Treatment for dependency at substance abuse treatment centers must change if alcoholism and addiction are to be overcome in our society.
You are not an alcoholic or an addict. You are not incurably diseased. You have merely become dependent on substances or addictive behavior to cope with underlying conditions that you are now going to heal, at which time your dependency will cease completely and forever.
It's the causes, not the dependent person, that must be corrected. That's why I see the United States' War on Drugs as being fought in an unrealistic manner. This war is focused on fighting drug dealers and the use of drugs here and abroad, when the effort should be primarily aimed at treating and curing that causes that compel people to reach for drugs.
One of the first actions we take at Passages is to ruthlessly scrutinize, always under a doctor's supervision and care, the specific necessity of any mind- altering or mood-altering medications that our clients are taking. As soon as any non essential drugs are out of their systems, the feelings they were trying to suppress usually emerge. When that happens, we can see what symptoms the client was masking with drugs or alcohol.
The punishment approach and bad consequences approach to treatment is the kind of thinking that is prevalent in every residential substance abuse treatment center in the United States of which I'm aware.
There is no cell culture for depression. You can't see it on a bone scan or an x-ray. Not everyone with depression will show the same behavioral symptoms.
It takes a strong person to stand up to his or her fate and overcome the obstacles that stand in the way of freedom and success, but I believe in you.
We recognize that you've used substances to try to regain your lost balance, to try to feel the way you did before the need arose to use addictive drugs or alcohol. We know that you use substances to alter your mood, to cover up your sadness, to ease your heartbreak, to lighten your stress load, to blur your painful memories, to escape your hurtful reality, or to make your unbearable days or nights bearable.
Think about the stigma that is attached to the idea that alcoholism is a disease, an incurable illness, and you have it. That's a terrible thing to inflict on someone. Labeling alcoholism as a disease, a cause unto itself, simply no longer fits with what we know today about its causes.
To give up power to change for the better is inherently distasteful to everyone, and to force people to affirm that they are addicts or alcoholics so they can speak in a meeting is shameful and demoralizing.
We wouldn't have much need of a war if people stopped using drugs. It's like taking up a fight against the use of headache remedies, it will never work until the condition causing people's headache pain is healed.
People who are dependent are merely using alcohol as a crutch to get through the day. Yet doctors and scientists are still treating alcoholism as if it is the problem, when it has nothing to do with the problem. They might as well be studying scratchism for people who have a chronic itch.
Alcohol and drugs are not the problems; they are what people are using to help themselves cope with the problems. Those problems always have both physical and psychological components- anything from anemia, hypoglycemia, or a sluggish thyroid to attention deficient disorder, brain-wave pattern imbalances, or deep emotional pain.
When nothing else worked, we created a holistic, hand-tailored program that saved Pax's life. At Passages, he and I use what we learned in curing him to help others discover the roots of their addiction or alcoholism and break free.
I began asking myself just what my high was about. What did I do when I was high that I didn't do when I was sober? What was wrong that heroin fixed?
If you can stop using substance or stop your addictive behavior for extended periods of time without craving, you are not dependent. You are dependent only if you can't stop without physical or psychological distress (you have unpleasant physical and/or psychological withdrawal symptoms) or if you stop and then relapse.
Heroin was a coping mechanism that I had used to deal with my underlying fears. They were the real problems; heroin wasn't the culprit, my fears were.
I spent the rest of that day and most of the night thinking about all the hundreds of people I had met in rehabs and sober living houses and on the streets. We were all medicating our fears and our pain!
The advertise their products in such a fashion as to make it seem wonderful to drink their ethanol products. It does not matter if they give their products fancy name like Cabernet Sauvignon or Pinot Noir, or if they put bubbles in an ethanol product and call it champagne or beer- everyone is selling ethanol.
If those underlying conditions aren't treated, the return of those symptoms may cause us so much discomfort that we'll go back to using addictive drugs or alcohol to obtain relief. That's the primary reason there is such a high rate of relapse among people who have become dependent of alcohol and addictive drugs. It has little to do with alcohol and addiction themselves and almost everything to do with the original causes that created the dependency.
If I were to create a word that more accurately describes alcoholism and addiction, I would say it was dependencyism. Sounds silly, doesn't it? Yet it's no sillier than the word alcoholism. The reason alcoholism no longer sounds silly to you is because you're used to hearing it, reading it, and thinking about it.
How do you think your body and mind would respond if you were surrounded by psychologists, psychiatrists, or drug and alcohol counselors who subscribed to the belief that once an alcoholic or addict, always an alcoholic or addict and who believed that your current stay in rehab would be one of many?
We know that you don't want to be a drunk and you don't want to be hooked on addictive drugs. You do it because you can't cope with your life without some sort of support, even if that support is damaging.