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Addiction, Too, Can Be a Weasel Word

weasel 2Weasel words are highly emotive words that are used to manipulate perception, transferring feeling to ideas or products or policies. Weasel words take people hostage emotionally pressuring them to buy, or accept, or reject something.

Buyer beware! Thinker beware! Voter beware!

In my post, “Abuse Can Be a Weasel Word,” I confronted the tendency in our litigious and sound bite society to throw around words like abuse, in order to discredit and marginalize one’s opponents.

Today, I’d like to consider the use of ADDICTION to do the same.

Addiction, however, has the benefit of being a double edged weasel word.

On the one hand, we take any activity of which we don’t approve and, by labeling someone an addict, “Y is addicted to Z,”  associate images of homeless waste products who haven’t bathed in a month and sit around doped out with needles still inside their veins with anyone who drinks more than we think they should, or gets caught attending, however intermittently, to sexually explicit materials (I am not condoning, just observing), or refuses to give up sugar products… they are all addicts, you see.

One’s stomach may sour on a person at the very attachment of the term to them. Grace is not thwarted, per se, but our hope for them is diminished and our tolerance for their friendship nipped; we can’t help but hold them and anything they might say in their own defense against such labels with derision, and a sad kind of pity. They are dehumanized by the accusation… which makes “addiction” a powerfully manipulative term.

I know one wife who attended Al-Anon because her husband insisted on having one beer a night when he came home from work, though he’d never been drunk a day in his life. She told everyone she met that her husband was an addict, a hopeless alcoholic.

It is a little like pasting someone with the label liar or crazy… anything one says after being fettered with the reputation can hardly be believed… it’s the addiction talking.

We also, however, have come to use the term addict as an excuse, a means of shirking responsibility for our actions. “I’m not to blame! I’m an addict!” Addiction has become the fast track term to blamelessness… we’re not bad people who make bad choices… We’re ill. We’re sick. We need help not blame.

In truth, people do need help (sin is ensnaring), but to what do we attach the term ADDICTION, these days? EVERYTHING!!! Emotional addiction, psychological addiction, physical addiction. Addictive behaviors, substances, impulse control. In truth, the whole human race is a race of addicts, soothing their anxieties with almost anything they can get their heads around.

When everything is an addiction, and everyone is an addict, however, what meaning does the term have anymore? That nobody is responsible for their behavior? That we’re all just animals who can’t control ourselves, not sinners who won’t control ourselves?

Calls to repentance become insensitive by nature… the last thing a wounded soul needs.

When I was growing up back when we still communicated long distances with intermittent smoke puffs, hoping for a good updraft and no wind, addiction was a physiological term… it addressed the bodies dependence on substances that send the body reeling when denied.

Now, since everything we do to self-sooth habitually causes chemical reactions in the brain, everything becomes an addiction, a dismissal on the one hand and an inviolate excuse for our sin on the other.

Now, addiction is real, a powerful enemy to defeat, and I am glad that we have people who specialize in helping people with real addictions, but we do a disservice to those suffering from them when we broaden the word to encompass everything and when we throw around the accusation manipulatively to discredit our opponents.

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