One of the fundamental concepts of addiction recovery is the concept that addiction is not merely a choice to abuse, but a loss of control brought about by a disease. Addiction is a disease, affecting all aspects of the person. Another term we use is a disorder. In either case, what it means is that so long as the person is not healed or brought into another state of being, the addictive behavior will continue.
This concept of disease is also central to the Orthodox Church’s teachings regarding the fallen human state and sin. Just as the addict first makes choices to drink or use which leads to his imprisonment, men make decisions which lead them into imprisonment to their passions. The passions are a disease, rooted in the first ‘disorder’ of the Fall of Mankind. Our humanity is broken and not working properly, and so we need the healing of God’s grace and the humanity of the New Adam, Jesus Christ.
Orthodoxy and AA share the same belief (though the Church has taught it far longer and Christianity’s influence on the development of AA’s beliefs are well-documented) that sin, be it addiction-driven behavior or sinful behavior in general, come from a loss of self-control. So long as the disease is not cured, the person will continue to be dominated by cravings. So long as the cravings continue, the addict is subjected to a constant war with himself.
The cure is not to find a better way to control the desire, but rather to have the obsession or impulse ‘removed.’ After all, battles are won and lost, but no war means no loss. The healing of addiction removes the war itself, just as the healing of Christ, with His new humanity, promises to remove the sufferings and temptations of sin. The more we are in Christ, the less we are prisoner to temptation and the fight against sin.
Orthodoxy says plainly what AA says indirectly. After all, the founders were trying to avoid using words and terms that had religious ‘baggage’ (i.e. misunderstood notions of Christ, etc.). This is why alcoholics, when introduced to the Church, let out a sigh of relief: they find themselves in the fulfillment of AA’s promise’s regarding the return to proper religion and the discovery of the God that helped them in AA was in the Church as well.