In the addiction field and recovery communities, there is a name for those who can drink normally and stop; in other words, those who don’t have a problem with drinking. They are referred to as “normies.” And, because they are able to drink as much or as little as they want without consequence or issues with stopping, there are many things about alcohol and addiction that they just don’t understand. Here are 10 things a normie doesn’t understand about addiction that is crucial to making progress in the world of addiction treatment.
1. Addiction is a disease. Because addiction is chronic, progressive and fatal if not treated, it meets the criteria for disease. And so, it is a disease. Period.
2. Addiction is not a moral issue or choice. It is not a lack of morals that causes someone to become addicted. In fact, it often comes down to genetics, just as with any other disease. That is also why not everyone who drinks and/or uses drugs becomes an addict. Conversely, some people may expose themselves to substances that can lead to addiction and even enjoy said substances, but they do not choose or enjoy active addiction. To believe so is to also assume anyone who exposes themselves to the sun and enjoys laying out chooses or enjoys skin cancer. And, for the record, even complete abstinence from substances is no guarantee. Addiction can come in many forms, including process addictions which don’t require any substances at all.
3. An addict does not want to be addicted. Contrary to popular normie thought, individuals in active addiction do not want to be there. Yes. They want the substance(s) they’re addicted to, but not in the way a child wants a pony. It’s more akin to wanting food when you’re really hungry or sleep when you’re exhausted. Addiction is a physical dependency on the substances; a need, rather than a desire. When the substance(s) are not present in the body, withdrawal sets in and very unpleasant and uncomfortable physiological responses take place, some of which can be fatal.
4. Addiction does not discriminate. Though addiction is typically painted as a homeless man in the streets, it actually doesn’t always start or end there. In fact, addiction is not different than any other disease in that it doesn’t discriminate against sex, class, race or religion. Moreover, it’s not confined to the advanced stages that take place on city streets. It’s just as present and active on Wall Street.
5. Addiction does require treatment. Since normies can simply quit drinking at any time for long durations without issue, the assumption is that everyone is capable of just quitting. However, addiction (again) is a disease and therefore requires professional intervention to treat. Stopping without said treatment can actually prove fatal for those addicted to alcohol and even some prescription drugs, like benzodiazapines. So, presenting the idea that an addict can simply quit if they want to is not only based in ignorance to the disease of addiction, it’s a potentially deadly suggestion. 6. Addiction does not look like a loser. Again, though it’s painted a certain way in media and movies, addiction doesn’t have to look like a public display of dysfunction. Not every addict is easily spotted nor are their consequences apparent. In fact, just like with any other disease, addiction can be advanced and still show no obvious signs or symptoms. So, for the so-called bum on the streets to the seemingly conservative soccer mom to the financially successful business owner addiction can be equally as advanced and potentially fatal.
7. An addict can be functional. And, just as there is a name for those who can walk around with no signs of advanced stages of cancer or heart disease, those who do not fit the popular normie stereotype for an addict are referred to as high-functioning addicts. Yes. They do exist. And, unfortunately, because their pain and suffering goes unseen, their consequences are typically a private few. Therefore, the potential for them to hit a point of realization that lands them in contemplation for treatment is slim to none. That is why these individuals (just as those with no symptoms to alert them to advanced stages of others disease) typically lose their lives to the disease, shocking all those who knew them.
8. An addict is not in control. Just as with any other disease, until it is treated, addiction is in control. The individual becomes a product of the disease until holistic recovery is sought and maintained. Their personality and priorities completely change – basically, a holistic mutation takes place – as a result of the disease, not due to a lack of moral character. Just as Alzheimer’s often changes the personalities of those affected by the disease, addiction does the same.
9. Addiction is not someone else’s fault. As with any other disease, it is not caused by one specific event nor can it be blamed on any one individual. In fact, nothing external is to blame for it. It is as internal a disease as cancer or diabetes, and any successful treatment is equally as internal.
10. Addicts can change. Though there is no cure for addiction – no pill or shot to remedy the disease – individuals who struggle with addiction can seek professional help and be free of active addiction. This is where addicts do have a choice; they can make a decision to get treatment for the disease.
They can change the course of the disease by doing so and, in that way, change themselves and their lives. Whether you’re a normie or not, remember the most important thing not listed above; addicts are human beings, and (like all beings) they deserve love, compassion and understanding. Most importantly, they deserve hope, support and encouragement to heal and be free from active addiction. They do not need or benefit from judgment, criticism or shame.