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A very simplistic statement has ignited in me a fiery opposition I haven’t felt in a long time. “Addicts are stupid.” Having been collateral damage (in a loose manner of speaking) to others’ multiple forms of addiction, I get the sense that I have a unique perspective that opposes the narrow-minded absolutism. Let me first say that I have an innate repulsion to absolute statements. I’ve always believed that everything should be considered as it’s own case, especially with how much I have experienced within the last year and a half. More importantly, I have also never been a supporter of drugs, mostly because those whom I’ve loved have chosen them over…everything else. However, I surprised myself when I realized that I don’t hate drugs. I hate what they do to certain people. From the angle of freedom (which, of late, has become of huge importance to me), I believe that taking drugs is a personal choice, just like dying your hair or getting tattoos. Who am I to judge, criticize, or scoff at someone for doing something to their own body?

It may seem contradictory of me to say his, since I’ve had multiple loved ones addicted to one thing or another, but it’s really empowering. Just as they have the freedom to do to their bodies whatever they wish, I have the freedom to associate or not with someone. I believe when that person’s choices puts me in danger, then I have a real decision to make. And living through a loved one’s addiction, you feel like you should have an say, that your love should matter, that your love should be what breaks them free. But it doesn’t. Not to an addict. Many times their loved ones, like me, have some sort of causal correlation with their addiction. And that proves that addiction and love are not one and the same, because an addiction isn’t self-grown.

Let me back up a second. I won’t deny that a person’s initial decision to take a (illegal or OTC) drug can be deemed misguided. I’m saying that based on the assumption that many first time users are pressured by their social circle, turn to drugs as an emotional crutch, or embrace some other form of dependence. Unfortunately, this becomes a habit long enough for their body to crave it and then seemingly not be able to function without it. I would argue that once that moment, the instant that true dependence starts, the addiction is no longer as simple as a personal choice. I won’t claim to know how exactly drugs work in the body, but I have seem a few different cases first hand. From my experience and researching the topic, I believe certain people having chemical imbalances that predispose them to addiction. Moreover, I believe that this plight is more difficult than non-users will ever conceive. It’s no longer a choice. Rather, these humans are having relive their choice, whether they regret it or not, everyday. If anything, this makes them tragic, not stupid.

And why do people assume that all smokers, all users, all addicts are one and the same? Why are they instantly assumed to be from a lower caste? There are those, after all, that make the decision that they cannot fight it but must manage it. Why not argue that those who consciously live with their decision, their addiction, are not only brave but intelligent? Do we really want to ostracize and judge those that are self-aware? For example, think of how many people you know who continually tried to quit smoking but repeatedly fail. The “nobler” of us usually keep encouraging this vicious cycle saying, “Keep trying. You’ll do it.” But imagine how taxing and defeating this would be, to have everyone witness your repeated failure. Imagine how it would feel to look at yourself in the mirror and think nothing but… So what about the smoker who wishes they could quit but realizes or believes that it’s psychologically and emotionally healthier to continue on a steady path, managing it? Would we still consider this stupid? I’d say we should applaud anyone so self-aware. To err on the side of saving sanity rather than saving face. There is so much to be said for preventing psychological damage versus the physical. Besides, I find little harm in a controlled user, other than to his own body. Let’s say a successful business man or woman uses occasionally as much as once a day, still shows up for work, and even works harder than most during 10 hour days. What sound argument is there against this personal choice? And let’s not get sidetracked by surmising the affect on the drug trade because it would all be speculation. I’m focused solely on debunking the stereotypical argument that all drugs users make bad decisions and are detrimental to others. No. They may hurt some. And it’s those people who make the decision to stick around. Let’s be honest, most of us are sheltered in one way or another and WE have the CHOICE to avoid what we want to avoid. We should focus on that rather than looking down our nose at someone suffering through their own unique pain.

So what does drug addiction have to do with love? Love and drugs can get entangled destructively in the real world but drug addiction can also be a valuable metaphor for love. There is an addictive love that many fall pray to – think of stalkers or serial killers. And it’s probably more accurate to say it’s based in lust or desire more than love. But it’s the insane form of love. Obsession is a cousin to addiction when someone believes they cannot survive without another person. It has similar characteristics of drug addiction. And in a lot of ways obsession for another person is even more detrimental since it attempts to control another human being, a nearly impossible not to mention immoral feat.

Love, on the other hand, is not defined by dependence. Love is independent. Not many experience this type of love but it’s the truest form. Love that sets someone free, that removes social, personal, emotional shackles… it removes hesitation and doubt… it soothes anxiety and fear. This type of love brings security and freedom at the same time. Addiction and obsession are invisible chains holding back a heart from living. They bring limitations, restrictions. Like an addict, an obsessive person does not act of their own will. They are driven by the basic needs of their object of focus. They reach only for tragically desirable falsities.

I’ve never been an addict, but I have experienced the edges of obsessive love – the kind of love that suffocates you, beats you, and then erases you. I understand what it feels like to be held hostage by what your body or heart desires, regardless of logic and rationality. To act out of fear, dejection, towards an imagined heaven, contains a person like a prison. I have learned the valuable lesson in the matters of love that no one person should be able to control, restrict, or restrain another. And equally important, we shouldn’t let ourselves be controlled. Victimization leads to a life under-lived. I will no longer allow relationships to unhealthily control me, beating me into submission as they once did. It took multiple harsh and somewhat brutal trials to wake me from my stupor. But then again, I imagine the resurfacing is even more difficult for an addict. I do not believe I was stupid. I believe I fell victim to my ingrained habit of squeezing too tightly and believing love was all-consuming. I lacked free will, like an addict. Luckily, obsessively cruel love is an easier habit to recognize than a drug if not easier to break. And I can finally say I’ve never felt more clean and free. I can only hope that, with whatever choice others make with drugs and with love, they can say the same thing.