I certainly have my own thoughts on this question. Understanding the “disease” nature of addiction, because it gave me peace of mind, saved my life. Trust me; I’m not trying to be dramatic.
From being free of active addiction for over 16 years, I know that the disease can be kept in remission. It took action on my part to get to the place where things are in remission.
I belong to several professional “discussion groups” and offer you the following from one of them:
“Addiction is best conceptualized as a chronic brain disorder. As such, it cannot be cured but it can be managed. Comparing addiction to other chronic conditions such as diabetes, hypertension or asthma,
McLellan (2002) noted the many similarities in the etiology, course, treatment and treatment outcomes across chronic conditions. However, more than (or perhaps unlike) any other chronic condition, active addiction has deleterious consequences on almost all areas of functioning (physical and mental health, family and social functioning, employment and education, housing, legal status, and overall well-being).
Abstinence from drugs and alcohol is likely a prerequisite to improvement in other life domains, but it rarely brings instant relief (Vaillant, 1995). Addicted individuals who address abstinence alone are unlikely to maintain that abstinence for a prolonged period.
Individuals need to address “recovery” in the multiple life domains affected by active addiction. Note: For many, the term ‘recovery’ used to denote regaining something that was lost, is a misnomer as relates to ‘externals’ (materials possessions or status).
Rather, a recurring theme among persons in recovery is that what is regained is an identity (a self) and a potential that were lost to addiction (Laudet, 2007).
Unlike other chronic conditions, focusing only on the pathology of addiction (symptoms) leads to stigma that translates into discriminatory policies against those who have overcome the disease and represents many obstacles to rebuilding lives— such as in housing, education, labor markets, etc. Many individuals emerge from active addiction with co-occurring mental or physical health conditions that also carry stigma (most notably mental health issues and HIV/AIDS).
Many individuals who have overcome active addiction experience enduring shame and guilt about the impact their past substance use had on loved ones and on society. This may result in “spiritual malaise,” depression, and related negative emotions that can hinder recovery.
These secondary symptoms of active addiction must be addressed as part of the recovery process. Would a diabetic experience relief from his/her condition by undertaking a “searching fearless moral inventory” (4th step)?
Would a hypertensive consider the need to make amends (9th step) for actions taken when s/he was symptomatic? Yet, many individuals in recovery from addiction worldwide do so in the context of working the 12-step recovery program.
Thus, while addiction shares many characteristics with other chronic conditions, it also has a number of unique features that require attention when seeking to elucidate and promote stable remission (recovery).” –
from RESEARCH BRIEF • JANUARY 2009 Compiled by: Alexandre Laudet, PhD, National Development and Research Institutes, Inc.
Edited by : Michael T. Flaherty, PhD, Institute for Research, Education and Training in Addictions and Debra Langer, MSc, MPA, Institute for Research, Education and Training in Addictions.
This article may give hope to many. I know it to be true in my own life. If you’d like to discuss, please contact me through firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.
We coach holistic life recovery. To see if you suffer from the disease of addiction, see the questionaire bottom left of our www.hopeserenity.ca home page.