We asked the Addiction.com community to answer this question — and got hundreds of comments. Here’s what they said.
“It’s a disease, not a moral deficiency.”— Samuel A.
“I’m an addiction and mental health counselor and I really would want more people to understand that it is a real brain disease, yet you can recover with help and support from family friends and professionals.”— Shawn H.
“That every person has an addiction of one form or another. It could be food, cigs, drugs or anything. It does not discriminate. It isn’t a weakness it is something that ‘happens’; there is always a trigger. It takes a lot of courage to admit you are an addict. But to recover is the best feeling in the world.”— Marsha S.
“That even though it’s been many years since it’s been acted upon, the addiction is still there, every day. You don’t stop being addicted. You just learn to become stronger than it.” — Kristin B.
“That we do care. That we care about every beautiful thing in life and that tumbling down to ‘rock bottom’ is what causes us to care even more. We have learned the hugest piece of information a person can learn: that we are not in control of everything.” — PaulaFay H.
“There is something inside of us that is broken, or just never developed, from either real or perceived issues. To figure out what the underlying problems are is not easy. The easy thing to do is mask those feelings by drinking or using drugs. We don’t think we can handle things without an altered state of mind. But the truth is we can.” — Joan A.
“I want people to know that every single time I seek treatment, I swear I want to quit with all of my heart. I’m not trying to ‘con’ anyone. I really, really want to quit and be forever quit. It just hasn’t happened that way yet.” — Nona P.
“When I said, ‘I don’t know why I drank again” that it wasn’t a lie and I was as baffled, angry, upset and hurt as you were. That I meant it when I said I didn’t, nor do I want to, drink anymore.” — Jacob W.
“That’s it’s a battle each and every day. The addiction isn’t because we don’t care or love our families, it’s something much deeper. That an addict needs a supportive glance and not the judgmental stare from people who don’t know what hell on earth is truly like.” — Erin J.
“The things we do when addicted are not who we really are.” — Faith T.
“To truly understand it you have had to be one and I don’t wish that on anyone.” — Jim W.
“That it’s something that builds over time. The addict may be willing in the beginning, but eventually it’s a necessity. Not necessarily in their mind, but to their body. They learn to live with it and by it … One does not become an addict of any kind simply because they want to. They have a reason.” — Amanda V.
“That it can be conquered if you want it to be. The decision is yours to make. No one put a gun to your head and made you an addict, that was your choice.” — Tami K.
“Addiction is no different than any other disease. We need treatment, not jail cells.” — Rocco B.
“Sometimes, letting go is the only thing you can do. This is a personal journey. Unfortunately, the people we love become collateral damage. But if someone’s addiction is hurting and damaging you, it is time to leave.”— Joan A.
“That it’s a disease like diabetes and the 12 steps, calling my sponsor, contact my Higher Power and meetings are my ‘insulin.’ This disease is cunning, baffling and powerful. It is insidious; it lays dormant, waiting to catch me off-guard. I have to go after my recovery like I did my drug.” — Cindy D.
“That they would understand that by criticizing you and forcing you into certain situations it makes it a hell of a lot harder to overcome.” — Lupe M.
“Not to label people. It’s like a person with addiction has a sticker on their forehead (‘I’m a drug abuser’) and the sticker never comes off, even if that person gets clean.” –Elizabeth K.
What do you wish more people understood about addiction?