Addiction is Cancer

Another celebrity died today. Heroin overdose it would seem. The internet, in all its faceless frenzy, is alight with compassionate phrases like “he got what he deserved” and “newsflash, heroin is bad for you.” Some folks have the decency to at least “feel bad for the kids he left behind” though still feel he’s “just another selfish, rich jerk.”

The clamor that inevitably surrounds the death of a celebrity takes on a sharply personal tone for me when it is addiction that is the culprit. My Facebook newsfeed pops up with updates colored by judgment and tinged with coarse humor. Inevitably, as a few days pass, the jokes get more cruel and are highlighted by tasteless memes. It feels like an attack, like the fingers in front of laughing faces are pointing to me instead of the person who has died. A battle of anger and shame wages within as I watch normally good and kind, or at least reasonable and inoffensive, people show their worst. Amy Winehouse, Whitney Houston, Corey Monteith, Phillip Seymour Hoffman… the list, of course, goes on and on and on… long after the celebrities names are called, the roll call continues and continues… an endless parade of souls sucked dry by the disease of addiction.

The DISEASE of addiction. We say it easily enough, don’t we? Addiction is a disease. Alcoholism is a disease. It’s in the books, on the charts, diagnosed, medicated, treated. Everyone knows, intellectually at least, that addiction is a disease. But do we believe it? Do we, as a culture, believe what we intellectually accept to be true? The reactions I see when a celebrity succumbs to the disease of addiction would tell me that we do not. And so I read and wince but stay unusually quiet; because while I may be angry at what people are saying I am ashamed to know that they are also saying it of me. I am afflicted with the disease of addiction, this disease that has no cure.

What if we could equate addiction to cancer? Both confirmed diseases. Both without a cure. Both treatable. Both potentially fatal. Could we really acknowledge and believe that addiction, like cancer, is a disease and not a choice?

Addiction and cancer. They are the same.

And while I have, so far, won my battle against the cancer of addiction, there is never the total certainty that I will not find myself afflicted once more. Cancer goes into remission only to strike, more deadly, again. Addiction can hide itself for years only to emerge once more, hungrier and more dangerous than before.

Addiction and cancer. They are the same.

One might say that a person makes the choice to engage in their addiction, while cancer merely strikes. But is this the truth? Isn’t addiction simply lurking out there waiting to be discovered. Studies have indicated that one in ten people in America is addicted to drugs or alcohol. That means that you and nine of your college buddies go out for a drink. Nine of you have a few drinks, go back to campus, and it’s life as normal. One of you gets cancer. That is the reality of addiction.

Today a person of renown lost their battle against this disease which has no cure. It is offensive to those of us living in remission when you make light of a life, a person, claimed by the cancer of addiction.

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