Monday, December 21, 2009

Tiger's Lesson of the Day: Addiction is Addictive

My favorite two online mags, Slate and Salon, have pieces on whether Tiger Woods is a sex addict and what does that say about us?  The two pieces largely agree that sex addiction has been, ahem, overblown.  That is, there is no consensus on what it is, that there is a temptation to label all kinds of behavior as being addictive because it is different and/or provides pleasure.  The Slate piece gets into the dopamine myth--that things that cause elevations in dopamine can becoming addicting, but the problem is that lots of stuff that is pleasurable boosts dopamine.  But not everyone is an addict to everything.  That is a simplification, but you get the idea.

The bigger question, raised by el Tigre, is whether pleasure-seeking behavior that is self-destructive is always due to an addiction?  And does that mean that the addict is absolved from being responsible?  "My disease caused me to sleep around."  "My disease caused me to gamble the family savings away."  I would, having absolutely no expertise on addiction (except for ultimate, and I can give that up for a month at a time), say that addiction can help explain a behavior but does not justify it or remove responsibility. 

I know someone who is an addict, and has engaged in all kinds of behavior that is not just self-destructive but other-destructive as well.  Apparently, rock bottom is much further to go, but the point here is that he is still responsible for the addled choices he makes, and he should still be held to account for the damage he inflicts.  He may get better and find remorse. I am only familiar with TV's stylized portrayal of the 12 step program, but one thing is clear--acknowledging responsibility is a key part.

So, the addiction industry seems to be giving people a pass for irresponsible behavior, but the rehabilitation process, as far as I can tell, does not.  The disease made me do it--is not going to carry the day. Not for Tiger anyway.  I do wonder if he gets to keep the dogs, though and whether Sweden's dog importation laws are like the UK's?

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