Addiction - the Disease Model
- Addiction is a primary disease. The addiction must be treated first before any other problem can be successfully managed.
- Addiction is a chronic illness. Chemical dependence cannot be cured. It can be successfully arrested, but never eliminated. Abstinence will dictate wellness.
- Addiction is a progressive illness. This condition will worsen over time.
- Addiction is a fatal illness. It is directly or indirectly related to mortality.
- Addiction is a treatable illness. Remission can be achieved through daily recovery activities that must be incorporated into ones life.
- Addiction is characterized by denial.
Denial is a psychological process that serves to keep the chemically dependent person out of touch with reality. Denial is caused by numerous factors, which act synergistically, including distortions of memory such as blackouts and euphoric recall, psychological defense mechanisms such as repression and projection, and social factors such as enabling by family and friends.
It is common for the chemically dependent person to genuinely believe that they do not have a problem with alcohol or drugs in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary. Family and friends become increasingly frustrated when they are unable to convince the person that they have a serious problem. However, the person's memory and perception of reality have become distorted.
Insidiously, the same disease process that is causing so much damage in the person's life is also preventing the person from fully recognizing it. The addicted person usually refuses treatment that would arrest the disease.
Addiction can be enabled. Enabling behaviors allow the disease to continue. Denial also exists with the family and others who tend to secretly deny the seriousness of the problem and excuse it.
It’s most common manifestation is a behavior called "enabling." These people are acting out of a misguided sense of wanting to protect the individual but end up enabling the disease to progress. Enabling is any behavior that prevents the individual from experiencing the full consequences of their behavior.