I don’t want to kick a man when he’s down, but there was one aspect of Mel Gibson’s statement after his arrest for drink driving that did rankle with me.
I have battled with the disease of alcoholism for all of my adult life and profoundly regret my horrific relapse.
The film star’s statement was criticized in some quarters “for sounding like it was crafted by a PR person” and I suspect this is one of the sentences that led to this opinion. Despite its contrite tone, the way the “d” word was worked in at the end of the statement is a rather transparent attempt to engage the listener’s sympathy. The writer seems to want to put Gibson’s Jew bating on a par with “I’m sorry I wet myself and ruined your sofa but I have prostate cancer”. If you were the owner of the damp sofa, you would of course feel pretty bad for cursing this poor guy, since it obviously wasn’t his fault–like Mel’s diseased moment wasn’t really his?
Alcoholism and gambling addictions are dreadful states and sufferers deserve plenty of sympathy and treatment. Still, are they really diseases? How far does the disease net spread? Smoking is quite a good parallel I think: it causes plenty of diseases (as does excessive drinking oof f alcohol), but I don’t think it is one itself. Nor is habitual overeating. The labeling of alcoholism as a disease seems to me inaccurate use of a medical term that clouds our understanding both illness and personal responsibility.