The Disease of Addiction: A Diagnosis and a Prognosis for Recovery

Addiction is a disease. Its literal spread throughout society is obvious. And yet, unanimity is incidental to science and consensus is irrelevant to how we use the scientific method. That is, what matters is not what most doctors believe but what one doctor knows; what he or she can prove, regardless of how others judge his conclusions or treat the response to her proposed treatment.

As an addict myself, as someone who is in recovery and has a healthy addiction to information, I think a brain scan can do more to expose the intensity of this disease—it can do more to enlighten the minds of skeptics, thanks to the lights of ethical science—than any amount of conjecture or additional attempts to criminalize this condition.

Let science, therefore, stop the perpetuation of pseudoscience in which the unscrupulous do the unconscionable. Let us substantiate the neurological basis for recovery and the spiritual road to redemption. Let us see with our own eyes what technology alone can reveal, in the same way a microscope can magnify what is invisible to the naked eye and an X-ray can penetrate the body without piercing the skin.

Let me also say that the one way to worsen an already bad situation is to mistake recovery as permanent, to stop doing the work—and climbing the steps—toward enlightenment.

Do not mistake the achievements of the few as proof that the work itself does not work. Programs like Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) endure, not because of false promises, but because of their refusal to promise success without struggle.

What makes the struggle less difficult is spirituality.

You need not be a Christian to cleanse your body and clear your mind. You need not be a Jew to purify your soul and protect your sanity. But you must recognize what you can control versus what no man can fully comprehend; that there is a power greater than you, whose name differs among peoples but whose existence is not in doubt, not even among atheists and agnostics if they are honest about the very nature of nature; that the universe transcends man; that no man is the center of something so vast; that our finite lives pale before the infinity of a realm whose stars we have yet to see and whose planets we have yet to discover.

Surrender is not, in this case, a sign of weakness but a show of strength. It is as much a concession to forces beyond our control as it is a confession about what we want to accomplish and control: sobriety.

Surrender is not an option, period.

It should never be an option for the veteran who fought heroically and now suffers mightily; for the father who never took a sick day but is now too sick to work, because the factory closed and his job went away; for the mother who never succumbed to pain but now weeps because of her addiction to painkillers.

We must win this war.

Photo credit: iStock/Getty Images

About Ashley Hamilton

Ashley Hamilton is an artist and father, who lives in Malibu and seeks to express the truth through his work.

Photo: Capsules on fishing hooks

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