My belief is that addiction does not discriminate, and can potentially affect anyone.
The New York Times has published an article to the contrary, that is, in my opinion, at least somewhat misguided and uninformed.
The point of the article is to disprove the idea that addiction does not discriminate. The idea that anyone could potentially be an addict, whether they are a bum on the street or a prestigious doctor, a black man or a white man, a young person or a senior citizen, and so on. The article is arguing against that idea, claiming that it is false.
The author, a Dr. Sally Satel, says in her article that
“Addiction does indeed discriminate. It “selects” for people who are bad at delaying gratification and gauging consequences, who are impulsive, who think they have little to lose, have few competing interests, or are willing to lie to a spouse.”
In my opinion, this comes extremely close to suggesting that addiction is a choice, not a disease….and that the people who are vulnerable to addiction are either stupid, lazy, or impulsive…as Dr. Satel seems to be implying in her article.
Miss Satel might be a doctor, but I will bet you a dollar that she is not a recovering addict or alcoholic.
Why she has it backwards
Dr. Satel suggests that addiction is more likely to select people who are:
1) “Willing to lie to their spouse” – It is true that many addicts lie to cover up their drug or alcohol use. What Dr. Satel doesn’t realize is that for many addicts and alcoholics, this is the first time they have ever lied to their loved ones–clearly a case of being dominated by a chemical substance and locked up in the grip of real addiction. Some of the most honest and caring people fall victim to addiction, and it is only then that they have ever lied or deceived anyone.
In other words, addiction creates dishonesty and manipulation, not the other way around.
2) “Bad at delaying gratification” – Another ridiculous claim. Look at all of the people who are 50+ and trickling into treatment centers these days….they have lived a life full of discipline with no problems up until they fell victim to addiction. How are these people “bad at delaying gratification?” It is only after they become addicted that this claim makes any sense. Dr. Satel is using an addict’s using behavior to say that we can predict who will be an addict, but only after they have fallen victim to the disease.
3) “Bad at gauging consequences” – This is just silly. An addict who is trapped in the cycle of addiction knows full well what the consequences are….but they are still trapped and cannot see a way out of their predicament. Their are people out there who are much smarter than Dr. Satel but who are still trapped in a cycle of addiction.
This is infuriating to me because Dr. Satel is suggesting that addicts and alcoholics are stupid. “Bad at gauging consequences?” How can that not be a matter of intelligence? She is suggesting that addicts are the way they are because they lack this intelligence (the ability to gauge consequences).
Satel seems to be arguing that addiction is predictable, because it is “not a random event.” I disagree.
I became addicted to alcohol and other drugs without giving my permission. I had no family history of addiction and I’ve never been particularly impulsive. Yet I still became an almost instant alcoholic, without even giving my permission. Trust me Miss Satel, I’m too smart for that. I had every intention of dominating alcohol, instead of letting it dominate me. In fact, before I had ever picked up a drink, I even believed that alcoholics and addicts must be lazy, or stupid, or perhaps suicidal….just like you do! I shared your same smugness….thinking that I was immune to this silly form of self-destruction (addiction).
Today I’m grateful that I became an addict (without giving my permission), because it has opened up a whole new world to me.
And some of the most remarkable, intelligent, and loving people I have met have been in recovery.
Dr. Satel finishes up by saying that if addiction really did not discriminate, then we should “urge our politicians to support more research.” According to her, that is not necessary, because those of us who are addicted are all too stupid to realize that we were actually predisposed to addiction to begin with.
Thanks for nothing, toots!