Are Addiction-Free People Morally Superior?
Attitudes are hard to change even for the enlightened
Are addicts and alcoholics moral beings?
Addiction and Morality
"Here we go again," I hear it echo in my memory of my mother's oft-discussed, usually thoroughly maligned drinking. She was an alcoholic, that's a given. The issue my mother faced, though, had little to do with changing her behavior of drinking alcohol, it was more a problem of the ethical and moral 'strength' others in hushed tones claimed she lacked.
Did I reveal a weakness in my socialization by taking up these habits? Certainly this was the attitude before the science of addiction became the legitimate response to its prevalence. I remember learning that my own mother was morally inferior by virtue of her drinking. Many people inferred to me that she was weak, and that she chose to remain that way. Mama was to be pitied and disregarded at the same time. My family taught me this clandestinely and I secretly vowed to myself never to drink, never to 'become my mother'. She also smoked cigarettes, which also put her apart from many, and I promised myself I would never smoke.
The high cost of addictions
A Personal Tale
Of course as you have undoubtedly inferred, I did both. I will not argue moral superiority here as I may have implied, what I intend to do here is point out the absurdity of labeling addicts as morally questionable individuals.
While it could be argued that I am sliding down a slippery slope in favor of such behaviors, this is not the case. I have been an addict far too long to encourage it in any way. Addiction is not, however, a moral failing. As one of the most popular books dedicated to assisting alcoholics/addicts in their quest to be free of substance abuse, the authors of the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous have pointed out that for alcoholics, drinking is an allergy to alcohol itself. Nothing ethical here. In fact, the 'Big Book' is essentially a supportive discussion of addiction as a physically-based disease, published in the 1930s and still going strong. AA is successful in its approach, yet alcoholism is still considered a moral failing in some circles.
Increase that ten-fold when considering drugs even though drugs are a fact of life for many people. They are sometimes necessary as adjunct therapy to the body's natural functions. They are used to restore balance when the natural state is lacking. This is one of the 'proper' uses of pharmaceuticals and there certainly are others as well. When used for pleasure or in excess, drugs are abused. For me, substances were abused in an effort to experience comfort, pleasure, and to alleviate pain and discomfort; herein lies my personal story of addiction.
Does Morality Apply to Other Addictions?
I have been a relapsing smoker for many years, and I see that the morals and general socially acceptable activities of cigarette smokers are similarly called into question, at some points encouraging negative perceptions of the ethical standards of smokers in general.
Addiction is not a moral issue. I state this as a truth I experienced for many years, through various addictions to different substances. As a successfully socialized human being, I am in possession of socially acceptable morals. My family was thorough in instilling high moral standards in my child's mind, and it followed that I became an 'ethically sound' young lady. Yet I became almost hopelessly addicted to cigarette smoking when I was 15 years old. Drugs and alcohol came soon after.
Whether or not any of this behavior was peer-induced is a legitimate discussion, but for another writing, a different day. Here I wish to encourage consideration of the ethical soundness of addicts as a whole.
What is Your Take on this Topic?
Please feel free to help me out here with the same or other points of view. How do you feel about substance addicts? Are we as a society making progress toward non-judgmental treatment of addicts? What do you think?