Addiction is similar to Auto-Immune Disease~

In many ways…

Until recently, I had no need to think about addiction.
I had no feelings about it, I did not understand it, and I had no reason to.
Until recently, I had no need to think about auto-immune disease.
I had no feelings about it, I did not understand it, and I had no reason to.


Over┬áthe last 24 months both of these issues have been introduced to my life…

I reacted to the situation as if stopping addiction was a wish granted by a genie, or that like a witch I could wrinkle my nose and magically it would be gone…forever.

Next auto-immune disease was granted admittance into my life. The disease was triggered by stress, and we did not catch it soon enough. I cannot rub a genie’s lantern or twitch my nose enough times to make it go way, either.


An addict needs to avoid situations that will trigger the need/want to partake in their drug of choice. This is a very difficult thing to do. Most addicts use drugs to avoid dealing with everyday life…how do you avoid life?

Someone with an auto-immune disease needs to avoid stress. This is also very difficult in today’s world. Everyday life is stressful…you cannot avoid life.

Support Group…

Many addicts do not allow people to really “know” them. They travel through life on the fringes…they interact just enough…they do not share their true feelings. Using their drug of choice allows them to float through life, not connecting, not sharing, not developing relationships.

Those who are isolated by their auto-immune disease begin to display some of the same relational issues as the addict. Those in your support group tend to become emotionally exhausted after an extended time of illness, it causes the afflicted to shut down. We realize that most of our loved ones are tired of hearing that we are sick. Believe me, we get pretty sick of being sick, but we have to live with it.

Love and Understanding…

Not only is the addict fighting the battle to revert to using drugs on a never-ending basis, they have to learn how to conform to society. I am constantly amazed by my loved one, they have been clean for 14+ months. I do not know anyone stronger. I hate that they have to fight this battle every second of every day, and I am honored that they choose to fight this battle-not only for themselves, but for me and the others they love.

So, I try to be more understanding. More loving. More inclusive. I try to spend time with them everyday, to let them know that I support them, I am their biggest cheerleader. Pulling an addict back into life may be the one thing that saves them.

Someone with an auto-immune disease is fighting the battle to be understood too. It is very difficult to fight a battle against your own body. Many times you do not get to choose to include yourself into social situations. Managing your health and your disease becomes a full-time job.

Love and understanding are needed from others. Just because I cannot do all the things I did before does not mean that I do not want to. I do. But my health is a bit consuming. Phone calls from those I love keeps me involved and allows me to stay connected.

A purpose…

Addicts need to see that life has value. That they have a purpose. This will keep them on the right track, moving one foot in front of the other. When they see their value reflected in the eyes of others they want to continue a clean lifestyle. Without that reflection, life is difficult.

When a loved one is already fighting a daily battle of addiction a message, text, phone call can lift them above their urges, to keep them accountable. If they feel that you value them enough to check up, check in…it can help them stay on track.

When I was semi-bed ridden, and riddled with pain from my disease, I felt as if I had no purpose. I needed to see my value reflected back at me. It helped me to forge on, to keep going.

Life long…

I was silly enough to think that once we realized our loved one had an addiction, that knowledge of this hidden deviance would make it go away. Now I know that this is something that we need to continually work on. If you have someone in your life with an addiction know that it will never go away. If you want to have a place in their life you have a part to play.

Although our loved one chose to take a drug for recreational purposes, they did not choose to be an addict. Most people who try drugs will not move from casual user to addiction. This choice, created an issue that needs to managed for a life time.

Auto-immune disease is also a life long sentence. Just like an addict, the disease has to be managed. Management is defined by the decisions that we make. Many times we miss out. But like an addict our choices create the quality of the life that we have left.

Learning to accept…

An addict needs to accept that not everyone will understand. Not everyone wants to understand. Most will judge. Living with an addiction is hard enough, but you also have to watch for those casting stones. Your whole life changes. You cannot hang out with the friends that you had as an addict, most of them use drugs. Those friends that were not users may have been casualties of your actions while you were under the influence. Or they cannot let go of your addiction…even though you fight a daily battle for recovery…many cannot let go of the fact that you became an addict and cannot allow the relationship to evolve.

Now that I am living with auto-immune disease I also realize that not everyone understands. Living with the disease is hard enough, my whole life has changed. I cannot do everything that I used to do. I need quite a bit more down time, and I cannot rush from one place or activity to the other. Many times I am lonely too, and I realize that I am fighting a daily battle for recovery…and my relationships need to evolve.


Over the past 24 months my emotional stability has been challenged in many ways. I wish that addiction and auto-immune disease had never knocked on our door, or moved in-as a life long house guest.

Especially the addiction. It is very difficult to watch someone you love fight a battle with each and every breath that they take.

Although I do not want either one, the auto-immune disease has enabled me to understand the addict. A truer understanding, from a perspective that I never would have had.

When the support of others falls away I hope that my understanding will be enough. That together we will fight our issues, knowing that we have each other, and that if that is all we have…it will be enough.



  1. Anne says

    You’re absolutely right: There’s a reason for everything. Even the worst can sometimes be used as help. I am so glad you can see that and not become bitter over it.

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