Addiction is a choice and NOT a disease! Can I be any more vocal about this?
Over the past few months, I’ve shared intimate stories about my lifestyle choices in particular with alcohol abuse and how it affected me physically, emotionally, and psychologically. No one forced me to drink, I chose it willingly. And unfortunately, like many, I pointed a finger at anyone other than myself for my state of being during that period of my life.
If this wasn’t enough, I surveyed you my readers about your ideas surrounding addictions, and you responded. Your answers were open, honest, and in many cases, extremely transparent. One thing that sticks out among all the replies I received, “98% of us either have, or know someone struggling with a substance abuse issue”. Even still, it’s clear that the topic of addictions is one that the majority are NOT openly willing to engage in conversation about and understandably so – who wants to admit they choose a substance over personal responsibility (or in many cases, personal happiness)!?
Wanting to bring to light many of the issues stemming from the “Recovery” treatment industry, we explored some of the mind-boggling statistics, trends, and corruption in the ‘status quo’ processes. We exposed some of the major hypocrisies that exist in the industry and exposed the very stark reality that all the billions of dollars being dumped into “addiction recovery and treatment” is not helping to lessen the problem. In fact, the problem is seemingly getting worse, despite the large amounts of resources being dumped into the treatment industry. While this is certainly disheartening, it’s not surprising considering the way the treatment industry is trying to help people. Bottom-line, addiction is not a disease, so why are we as a North American society continuing to treat it like one? It’s a battle with a losing strategy and we’ll never win unless we make some widespread changes.
Occam’s Razor and the treatment of Addictions
Occam’s Razor states that when we are faced with two similar explanations for an occurrence, the one which needs the least amount of explanation is often the correct explanation. I see a lot of this in my own personal journey with overcoming my abuse of alcohol and substances.
When I stopped drinking back in 2010, I made a choice to prioritize and pursue my own personal happiness above all else. This solution, seemingly simple in design, wasn’t easy. However, maintaining the course and pursuit of my happiness became second nature the longer I did it. Of course, I explored other “recommended” solutions, which promised a certain result – ultimately the cessation of alcohol and substance abuse – but would involve a laborious and unceasingly, arduous journey consisting of weekly meetings, 12-step program adherence, counseling, phone calls, admitting my powerlessness to substances and accepting that I had a disease, and so on…
And so, I pursued a different course that made much more sense to me from a lifestyle and happiness standpoint. This alternative option, which I later learned to be called the Freedom Model (Positive Drive Principle) provided me with a similar result, but one which empowered me to choose my own actions and not stay a victim to disease. And you know what, it is the simplest explanation for understanding how I overcame my substance abuse issues.
But, enough about the problems, let’s talk about solutions
In a previous article, I went on and on about why addiction is not a disease. This is a FACT and no longer up for debate. I want to talk solutions – in particular, let’s talk about the Freedom Model.
The Freedom Model, a new program developed by and soon to be implemented by Saint Jude Retreats, is truly unique in that it goes about helping people in an entirely different way. One of the core components of the Freedom Model is what they’ve termed The Positive Drive Principle (PDP):
The PDP states that a universal condition exists where all people always move in the direction of happiness and what they believe will be the most beneficial to them at any given point – and that includes heavy and consistent substance use as well as other seemingly perceived negative behaviors.
You see, the PDP is not really something you can carry out, or practice. It just simply is. It’s a universal motivation in human behavior.
In a recent interview with Ryan Schwantes, president of Baldwin Research and Saint Jude Retreats, he assured me that the PDP is absolutely true. In his years of dealing with “addiction”, he’s heard several people say “I don’t know why I continue to drink when I know it’s hurting my career” or “I just can’t seem to stop, even though I know it’s hurting me physically and mentally”. Once Saint Jude’s has the opportunity to thoroughly go over the PDP with their guests and help them come to the understanding that they, in fact, choose to use drugs or alcohol because it gave them a sense of happiness at that given point and time, then they can begin to really think about what they’re doing before they do it.
Is the Positive Drive Principle a truly unbreakable argument?
Schwantes has faced hundreds of different scenarios where people have tried to break the argument, and he shares that it “has yet to be done”.
And so this begged the following question, “What’s the most common argument or push-back you get when sharing the PDP?”
Schwantes shared the following…
“How can people choose something that is harmful or damaging to them, like continuing to drink, when they have liver disease?”
What it boils down to are the benefits. Let me explain.
All choices have benefits or perceived benefits, as well as consequences, or perceived consequences. Every single time you make a decision you are making a very calculated decision in your mind about what will bring you the most benefits, and you move in that direction. Often times, because of repetition and habitual thinking, you make a decision without actually measuring those benefits, but rather you make a decision that you know will bring you a sense of happiness because it has done so before. The path of least resistance so to speak. And this is why people often say, “I can’t help it, I just can’t stop once I start drinking”.
Your mind works in a similar way, if you don’t actively train your mind to be mindful of your choices, it will simply react and carry out the path of least resistance which is often based on past, repeated experiences.
At the end of the day, we really do have control over our thoughts. Every single one of them, and it’s impossible to do anything without thinking about it first. Go ahead and try it. Try to do any action without thinking about it first — now don’t get frustrated, it can’t be done.
Need more proof? Check this out
Here’s a prime example of how the mind will do what it believes it’s supposed to do based on repetition. Watch the following video:
You see this little experiment really proves how your mind operates. It will move in the direction of least resistance and do what it has been trained to do, but when you stop and think about what the heck you're doing, you are able to harness the power of your mind and perform the action accordingly. This is how personal autonomy and free will work.
Freedom of the mind knows that you have full control of your thoughts, feelings, and perspective on all things in your life. If you fully understand that you have complete control within your thoughts – and always have! – you can never be under the magical spell of anything ever again.
