SPOILER ALERT: whether you have or have not seen Inception, this blog post may spoil both the movie and your excuses for mediocrity.
Inception is a wonderful movie, and beyond the layers of beautiful surreality with which it’s told lays a theme I found quite poignant, and it can be summed up with this quote:
“What’s the most resilient parasite? An idea.”
The movie was not just about shared dreaming, it was about the power of ideas, and how, if we stick to them and follow them through, they can lead us to great or horribly disastrous consequences. The main characters of the movie make a living by entering people’s minds to steal ideas, and eventually to implant ideas. I related to it, because I have worked to remove one very destructive idea from hundreds of peoples minds – the disease theory of addiction which says that drug abuse is involuntary.
This disease theory at first seemed harmless, and in fact helpful. When it was planted in the public consciousness it was done with presumably good intentions. It was thought that if people believed that substance abuse was caused by a disease, then they could drop their shame, and come forward to get help for their problem.
The catch is, that it’s not a disease, and the disease gospel had been spread before any true research had been done to prove it was a truth. If it truly were a disease, and there was a cure which a doctor could give you for it, then this wouldn’t be a problem. The fact is though, that it’s simply a matter of choice, and that the substance abuser only needs to get in touch with their values, judge for themselves what is important and what choices will bring them a better life, and then go about making those choices. By planting the disease idea in the mind of the substance abuser, you rob them of the opportunity to make better choices. They become so wrapped up in believing that drugs are controlling them, that they are genetically flawed, that they are destined to a life of substance abuse- that they can’t even consider choosing to stop. This option is literally taken off the table by the disease theory.
In Inception, Leo Dicaprio is haunted by the character of his wife, who, because she followed an idea he implanted in her mind, eventually committed suicide. The negative consequences of the disease theory are endless. We all know of someone who has been in and out of countless treatment programs and stints with support groups, only to end up behaving badly again. They mortgage their future, steal from their friends and family, and end up committing crimes and going to jail. You may even have loved ones who have died because of substance abuse, I certainly do. The most painful part to me, was to know that they believed they couldn’t stop, they believed an outright lie told to them by the very institutions and people charged with helping them, and that even though they were not helpless, they effectively became completely powerless because of the idea they believed.
The wife in Inception gets lost in an alternate reality and never regains sanity because she is taught not to believe her own eyes – in life, substance abusers make a habit of escaping reality by choosing to use drugs and we tell them that they are not making this choice, thus they never escape this habit. Do you want to be haunted as Leo was in Inception? Do you want to live a life of regret? Or do you want to give your loved one a real idea, based in reality, that will help them?
An idea truly is the most resilient parasite, and this disease idea will rob them of everything including but not limited to: money (at $20,000 per stay in a 28 day program), time (both wasted away and/or spent attending meetings every day for the rest of your life), relationships (damaged by mixed up priorities which the abuser doesn’t believe they can change), health, sanity, freedom, and life. It is not sympathetic or helpful to tell a substance abuser they are the victim of an imaginary disease, it is harmful. The substance abuser in your life is choosing their fate, make them aware of this. Don’t give them excuses, give them a solution. Show them that they are capable of choosing a better path. This is what I work to do. I first have to remove the faulty idea, then I have to implant the idea that life can be better, that they can choose better behaviors, that they can enjoy reality.