DEAR ABBY: I had my last cigarette and drink of alcohol 50 years ago. Back then, excessive drinking, smoking, overeating or nail-biting were signs of weak will, sinfulness, bad upbringing and who knows what else.
Fortunately, over the years the pendulum swung, making it possible for literally millions of people to get into recovery for what we now know is a disease -- addiction.
Unfortunately, the pendulum is now swinging back again. Now everyone has a "disease" over which they have no control. Therefore, they have an excuse to drink too much, overeat, eat sugar while taking their insulin -- the list goes on and on.
Sadly, this business of taking no responsibility for one's own health and -- worse yet -- often blaming someone or something else for the problem, takes away from those who are taking responsibility for themselves. Getting by with a third DUI, or verbally abusing your spouse, being excused for being late to work for the fourth time because of one's "disease" all contribute to the continuation of the stigma which many of us have been fighting for so long.
Addiction is a disease, and there are many avenues of recovery: mental, spiritual, medical, intellectual and philosophical. What they all have in common is they require a commitment to getting well and, more importantly, a determination to recover.
It is true that there are people with serious maladies that cannot be controlled by any means. My heart goes out to them. Fortunately, they are few and far between and the medical profession is working hard to find answers for them.
Abby, I want to reinforce your dedication to promoting personal responsibility. It is desperately needed! -- ROBERTA MEYER, FORMER PRESIDENT, NATIONAL COUNCIL ON ALCOHOL AND DRUG DEPENDENCE -- CALIFORNIA
DEAR ROBERTA: Your letter contains many important truths, and thank you for taking the time to write. As I have said in columns past, the first step in solving a problem is admitting there is one and deciding to do something about it. The same is true for addiction. That's why 12-step programs are so effective. In these programs, people gain emotional support from others who are traveling the same path to recovery.