Schwantes went on to share a recent discussion he had with a researcher friend. Ryan’s friend was asking him questions about his past drug use, more specifically his preference for GHB and what it was like. As someone with no experience with GHB, Ryan’s friend was trying to establish an understanding of his experience and Ryan’s present-day thoughts on it now. Ryan explained to him that when he was using GHB, he really enjoyed it – in fact, he enjoyed pretty much everything about it at the moment. Ryan shared that to this day, he believed the way he felt on GHB was pleasurable and he enjoyed it, as he did with marijuana and various other drugs. Ryan’s friend flat-out asked him, ‘then WHY don’t you use drugs anymore?’
Benefits vs. Benefits (an Analytic Approach to Choice)
Ryan began to laugh, explaining his present stance on his drug use (and note, this is a full understanding of the PDP and how it affects your choices and actions). Ryan told him, “Because other things are more important to me now than getting high. I have a wife, a 3-year-old son and another little boy coming this December. Being a good father and husband brings me more joy than any high ever could. I have a great career that I carry a great amount of responsibility; I enjoy staying in shape and being active and helping others do the same.”
“All of those passions in my life bring me a great amount of happiness, and I am not willing to substitute that happiness for the happiness I may get from smoking marijuana, taking GHB or any other substance, because to me I get greater happiness spending time with my family, being responsible in my career, and engaging in fitness and training,” Ryan shared.
I love this story from Ryan as it reminds me of the internal dialogue I had during early 2010 after making my initial choice to forgo drinking alcohol.
Being mindful of each decision and analyzing ONLY the benefits of each decision, I make the choice to not drink alcohol because, like Ryan, whatever benefits we may get from using alcohol or drugs (which there are benefits), they’re dwarfed in comparison to the benefits I get from choosing to spend time with my family and the other things I love to do. It’s all a matter of relative happiness.
Taking this approach of “benefits to benefits” analysis is a great way to look at the decisions you make. By doing this, you don’t make decisions based on fear, missing out, or based on the consequences; instead, you make decisions based on the perceived benefits you get from each of your decisions. By doing this, you aren’t able to lay blame on anyone or anything other than yourself because after all, you are the one making the choices.
Let’s take a situation we might be a bit more familiar with and apply the Positive Drive Principle (PDP).
Benefits vs. Benefits: A DadBod perspective
The DadBod scenario.
Last year the term ‘DadBod’ received a ton of press around the world. I even wrote an article on it, which you can read here. The term ‘DadBod’ is a label used to refer to a once fit and ‘in-shape’ guy who has had kids and then became ‘pleasantly plump’ or put on a few too many pounds. Pearson, the person attributed to coining the term, explains it this way:
“…it’s a nice balance between a beer gut and working out. The dad bod says, “I go to the gym occasionally, but I also drink heavily on the weekends and enjoy eating eight slices of pizza at a time.”
Now take note, those afflicted with the DadBod label didn’t become overweight all of a sudden – it was a gradual process and culmination of many, many days of choosing a certain action (or lack thereof). However, in many instances, to the dad’s afflicted by this phenomenon, it felt like it just happened all of a sudden. That’s perspective for you.
Now let’s apply the PDP to these unfortunate dudes.
What really happened is that other aspects of life became more important than being fit and healthy. I’m not saying this is bad per se, it’s just a situational fact. The new father’s child brought him much more happiness than going to the gym and so he chooses to spend as much time as possible with his child. Whereas, before having children, the guy prioritized his fitness and health, and as a result, keep in shape. At that time, it ultimately brought him a great amount of happiness, but then, post-kids he valued time with them above working out. To him, the greater happiness was achieved by being with his kids. How many fathers can relate to this situation? I know I can!
Now, of course, it’s easy to say, “I haven’t been to the gym for years because my kids are young and need a lot of my energy, time, and quite frankly are pretty needy.” “I really love watching them grow and learn, and I want to be there for them.”
True. I can’t argue with anyone who says this to me. And if it’s bringing the individual happiness, what’s the problem?
The problem is I’m overweight and I want to get back in shape! But I’m torn because I don’t want to spend less time with my kids, meanwhile, the negative feelings associated with being overweight make me depressed. It’s quite the conundrum, isn’t it?
Well obviously there’s a way to gain happiness from both decisions, include your kids in your workout plan by doing activities with them, running, biking, swimming, etc. (FYI: here’s 4 ways to be a more active parent)
This is an easy decision because once you have the clarity as to what yourself did to create the situation you find yourself in, you can easily make a plan to do both — 1. get yourself back in shape by being more physically active, and 2. continue to spend time with your kids by including them in your new activities.
You know being in shape will help you achieve happiness and you know being with your kids will help you achieve happiness. It’s all about the level of happiness you want to have. You can achieve a certain amount of happiness by just going to the gym and being active, and you can achieve a certain level of happiness by just being with your kids. So let’s combine them both and up the level of happiness all together!
Benefits vs benefits and the PDP – is this starting to make more sense? Can you see how this can positively affect your life on many levels?
Whether it be family, fitness, faith or finances, or dealing with substance abuse, the Freedom Model is a systematic way to help yourself overcome any adversity in life.
So, now what? How does this help me?
All this being said, I’m sure you’ve heard the cliché, “Knowledge is Power”. As overused as this expression is, it is absolutely true. If you are dealing with a substance abuse issue, then take this bit of knowledge and choose to do something with it. And I know if you were to sit down and carry out benefits versus benefits analysis, you’d agree. Reach out to Ryan at Saint Jude Retreats and have a conversation. You are worth it. You matter.
Don't stop here, check out the other articles from the Addiction for Life series