I've been thinking about the word "habit" and how it relates to addiction. It seems that attaching the word "habit" to something like alcohol consumption, smoking, drugs, etc. sort of makes it seem a little benign and easy to end. So-and-So should really put a stop to that cocaine habit. Habits, unlike addictions, are actually more like little, harmless rituals. I check the oven twice before I leave the house out of habit. When I was younger, it seemed that the words "habit" and "addiction" were somewhat synonymous. But how can you compare double-checking the oven to smoking cigarettes? Maybe the science behind addiction wasn't as comprehensive back then. Perhaps people are collectively realizing that addiction is real and it is powerful. Labeling it as a "habit" causes harm. For one, it minimizes the damage it does us. It also blames the victim because it assumes that habits can be controlled with a little good ole fashioned willpower. Calling it a habit says, "What the heck is wrong with you? Why can't you stop doing this?" When we call it addiction, it forces us to examine it further. It's more clinical and less "pesky."
This is a pretty good little article I discovered that goes into a bit more depth about the difference between the two.
I started listening to this week's episode of The Bubble Hour on my way to work this morning. Amanda and Jean interviewed Greg Williams, the filmmaker behind "The Anonymous People," a wonderful documentary about the emergence of addiction advocacy and how it is reducing the stigma, bringing about programs and legislation that give people greater access to recovery programs (You can view the trailer my clicking on the link in the right navigation on this blog.). The film raises awareness about the issue and debunks an outdated notion of what addiction looks like. This episode is the second interview they have done with Greg and I am anxious to listen to the rest of the podcast today. There are a couple of ways people can go regarding anonymity and addiction. It is good to know that we have choices. These pathways are not set in stone, either. If one elects to keep their recovery under wraps, there is no rule that says they can't change their mind at a later point in time. Of course, once you are public with it, there's no turning back and I believe that fear of being judged is what prevents so many of us from being "loud and proud." It's really quite personal. No matter how each of us ultimately decides to share (or not share) our story with those we know, my wish for all of us in recovery is that we have a healthy, realistic and beautiful view of ourselves. We can't control how the outside world views people in recovery, but this perception need not be attached to us as individuals. This is why Greg's movie is so important. People need to understand that this struggle has no bias. He has received a lot of flack from certain sectors of the recovery community. However, this world is evolving and the longer we keep ourselves secret and pretend that the problem isn't as pervasive and nondiscriminatory, the more we are hurting people who might otherwise reach for help. The good news is that attitudes are shifting. Instead of maybe seeing their addiction as a tricky little "habit," people are beginning to understand that this is a medical issue. For which it most certainly is.