Etymology of Disease

dis·ease n.

  1. A pathological condition of a part, organ, or system of an organism resulting from various causes, such as infection, genetic defect, or environmental stress, and characterized by an identifiable group of signs or symptoms.
  2. A condition or tendency, as of society, regarded as abnormal and harmful.
  3. Obsolete. Lack of ease; trouble.

[Middle English disese, from Old French : des-, dis- + aise, ease; see ease.]
Source: The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition

These all fit the definition of “addiction”. The mind boggles. To me, disease requires a rash or something, at least.

Lack of ease. Is that the root of it? Is it some sort of capitulation when life is not easy? If I ask myself why… I have no answer. Could it be a genetic disorder? Maybe. There are many people who do not have easy lives, and yet they are not substance abusers. Are there addicts with easy lives? By definition, I think not… but maybe their lives started out easy. Maybe they had things too easy at the start, so that when things got hard, they had no tools to cope. Kind of like using too much disinfectant around your kids gives them no immunity to bacteria.

I have a problem with the concept of addiction as a disease. Someone who gets measles is just plain unlucky. An addict has a choice… right? We choose to use. Or do we?

Is there such a thing as free will?

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9 Responses to “Etymology of Disease”

  1. Think of it as a disease that impacts your biochemistry. Affects the balance of the endocrine system, nerological system, electrical systems of the brain.

    For some, it’s a permanent change. The substance adds itself to the list of necessary chemicals for proper functioning, so the body then screams for it when it’s missing….like insulin for a diabetic.

    Except its’ function isn’t to neutralize toxic sugar in the bloodstream. It’s to restore what is your ‘new normal’ in neurochemistry.

    Not everyone experiences this change, just like not everyone who eats poorly or gets a high fever develops diabetes. There are some genetic predispositions.

    That’s why children of addicts are more prone to become addicted themselves.

    So yeah, there’s free will. You’re not born craving this substance. You’ve got to ingest it. Once. Twice. Maybe more.

    Once the chemistry’s altered, though, the choice becomes much more difficult to make because your body chemistry is screaming for something it needs to function….except it doesn’t need it and the substance it wants will actually destroy it.

    That’s where internal control becomes difficult if not impossible. That’s where acceptance that you are not able to do it by yourself come in. That’s the resignation to a ‘higher power’ that allows a guide in – person, entity, charismatic newt, whatever – to help you out of the maze.

    Or not. The fly sometimes chooses to drown in the molasses too.

    Regina

  2. This is an interesting idea.

    I am dealing with a housemate who is an addict. I don’t see his life as being particularly hard but, true, perhaps he doesn’t have the tools.

    On the other hand, tools are available, he chooses not to use them. I will not be the receiver, to his inevitable abusivity that results from him being an addict. He chose to drink in the first place. He chooses whether to fight his battles, or drown in them. He has support, he rejects it.

    Free will is such a difficult thing to decipher.

  3. You can choose not to use, but you can’t choose how hard it is or isn’t not to use. I choose to get out of bed in the morning, and that’s not hard for me (at the moment). A person with a diseased heart or lungs also chooses to get out of bed in the morning, but it’s a million times harder for them. Likewise I can have a drink, or not have a drink – it’s all the same to me. But for the alcoholics in the family, it’s a terrible struggle.

    The disease isn’t the using, it’s the compulsion to use.

  4. I guess that really is the bottom line definition of addiction. Compulsion to use. Anyone can use if they want to. Only the need makes you an addict.

    Quoting something someone said to me that really struck me: “The ability to see what is and feel like you have absolutely no control over it must be maddening.”

    Because she is right. It is maddening. I know exactly where I am headed the minute I pick up, there is something that clicks in my brain. I know that weeks or months down the track I will be curled up in the dark, head thumping, sick to my stomach, aching to my very bones, begging for death but being unable even to sleep, veins throbbing knowing that just one little hit will make it all go away. But still I buy into that. I know that is where I will end up, AT BEST. And I still do it. What the fuck?!

    There has to be something wrong with me. Because who in their right mind would do that? WHO??

    I must be stupid.

  5. I think you think you deserve no better. If you believe you deserve better than that, your outlook may change during those moments of knowing.

  6. windysan Says:

    Maybe renaming “disease” in the Big Book to something like “irresponsible behavior” would be appropriate. I don’t get the disease concept either. I’ve seen too many use it as an excuse…including myself.

  7. Thanks for the information, very informative.

  8. “`. that seems to be a great topic, i really love it ;*.

  9. urgen care pigeon forge…

    […]Etymology of Disease « Diarrhea of a madman[…]…

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