The addiction treatment industry, along with it’s anointed experts and the recovery subculture have made a simple matter extremely complicated. The results of their teachings are disastrous. Addiction rates are edging up, overdoses and alcohol related deaths are skyrocketing, and the people who receive their help end up having higher rates of binge use, overdose, and longer periods of “addictive” use and more “relapses.” The Freedom Model for Addictions is the antidote to the mess the recovery society created. (from here on out, the treatment industry, it’s experts, recovery support groups, etc who push the conventional views of addiction will be referred to as the recovery society)
The Solution to a troubling substance use habit, in 175 words
Here is how you end an unsatisfactory substance use habit in a nutshell.
- Critically and honestly assess the benefits (both long and short-term) you get from your current style of substance use.
- Assess the potential benefits (both long and short-term) of some adjusted style of substance use (moderation), and assess the benefits (both long and short-term) of abstaining from substance use.
- Choose and carry out the substance use option that offers you the most benefits (both long and short-term).
That’s it. It is a choice. And if you see that moderation or abstinence can make you happier in the long and short-term than your current style of use, you will choose one of those options and easily follow through on it. If your current style of use still appears to be the most satisfying, you can either accept that and continue it, or dig a little deeper, get more critical about your options, and even experiment with your options to see if by acting them out you discover greater benefits in them.
If you find yourself thinking a thought that begins with “but” or “what about” after reading that 175 word description of the solution, then you are in what we call “the treatment and recovery trap.” You have learned from the recovery society that changing a substance use habit is extremely complicated; that it’s not a matter of choice; that you have weaknesses that make you incapable of change; that you face obstacles; that you have a disease or neurological weakness that causes you to use substances; that things outside of your conscious will “cause” you to use substances; that drugs and alcohol have some special hold over you. None of this is true, but if you believe in it, then it will drag you down, your problems will seem unsolvable, and it will become very hard to change.
All of the buts and what-abouts keep you feeling helpless to change, and committed to the same old option of problematic patterns of substance use. All of the buts and what-abouts come from the recovery society’s teachings, which is why we call the trap you’re in the “treatment and recovery trap.” There is only one but that doesn’t come directly from them, and it is this:
“But I know my substance use is really bad and gonna have horrible consequences and I remind myself of this all the time, but then I go ahead and drink/drug anyway!”
If that’s your only but, it’s easy to clear away. You’re trying to deter yourself from substance use. This is not the same as looking for the option that benefits you most. The 175 word solution says to look for benefits, not costs. If you’re looking primarily at costs, you haven’t tried that solution yet. What you’re lacking when you focus only on the costs of your habit, is the vision that a change to moderation or abstinence would actually make you happier. Lacking that vision, you continue to prefer heavy use, because despite it’s costs, it still has benefits that you desire. Self-deterrence seems to be an instinctive strategy for many people, and we also get into this strategy when we have tons of people pressuring us to change. If you want to feel motivated to change, you need to let go of deterrence, and give yourself positive reasons to pursue one of the other options. Stop playing bad-cop with yourself! Stop focusing on what not to do, and start focusing on what to do!
Now, let’s get to some of the buts and what-abouts that keep you in the trap:
- But I get overpowering urges and powerful cravings.
- What about withdrawal?
- But I have some baggage from childhood that I haven’t dealt with yet.
- What about my co-occurring disorders?
- But my life is out of balance.
- But I need a set of healthy goals.
- What about nutrition?
- But I lose all my willpower when I get depressed or anxious, and then I use again.
- What about alternative coping methods. Don’t I need those to make sure I don’t relapse?
- But I don’t have a support system.
- But everyone around me drinks/drugs.
- But once I start I can’t stop.
- What about genetics? Addiction runs in my family.
- But I have an addictive personality.
- But my life is too easy and I have too much time on my hands.
- But my life is too hard, and I succumb to addiction.
- What about the changes to the brain caused by my substance use?
- But the drug I use is highly addictive.
- What about childhood trauma?
- But I really don’t want to use, and I do it anyway.
- But my judgment goes away once I have a drink, and then I make bad choices.
- But I need to use, as an escape from reality.
- What about impaired self-control and depleted willpower?
None of those things matter. They are all justifications created to explain away continued heavy substance use. Many of those justifications were created by the recovery society to explain away their failures. Many were created by the treatment industry because they don’t know how to directly deal with the choice to use substances, and so they can at least busy themselves worrying about nutrition or co-occurring disorders and such. Some of them, like the idea that addiction is a disease and “addicts” lose control are the creations of religious and other moral anti-alcohol/drug crusaders. Some of them were created by heavy substance users themselves, who just wanted to get people off their backs. Some of them were created by parents to justify their loved ones problems. They’re all part of the recovery society’s lore now though, and they do nothing but take your eyes off the solution, which again, is to make a different choice by weighing out the benefits of your options.
I promise you, all of those buts and what-abouts aren’t real obstacles unless you believe in them. For example, the recovery society say that addicts/alcoholics will continue to be haunted by “powerful cravings” when they try to quit. The way they talk about it is as if a craving is a thing that you get. There is no such thing. Craving is a mental activity. It consists of thinking favorable thoughts about something, like “that donut would taste great right now.” That’s you actively thinking that – it’s not a thing that you get, it’s a thing that you do. Instead of thinking “I need crack right now, it’s the only thing that’ll make me feel good,” you are free to question that thought, and to think differently – i.e., you can stop craving, by choice. But as long as you think of it as something foisted upon you by the mysterious entity of “addiction”, you’ll view it as a threat that can overpower you. Once you know you’re doing it, you can think “some crack would only speed me up for about ten minutes and give me a head-rush, and I can be perfectly happy without that because I’ve done it so many times now that it’s boring.” Boom. You stop craving.
