Why everything that's supposed to be bad make me feel so good? Everything they told me not to is exactly what I would. Man I tried to stop, man I tried the best I could, but...
-Kanye West "Addiction"

As most everyone with an internet connection knows by now, Amy Winehouse was found dead today. There's no official word on cause of death and last I saw authorities in Britain are treating it as "unexplained." Even with that being the case, most people have assumed, and with reason, that her death is most likely related to her infamous drug use and abuse. Based on what I do know about Amy Winehouse, I'm sure that she wasn't a heavy drug abuser, I'm sure she was heavily addicted.

I saw a few folks on twitter pondering the difference between addiction and heavy drug use or someone using drugs a lot. There is a difference because one is poor self control and the other is a disease.

I was once in love with a guy who lied to me almost non-stop about almost every thing. You name it, he lied to me about it. I was in love with a guy, same guy, who after blowing through his own trust fund, stole thousands of dollars from his parents, accused his beloved nanny of stealing the money and refused to return it. This same guy, this guy I was in love with, totaled not one, but two cars. He did sneaky things like disabling his brother's car so he could use it while his brother was gone. I once loved a man who put himself in harms way regularly, to satisfy his own needs (once, he drove 2 hours to another city, parked in a WaHo parking lot and when he woke up the next morning had no idea where he was, how he got there or what happened -- he called me in a panic).

He did all of these things because he was addicted to drugs. Namely alcohol and opiates. I have stories for days about the things he did or said or put me through that revolve around his usage. If you've ever known someone, much less loved someone, who was addicted to drugs you know that the things I listed above only scratch the surface of what can happen. I know addiction has to be a disease because I can't believe that someone would do the things an addict does, on a daily basis (and I'm not even referring to injecting strange liquid into their blood streams), and not have some type of disease. Poor self-control can surely lead to someone falling victim to an addiction disease, but the two descriptors are for different types of people.

I'm not going to pretend that addicts shouldn't be held responsible for the things they do and maybe that's what makes it hard for some people to differentiate between a person with poor self control and a person with a problem. Being addicted to drugs or alcohol does not absolve you from responsibility in the same way we might not judge an end-stage terminal cancer patient who can no longer care for their own hygiene. But even as we lock up alocholics who hit kids with cars, we can't forget that they have a problem that requires specialized treatment.

I watched J's downward spiral from having poor self control to full blown addiction. It was really easy for me to pretend that he was still just a selfish man who wanted what he wanted when he wanted it, even when the signs pointed so clearly to addiction. But now that it's been several years and I can look back with much more clear vision, I can see the clear line that he crossed when he went from just wanting to forget his problems to needing it to function.

I hope that if you have never known anyone personally who was addicted to something, you never do. It's not an experience I think any one needs in this life. However, regardless of whether or not you have that personal connection, I hope that your sympathy for those who really struggle with addiction increases. They made choices that put them there, yes. They do really bad things and should be held accountable, yes. But being addicted to something is far different from using it or doing it a lot. Addiction is a whole new ball game and causes you to do things that in your sober mind, you'd never imagine doing...

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