Addiction is a burden humanity has carried throughout history. We’ve covered the question of “what is addiction?” in a previous blog entry, but how has the answer to this question changed over time? As with many of our human and spiritual experiences, our ideas of addiction and addiction recovery have shifted as our society changes. We address some of these changing perceptions below.
What Is Addiction? It’s Not Real, These Habits Are Healthy!
In terms of the less obvious addictions, take a look at the way we see alcohol and tobacco. Watch any movie from ten or more years ago, you’re far more likely to see smoking or drinking on-screen, often portrayed in a positive light. In fact, alcohol, tobacco, and even some drugs now illegal have all, at one time, been sold as a health benefit, with reliance on them being painted as the norm, rather than an unhealthy addiction.
What Is Addiction? It’s a Conscious Choice
Our modern perception of addiction is very different from what the commonly, accepted idea of it once was. Addiction was once most often seen as a moral failing on the part of the addict. Addicts were seen as lesser or weaker people, people who couldn’t control their own urges, desires or vices, who chose to indulge their worst temptations and revel in the lifestyle that came with it. Overall, addiction was seen as a self-indulgence.
What Is Addiction? It’s a Sickness and Can’t Be Helped
In more recent years, the idea of addiction has shifted from being a result of poor choices by the individual to being a symptom of a sick society, or of an individual’s own mental health issues. The idea that an addiction emerges as a coping mechanism from mental illness, surviving abuse, or societal pressure to conform to a certain group, has become commonplace, often painting the addict as a victim.
What Are the Dangers of These Perceptions?
The problem that each one of these perceptions of addicts is that they paint a very generalized picture of the causes of addiction. While it’s easy to write off vintage ads extolling the health benefits of drinking and smoking, it’s harder to tackle latter ideas that addicts are selfish and self-indulgent or helpless victims. As with most issues, the truth is often a mix of these elements, and tackling drug, alcohol, or any other addiction requires looking at it from both angles. It’s important to understand that there are reasons that any addict became addicted in the first place, often out of their control. But at the same time, it’s also important not to use this to excuse their addiction – there’s still a choice involved, and the addict has to make the conscious choice to kick their habit.
What Is Addiction? It’s an Opportunity
Lastly, there’s another, more positive perception of addiction that we find helpful – as an opportunity. For us, each addict who is brought to us for help is an opportunity to reconnect with God and set someone on the path to Christ. Shaking loose the burden of addiction through a connection with faith is a chance for a new life and a new appreciation of the gift that God has given all of us.