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Monday, February 6, 2012

A Pitfall of the Disease Model

One of the most dangerous aspects of identifying as an addict is that some people can become complacent with their development and healing.  By this, I mean that the scrambled thinking, poor impulse control, and other problems associated with the disease are simply accepted and the addict makes no effort to direct his life in a positive direction in these areas.

I have known a number of people in recovery who do just this: when they get caught behaving poorly and acting in an immature or inappropriate manner, they immediately 'blame the disease.'

The postings I have put here about brain scans and genetic susceptibility ought not give the reader the false impression that such conditions are hopeless.  While a person might not fully recover from alcoholism, those problems can often be so reduced that one becomes, in those areas, undifferentiated from 'normal people.' After all, the problems of the addict are the problems all of us face, and the sins of the addict are just that... sins.  We all suffer from them, addicted or not.  It is usually a matter of magnitude.

While these problems are common to addicts, it does not mean that the addict is permanently unable to do anything about these problems.  The only condition of the addict that is permanent (in this life) is his inability to control his disease.  If he engages in it, it will take him over.

But, the associated behavioral problems are treatable and are recoverable.  This may take many years, but there are people who do recover from many of the behaviors they engaged in as part of the disease, though certainly not the disease itself.

The Big Book of AA mentions this (Forward to the First Edition) in passing when it says:

We, of Alcoholics Anonymous, are more than one hundred men and women who have recovered from a seemingly hopeless state of mind and body.

Notice that is says 'recovered,' which would seem to violate the principle that addiction is incurable.  Yet, here, the past tense is used.  Why?

If you read closely the rest of the book, you will see that the behavior of the alcoholics that started AA radically changed as they engaged in the recovery process, though none would claim to be healed.

This is also something to keep in mind as Christians: we are never without sin, but we ought not never surrender to it.  We are called to be healed of our behaviors by being healed of the passions, but that does not take away our ability to be captive again to those passions (or even new ones).

Christianity is about being transformed, as is addiction recovery.  In both cases, we must never surrender to our temptations and assume that they will never be healed.  They can be healed, and there are plenty of examples to be found among the 'Old Timers.'

In this day and age which exults immature behavior and it repulsed by the self-controlled adult, we might have to look harder than we did a few decades ago, but the examples can be found.  There is evidence that healing is possible, and we can be freed from our 'bad habits.'

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