I have been sober 580 days.
Last Sunday my brother turned 39. We both have struggled with addiction most of our adult lives.
There is much debate whether addiction is influenced by nature (genetics), nurture (learned) or choice (free will).
I cannot help but look at my brother and myself through a scientific lens. Our life is as close as I can get to observing addiction with a semblance of scientific method. We were born 3 years apart, in the same small town to the same parents with similar DNA and elementary education.
If anything, life is a grand experiment in circumstance and choice.
We do not choose when we are born, where we are raised or the genes in our DNA. We start life as a propagation of statistical probabilities influence by randomness and decisions, fortune and misfortune, made by our parents and our ancestors.
Is it your choice to be born with a hereditary predisposition to alcoholism?
Could anyone have predicted we live in a time when opioids are mass produced as medicine for the profits of others?
Or that economic and cultural disparities between rural counties and urban centers would leave little opportunity for your personal growth, entertainment and fulfillment?
Is it really a choice at age 14 to smoke your first joint when your older brother is modeling that behavior?
Have we not all made choices to hide insecurities and garner approval?
Do I hold this up as an excuse for an addict’s behavior? No. Why? Because none of this matters today. It is in the past. The only thing that matters is now and next.
I write this to help others understand that addiction is not as simple as a moral decision nor can it be excused as a hereditary disease.
These conditions, circumstances and choices leave impressions on your mind and form patterns in your brain. This determines behavior.
These impressions and patterns can be changed. I promise you. At age 39 I was a drunk and saw very little reason to live. Now I am beyond grateful for the life I have.
Nature. Nurture. Choice. It simply does not fucking matter. What matters is that we don’t give up. What matters is that we help as many people as we can.
Make a new impression. Start a new pattern.