Christopher Howse: An addiction to behaving badly

In Our Mutual Friend, the drunk Mr Dolls is regarded as a child by the young girl who cares for him, as if she were his parent. As for him, “it was always on the conscience of the paralytic scarecrow that he had betrayed his sharp parent for threepennyworths of rum, which were all gone, and that her sharpness would infallibly detect his having done it, sooner or later”.

There is a mixture of guilt and incapacity that, in our generation, we attach to a condition called alcoholism. Yet many people think of alcoholism as an illness. If so, it is not an illness like measles, which admits no admixture of guilt, resolution and disappointed reform.

Alcoholism falls within the category of addiction and, within the past generation, addiction seems to be blamed for an increasingly wide range of bad behaviour. Drugs, we suppose, are addictive. Cigarettes are a kind of drug. Patterns of eating seem to be addictive, not just eating chocolate, but comfort eating, over-eating and compulsive dieting.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, Psychology

2 comments on “Christopher Howse: An addiction to behaving badly

  1. drummie says:

    This author is getting close, but not quite. Addiction to substances DOES have a moral side, and a physical side, and a spiritual side. All three must be addressed. I know, I have been there. I went to “treatment” for drinking more than one time. What did they teach me? If I wouldn’t drink, I wouldn’t get drunk. Some family and aquantances judged everything morally, I was just no good and worthless. Then I went to see my priest. BIG mistake if you want to keep drinking. He showed me God in a light that I had never seen before, to the point that I really opened up to and asked God into my life. That was 1991. Since then I have earned two college degrees, stayed on the National Deans list, entered seminary and working towards Holy Orders. My ministry? Police Chaplin & to the homeless and addicted. You see, I have been both. I feel that God wants me back in both communities again. Christ was the answer to my problem, and guess what? The problem was ME.
    Addictions can be overcome with God’s help. I am not saying that from reading a book. I know, I’ve been there and done that, and there was only one set of footprints and they weren’t mine.

  2. Billy says:

    The problem of using addiction in the late 20th and early 21st centuries has been using it as an excuse for willfully bad behavior. If someone gets caught in bad behaviour, they immediately enter rehab, as if they couldn’t help themselves. Sometimes, perhaps they can’t. But often I fear rehab and alleged addiction becomes means of escaping taking responsibilities for one’s own bad behavior.