Okay, right off the bat, let me tell you, this isn’t a gag article.

The other night in the chemical dependency course I teach I asked the class if addcition to substances was a disease. Many fervently said yes. Others fervently said no.

Some said it was the same as diabetes or even cancer.

A woman in the class who has cancer disagreed strongly and said she did nothing to get her disease.

When we say something is an addiction what does that mean?

Does it some absolve the individual from responsibility for behaving poorly?

Just Don't Do It!

When someone gets drunk and acts like an asshole does it somehow serve their interest to say that that person is addicted? Being addicted may free someone from being stigmatized but might they discontinue self-defeating behavior if it was condemned rather than labeled and legitimized?

I asked the class as the discussion went on if all things human beings do compulsively should be considered diseases. Many said they should.

So if an individual has a compulsion to please themselves sexually all the time should we consider that an addiction or even a disease?

Might there be a body chemistry variable that makes resisting urges more difficult?

Some people are allergic to shellfish and others to strawberries. Maybe some people have a body chemistry that acts differently when it interacts with their sex drive. If that were true, it could make getting compulsive about something much harder to resist.

What if it did? That might mean it would be more difficult to make good choices and avoid self defeating choices.

Many people stop taking drugs or stop drinking too much with the help of rehab stays and lots of therapy. Many get help from the 12 Step programs.

When people quit smoking they often just quit, tough it out and deal with discomfort. Why is that addiction seen differently?

Ultimately, stopping compulsive behavior entails, in plain words, knocking it off. Just don’t do it to paraphrase Tiger Woods’s top sponsor. Therapy and medication can help but ultimately, people need to not screw off the cap of the liquor bottle, light the crack pipe or get the heroin spike ready to inject.

If sex is the issue, they need to keep their pants on, not do unhealthy things and stay true to whatever promises they made to their life partners. Therapy can help.

Labeling it an addiction may help some people with shame and if they gets them help, I guess it’s a good thing.

In the end, stopping a self-defeating behavior takes discipline, commitment and the ability to postpone immediate gratification.

It probably doesn’t need carefully scripted apologies and press conferences.