I was listening to my favorite afternoon radio talk show the other day and one of the segments has been bothering me ever since and now I feel the need to say something.
There seems to be a misconception among a lot of people that addiction is a choice. The radio show that I was listening to talked about a very talented young football player who plans on applying for reinstatement to the league after being suspended for substance abuse. The hosts rather jokingly said that they can’t understand why this young man can’t just get it together, and have compared his addiction issue with giving up a couple glasses of wine on the weekend in order to receive several million dollars. HUGE SIGH…
To these guys, their thinking is “come on man, just get it together; you’re giving up a lot of money!” and it’s clear that they think he can just stop and get back to his career. Now I can’t fault them too much because it’s clear that they’re not familiar with addiction, but their attitude and way of thinking is not uncommon at all.
What they don’t understand is that if it were that simple to do, this young man would have done it by now. Do they honestly think that he worked so hard to perfect his skills to become one of the best in the game and make millions of dollars to throw it all away because he just wants to get high? The reason this young man didn’t stop is not because he didn’t want to, it’s that he couldn’t because he has an addiction.
Why No One Chooses Addiction
The very essence of addiction is abusing a substance to the point where you no longer have control and you continue to abuse that substance despite the detriment to your health, happiness, and everything you know and love; that is exactly what this young man did!
Now to give a bit of context, this young man’s substance of choice seems to be marijuana and alcohol. I know there are many people who think that marijuana is not addictive, but to those people I would argue that for countless people with addiction issues, marijuana served as the gateway drug and that appears to be the case here.
This young man had career high numbers, was a pro bowl caliber player, and was making millions of dollars. Yet despite all this, he continued to get into trouble: pleading guilty to driving while impaired, failing various drug tests and testing positive for marijuana. To most people, this young man is choosing to throw his career away; to those of us familiar with addiction, we know that is not the case.
While it is true that a person initially chooses to pick up and use, no one chooses to become an addict. I know that is a hard concept for many people to understand, as a matter of fact for years I was one of those that believed that addiction was a choice; it wasn’t until I got to see addiction up close and personal to know this wasn’t true. I can guarantee you that my brother did not choose to drink himself to death. I can also guarantee you that my sister and husband did not choose to miss out on relationships with family members, their children, suffer from health problems, and miss out on years of their lives that they can never get back. That anyone would think people would deliberately subject themselves and their families to years of pain, suffering, and in some cases death just shows how much misunderstanding and misinformation is out there about addiction.
I know these radio talk show hosts meant no harm when they shared their opinions about this young man on air, they even said as much and I believe them. But what happens when they talk jokingly about a subject they don’t know about is reinforce the stigma surrounding addiction. This doesn’t help those people and families who are suffering from addiction and it doesn’t help educate the public about this devastating disease.
It’s my hope that this young man has gotten his life together with the help of rehabilitation and treatment, and is able to return to the sport he loves. At the end of the day though it’s not about football or records, or even millions of dollars; it’s about a young man living a happy, healthy, sober life and I wish him all the best!