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Addiction: It’s the Disease not the Addict that’s Evil

While I have a deep respect for whatever a person’s religious and/or spiritual beliefs are, I will confess that I have difficulty when folks attribute bad things to the existence or efforts of Satan. I picture South Park’s depiction of Satan and I hear Dana Carvey as the Church Lady on Saturday Night Live asking if it could be him?

I was talking with a brilliant, if overly philosophical young man in recovery recently. He asked me if I believed in evil. I knew where he was going and so in classical therapist form I answered his questions with questions. He’s clever and street smart and wasn’t having it. He instead challenged me to define what I believe.

I told him evil absolutely does exist, but that I don’t believe it needs to manifest in the form of a deity or demigod. I heard myself say, “I am perfectly capable of fucking things up all on my own. I do not require anything outside of my nature to lead me astray.” In reflecting on this later in the day, I thought about how unnatural the most powerful forms of evil are.

Cancer is evil. AIDS is evil. Trauma in every form is evil. Addiction is evil. While these things are not part of a person’s nature, they become a part of us, claim a part of us, and cause us great suffering.

The disease of addiction is as my friends in AA say, “Cunning, baffling, and powerful.” it is the most evil thing I have ever encountered. Folks in recovery often personify the disease of addiction and it’s rightfully depicted as a seductively evil bastard. They share with me what their disease is saying to them or wanting them to believe or do. I urge folks to make meetings a priority because surrounding ourselves with good people who speak the truth is one of very few things that helps us drown out the lies the disease tells us.

It’s a strange thing to hate a disease, especially when the best I can do is to help people to recover from it. It’s a horrible powerlessness that I cannot hurt the thing that hurts me and millions like me.

The disease takes away people I love – not just in death, but in the receding of their personality and identity as addiction moves to the forefront. It takes away everything good. It destroys hope and dreams. It takes away joy and robs us of peace. It ravages healthy bodies and destroys intelligent and creative minds. It overshadows the very soul of a person.

But my hatred and outrage for all the disease does accomplishes nothing and strips away my serenity.

“Despite all my rage I am still just a rat in a cage.” – Smashing Pumpkins

The trick is to get out of the cage (just another self limiting box I put myself in). Recovery is much more than redemption, reclaiming and restoration. Recovery is spiritual. It is transformation. It is love, light, and everything good that a person can feel and be. It’s connection. In the midst of my powerlessness and in everything I seek, I have found that the more I devote my time and energies toward those on similar journeys, the less I even think about evil and the more I experience my Higher Power’s love.

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