Addiction—Whose Fault Is it?

Fingers pointing

Is it my fault? Whether you’re the addict or a loved one, you’re probably asking yourself this question.

The modern school of addiction teaches the addict that it is not his fault. He has a disease. Is this true? Old school philosophy is that it’s a choice and the addict lacks moral fiber. Could this be correct, also?

Enter here the debate on morality versus medicine. Character versus psychology. None of this resolves the issue, as it becomes a matter of opinion rather than fact.

I will not attempt to pick one side of this debate directly. While I do have an opinion, I would prefer to share with you an essay of sorts. It’s not written by a doctor, professor, parent, or psychologist. It is written by a former drug addict.

What Addiction Taught Me About Responsibility

Responsibility is not “fault.” Fault has an assumption attached that means “you messed up.” Responsibility is the recognition that we all create our own lives.

I did mess up a lot. In truth, I broke most of the laws that exist and wronged virtually every person with whom I crossed paths. I kept relapsing and continued killing myself despite knowing better and at times, not wanting to. But when I was using, I would never admit this.
I was incredibly irresponsible. I loved the idea that I had a “disease” and that it wasn’t my “fault.” Like a cancer patient, I was fighting the good fight and losing. I lived for sympathy and even attended 12 step meetings while high looking for it. I was a victim of life circumstances.
Throughout multiple rehabs, jail, and homelessness I eventually discovered the only truth that I could rely on; the only thing that worked for me. I didn’t find fault; I found responsibility.
Responsibility is recognizing that I am the creator. It means that my life today is the way that it is because I caused it to be that way, and only I am in control of my future. Period.
Have bad things happened to me? Absolutely. Are all of those things my fault? Maybe not, but it is most certainly my responsibility how I choose to let them affect me, and how I react to them as a result.
Whether it’s my addiction or my debt, it is mine. It is my life. Placing the blame on another person, a disease, God, or anything else put me in a powerless position. And it made that thing responsible for controlling me and my life.
When I blamed external sources for my situations, it left me feeling worse. If my girlfriend cheated on me, I could spend months being distraught and angry. I could decide it was her fault and have a nasty breakup, only to find the same thing happening to me again in the future. Instead, I should’ve been asking myself “why am I choosing to get into relationships with people who would cheat on me?” and I might have discovered that going to “single’s night” at the club wasn’t the best place to find the love of my life.
I found that I could apply this outlook to anything in my life that was going on. There was always something that I did or didn’t do that led to the current situation. There was something that I could’ve done differently to prevent it. In the past, I was so stuck in never being wrong, that there was nothing I could do better or different. And it showed.
Today, I am responsible. I am no longer an addict because I can change, and I can change because I look within for WHY things are the way they are. It is my life, so it is my responsibility.
So what do you think? Does it do anyone any good to find a reason other than their own actions for the circumstances of their life? My question, at that point, would be “so now what?” So you have a disease, you are powerless. It’s not your fault. While this may be an easier pill to swallow (no pun intended), it doesn’t get anyone anywhere because it doesn’t lead to a road out. It doesn’t give a person anything that THEY can do to change it.
It is not your fault; it is your responsibility. It is your life.
The former addict described above is me. I do not have a disease. I do not have to take any medications or go to daily meetings to stay sober. I have been clean for seven years.

Joe Kertis

Originally from the Pacific Northwest, Joe has worked at Narconon New Life Retreat for the past seven years, since his relocation to Louisiana. As the Intake Supervisor, he helps families and individuals through a very difficult time and take their first steps to a new, drug-free life. Get in touch with Joe on Twitter, Google+ or LinkedIn.