Is Addiction a Choice and Does It Matter?

Addiction isn’t something anyone would choose to have in their lives. Whether you’re the person who has the addiction or a friend or family member, there’s no way you consciously decided to go down the dark road where it leads. So many of us roll along in our lives, blessed to miss the stamp of despair that addiction marks upon people utterly oblivious to daily angst some people face.

That’s a beautiful thing! If I had a wish it would be to strike addictions from the world so that nobody has to cope through even one day with the shame, guilt, disappointment and loss it leaves in its path. Life isn’t like that though…I can’t magically wipe this disease off the face of the earth by will alone but what I can do is shed light in the dark corners upon it in hopes of helping someone. Helping them to understand, to encourage people to talk about addiction and share their recovery journey to create awareness that may one day change things. Recently I was contacted by The Rehab Detox Centre and asked to share their educational website which has information on alcohol and drug addiction along with addiction stories  so thank you to them for spurring me on to write this post.

Does A Person Choose Addiction?

is addiction a choice

Throughout my 6 years of recovery from alcoholism I have been more sensitized to conversations which centre around addictions and one thing that cuts me to the bone are the conversations about whether addiction is a choice or a disease.

Does it matter?

We can spend hours sitting debating from the comfort of our own viewpoint but in the end addiction is killing people and standing firm in a judgement isn’t helping them.

I cannot deny that many addicts choose the drugs/drinks/behaviours that are negatively affecting their lives in the moment…but are they actually of sound mind to be making any rational decisions in their lives?

The nature of addiction is physical and psychological, with the obsession taking over all common sensical thoughts at times. If an addict could simply choose to stop…they wouldn’t be an addict. When a person uses drugs and or alcohol over a long period of time, their brain changes and living under the influence of these drugs becomes their new normal.

If we take that story back to the point where their recreational usage became an addiction, were they aware that this is the choice they were making? And when exactly was that point…is the person actually able to clearly identify that?

Each and every addiction story is unique but the end result isn’t. At some point the user’s ability to choose becomes absorbed by the insidiousness of addiction. They become a different person; their dreams and joys skewed by their addiction.

Rather than Debate…Let’s Change This

Rather than spending our time debating the issue of choice vs disease, I call out to everyone to break the stigma of addiction by telling the stories. The fact is that our culture is experiencing addiction in enormous ways and we can affect change by shedding light on it. We can talk about it, face it and not just sweep it under the rug.

For families and friends who have an addict in your lives, you cannot cure the addiction but you may be able to affect change in his/her life by following through with ultimatums and setting healthy boundaries for yourself. Instead of focusing on the addict and controlling their behaviours, focus on yourself! Accept that this is our of your control and ensure that your life will be healthy and you won’t enable the addict.

If you have a story of recovery, share it with someone. These moments where we can show that life in recovery is hard bloody work but oh-so beautiful in every moment.

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6 Responses

  1. It’s not something that I talk about but I have shared my story or at least part of it with you before. To tell the whole thing would take a more than a few cups of Java!

    Many people don’t understand addiction and I agree that we need to break the Stigma.

    This is a great post Julie and I hope that it will inspire people as your posts always do.

  2. I’ve been following your recovery journey for a while – I work as a counsellor for youth in mental health and substance use and have found your personal experiences encouraging. Thank you for sharing.

  3. Thank you for this kind and inspirational words. And you’re right, whether its a choice or not, the most important thing here is that, that person needs help.

  4. It’s so important to erase the stigma associated with addiction and just help those struggling to get through it. Thanks so much for sharing.

  5. Hi Julie, I have to say first and foremost your story is amazing. Thank you for having the courage to take control over your life again. To answer your question, I say yes addiction is a choice. The hard part is when a person chooses to take a drug and get addicted to it is where the addiction becomes unbearable. Searching for that high, or good feeling from a drinking alcohol. I am a recovering alcoholic also and just love to read stories of hope remind myself that I do not need to drink to fell good.

  6. I like your idea to tell real stories about addiction. It’s so easy to dehumanize people in the midst of addiction. I do agree that it’s a disease though; physical and mental treatment can be used to control it.

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