If craving is your concern, the only reason it’s become such a threat to you is the terms in which the recovery society has taught you to think about it. There are plenty of things that you crave and don’t act upon every day. You crave foods, you crave to say something nasty to someone, you crave to quit your job, or to smash that printer that just won’t work. That is to say, there are plenty of things that you desire on a daily basis, but which you then think there is not enough benefit to follow through on, and that there are other choices which would benefit you more. That’s normal life for everyone on the planet – yet you’ve been taught that your desires for drugs/alcohol are a foreign powerful entity that take control of you. It’s nonsense. I used to crave heroin and cocaine all the time, but then I figured out that I’d happier not using those drugs anymore, and it’s now been well over 15 years since I’ve craved (desired) them.
What about my baggage I haven’t dealt with? Try this – what does that baggage have to do with whether or not you use substances in a problematic way today? Absolutely nothing. It really doesn’t have any connection to how you use substances today. The only relevant issue bearing on whether or not you use substances today is your judgment of whether substance use is your best option for happiness today. Have you ever considered how irrelevant baggage is? I used to get made fun of relentlessly for my buck teeth as a child. Tell me please, what the heck could that possibly have to do with the choice of whether or not to inject heroin today? Or even the fact that I did horrible things like steal from my parents. Again, it has nothing to do with whether I use or not today. It wouldn’t undo those acts or the guilt I have about them. It wouldn’t make me forget being picked on and ostracized as a child. The vast majority of people with “baggage” don’t have substance use problems. Yet the recovery society teaches substance users connect their baggage to future substance use. Your problem doesn’t need this extra level of complication.
I could keep going on about all the buts and what-abouts, but I’d never get through them all here. That’s why I co-authored a 469 page book titled The Freedom Model for Addictions: Escape the Treatment and Recovery Trap. Don’t worry, it’s not all buts and what-abouts. It also fleshes out the nuances of weighing out your options with an eye toward benefits; it explains the three building blocks of human freedom (the Positive Drive Principle, Mental Autonomy, and Free Will); it critically explores the benefits of substance use; it builds your confidence by offering hard evidence that you have the power to change; it gives insight on how you ended up feeling so helpless; it explains some basics of cognitive psychology so you can feel more in control and at peace with the emotions you go through as you explore a change; it shows you how to stop feeling dependent on helpers to change; and yes, it deals with those buts and what-abouts.
All those buts and what-abouts amount to the same basic idea – that there is a condition called addiction that you have, and that it enslaves you to use substances against your will. The addiction could be seen as a disease, a disorder, a symptom of underlying causes, or just a perfect alignment of the stars – but however you conceive of it, at the core it means you are unfree to choose differently. As long as you see yourself as addicted, it will be hard to change. The Freedom Model reunites you with your freedom. It replaces the concept of addiction with the concept of choices based on personal preference. It shows you how to change your preference if you see fit.
The Freedom Model for Addictions completely upends the negative approach of “quitting.” Every conventional approach out there decides on day one that you must abstain (and a few decide on day one that you must at the very least moderate your usage). Then on days 2 thru 28 and for the rest of your life, they commence with trying to help you resist doing what you really want to do (use heavily). This is a strategy that sets you up for a lifetime of painful self-deterrence, will-powering, white-knuckling, resistance, and feeling deprived of what you want the whole way. At the core of The Freedom Model is the truth that even when you are using heavily and problematically, you are doing exactly what you want to do – what you currently prefer. The only thing that will add up to a long-term change is if you arrive at the judgment/conviction that you can and will be happier moderating/abstaining – a new preference. So we make no decisions for you. We advise you not to make any lifelong decisions about future substance use on day one, because by making such hasty resolutions, you might be robbing yourself of the chance to develop motivation for follow-through. Instead, as you work through learning the lessons of The Freedom Model, you work through figuring out what level of substance use, if any, you might prefer moving forward. Because that is all that matters. You don’t need support, strength, or special techniques and coping skills to not do what you really don’t want to do. It’s easy to abstain or moderate once you are fully convinced that it will make you happier in both the long-term and the short-term. But, it takes a personal discovery to get there and to really tip the scales in favor of the choice to moderate or abstain. You can’t willpower this, or simply demand yourself to stop wanting to use heavily – you have to develop personal investment in a new option in order to really choose it. Otherwise, you’re basically just mouthing the word no, without really meaning it. I realize that last statement may ruffle some readers feathers, but if you read the book, you’ll understand the nuances of what this means.
The Freedom Model for Addictions frees you from the treatment and recovery trap so that you can explore your options, make personal discoveries, and then simply do what works best for you by your own judgment in pursuit of your own happiness. If you weren’t in the trap, you likely would have already implemented the 175 word solution without even needing to be told about it, just like the millions of people who get over their “addictions” every year without ever stepping foot into a treatment center or support group meeting. If you want out of the trap, pick up a copy of The Freedom Model for Addictions today, and/or contact Saint Jude Retreats to find out about The Freedom Model System of professional help to learn and implement this powerful solution in your life.