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Thread: It's Time to Move Beyond the 12 Steps

  1. #1

    It's Time to Move Beyond the 12 Steps

    Imagine this.

    You’re in the doctor’s office. The exams are done. The tests are conclusive.

    And the news is not good.

    “It’s an incurable disease,” the doc says sadly. “It’s progressive and you can never be cured. Often, it’s fatal”

    I’m ****ed, you think. “Is there any hope, doc,?” you ask.

    “Actually, yes, there is,” he says

    Great, you think…modern medicine to the rescue!

    Read this book, he tells you. It was written in 1935 and hasn’t changed since. After that, go to a meeting every day and talk about it with others who share the disease.

    Oh, one more thing, he says: you’re now forever different; you’re one of those people….you will be shunned and shunted, judged a lesser person by your friends and family, and by society as a whole.

    And that, in a nutshell, is how addiction is viewed and treated in this country.

    More than 20 million people in the United States have a substance abuse disorder. One in two families have been touched by this. It’s the single greatest threat to the nation’s health and among the single greatest threats to national security.

    But please don’t call addiction a disease. Because it’s not treated as one. It’s not treated with science, medicine, caring and love. It’s treated as a moral failure.

    The sad truth is modern medicine doesn’t have a ****ing clue how to deal with it.

    Because 83 years ago, the entirety of America’s medical community abdicated responsibility for tackling it; instead they ceded the entire thing to two alcoholics who wrote a book that became Alcoholics Anonymous. That these two didn’t really create anything – but stole the ideas from another group, didn’t matter. That the entire program was made up, with no research, no studies, no evidence – nothing of substance – didn’t matter.

    AA became a truism in life. The gold standard. An untouchable institution, draped in morality, copied by all, never to be questioned or challenged.

    Except it’s a sham, a weakly designed program that preys on people who have nowhere else to turn.

    And so, if you’re battling this thing, watching as your life falls apart, suffering the brutal withdrawals and the terrible health issues and finally decided (or was court ordered) to sit in the meetings and wondered just what the **** they are talking about…you’re not alone.

    And you’re right.

    The famous 12 steps of Alcoholics Anonymous (and every other anonymous out there) are not just meaningless, they’re hurtful. They are designed to make you believe that you’re a piece of ****, that it’s your “character flaws” that brought this on, and that only through prayer can you be saved.

    And our physicians, scientists, psychiatrists, psychologists – even judges - let them do that to you.

    But don’t let them.

    Because the simple truth of the matter is this: A shot of alcohol or a hit of – pick any drug – has the same effect on your brain as it would the brain of Mother Theresa, the Dali Lama, the Pope, or your sainted Irish grandmother. The drug is simply doing what is was designed to do. No more, no less.

    Have too much of it, and your brain – or anyone’s brain – adapts to compensate. It’s that simple. Nothing whatsoever to do with who you are as a person. Remove, or dramatically alter the intake of that substance, and your brain will re-wire to compensate.

    That’s withdrawal, and to say it’s not an easy process would be a dramatic understatement, as anyone who has suffered through it knows. Over time, your brain compensates so much that it becomes dependent on the substance. But it’s fixable, no matter what you’re told…and it’s not a life sentence.

    The greatest single substance abuse study ever conducted was by the United States from 1955 to 1975. It was called the Viet Nam War. According to a 1971 report by the Department of Defense, 51 percent of the armed forces smoked pot, 31 percent used psychedelics, such as LSD, mescaline and psilocybin mushrooms, and an additional 28 percent took cocaine and heroin.

    Based on the preaching of AA and accepted fact, these soldiers should all have been full blown addicts upon returning home. Except it didn’t happen. Rather than continue, drug usage returned to pre-war levels.

    All without the help of the vaunted 12 steps.

    AA more closely resembles a cult than anything to do with science or medicine. In fact, the only real goal of AA is to keep you in the program for life. It doesn’t want graduates, and in fact shuns them. It only wants you to believe that the only thing keeping you away from jails, institutions or death is them.

    AA defines sobriety as total and complete abstinence. With more than a whiff of moral superiority, society agrees.

    Because of this, any drink, any ingestion, any anything that is not morally acceptable and approved is seen as even more of a disgrace. But that’s completely unrealistic for most, an unattainable goal that will inevitably result in failure…or more rehab.

    Because the rehab industry has figured this out. Relapse equals money, and today the rehab industry is a $35 billion a year money-making machine with little or no oversight, performance metrics, success rates or common treatment modalities.

    AA takes its abstinence orthodoxy to extreme levels. Say you go five years without a drink – that’s 1,825 days. Then say you have a glass of champagne one New Year’s Eve. In the minds of the true believers, you go back to zero days sober. Rather than celebrate the 1,825 days preceding that drink, you have failed in the eyes of the group. And now you’re a failure two times over.

    And on it goes – a never ending cycle of nonsense, group thinking, group psychology and just plain stupidity.

    But spending your life not doing something, talking about not doing something, thinking about not doing something, obsessing about not doing something, counting the days of not doing something, and turning your entire being into not doing something is not life.

    And it’s not sobriety. It’s just someone else’s definition of it. And it doesn’t have to be yours.

    Sobriety should be about health and happiness, about connections, about joy, about tomorrow, about the next chapter of the book that is your life. About how you define it.

    But if you’re caught in the middle of all this…there is hope.

    New drugs and new approaches are beginning to break through the accepted wisdom of the addict/alcoholic as a moral, failing loser. Naltrexone and Buprenorphine have proven to be extremely affective in helping to give the brain the time needed to heal. And more and more professionals are studying the ground-breaking success of the Portuguese model of de-stigmatization.

    It’s a start - a small pebble thrown into a very large lake. But the ripple is there, nonetheless, and eventually we will come to understand that sobriety is not defined as the absence of something, but by the addition of something and that the opposite of addiction is connection.

  2. #2
    TheFairyDogMother kiz_paws's Avatar
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    Mar 2007
    The Prairies, Canada
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    Well written; interesting points made.
    Thank you.
    Our task must be to free ourselves by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature and its beauty
    ~Albert Einstein

  3. #3
    Registered User tailor STATELY's Avatar
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    May 2009
    Gold Country
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    Interesting points as kiz_paws noted. I've recently taken Sunday School classes with a faith based approach to addiction recovery as well as support for family members with loved ones with addictions which may be accessed here:

    Though the Sunday School recovery classes have ceased, due to the new block schedule, our church still has community classes available on a weekly basis.

    Addiction is a tough nut to crack. I've been reading about ketamine studies for use in addition therapy; for instance: ; unfortunately ketamine has its own problems:

    Thank you for your insights into addiction.

    Ta ! (short for tarradiddle),
    tailor STATELY

    who am I but a stitch in time
    what if I were to bare my soul
    would you see me origami


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