When I was in early recovery, I was embarrassed anytime I saw someone at a meeting I knew. But, as I worked the steps, and focused on one day at a time, that feeling diminished. It didn't go away completely until I began to study the research on this disease. And it IS a DISEASE.
The brain is altered significantly as a result of our genetics and the repeated abuse of mood altering substances. No one here, or at the meetings we all attend, or those who are still actively using decided to become addicted. Every one of us would stop immediately if we could. Unfortunately, as a result of the disease process and the alterations in our brains, we are unable to stop without help. Remember one thing:
As addicts, we are not bad people trying to become good. We are sick people trying to become well.
What is a disease?
A disordered or incorrectly functioning organ, part, structure, or system of the body resulting from the effect of genetic or developmental errors, infection, poisons, nutritional deficiency or imbalance, toxicity, or unfavorable environmental factors; illness; sickness; ailment.
Does addiction fulfill these definition? Let's take a look and see.
"A disordered, or incorrectly functioning organ, part, structure, or system of the body"
Since the brain is significantly altered when intoxicating substances are ingested over a period of time (which varies based on the substance and it's potency), and it incorrectly functions as a result of these changes (the addict develops an overwhelming compulsion to continue to obtain and use a substance despite extremely negative consequences), addiction fits this part of the definition.
"A pathological condition arising as a result of various causes"
Since the cause can be exposure to a "toxin", which any chemical could be considered, and alcohol and other mood altering substances are even called "intoxicants" and you are considered "intoxicated" when under their influence, addiction also fits this portion of the definition of disease.
"...may result from genetic or developmental errors..."
Research shows there is a strong genetic component associated with the disease of addiction. Again, addiction fits this portion of the definition of disease. Research has also shown the ingestion of alcohol and other mood altering substances by children (adolescent and younger) causes
significant alterations and delays in the development of the brain.
Based on the definitions of disease, addiction really can't be classified any other way. This may not jive with the cultural/societal "beliefs" about the disease, however, we don't base the definition and treatment of diseases on beliefs, we base them on science.
We have nothing to be ashamed of. I have found an interesting benefit of speaking out about the disease of addiction...acceptance. Not necessarily by non-recovering individuals. No, the acceptance I have experienced is by someone much more important than those who don't have this disease. That person is me. Once I accepted the fact that I have a chronic, progressive, potentially fatal disease that can be managed effectively by not using mood altering substances, being open and honest with those around me as well as with myself, share my experience, strength and hope with other folks with this disease, and take one day at a time, I have nothing to be embarrassed about.
Be gentle with yourself. Forgiveness is like a muscle, it works better when you use it.
Use it everyday by forgiving yourself.
Big hugs and much love from a fellow pickle.
Feel free to contact me anytime.