The paradox of addiction is that people cannot choose to leave drugs behind until they fully admit to themselves that they are powerless to do so. Addiction can be physically treated to an extent, but even in modern recovery programs, says Dunnington, “the diseased victim, although perhaps not culpable for his actions, is nevertheless responsible to rectify them” (p. 39) Both choice and physical disease are inextricably bound up in the problem of addiction, but neither can provide a fully coherent explanation of this affliction. The concept of habit as a force that determines human orientation and character is a third way between disease and choice that can offer an explanation of what addiction really is.
Sarah draws heavily on Kent Dunnington’s incredible book Addiction and Virtue, which explores “habit” as a much more compelling descriptor for addiction than either “choice” or “disease” as we commonly see. She also did a great job at reaching out to some of my friends in Baltimore who provide care to those struggling with addiction and featuring some of their thoughts. With death rates from opioid overdoses continuing to rise, I think it is utterly necessary that American pastors think through these issues and how they can work together to respond to the crisis.
Matthew Loftus teaches and practices Family Medicine in Baltimore and East Africa. His work has been featured in Christianity Today, Comment, & First Things and he is a regular contributor for Christ and Pop Culture. You can learn more about his work and writing at www.MatthewAndMaggie.org