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Is Addiction a Disease or a Choice?

What if addiction wasn’t exactly a disease, AND it wasn’t exactly a conscious choice?

How would that change how you felt about people who struggle with addiction?

Many people (myself included) take a more nuanced approach to understanding addiction.

Saying it’s simply a disease that can’t be helped and is too complex to fully understand is a form of medical lamp-shading that prevents people from feeling empowered to fully recover.

But calling it a choice when we know that a chemical dependency on a substance or source of neurochemical “high” hijacks areas of the brain responsible for complex decision-making feels equally dishonest, doesn’t it?

So how can we find a middle ground in understanding what’s happening with the people we love who are struggling?

For me, and for many others, addiction is now being treated not as a mere fated disease or a black and white choice, but as a complex behavioral adaptation in response to complex and unique factors - including the factors used to identify addiction as a disease medically.

Like any maladaptation, addiction can be treated and healed. But whether the person struggling pursues those solutions will be unique to the individual.

This adaptation model of addiction becomes as much a philosophical dilemma, as it is a psychological one.

How much free will does a person in addiction truly have? To what level is recovery considered successful? Is it existentially true that “once an addict, always an addict” - or can a person wholly transcend their past and re-invent themselves, with integrity to their history?

The important thing to ask as loved ones of those struggling with addiction is this:

If we don’t have satisfying answers to these questions, if we never really know the full truth about addiction and how it works, can we still be ok?

Our recovery lies on finding our footing, even if we can’t find all the answers. If you're ready to start your recovery, and find stability regardless of their addiction, click the link below to learn more about Heal for Real, a recovery program for partners and families or schedule a free connection call with me to get started.

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