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If you live long enough, you’ll change your mind about a few things. For me, the humble fruit fly is a good case in point.

I used to think fruit flies were too small to have a brain. After watching them gradually commandeer our home, I’m not so sure about that anymore. Here’s why.

On a recent summer night, I poured a fresh glass of wine and covered it with plastic wrap perforated by tiny holes just big enough for a fruit fly. I set the glass out on the counter and walked away. Within an hour, five fruit flies climbed in and drank themselves to death. “Ah ha!” I thought. “The perfect trap.” I took the glass out to the yard and disposed of the flies and the lethal liquid.

Back inside, I poured four glasses of wine and set them around the house before going to bed. The next morning, I could hardly wait to collect the harvest that would finally free our home from these ornery pests. Guess what? I found exactly two flies in one glass. All the others were untouched. It was as if they had all gotten the memo: “Don’t go in! Seven of us met an early end in that death trap! It may look, smell and taste great, but that stuff will kill you!”

If only human beings were this smart—and compassionate toward each other.

I used to think there was nothing wrong with an occasional drink. I’m not as sure of that as I used to be. I’ve lived long enough to know several friends and loved ones who would sooner destroy themselves—and everyone around them—than live sober. I now believe that you can develop a problem where there was none before.

Don’t think for a second that I make this observation with any sense of superiority over the alcoholic person—because I’ve got my own issues with addiction. Maybe you’ve noticed. If not, come take a look at my closet and you’ll find the evidence.

Alcohol isn’t my problem today, but I don’t feel morally smug about that. No, quite the contrary. If I don’t care for chocolate, then it isn’t a credit to my character to refuse a Godiva truffle, is it?

The socially acceptable addiction

What makes addiction such a sticky issue is that some are so socially acceptable that they are culturally reinforced. If you’re addicted to clothes, for example, you get a shot of dopamine every time someone admires your outfit. Success and exercise addicts enjoy the same reinforcement every time someone praises their hard work or fitness. What’s more, one addiction can be conquered—and soon replaced by another as we attempt to fill the hole in our hearts.

It takes guts to acknowledge our addictions, whatever they are. But acknowledgement is only a step. Real courage begins when we understand and address our own addictions and love people around us through theirs.

Although they often harm an extended circle of people, alcoholism and drug abuse shouldn’t be any more shameful than other addictions. In truth, most of us are affected by addiction in one way or another, whether we realize it or not.

If some of us are genetically disposed toward addiction, what can we do to intercept that trait? How can we support family and friends whose lives are disrupted by less socially-acceptable forms of addiction like alcoholism and drug abuse?

Life is short. Wear the good stuff.