One of the more all-pervasive myths of modern society is addiction. You can not only get addicted to cigarettes, booze and drugs but also to gambling, sex and the internet.
The only problem with all this is that there’s no such thing as addiction. We’re not dealing with addictions, we’re dealing with moral choices. We live in a world in which the idea of moral choices is not very popular. Not only is it not PC, it also makes life seem like hard work. If bad things happen to us not because we’re addicted but because we make poor choices then that means we have to take responsibility for our own lives. It’s so much easier to believe that addiction is a disease, or that some people are born with addictive personalities.
If we’re sick or we were just born that way then it’s up to the government to do something about it. It’s a problem that requires funding. It requires an army of doctors and nurses and counsellors and social workers.
The truth is that an alcoholic is someone who chooses to drink more than he should. A problem gambler is someone who refuses to face up to reality and to adult responsibilities. A heroin addict is someone who chooses to use heroin. A sexual pervert is someone who chooses to indulge in perverted sex. These are all moral choices.
Of course the society in which a person lives can make things easier or more difficult by either encouraging good moral choices or bad moral choices. When Christianity was still a force in the western world it encouraged good moral choices. When parents still knew how to raise kids properly they taught kids that moral choices were part and parcel of life.
If we have much bigger problems today with drugs, alcoholism, homosexuality and other self-destructive (and socially destructive) behaviours that’s a reflection of the decline of our society but moral choices still come down to individual choices. You can choose not to drink or take drugs or indulge in homosexual behaviour. To pretend that these things are illnesses or that some people are “born that way” is to delude ourselves. It also encourages foolish people to continue destroying themselves.
For a thorough demolition of the heroin addiction myth see Theodore Dalrymple’s Junk Medicine which I reviewed here quite a while back.