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During the middle of the last century the American culture willingly adopted the disease of addiction theory, even though it took more than 200 years for this concept to gain a foothold in society. Millions of dollars spent on massive propaganda campaigns slowly forced the theory into public acceptance. The disease concept as discussed earlier became a credible explanation for choices people make that are many times too horrible for the average mind to accept. However, one should not lose sight of the fact that, not only is "addiction" a choice, but so is the immense suffering it causes.
When faced with the tragedy that years of substance use can cause, the average person looks for a logical, unemotional, scientific explanation for the substance user's repeated immature behavior. Denial and the notion of a disease of alcoholism and addiction provide an emotionally tolerable explanation. So now, alcohol and drug users have readymade excuses for their behaviors, excuses that alcohol treatment facilities support and even encourage.
When you think about it, what possible defense is there for having a drinking or drug problem-or a felony DUI charge-or testing positive for cocaine at work? What can the substance user say after waking up hung-over and remorseful, surveying the damage to the furniture, car and walls from the night before? What possible defense can be offered for coming home late and drunk (or high) for the fifth night in a row? When substance users are confronted with these facts in a sober moment and told that they have a problem, the response is predictable: "No, I don't!"
Substance users can respond in a variety of ways, but every response will be colored by the need to maintain a positive self-image. Their reactions might be: "You think I'm an alcoholic-what about your drinking?" And, for those adults who are gainfully employed and financially successful there's the "I'm in charge" defense: "So long as I'm making the money, you don't get to say that I drink (drug) too much." Then there are those who may partially agree saying: "You're right, I have been getting high (drunk) too often - you know I'm under a lot of pressure just now. I'll slow down. But a problem, no I don't have a problem." And oftentimes these people do moderate their substance use or take some time off from using.
Another popular defensive response that is used is to go on the offensive: "Hel-lo - is any one in there? It's the 21st century. People drink and get high. It's not a problem. It's just life - what planet are you on, anyway?" An even more aggressive response is the threat defense: "Problem, what problem? You think I got drunk (high) last night - just wait until tonight - I'll show you what drunk (high) is." And then, of course, there are those people who may become openly hostile and threatening: "I don't want to talk about it. I said I don't want to talk about it! For the love of God, shut up!" And, for people who have already been exposed to alcohol and drug treatment and/or 12 step meetings, they may use the disease defense; "Don't you understand? I have a disease. I can't stop once I start! Please, just give me another chance. I will go back to meetings. It will work this time."