What’s in a word?

What’s in a word?

How often do we hear addiction referred to as a “disease?”  And we are told that those who suffer from the effects of the “disease”  – directly or indirectly –  are ill?

For years, professionals who treat people with substance abuse, and many in recovery themselves, have fought to decriminalize addiction.  Calling it a “disease” has amounted to a small triumph.  By giving addiction a medical moniker, treatment replaces incarceration, caring and understanding replace shame and ignorance, and recovery brings redemption.

Addiction fits the pattern of a disease, prompting mayors and governors and even presidents to declare it a “public health crisis.”

But recently I heard a young woman in recovery recoil from being branded with a “disease.”  Patiently, she explained.

I hate hearing that what I have  is a “disease.”  It’s hard enough being in recovery.  I’m already separated from the rest of society.  But then to say I have a disease separates me even more, and I resent that.

Those who’ve worked hard to reduce the stigma, and erase the belief that moral failing is the cause of addiction, might disagree.

Regardless of what we call it – disease, disorder, a condition, or a chronic threat – addiction still screams for attention and understanding.  Both those who suffer with it and those who love those who do crave comprehension.

Ironically, no matter what the nomenclature, for many it’s not the medical world – but ultimately the spiritual world – that promises the “cure.”  And therein, words hardly matter.  What we call it is ours alone.


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