Choices, success, addiction and disease

Choices are what we face every day of our lives. Choices over time create habits. Over a lifetime, habits determine success or failure, happiness or misery.



I am not a doctor or scientist, just an observer of a wide range of human behaviour among many different types of people in a range of situations and locations.

However, I have never been convinced that addiction is a disease. I believe it is a choice. A huge problem causing misery, poverty and often death to addicts, family members and others. A huge cost to society, but not a disease.

Labelling it a disease as has been popular in this age of political correctness has given addicts a convenient excuse.

It’s not my fault.- I have a disease.

It takes away the responsibility for the choices they make.

It is part of the social mentality that wants to label every slight deviation from what is considered “normal” some sort of ism.

What is normal?

I am convinced that there is no single, correct definition of normal. That every one of us is somewhere on a continuum ranging from totally sane and rational to totally insane and irrational.

Most of us stay in a narrow band around the centre most of the time.

But there are enough examples of supposedly normal people doing abnormal things to show that our place on that continuum is not fixed.

Stress, adversity, temptation, jealousy, lust, anger can all move us towards one or other of the extremes, unless we make the right choices.

This view of addiction is supported in the book The Biology of Desire by Marc Lewis at Radbound University in the Netherlands.

(affiliate link)

I learned about the author and his book in an article by Joseph Brean in the National Post recently.

Lewis is a psychologist and a recovered drug addict, he has experienced the problem of addiction from both sides.

He believes that addiction is nothing more than a very bad habit. It is a strong belief that taking more of whatever you are addicted to, drugs, alcohol, gambling or chocolate, will make you feel better when it will probably not.

Making bad choices

He also looks at the distinction that addiction must be because of either nature or nurture, when it is both.

My own experience of addiction supports the idea that it’s the choices we make and habits that prolong or end our addiction.

I started smoking tobacco during my military service at age 19. More out of boredom and seeing the contented look on smoker’s faces during “smoke breaks”, than peer pressure or wanting to appear sophisticated. It was an era when most adults and many youngsters smoked.

We lived in Rhodesia, then the biggest tobacco exporting country in the world.

The link between tobacco smoking and cancer was rarely mentioned or thought about. We were in a terrorist war, more likely to be shot or blown up by a landmine than get lung cancer.

In later years, I stopped smoking for the years when I was running marathons, stopped at other times, smoked no more than 10 cigarettes a day for long periods. All my own choices, no one made me stop, reduce or resume my tobacco addiction.

Sufficiently motivated, I could stop smoking temporarily but never permanently.

During the worst parts of the farm invasions in Zimbabwe when we had many sleepless nights, I smoked more than ever, up to 40 cigarettes a day.

Moving to Canada with the price of cigarettes around 10 times more than in Zimbabwe motivated me to reduce but not stop smoking. Stupidly, I still chose to smoke a few small cigars each day.

In 2010 I had a heart attack. As I lay on an operating table with a catheter the size of a pencil in the artery in my groin a cardiologist pointed out the damage to my heart on a computer screen. His suggestion that it might be a good idea to stop smoking was enough motivation for me to make the right choices.

In the 5 years since that heart attack, I have not smoked at all nor had the slightest wish to light up.

During non smoking periods in the past, the smell of a burning cigarette would have me salivating like Pavlov’s dogs. Now I can enjoy the smell and the memory of past experiences it evokes without wanting to try it again.

That’s why I believe that addiction is a choice, a bad habit, not a disease.

What do you think? Leave a comment.


graphic by Stuart Miles /

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  8 comments for “Choices, success, addiction and disease

  1. August 28, 2015 at 11:03 pm

    Another Masterpiece my freind!
    You and James Strauss think so much alike. His Opinion Editorial was abourt Gambling… Th ecoices of life are a Gamble.
    Stop by and give a read if you have not already.
    Chat soon!

    • Peter
      September 2, 2015 at 5:04 pm

      Thank you Chuck, I am heading off to read James’ article now.

    • Peter
      September 3, 2015 at 2:38 pm

      I just read it, it’s good and well written.

  2. Roberta
    August 29, 2015 at 12:44 pm

    WOW! I am not sure if smoking is a choice or an addiction. It is certainly a habit. I think that over time that habit can lead to addiction. But I am not a psychologist so I don’t know where that line is.

    I commend you for wanting to stop and having the strength to do it.

    I have never, ever wanted to smoke. Never have. Just do not care for it. Inhale smoke??? Come on. I am not nuts. Sounds dumb to me.

    I do think we all have a little friend or two that help us through the day, whether it is chewing gum or drinking soft drinks.

  3. Peter
    September 2, 2015 at 5:07 pm

    Little friends like those are not a big problem Roberta, it’s the stronger stuff that damages lives.

  4. September 8, 2015 at 11:59 am

    I have high functioning addicts on both sides of my family—mostly alcoholics. I also have an aunt who lives in her care because of her addiction. I agree with you. I think that we make the time energy and money we need to do what we want. Period. If addiction is weighing us down, we have the gift of choice.

    I’ve come across two Humpty Dumpty analogies in the last week. The take away—why expect anything different if we keep putting the pieces of the puzzle back together the same way? In reflecting on some old writings of mine, I had to ask myself some tough questions.

    I know the answers…

    • Peter
      September 11, 2015 at 9:11 pm

      Thank you Cait. As a regular reader of your blog, I appreciate the tough choices you have made to overcome challenges in your own life.

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