Is Addiction a Moral Failure?

Many people do not understand the true nature of the disease of addiction. Rather than accepting that addiction is a chronic and compulsive disease, they tend to assume that addiction is the result of immorality. This misconception about the nature of addiction can lead to shame and low self-worth among men and women suffering from the disease, making it less likely for them to reach out for the help they need.
Addiction is not the result of immorality. It is a complex disease that removes one’s ability to assert power over drinking and drug use. When a loved one of someone suffering from addiction believes it is the result of moral failure, they are implying that greater or stronger morals will be enough for one to overcome addiction. This may result in promises to stop drinking or using that, without proper treatment, are doomed to result in failure.
Dr. Lance Dodes, in a 2016 Psychology Today article entitled Promising to Stop Addictive Behavior is a Very Bad Idea, explains, “But in almost every case, making a promise to stop is a recipe for harm. With any action driven by a powerful psychological need, such as every compulsion or addiction, promises and commitments to stop nearly always fail. Then, very bad things happen.  Those who made the promise feel worse about themselves. Their loved ones feel worse about them, seeing them as untrustworthy, or even unloving (‘If he loved me, he would keep his promise’). Everybody becomes angry with the person who ‘broke his word,’ and even more tragic, everybody becomes more discouraged.” The misconception that addiction can be overcome with greater moral fortitude will inevitably lead to greater harm, shame, and hurt feelings on both sides.
The shame that results from considering addiction a question of morality can be a major impediment to recovery. Dr. Adi Jaffe, in a 2018 Psychology Today article entitled Want to Beat Addiction? Stop Blaming Addicts, explains, “The right answer is to help individuals with the underlying problems for their addiction instead of blaming or shaming them. No one ever says ‘I want to be a drug addict when I grow up’ and, if we truly want to stop the downward spiral we’re on, we need to help those who end up there with support. Blame and shame come from a place of judgment, which has no place in a helping effort. Removing them from the process will do a lot to help those who are struggling to beat their addiction and find the help they need.” Rather than assuming morality or self-will are enough to beat addiction, it is necessary to view addiction for what it is—a complex disease that requires treatment and continual maintenance to overcome.

Your life story doesn’t have to be bound by the chains of addiction. You can make the courageous decision to seek help now and begin building a brighter future on the journey of recovery. Oceanfront Recovery, a treatment center in the heart of beautiful Laguna Beach, was founded with the goal of providing the best care and service possible, at an affordable price, and in a location where men & women would want to get well. For information about individualized treatment options, please call today: (877) 279-1777