I believe that it is now becoming common knowledge that Addiction is a treatable disease that follows a predictable progression. That progression, if untreated, will be terminal. Though there may be some pockets of people who disagree with the disease model of addiction, the majority of treatment providers agree with the disease model. It makes sense to me; Addiction does in fact follow a path and that path can be disrupted and healed. Just like any other treatable disease.
However, the question for me then becomes, while Addiction is a disease on a wide level, how does it work on an individual level? I run into a challenge because, for example, someone who suffers with Diabetes is referred to as a “Diabetic.” But I cannot call someone who suffers with Addiction an “Addict.” There’s real stigma and shame associated with Addiction that may not be associated with any other treatable disease; therefore, labeling a person afflicted with an addiction is counterproductive, in my book.
But really, “The Addict” is real. I’ve always known and taught that a person who does struggle with an addiction is split within himself. He is human, but is also losing his humanity to the addiction. I’ve come to see this process as “The Addict” invading a person’s soul and eliminating all that makes him human. The addiction-afflicted person may still have his or her humanity intact, but without treatment, he or she will lose every ounce of who he or she is to The Addict.
See, The Addict is not human; it’s the functional component of Addiction. I’ve seen The Addict working within many domains. Sometimes the object of the addiction is opiates, sometimes the object of the addiction is alcohol; sometimes the object of the addiction is sex. Regardless of what the object of addiction is, The Addict uses the object of addiction within a given person with the main purpose of extending Addiction.
To illustrate, human life is composed of several aspects and layers. To me, each of these aspects feed and are fed by the human soul. While there’s always something in life to address and/or overcome, more often than not, a person’s life has meaningful relationships with all aspects of life and his or her soul is balanced. The image below depicts the layers and how they’re tied together:
The human soul is the container and motive energy that makes us human. All three levels of existence, Physical, Emotional, and Spiritual; provide inputs into the soul and in return, the soul feeds all three levels in kind. I didn’t attempt to cover all aspects of each, nor did I include “God” in the diagram because the concept is personal and I do not think it’s my place to attempt to define that relationship for anyone. Having said that though, the diagram does cover at a high level the aspects of human life that are disrupted in an addiction.
The main ingredient that The Addict uses to disrupt humanity and extend Addiction is compulsion. Compulsion is an uncontrollable impulse to perform an act, often repetitively, as an unconscious mechanism to avoid unacceptable thoughts which, by themselves, arouse anxiety. For example, if a person believes himself to be incapable of handling a given situation, he will seek the object of addiction to relieve the anxiety he feels. Once this process starts, The Addict then drives the person to seek the object of addiction regardless of any adverse consequences. The adverse consequences will continue until the relationships within a person’s life look like:
Where once there were connections to family and friends and appreciation of music and art and caring of the body and mind, by the time The Addict is finished, all that’s left is the constant seeking of the object of addiction. Really, the last to go is the body: Death brings the end of all connections.
Therefore, to me, the way to evict The Addict is to begin rebuilding all relationships that exist in the human realm. Building the physical through diet and exercise, reconnecting with loved ones, and appreciating music and art for their own sake are all part of a comprehensive treatment program. That’s why referrals to family counseling and nutritionists and creating works of art are so important: Each seeks to reclaim humanity and the soul from The Addict.
It’s easy to spot The Addict: It’s manipulative, it treats people as objects, it has no conscience. When a person who suffers from an addiction exhibits these behaviors, The Addict is driving the person. My goal in any intervention is to somehow communicate with a person’s soul such that I can wrest control away from The Addict and allow a person to recognize his or her humanity in an attempt to see that the addiction has grown strong and The Addict has laid claim to his or her soul.
So, no, I don’t like calling someone afflicted with an addiction an addict because The Addict is my enemy. It doesn’t care about anything but extending Addiction. This sole purpose destroys humanity. I will fight The Addict with all that I can.