With so much talk about heavy substance use increasing as a result of the pandemic lockdowns, there are many people wondering if they may have crossed the line from reasonable substance use to “addiction”. Rates of serious emotional problems such as depression and anxiety are skyrocketing across the country as a result of people being locked in their homes and many are using alcohol and other drugs to try and get some relief. But is this increasing demographic now officially suffering from addiction? Are these millions of people now doomed to lifetime of addiction treatment, meetings, and perpetual struggle? Let me answer this straight – absolutely not.
In the book, The Freedom Model for Addictions, Escape the Treatment and Recovery Trap, we discuss the concept of addiction as the following:
The very concept of addiction – whether it’s called a disease, a disorder, or something else – says that some people (i.e. “addicts & alcoholics”) are enslaved to the behavior of substance use in some way. That is, they cross some line where they are no longer actively choosing to use substances of their own free will, but instead are compelled to use substances. It’s also said that they are unable to stop themselves from using once they start (they experience a loss of control); that they are unable to stop wanting to use substances (they experience craving); that all of this just happens without their consent (that they’re triggered by various things and feelings); and finally, that they’re in for a lifetime of struggling with their demons (the “chronic relapsing disease” and “ongoing recovery.”)
This definition is a construct of the treatment industry – in other words, it’s made up. But because it has been repeated for nearly eight decades, it has become truth to believers. I was once a believer myself. I felt compelled to drink and drug. I believed addiction was something that happened to me. I felt that I was “powerless”. I felt that I would lose control after the first beer, hit or shot. I felt addicted, and I’ve since met tens of thousands who do as well.
Objective Truth vs. Subjective “Truth”
There is a difference between an objective truth and a subjective “truth”. An objective truth is the kind of reality that takes human opinion and feelings and throws them out the window. It just looks at the merits of the facts and we determine what the truth is based on that foundation. A subjective perception is just that, a perception or opinion-laden perspective. The concept of addiction, as defined above, is fully subjective, it is not grounded in fact. But because the idea that people are addicted – that addiction happens to them – is so oft repeated in our society today, it seems as if it is an objective truth. This definition of addiction is then taken as fact, and so the fear of becoming addicted becomes very real. It might even feel real to you personally or someone you know. The good news is once you know the facts, you can let go of this powerlessness narrative, and move on with your life without an “addiction.” In essence you can become truly objective about the subject.
What is Addiction Really?
Objectively speaking, what we think of as an addiction is a habitual preference for heavy use. We use heavily based on our perception that drugs and alcohol provide certain personal benefits. In the COVID scare, these benefits might include the belief that substances cure boredom, anxiety, depression and trauma. If we believe drugs can provide this relief, we will habitually prefer them and crave them.
But a subjective want (or a craving) is different than an objective need. In the conventional subjective definition of addiction as a disease or disorder, the “addict” is told they will always crave and need the substance for these magical qualities of relief. They are further told that they will always need substances to solve these human problems. Further still, the addiction model says that the COVID scare causes them to feel this way, and that their need for the substances becomes enormous and only intense treatment can stop the cravings and the desires for consistent use.
Moving Past the Lies
So how does someone get past the lies? What is the objective truth? Is addiction an unstoppable disease that requires lifelong treatment and struggle? Or is it a preference that can change – even in an environment defined by a pandemic?
The answer is the latter. You do not have a disease of addiction – the disease model of addiction was created to make an efficient path for third party reimbursement of drug and alcohol related medical and psychiatric needs. In other words the disease concept created a way for health insurance providers to pay the treatment and rehab industry for its services, it’s creation had nothing to do with whether, in fact, a disease existed. What you have is not a disease, but rather a preference for heavy use that you might choose to call “addiction.” That preference is based on the perception that drinking and drugging can somehow help you cope with the COVID scare and shutdowns. Substances can’t do that of course, but if you belief they can, then the belief will drive further heavy use.
Know this – you are not powerless. You are not compelled to use substances by an outside force called addiction. Your feelings of hopelessness and powerlessness are learned. You have reasons for your belief that substances provide benefits to you. But equally important is the truth that you can change your point of view and see that stopping or moderating your use might have more benefits than trying to cope by using drugs and alcohol heavily.
In short, addiction is what you make it. You can choose to see it as an unstoppable outside force that creates havoc in your life. You can even see it as a solution to boredom, worry, depression, trauma and anxiety, making heavy use seem so much more necessary than it actually is. Or, you can see it as a temporary habit you’ve created yourself. You can challenge the benefits you see in heavy use. You can challenge the idea that heavy use solves depression, anxiety and trauma. You can decide to deal with your human struggles without the idea that substances need to be front and center in solving them.
Let Go of the Construct of Addiction
Addiction, seen as a powerless state of mind is a construct meant to lead you to endless treatment. Let go of these myths! It is time to move on from this narrative, and challenge all the benefits you see in using. The benefits of not using or moderating far outweigh believing you are powerless and addicted. Once you come to grips with this objective truth, you will never use heavily again – even in the COVID era.
If you or someone you love are ready to break free from the addiction and recovery trap and move on, call us at 888-424-2626.
For more information about The Freedom Model go to TheFreedomModel.org
Mr. Mark Scheeren is the Co-Founder and Chairman of the St. Jude Retreat, as is co-author of The Freedom Model for Addictions, Escape the Treatment and Recovery Trap, the original Non-12-Step approach for people who struggle with serious substance use issues. Mr. Scheeren and his staff of Researchers and Instructors have helped many thousands find permanent solutions to their drug and alcohol problems.