Community Health News

Love the Addict – Hate the Disease

The following was written by Mart Meyer, Recovery Coach at PRC Recovery Centre, Sabie.

Addicts are people who are stuck in the grip of a continuing and progressive illness. Very simply, an addict is a man or woman whose life is controlled by drugs. This was how easy the origin of the 12 steps defined alcoholism.

These same addicts we so judgmentally refer to are also sons and daughters, mothers and fathers, wives and husbands, and that’s what makes it difficult to distinguish between loving the addict and hating the disease.

We can confidently acknowledge by this time that addiction is indeed a disease with the prevalence of substance use and drug abuse disorders ever-increasing through the economic, social and emotional impact it has on our society. That is why it is vital to establish a clear distinction between the addict and the disease and take the associated responsibility when dealing with the addict and treating the disease.

The 3 C’s in family recovery state that “We didn’t Cause it, we cannot Control it, and we cannot Cure it.” These three foundations provide clear direction when we look at the addict while we treat the disease.

Often the most difficult shift for loved ones to make when addiction in this disease perspective is further classified as a relapsing disease when compared to other chronic illnesses, substance abuse disorders have a 40-60% relapsing rate.

It makes it extremely difficult for us to then still love the addict when we do not understand the disease of addiction and that is specifically why family participation in addiction treatment is vital as addiction is also a family disease. It eventually affects everyone when we so often think that addiction is the drugs, while the drugs are merely a symptom of the disease.

A recent testimonial we had from one of our clients said, “I realised that it’s a disease & addiction is just a symptom”, and that’s where both addicts and families should remember the 3 C’s of recovery, cause, control, and cure.

This client’s revelation came early in recovery through the clinical clarification given by Dr Silkworth in the introductory chapters of the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous. The latter of realisation continued to expand as the steps made it more clearer with every step she took.

A favourite sentence from an intense addiction recovery movie, “Thanks for Sharing”, highlights how compared between cancer and addiction: The one receives sympathy while the other receives judgement. This is often where this moral failing of addiction remains a damaging perspective.

Addiction is not a moral failing but is a treatable disease. The same sympathy we shalt lend to a person with cancer is the same sympathy we need to lend to an addict while fighting the disease.

Love the addict and do not stop loving them amidst difficult times. We see it so often, people coming to treatment broken, with no hope of ever regaining or rebuilding the relationships that their addiction had destroyed.

Recovery is a process of working past resentments towards other people. Each step worked shifts the perspective of the addict to become more and more willing to make amends to those people wherever possible.

That is the power of recovery. Each step instrumental in the resolution, restoration and restitution of the lives of addicts and families affected by addiction.

Recovery is an ongoing process. Learning new ways of living while our old patterns of behaviours diminish. Once having used substances to survive, we now find new ways to cope. Where we once became angry, we now learn to resolve conflict constructively, only looking at our part in the situations.

Our lives have changed both for the addict and the family. We remind ourselves that we love the addict and hate the disease because if addiction were merely a moral failing, 1 in 12 people would be dismally failing at life with loved ones taking all the blame for their addict’s destructive behaviours.

If it were any other chronic illness you would seek the help of a registered professional, then why not seek a registered addiction professional when dealing with addiction? If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction give us a call. PRC Recovery has helped more than 150 families on their journey to recovery. Call 081 246 7452, or email us at


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