I have been a recovering alcoholic for almost nine years. A lot has happened during that time: I’ve watched as the failures of the war on drugs have made themselves clear; as the prevalence of opiate addiction in white, middle-class neighborhoods has swelled; as the problem of addiction has taken on a more prominent place in public discourse.

Over the course of my sobriety, I’ve also watched as fights over what causes addiction have become louder and more volatile: Is it a disease? A learning disability? How much of a role does genetics play? In these arguments, it’s easy to lose sight of one important truth: Every theory we have about what causes addiction is imperfect. No one treatment will work for all addicts — and I have seen friends lose their recovery, and sometimes their lives, because they were led to believe otherwise. (continued)