By Mary Cucarola – 11/5/23

“What is learned out of necessity is inevitably more powerful than learning that comes easy.” ~Malcomb Gladwell, David, and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants

Imagine the same caring and loving mother from last month’s blog, who accepts she has made some mistakes. She is initially shocked and confused by her son’s unruly behavior. The moment she realizes he is struggling with addiction; she is distraught and upset with her son. She believes he is choosing to make bad decisions and that it is a matter of willpower. She at once blames him, herself, and her parenting.

As she delves deeper into her son’s addiction, she starts to uncover the truth behind this complex disease. She discovers that addiction is not about willpower or lack of character, but rather a chronic brain disorder that affects individuals from all levels of society.

She very slowly begins to shift her perspective.

She learns the simple definition of a disease: A disease disrupts the normal functioning of the underlying organ, such as heart disease (heart), asthma(lungs), and diabetes (pancreas). The organ that is disrupted in addiction is the brain.

It is characterized by compulsive drug seeking, continued use despite harmful consequences, and long-lasting changes of the brain. It alters the way the brain works, rewiring its fundamental structure. That is why scientists say addiction is a disease.

Understanding addiction as a disease requires a significant shift in her mindset. She learns to let go of the blame and judgment, replacing it with compassion and support for her son. She realizes it is not a function of her parenting or her son’s character, but rather an illness that needs to be treated with empathy and understanding.

Armed with a newfound understanding, she further educates herself and others about the disease. She seeks out resources, attends Al-Anon, and engages in open conversations to challenge the stigma associated with addiction.

Stigma is labeling, stereotyping, and judging those who have substance use disorders due to ignorance about the disease.

Throughout this long journey, she discovers the importance of support groups and the impact they can have on the recovery process. She starts to find hope and strength, while acknowledging the journey may be long and challenging, but she is committed to standing by her son’s side, offering love, understanding, and unwavering support.

Her son’s journey lasts for ten years and includes rehab, relapse, periods of sobriety, relapse, and rehab repeatedly. It feels like David vs. Goliath in a contest where the smaller, weaker opponent (my son) faces a much bigger, stronger adversary (addiction).

Her journey from ignorance to understanding serves as a testament to the transformative power of knowledge, empathy, and support. It highlights the importance of recognizing addiction as a disease and the need for society to come together to find resources, education, and compassion for those affected.

It is never too late to change perspective about addiction and become a force for positive change in the lives of our loved ones.

We want David, the underdog, to win, not the giant, Goliath.

Mary Cucarola – 11/5/23