Does Addiction Count as a Disability? ADA vs. AA

I’m not even going to pretend that this post isn’t going to piss some people off; I’m pretty sure it will. Good. Far be it from me to avoid stirring the shit, especially on Halloween (ok, finished it a little late, sue me). If this subject hadn’t come up, I would have ranted about Christmas decorations up before Oct. 31st, but I have been saved from such a dismal topic.

For those of you bottom line kind of folks, here it is: The consequences of addiction can be changed by choice, as in working on recovery. The consequences of a disability, i.e. blindness, cannot. Pretty simple. Now for the long winded explanation.

Ok, so I have friends who are addicts. Most of them are in the recovery stage, thankfully and they lead productive lives. Of course I’m happy, they are friends and I don’t like to see my friends hurt. Some of them are not recovering, they are suffering. They haven’t gotten help, yet. Personal choice, theirs to make, but I will be really happy when and if they do. And supportive. However, one thing they are not is disabled. My son has cerebral palsy; he is in a wheelchair, probably for life. He is disabled and not because of anything he did to himself.

The reason I bring this up is someone I know lost their job due to behaviors stemming from substance abuse problems. Happens all the time. Often it is the wake-up call that gets them to seek help. This person has decided that their addiction should be a disability and that their job should be protected under the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act), as in they have been discriminated against. Did I miss a fucking memo? (proud that I got this far without an F-bomb). Disabled? Putting alcohol or drugs in your body is a choice. Being born blind, deaf or crippled is not. Please, please, please, do not let people start using this excuse to further the victim mentality in this country. Companies have behavior guidelines. If your behavior strays outside said guidelines and you lose your job, your fault. If you are an addict, get help. I don’t even have a problem with government and company sponsored programs (for which we as a society end up footing the bill). I wish no one had to suffer with addiction. But, if this is you, you are NOT disabled. Whether addiction is a disease is an ongoing debate (in my opinion at any rate), but so far, I have not heard of a virus or other biological agent that causes it. Genetics, yes, similar to other debilitating diseases, but to suffer the physical ailments of addiction, the addict must do something to themselves. Very much not disabled.

I did not research to find out how many AA meetings are held in the Los Angeles area, but I would be comfortable guessing at least a hundred. Last time I tried to find a support group for parents of disabled children, no such luck. They are few and far between. The ADA was enacted to be sure that those citizens who have physical and mental disabilities are given as much access to the world as possible. Wheelchair ramps, special parking places and the like are things that make their lives a little easier. (Don’t even get me started on assholes who park in disabled spots when they shouldn’t. I’ve had several such idiots ticketed at $300 each.  Good.) What next? Special padded parking spaces for those who drive under the influence so they don’t scratch their cars? You laugh, but our society has done things far more stupid than this (welfare, anyone?).

I am not a bleeding heart, but I am compassionate. I think as a society we have a duty to help those who cannot help themselves. This includes those with physical and mental disabilities. It also includes addicts. The difference is, addicts have to ASK for help. Until they do, we cannot help them. Those with disabilities are often incapable of asking for help, so we must initiate the help they need. The ADA is one of the most important pieces of legislation ever passed by our government for those with disabilities. But there is a HUGE difference between ADA and AA. It all comes down to choice. Rant over (for now.)

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