My views on the nature of alcohol & drug abuse, especially when it reaches the point of addiction or dependence are different than those of many counselors and therapists. With the exception of substance abuse which leads to violence, I take no moral or legal stance on the use of alcohol or drugs. Then again, I take a moral and legal stance on all instances of violence. For violence prevention (including driving while intoxicated) society must act swiftly. Ultimately, however, all addictions are the personal responsibility of the dependent person. If a person wishes to use drugs and alcohol, that is fine with me. If they wish to make changes in their use, this is where I can help. In some instances, where individuals have been indoctrinated with moral prohibitions against the use of drugs or alcohol, I have even helped them to responsibly increase their use. The methods of achieving reduction, increase or abstinence are not that different from one another and the treatment for most addictions (gambling, sex, smoking, internet, exercise, eating, television and so on) are at the core not that different. The primary focus of this page will be on alcohol & drug abuse. For more information on addiction in general, read about "attachment" on my Buddhist Psychology pages, or for something less Buddhist, read my page on the Stages of Change, or take a look at my page on The Twelve Steps as Stages of Change.
Intoxication temporarily limits a person's ability to function and to the addict, relieves them temporarily of their responsibility to do whatever it is they'd be doing if they were not impaired. This is a great part of the appeal of substance use. Once consumed, there is no going back until the effects of the substance wears off. A person's spouse cannot bring them back, a person's boss cannot bring them back, a person's conscience cannot bring them back, a person cannot will themselves back. Even God cannot bring them back.
This is the best of both worlds. First, there is the power of autonomy this allows. The substance user is the only active agent in deciding whether to consume the substance. Not shame, not wisdom, not sanction, not even jail can prevent a substance user from using if they decide to use.
Then, there is the surrender of power. Once ingested, the substance is the agent in control and even the substance user cannot undo this.
Being responsible in this life is a heavy burden. Being relieved of responsibility can be a wonderful experience.
Let's look at what we do when we give a person a psychiatric diagnosis. Let's look at the mixed message we send to an addict when we reward their addiction to irresponsibility by absolving them of responsibility.
Prior to a diagnosis, an individual may actually be engaging in a process of self examination. They may be wondering:
Do I have a problem/ do I not have a problem?
Should I change my behavior/ should I not change my behavior?
Is there a pattern/ is there not a pattern?
And they may decide they don't want to think about it anymore because it is too uncomfortable to think about, and they may instead, seek their drug of choice in order to gain temporary relief from the burden of responsibility that awareness of choice imposes.
When this pattern is observed by a diagnostician, the substance user is further relieved of the responsibility for their behavioral choices. The diagnostician tells them that the addiction is not their fault. The diagnostician tells them they have a "disease." The kicker, however, is that the "cure" is nevertheless "personal responsibility."
I suggest we skip the counterproductive collusion with the addict's addictive behavior and that we do this by refusing to give the addict a diagnosis. There is nothing at its core that is unique to the addiction to substances.
Addiction is a universal and common problem which is never resolved completely.
It is not just the substance user who must embrace the colloquialism "once an addict, always an addict." Everyone has a tendency to be short-sighted, to seek immediate gratification, to believe that if a little is good, a lot must be better, to seek relief from pressure, to seek oblivion, to do so repeatedly, to seek to lower expectations, to engage in repetitive behavior, to reduce novelty, to conserve energy. To do otherwise requires constant attention, intention, awareness, mindfulness, engagement, wakefulness. This will be true as long as we are alive. Life requires this. This is what life is. Life requires participation. There is no "cure" but death and so, in a way, the "cure" for addiction is a good dose of whatever one is addicted to. The cure for alcoholism is alcohol. It is death. It is a disease. It is a diagnosis. It is being relieved of responsibility.
For an alcoholic, the problem is not the alcohol. The problem is being sober. The problem is life.
|Christian Wolff, Psy.A., Portland Psychologist Associate • Psychotherapist & Counselor
820 NW 21st Avenue, Suite B. Portland.Oregon. 97209. 503.381.2032. firstname.lastname@example.org
|Alcohol & Drug Abuse: Addiction & Dependence
To the left, you have read about
some causes of addiction and
dependence and though my ideas
present some alternative views on
the use of alcohol or drugs, I
would be remiss if I failed to
acknowledge the possible real
physical affects of intoxication
and of prolonged and/or intensive
Under the influence of certain
substances such as alcohol or
methamphetamine, people have
been known to be violent. Not
only might judgement be
impaired, but sensory-motor
skills may be impaired as well.
With sustained use and
sometimes with a single use,
damage to the body including
Under the influence of certain
damage to the heart, the brain,
chemical toxins such as alcohol
the lungs, the liver, and the
nervous system may occur. In
cases where there is the
possibility of immediate harm,
medical or legal intervention may
be necessary for the safety of the
intoxicated person or for the
safety of others.
For those who have engaged in
sustained use of certain chemical
substances or for those who
have medical conditions which
they suspect may be connected
with substance use, a medical
consultation may be well advised.
Then again, all instances of
violence, sickness, or injury
should receive the appropriate
attention. This matter of
intoxication and other affects
upon the physical body due to
substance use being addressed, I
return you to my general views
on substance addiction and