I’m very aware that I have an addictive personality by which I mean I easily get addicted to things.
The question can we actually make choices is a very simple one to answer. The answer is yes. If we weren’t then everyone of us that has ever been addicted to anything would still be addicted to that thing and never be able to stop.
However, having seen where the question arose from, I understand it is not as simple as that, and the question is more nuanced.
Addiction by it’s very nature is not usually something which just stops. For someone like me, the trick is to avoid things which are addicitve in the first place, or if it’s too late for that, to replace ‘bad’ addictions with ‘good’ ones. For me they are choices, but equally for most things that I can find addicitve it’s much easier to avoid them these days. I used to smoke, but with the increased regulations around smoking in media, advertisements, smoking bans, health warnings, price hikes etc. I’ve gone from being able to smoke a cig in Woolworths to not even knowing how much a pack would cost anymore.
With gambling, it’s just something I avoid in the first place. I once blew £10 in an hour in a penny arcade and that was my warning, so I just never took it on. But for those that are addictes and want to stop, it’s probably not so easy with companies spamming social media so much. Almost every unskippable ad I get on youtube is a gambling company telling how fun and friendly tombola is or how much more exciting the football would be if I lost some money while watching it. Yes, it’s all still a choice, but choices are harder if access is easier and the adverts are everywhere.
I once watched a documentary about Heroin addiction called Heroin: Cape Cod. It’s worth a watch. But anyway, one thing that struck me in it, was when these young people did stop taking the heroin. When they were clean. They explained that, the addiction was still there. It was constant. Though they had made the choice, knowing that that high was available at almost any moment meant that it never really went away. They couldn’t choose to not be addicted. Now as an ex-smoker I can relate, even though my choice of drug and it’s effect was not comparable to that of heroin, I know if they invented a cheap, non-dangerous cigarette that didn’t smell bad, but was otherwise exactly the same as a cigarette, then I would probably start smoking again, because, I do still miss that feeling of lighting up after a long day at work, or having one with a few beers, or in an afternoon on a cold day with a cup of coffee.
My point being, that the choices aren’t always easy, and they certainly aren’t made easier by people who stand to profit from people’s addictions. These companies knowingly use techniques to manipulate and encourage people to throw their money away. If it was all as simple as just making a choice, then nobody who couldn’t afford to would give these leeches a penny.