It’s always easy to look at the world with simplistic lens of the eyeball and surface symbolic interpretation. You see something, it is simply that; what it is. A person wears a suit, they must have important responsibilities or belong to management. A person with their hair dyed blue must be terrible, evidenced by their challenging of acceptable social conventions. That person sleeping on the street must have done something intentionally to end up there and likely deserves their fate and helping them would simply reward their bad decisions.

There’s quite a few sayings, though, within our society that say this is actually a terrible way to think. Yes, think. Our eyes do thinking right there in the front of our skull exposed to the world before sending that information off to the brain to be further processed. The brain will try to make sense of what it observes visually. If the rest of your brain isn’t doing it’s job so well, it will let the eye do all of the thinking which is how we get into the world of stereotypes, misunderstanding and false accusations. So what were those sayings?

Are you going to believe me or your lying eyes?

Never judge a book by it’s cover.

Looks can be deceiving.

It’s what’s on the inside that counts.

There are so many more, but they all essentially say the exact same thing and yet most of us will fall prey to our ‘lying eyes’. We will look right at someone today who appears to be in control, handling their life well and being an exemplary citizen in the community, but is also that thing that society has told us is the scum of the earth, the druggy, the junkie addict who deserves to go to prison because they offer no value to society and should be locked up. The idea of a ‘high functioning addict’ is not something just the eye can see alone and many of us likely have seen and dismissed that person who appears to be in control of their life, yet behind closed doors, they are committing the acts that society deems is terrible and is probably self inflicted on purpose.

So how is it, then, possible? Both things can’t be true at the same time. Either you do things that make you a criminal or you’re productive and contribute positively to the world or, at the very least, aren’t trying to soil it or sabotage it, right?

Addiction is a complicated beast that afflicts 1 in 16 Americans according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) when accounting for addiction involving drugs, alcohol or both. Does that officially mean that every 16th American is a terrible person? That would be very bad odds for the country. What’s far more likely is that addiction is something that can be sneaky and affect otherwise good people for a variety of reasons, such as depression, prescription for legitimate illnesses, or even not realizing how common it actually is and simply not being as careful as they might if they knew.

There’s no one-size-fits-all diagnosis or ‘type’ that fits an addiction ‘visual model’. No one can just point to any single person and just ‘know’ they’ve got a problem with addiction nor observe that person’s achievements. The sooner we as society start recognizing this, the sooner we can begin to effectively stop the spread of this illness as well as spreading false demonizing stigma toward those that require professional help to overcome it.

If you or someone you know might be suffering from the effects of addiction, the Discovery Institute of New Jersey can offer help, with alcohol rehab, drug rehab and detox centers. Call 844-478-6563 to speak to specialists and counselors for treatment options.


Reviewed for Medical & Clinical Accuracy by Dr. Jeffrey Berman, MD

Dr. Jeffrey Berman, MDDr. Jeffrey Berman is a psychiatrist in Teaneck, New Jersey and is affiliated with Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital. He received his medical degree from State University of New York Upstate Medical University and has been in practice for more than 20 years. He also speaks multiple languages, including French and Hebrew.

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