There is always a scale, but should that also include so-called lesser addictions in recovery? Is addiction black and white, or are there shades of gray as well, and what determines this?
When it comes to the medical definition of addiction, the matter is pretty cut-and-dry. It is a:
“…[C]ompulsive physiological need for and use of a habit-forming substance (as heroin, nicotine, or alcohol) characterized by tolerance and by well-defined physiological symptoms upon withdrawal; broadly :persistent compulsive use of a substance known by the user to be physically, psychologically, or socially harmful.”
Naturally, as indicated above, this includes nicotine. However, this also includes caffeine. Studies are revealing that caffeine addiction has physiological consequences that can impair quality of life. They even have a name for it: caffeine use disorder.
Interesting that there is a distinction between that and regular addiction, though. Even though there is a clear problem for some individuals using caffeine, this is somehow exempt or segregated from what we normally associate with addiction.
Again, this brings up some rather uncomfortable questions. Is it exempt because it is so ubiquitous? Well, so were alcoholism and drug addiction before recovery programs began offering sufferers help.
Is it because it is more socially acceptable? If so, that does not change that a problem exists. It only shows that it is overlooked.
Is it because there is way worse stuff out there? Sure, but again, this overlooks the still uncontested claim that the problem exists.
Neither nicotine nor caffeine serve as a medication for daily functioning, and it does affect some of us from the neck-up…
If the claim is accepted and verified, it also introduces the slippery slope of addiction working on a scale, where one kind is “more severe” than another. At this point, with more people dying annually from drug related causes than alcohol, it would also suggest that drug addiction is somehow more important or severe than alcoholism, and more of a problem.
Still, though, that does not change that alcoholism will kill, can, and does kill in the short-term. Similarly, it also does not change that nicotine will eventually kill as well.
So why is caffeine and nicotine abuse so widely accepted in many recovery circles? That they remain something of an elephant in the living room should give us pause, but most accept it as a given.
The line of reasoning, of course, is that drugs and alcohol are more likely to kill the addict or alcoholic in the short-term—which is true. “First things first.” However, after decades of recovery, there exists a certain incongruity at some point. Yet, no one seems to bring this up.
Let me make something perfectly clear: I am not implying in any way that those who smoke or drink caffeine are somehow working a weak program. I still need my morning coffee, and I smoked like a chimney for the first several years of recovery. Truth-be-told: I know many people who would fall into the category of nicotine or caffeine addiction who work a far, far better program than I do.
What I am saying, though, is that we should be honest to others and ourselves. There is no right or wrong answer.
We strive for progress and not perfection, and progress means challenging our beliefs and us.
It is not all bad—look what happened when we challenged our beliefs with drinking and using…
What do you think? Do lesser addictions exist? What qualifies that? Let us know in the comments!