a teenager (yes, including heroin.) I was horribly physically and sexually abused. I left home at age 13 and never went back. I didn't become addicted to any drugs at all, although I did recreationally use until my 20's. I started smoking at age 13 and haven't yet been able to quit. My mother smoked and drank socially, my father smoked and drank socially. None of my siblings smoke, although one nephew does. Other than cigarettes, no one in my side of the family has any addictions.

My oldest biological daughter doesn't smoke or use drugs, she does drink socially.

My second biological child is a junkie.

2 B I asked the counselor to explain all this to me.

she said, that everyone has the gene but the other factors come into it in a much bigger way. the person who begins using drugs IS MAKING A CHOICE, and unfortunately, they LIKE the feeling that one particular drug gives them, whether it be heroin, crystal meth, cocaine....opiates..whatever - which then segues into something way different. that's when the addiction gene comes into play.

She said there are four components to addiction. The choice to first use (societal or psychological component - either/or), the degree to which you LIKE the effect(psychological component), then the physiological effect which the drug has on the receptors in your brain, then the genetic component which makes you unable to control the substance that makes you feel so wonderful.

for me, it's cigarettes. For my daughter, it's heroin.

Funny thing is, no one is going to feel bad when the back side of my heart explodes from smoking, or when I drown in my own lung secretions because I can no longer exhale enough to clear them out of my lungs are they? Nope.

they are gonna say, well, how sad, but SHE SMOKED and SHE KNEW she would DIE FROM IT. And, you know what? They are absolutely RIGHT.

Not one effing person is going to say "Oh, poor Dawn, she had a DISEASE and couldn't control it, and no one helped her."

See, that's where I get confused. After the explanation, WHICH was the first time EVER that it made any sort of sense to me at all, I realized that it is just a nasty cascade of different things.

If it's strictly a disease, and genetically predetermined, then I should have LOVED heroin when I tried it back in 1967. But I didn't. I hated the feeling it gave me. My opiate receptors don't like opiates at all. But my nicotine receptors LOVE nicotine. As Ron Grover said, he had LOTS of pain meds after his shoulder replacement, but HE did NOT become addicted.

So, if you are gonna say disease, then you have to accept ALL bad behavior choices as disease. If that is the way to think, then you are unable from now on to trash smokers, drinkers, overeaters, sex addicts (yes, including pedophiles), chronic complainers, people with compulsive habits that drive you crazy.....the list can really go on and on and on.

The bottom line is junkies use because they LIKE to use. It really doesn't matter why truthfully. We can't make them stop. So as I said when I started this rant LOL, it really is a non issue, unless you are using it to make yourself feel better about a child's addiction by calling it a disease. We all have coping mechanisms to deal with our children's addictions.

So just tell your neighbor to STFU and go on with your life. It really is none of her business anyway!! We all deal with our children's addiction in our own way, and it's really no one else's business how we do it.


  1. What an interesting post - I have never thought of it that way - drawing the "disease" out to cigarettes, overeating etc... I smoke cigarettes (still today), in my teens & early twenties I too did various drugs (a LOT). I would do them today if they were legal. But they're not. At some point I made the choice - they're just not worth it. Cigarettes are legal (for now I guess...) Very good line of thinking in your post.

    I am fine with accepting it is a "disease" (or even allergy) due to my personal admiration of AA, Al-Anon & the 12 steps.
    That being said - FOR ME, I no longer spend time worrying or caring if it is a disease or a choice - either one is not going to CHANGE anything of WHAT IS in MY life...
    Though I guess an argument can be made designating alcoholism as a disease can help - with justification &/or pride when family members "attack" my parenting - if somehow rehab would get better coverage with insurance/support from the government - and an effort to clear up the social stigma.

    This is a great post - VERY thought-provoking. I always appreciate your wisdom and guidance you share.
    God bless.

  2. I really enjoyed this post! I've made the same arguement within my family unit, (although not quite as eloquently) - even re: the pedophile part.... my family thinks I'm nuts.

    Anyway, I like what you've written. I bet if I show my mom she will fly off the handle, I think I will print this out and strike all references to your name just to get a rise from her... I've been doing that a lot lately. I suppose it's my way of "rebelling".

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  4. When I spent a weekend at the rehab with my daughter about 5 years ago, I was educated that addiction is a disease. In the meantime, I am with you. Who cares what it is. The outcome is the same. Unless our addicted children seek help themselves, noone can help them. I have never used drugs but was prescibed various opiate painkillers after various surgeries and I hated to take them because they made me faint and hurt my stomach. My daughter snorts this stuff on a daily basis, something I probably would not survive once. I was able to quit smoking 6 years ago with the help of hypnosis. I wonder if that would work for addicts? But again, I think you really must want to quit, like I did with cigarettes, or it will not work. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  5. Great post Dawn. Insightful as always.

  6. Very good point all around.
    your right people are more likely not going to stand around and say "oh she smoked and poor her, and blah blah"
    however if someone were to overdose or die from drugs they would say "poor *** she was an addict and she had no control, and blah blah BLAHH"!
    I agree with you immensely with you on this one!
    Stay Up!