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WritingAfterDark

Blogs of Writer, Artist, Photographer, & Caregiver Joanne D. Kiggins

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Joanne has published more than 2,500 articles and was award recipient of the 1990 Woman of the Year for Beaver County, Pennsylvania, for her accomplishments and excellence in journalism and to the community. Her co-authored book, “Unforgettable Journey,” won fifth place in the Grand Beginnings romance contest. An excerpt from her WIP, “Unearthed,” placed her fifth in the Absolute Write Idol contest. Most recently, her essay, “Perseverance,” is published in the Stories of Strength anthology in which 100% of the profits are donated to disaster relief charities. Her most recent articles were published in ByLine Magazine, Writer's Digest, AbsoluteWrite.com, and Moondance.org. She has a monthly freelance writing column at Absolutewrite.com. Currently, she is the sole caregiver for her 85-year-old mother.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Smoking, Drinking and Drugs. Habit, Disease, Addiction, or CHOICE?

The excessive use of tobacco, alcohol and drugs have been too easily labeled giving users an excuse to overindulge. When it comes to these labels I become a bit cynical, especially, when one is labeled a disease.

Before one jumps to the defense of alcoholics who have a “disease,” and drug users who have an “addiction,” let’s talk about smoking, drinking, drugs and choosing.

Yes, I smoke, and I “choose” to light those cigarettes. It’s no longer something I enjoy; it’s become a habit. I’m in the process of trying to quit this nasty “habit”. No, I do not drink, because I choose not to, and I do not use drugs, because I choose not to.

In my opinion, smoking is a choice—so is drinking and drug using. However, smoking is labeled as a “habit” and drinking is most often labeled as a “disease,” and drug using is labeled as an “addiction.” I believe all are choices! All can become habits! And all can become addictive.

If one never picks up a cigarette and smokes, he or she has made a choice. If someone continues to smoke, that is his or her choice. The same holds true with alcohol and drugs. If one chooses never to begin use, one will not obtain a habit or addiction.

The habit begins when one abuses and becomes dependent on the substance, whether it is nicotine, alcohol, or drugs. Drug users are labeled as addicts and are said to have an addiction. Yet, those who drink heavily are labeled as alcoholics and they are given an “excuse” because they supposedly have this “disease” called “alcoholism,” which is also an addiction. Why then is heavy use of tobacco not labeled as a “disease” and heavy smokers not labeled as “smokaholics? Why is the excessive use of drugs not labeled as a disease? What about the words workaholics or shopaholics? These are not diseases, either. They, as smoking, drinking, and drug using, are compulsive needs that can be dealt with by choosing not to partake.

The National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (NCADD)
has this article on its website. Here, my argument about the labels of “habit” and “disease” are substantiated with the first sentence. “The cost and consequences of alcoholism and drug dependence place an enormous burden on American society.”

The key word here is ‘dependence’. Again, to become dependent on something is by choice. You either choose to use or choose not to use. The second sentence, “Substance abuse crosses all societal boundaries, …” confirms my belief of choice. The key words here are ‘substance abuse’. Again, you either choose to use or choose not to use and abuse.

I’m sure many reading this will have their own opinions, objections, and arguments concerning my choice of words.

Everyone is entitled to his or her opinion. This is mine: Smoking, drinking, and drug using are habits. If you choose to allow yourself to become dependent on the substance it becomes a habit. Even those who attend Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) know each day they “choose” to not drink. Drinking is a choice they live with and fight against each day—Having Alcoholics Anonymous and other groups available to help them choose is an added advantage to help fight a habit they have the choice to begin or end.

There is a major exception in my opinion. That exception is when infants are born dependent on alcohol or drugs because they had no choice; their parent made that choice for them by using while pregnant.

I admitted I choose to smoke and I admit it is a bad habit. It’s a habit that is hard to break. But I’ll be the first to admit that smoking is not a disease. It is a choice—so is the use of alcohol and/or drugs.

This opinion piece was also posted at BlogCritics.

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1 Comments:

Blogger Frank Baron said...

Thoughtful post Joanne.

I see one difference between smoking and drinking (and some drugging). Virtually everyone who smokes for any length of time becomes addicted to nicotine. The same can't be said for those who drink or sample soft drugs.

In the latter group, addiction is something that creeps up over time, and only to a certain segment of the population. I know there's some controversy over the notion of being born with a pre-disposition towards alcoholism but I believe it. I believe some alcoholics are born, and some are made. But certainly only a minority of all people who drink develop a problem with it. Ditto with the softer drugs.

But few folks who smoke for a month or two can take it or leave it.

2/07/2006 10:16 AM