Convicted kidnapper and rapist Ariel Castro told the court that he is not a monster but “sick” and “addicted to porn.”

By describing himself as sick (suffering a disease) and addicted (suffering a disease), Castro implies that he is not really a bad person (or monster) who is responsible for his reprehensible actions. To the contrary, his illness made him do what he did.

The easy invoking of “disease” as an explanation for our behavior is a major reason so many people are happy to consider alcoholism and addiction to be diseases. Doing so provides an almost irresistible excuse for our actions, making us innocent victims.

When our actions are commendable, we’re pleased to claim them as representing our intelligence, skill, dedication, perseverance, hard work, etc. But when they are seen as immoral, illegal, or otherwise undesirable, our “disease” is to blame. It’s a win-win situation, but it’s also self-serving and less than honest or accurate.

Ariel Castro isn’t sick or suffering a disease of addiction. He’s a person who has willingly committed heinous acts because they gave him pleasure.

Alcoholics Anonymous and other 12 step programs consider alcoholism and drug addiction to be diseases. This exempts the “victims” from personal responsibility and inadvertently encourages continued use.

However, the St. Jude program accepts the scientific evidence that there is no disease of alcoholism or addiction. It recognizes that we are all personally responsible for all our behaviors, both good and bad. Its Cognitive Behavioral Education program helps people understand how to conduct self-analysis, prioritize their life goals, engage in behavior that promotes achieving those goals, and develop behavior patterns that lead to fulfilling lives free of alcohol or drug abuse.

Independent research has demonstrated that the long term success of the program’s former guests in staying clean and sober is at least 62%.