If you aren’t an addict, addiction can appear selfish. The person who is addicted to a substance or thing seems all-consumed with that thing. They can’t consider anything else but that thing. People become addicted to things for various reasons. They need to medicate their pain or they want a way to feel good. Addiction (on the surface) has the potential to destroy lives. It can make the person who is addicted feel out of control and powerless. In fact, that’s one of the things that people who are in Alcoholics Anonymous talk about, admitting that you are powerless against the addiction. That can be one of the hardest things to do for someone struggling with addiction, whether it’s sex, drugs, alcohol, or technology, addiction can be brutal. The person who is addicted doesn’t necessarily want to be selfish. They are using their addiction as a coping mechanism. In the process of doing this, they might ignore people who need their love, support, and friendship.

The lens of someone who deals with addiction is tinted. This person is focused on how they can maintain their addiction. They want to find a way to stay content and they truly believe that their substance of choice is providing them with euphoria or relief from their problems. In reality, their addiction is making their lives worse and creating a divide between them and their loved ones. The person who is addicted is in their own bubble making them appear self-centered but they are actually sick.

Addiction is an illness that people struggle with. Some people find a way out of their illness and others don’t make it out alive, which is tragic. This brings on another layer of complications. If someone who has addiction issues loses their battle with addiction, some people might call that selfish as well. Whether that person overdoses on purpose or their addiction becomes so severe that they don’t realize how deep they are into it and they die of health complications, these can be construed as selfish acts.

What if we looked at this differently? What if instead of labeling this as selfish, we viewed someone with an addiction issue as ill. They don’t mean to hurt others with their illness but they are inadvertently doing that. If we change the way that we view addiction, maybe that can adjust the way we get people struggling with addiction the help that they need. Having compassion for someone who is ill and doesn’t have control over their impulses can be helpful to their healing process.

Do you view addiction as selfish or is it a legitimate medical condition that needs a medical and behavioral intervention? Perhaps it is both of these things. Just because someone doesn’t mean to act in a selfish manner, doesn’t mean they are not behaving selfishly. One of the things that people are told in Alanon is to stop enabling the addicted person. That means to lovingly set boundaries and stop giving in to their illness. An example would be buying an alcoholic a six pack of beer. Enabling someone who is addicted to a substance or thing feeds their illness. That is something that you (as a supporter of the addicted person) can work on stopping.

Selfish or not, addiction is a legitimate problem that needs appropriate treatment. You can get help with resources from Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. They are an organization within the U.S. government that helps people get help from addiction.  You don’t have to continue to suffer. Get the help that you need.