Addiction is a Disease

I picked up the following from a cursory search of the Internet:Addiction is a complex disease of the brain and body that involves compulsive use of one or more substances despite serious health and social consequences. Addiction disrupts regions of the brain that are responsible for reward, motivation, learning, judgment and memory. It damages various body systems as well as families, relationships, schools, workplaces and neighborhoods” and it ties in with something that has been weighing rather heavily of late.

A week ago (or was it two) the matter of addiction really hit me when attending a soup kitchen I am involved with. I enquired about one of our regulars, who I have known for 10 years, and am fond off. I was told he was in a rehab clinic, which did not surprise me as I knew he was an alcoholic. That same evening, I met another regular, who I have known for 5 years, and also an alcoholic I am fond off. He had recently come out of rehab, supposedly cleaned up, except the tell tale signs he had been drinking heavily were all too apparent. I guess whatever it was that caused him to turn to drink in the first place had not been dealt with and he had returned to his familiar environment where it would have been difficult to resist the temptation of alcohol. Also that evening I got talking to another ‘old friend’, who was sober. Yesterday, I learned he had overdosed on non prescribed drugs and he ended up dead as a result.

Reasons leading one to become homeless in the first place and the stress that come from living on the street no doubt contribute to people turning to alcohol and drugs as a means of relief etc. And homelessness is not the only factor one might associate with becoming addicted. During the week, I attended the funeral of an old school friend. In his later years he was an alcoholic and this had a considerable untoward bearing on his life and that of those close to him. While I mention alcohol and drugs, both readily available, there are other forms of addiction too, such as gambling and pornography, made easy because both these can be indulged in secret and too often they can reap devastating consequences.

While my line of work brings me in contact with many who are battling addiction, I don’t purport to understand entirely why people become and remain addicts when for all intents and purposes it should be easy to say no, especially when it is all too evident the harm that is wrought when those addictions are indulged. The one recurring theme I do pick up is all too often people who become addicts are fighting demons, are hurt, have unhealed wounds and the object of addiction becomes a form of relief, albeit temporary and with consequences. One of my jobs when serving the homeless is turning away drunks and druggies. It is never an easy decision to make and often I try to reach some compromise and not send people away empty. I turned one person away from a night shelter I manage, on Christmas day, and a few days later he died on the streets, but always it is important to consider the greater good.

It is easy to be unsympathetic toward those who over indulge in drink and drugs, gambling and pornography. They are, after all, responsible for their own actions and especially when it causes them and others harm. They become proverbial pains in the neck. There appears no earthly reason why they can’t say no, except if the opening statement is true that is easier said than done. For all too often that is not the response and the consequences are for all to see. I suppose if I had the power, I would love to take my addict friends, drop them to the middle of nowhere, get them sorted out and be on their case for as long as it takes. It is why I appreciate them who do. I dare say when I go out to my soup kitchen tonight I will come across more addict friends, and addiction is a horrible thing.

Whether they have brought it on by their own choice or it is a disease, it is still a tragedy. All I can do is love and not judge!

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