Does “Disease” Mean I Don’t Have a Choice?
I know your works. Behold, I have set before you an open door, which no one is able to shut. Revelation 3:8
In my addiction, I repeated my pathologic behavior so many times that it became compulsory – something I couldn’t not do. Yes, I made conscious choices to get there, but once addicted, my brain was diseased to the point where the drug made all my decisions for me. I’d lost all control. You’ll notice I do reference addiction as a disease, which offends some. The implication is that, if addiction is a disease then the addict isn’t responsible for his choices. If addiction is a disease, the addict is a victim just like a cancer patient, right?
I had a predisposition for opioids that I didn’t choose. The first time I took opioids, after a surgery, I knew I was in love. When my wife once took the same medication, she found it unpleasant. She’ll never be addicted. Additionally, I’m prone to excess. When I like a food, I want to eat it repeatedly. When I hear a song I like, I listen to it over and over. I didn’t choose these traits, but if you put them all together, you get a high risk for addiction when exposed to opioids. I wasn’t responsible for these risk factors, but I clearly made bad choices which grew my disease.
This is like the type 2 diabetic who has some genetic predisposition to the disease, but who’s also made lifestyle choices that have contributed to the diagnosis. The fact that he (or she) made poor choices leading to the diagnosis doesn’t mean it’s not a disease. And the fact that it’s a disease doesn’t mean he’s not responsible for treating it. There’s always a choice and the diabetic, though he may not be responsible for the predisposition to the disease, is the only one who can choose to engage in the treatment for it. There’s always a choice.
This was Christ’s message in today’s passage. For all of us, he holds the door to his kingdom open. We all have different life struggles which we didn’t choose. We’ve all made terrible choices in our struggle though too. God desires to save us from ourselves and so, he opens the door to the new life for us. Why would anyone refuse?
Why did I refuse help? In my addiction, I always had a choice. Many times, I picked up the phone to call for help and then put it down again. The problem was that I knew how painful “help” would be. I knew I’d have to confess, go to treatment, and change my life. That was too much and so, I chose to remain in my disease. I chose to stay stuck.
This is where a lot of us find ourselves. God holds the door open and asks that we enter, but we know what it will cost – the old life. We want the new life, but we know how painful it will be to let go of the old one. And that’s the diseased thinking – refusing to let go of our misery. To this, God calls us to enter, throwing off the old sick life, so that we may live in the new vibrant one. We always have a choice.