If you’re wondering why people like me are so dead-set against the disease view of addiction, then this recent comment by Dr Drew Pinsky (of MTV and VH1 fame), should make it clear:
This is, in a nutshell, the ultimate message from people in the recovery culture who push the idea that addiction is a disease. They’re spreading a concept of addiction in which change is impossible, and anyone with a substance use problem is doomed to keep abusing substances for the rest of their life. Who does this help? Does it provide hope? If addiction is a life sentence, then why do nitwits like Dr Drew even try? Well according to them, there is some hope, here’s a longer version of his statement:
There’s no such thing as ‘I was a heroin addict.’ That doesn’t exist in nature. Something is going on with [her] addiction. Or she’s in recovery.
These comments were in reference to Angelina Jolie (in an article on huffpo), whose life he has no personal knowledge on, and nevertheless was actively judging, but that’s another issue. Here’s another similar comment he made about her and addiction 2 years ago:
“I’m concerned with what’s really going on with Angelina Jolie. I’ve never seen someone remit heroin completely. You’re either still on heroin, Oxycontin or something else. Unless you’re dead. Is she still using something? Is she in recovery. If she’s in recovery, I don’t see any evidence of it, because people in recovery invest themselves in simple, selfless acts of service, not global self-serving acts.”
So maybe there is hope, this “recovery” thing he speaks of – not so fast. Now pay attention because this is important – when Dr Drew speaks of recovery he DOES NOT mean that you can stop abusing substances for good and move on with your life – such an understanding of recovery couldn’t be further from his understanding. When he says “recovery” he is talking about a lifestyle prescribed by so called addiction experts which includes:
- Giving your life to a higher power, and following a pseudo-religion.
- Admitting that you are powerless over drugs and alcohol, and proclaiming that you have the disease of addiction.
- Expecting to relapse every now and then. As the saying goes “relapse is a part of recovery”.
- Living every day of your life, for the rest of your life, as a struggle against addiction.
- Indefinitely attending support group meetings such as AA or NA.
- Recruiting others into the 12-steps, indefinitely (the “selfless acts” he speaks of).
- Believing that you can only stay sober one day at a time, and that your “disease” is always getting stronger, and addiction may reclaim your life at any moment. Again, as the saying goes, you’re only “an arm’s length away from full blown addiction or alcoholism”
- Identifying as an “addict” or “alcoholic” for the rest of your life. A self-defeating label.
There’s more, and most of it is horrifyingly abusive and self-defeating. But the main point is that we shouldn’t take the word “recovery” lightly, and we shouldn’t ever think that someone like Dr Drew is using the term innocently. Whenever he says “recovery” he means all the things I listed above. He says that in any case, the statement “I was a heroin addict” is untrue, and he means it, and so does nearly every person working in a rehab or treatment program. They will take you or your loved one, and brainwash you into believing you can’t change your behavior or overcome your problem, that you can only hope to eek by in life by spending every one of your remaining days focused on “recovery”.
Furthermore, his comments serve as a good example of the attitude of people in the recovery culture. Here he is, never having personally counseled Angelina Jolie, and he’s assuming that she must be still abusing substances. He holds selfless acts as an apparent gold-standard indicator of whether one is actively abusing substances or not, which in itself is problematic, but more problematic is the fact that he expects there to be a public show of these selfless acts, otherwise she must be abusing substances. This comes from the cult-like atmosphere of the 12-step system in which you must put on a show of your holiness for others – revealing that Dr Drew and those like him, don’t care so much about the results of whether or not somebody changes their addictive behaviors – they care about whether you are living the exact lifestyle prescribed by them, and want you to run around spreading the recovery culture’s agenda. If they cared about results, then they would be happy when someone says they changed their ways and stopped abusing substances, but instead, they react to such proclamations with accusations of lying, or by psychologically abusing people with proclamations that they will fail, crash and burn, and return to substance abuse unless they follow the ways of the recovery movement.
Whereas Dr Drew and others in the recovery culture are constantly accusing those who haven’t followed their way as either not being “real addicts”, or being “dry drunks”, or outright lying about being sober – I on the other hand, think that the 12 step and disease way are flawed, horrible, ineffective models for ending a substance abuse problem – but my reaction to those who say it has worked for them, is not to say that they are lying, or that they will inevitably fail. I think most of these people have truly changed, I just happen to think that they changed in spite of the 12-steps. I deliver the credit to the person who changed, not the program which in most cases probably made it harder for them to change. In fact, I give successful 12-steppers more credit than they give themselves.
The fact is, heroin addicts become former heroin addicts all the time. The same is true for any substance addiction, and most do it without treatment or 12-step programs. I am one such person. Personally, I was a heroin addict, I wrapped that up 9 years ago, and I will never be a heroin addict again. I am not “in recovery”, and I never recovered because I had no disease of addiction to recover from. I had a way of living that I needed to change. When I was “recovering” I was wasting my life away, going in and out of treatment programs and meetings, and continuing to abuse substances on and off. I finally quit abusing substances for good, stopped recovering, and started living.
To read some other people’s comments on Dr Drew’s statements, check out Stinkin-Thinkin.com