Calling addiction a disease can ignite serious anger in some people and I totally get it. I know that it seems like a cop-out and an "excuse for poor behavior", but it's not. I mean, it IS for some people and I think most of us have used "I have a disease" as a way of not taking responsibility for our actions at least a few times over the course of our addiction, but the fact remains that alcoholism and addiction as a disease is a scientific discovery, not an emotional theory.
When I refer to my disease, I am not offering an excuse to anyone. I'm using a proper definition based on a determined set of criteria. Yes, I have a disease, and when I'm in my active addiction I am undoubtedly a very sick human being. The person that I am, the things that I do while using, has absolutely nothing to do with the person that I am when you take drugs and alcohol out of the equation. However, let me be clear--having the disease of addiction does NOT absolve me of the things that I did and the people that I hurt when I was using. The two things have very little (if anything) to do with each other.
One of the toughest parts of my recovery has been owning up to the things that I did when I was sick. I want to follow every apology with an explanation about how I wasn't well and how I didn't know what I was doing and how my addiction drove me to do things that I would never have otherwise done. I want to tell them "I didn't do it to hurt you". But to say such things, true as they may be, would devalue my heartfelt amends and take away from the lessons that such opportunities present to me. Regardless of my intentions, people were hurt and I need to acknowledge their pain.
The reality an addict lives on a daily basis is dangerous, oppressive and painful. Every single moment of every single day is powered, controlled and manipulated by the addiction, not the human being. There is nothing "normal" about it. I was often aware of the "me" stuck inside my addict personality and I was desperate to find my way back to that person I had been for the 30 years prior to my addiction. But no matter what I did, no matter how hard I tried, I simply could not reach her. I just kept moving farther and farther away from myself, my values, my children, friends, hobbies, passions and personality. Physically I couldn't function without my "fix" and emotionally I couldn't function without it. I had become utterly powerless to my addiction.
Just like someone who is sick with diabetes, cancer, or malaria, my disease was killing me and without treatment I had no shot at survival.