What’s the difference between addiction and habit?

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It can be confusing because people throw the terms around interchangeably all the time.

What if people randomly exchanged words like “drive” and “bear”? “She was an Olympic torch-driver, ya know” or “I love to watch the drives fishing for salmon, don’t you?” or “Why don’t we just bear down to the beach?” Wouldn’t that be undriveably unbearable? What?

“Habit” isn’t that difficult a word. A habit is a routine behavior that a person does regularly, like rolling their eyes and sucking their teeth whenever someone in the next cubicle says, “I am so addicted to these spicy nuts, I swear.”

But a habit also can be a uniform (e.g. nun’s habit) or the bearing of a person, or a thing’s shape or general appearance. (Miriam Webster has this delightful example: a man of fleshy habit). 

The word “addiction” doesn’t get this flexibility. It’s a bad thing.You wouldn’t say “bad addiction” because that’s just redundant.

Addiction is the use of a substance or a behavior that is harmful. Nuns don’t wear it and it doesn’t describe a pattern of crystal formation.

Addiction kills, addiction robs and at the very least, addiction causes us to detour from our wholesome, natural path.

Well, that’s the way one might explain it to a little person, but it’s so much weirder, I do believe.

If it was simple, people wouldn’t still be arguing about what “addiction” really means.

We used to talk about addiction like it was a disease caused by the addicting material. That happens in the extreme; people can be so gripped by an addiction that they become mentally ill in relation to the drug. People who have never stolen will steal drugs, and energetically dodge reality to do so.

Most of the time, however, flirting with insanity is all that is going on. You don’t really have to “detox” from an “addiction” to your phone. Applying the disease model to bad habits is insulting to people with heroin problems.

I don’t know about you, but I have no desire to further inflict misery on heroin addicts. Actually, I think we should give the word back to them. That is an addiction.

We are not addicted to shopping or porn or technology or cashews or zumba  or love or Jesus or knitting or pretending to be furniture. While all of these have allure, I guess, you cannot typically die from an overdose of Jesus.

If you aren’t truly addicted to something, then you are merely wrestling with a bad habit. Looking at it that way you have a stronger position. The habit isn’t you and it isn’t bigger than you are. You can call on all your other good habits to help you.

Keep fighting!!


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