August 17, 2014

Freudian Slip? Robbie Williams Regrets Realizing He Was “Out of Control” Over Addiction

A recent article about british pop star Robbie Williams’ addiction woes would be completely stupefying if I didn’t already understand its messy philosophical foundation. Williams, now 38 years old, has been dealing with addiction and the conventional recovery world, with all of its self-defeating teachings, since the age of 19, with many documented stints in rehab. Here’s a snippet of the latest story going around about him:

Robbie Williams regrets seeking help for his addictions so early.

The former Take That star – who has a history of drug and alcohol abuse – was sober for most of his 20s and wishes he hadn’t accepted he was ‘out of control’ at such a young age.

He said: ‘I regret that it was all over so fast. I regret the fact I was 19 when I realised I was out of control.

I regret that he learned he was out of control too. I wish that upon no one. The absolute worst belief you can be stuck with is that you’re “out of control” of your own behavior, and it appears that Williams’ story of struggle with addiction is perfect proof of this.

The article’s headline, and the above quotes make it seem like he simply regrets not sowing his oats enough, but it goes deeper. Although he doesn’t say it directly, I think he’s really trying to say he wishes he never bought into the idea that he was out of control. I think that something deep inside of him knows that this belief has been his undoing. Stick with me, and you’ll probably reach the same conclusion.

It seems that Williams’ struggle has been consistent, and shows no sign of changing. As the article goes on to confusingly say, Williams:

admits he hit rock bottom several times in his 20s and would have welcomed death, had it not been for the help of Sir Elton John.

He told Shortlist magazine: ‘Many times during my 20s and a short period in my 30s [I hit rock bottom]. In my 20s I was like, ‘This is f***ing horrendous’ but I didn’t think I was going to die.

‘The short period in my 30s I thought, ‘I’m just about to die and I don’t care.’ In fact, it would have been a relief.

Which is it – was he sober for most of his 20′s, or was he repeatedly ‘hitting rock bottom’ in his 20′s? Neither he, nor the journalist seem to know. What is definitely known, is that in recent years, he’s been in treatment for addiction at least 3 times, in 2012, 2009, and 2007. It’s reported that he had drug problems in 1995 after leaving his band which resulted in a stint in rehab:

Robbie claimed Sir Elton John “kidnapped” him to seek help for his drink and drug addictions.

He wrote in his book Feel that the singing legend drove him to a clinic in 1997 after watching him binge on heroin, cocaine and ecstasy.

Robbie admitted: “I was sandwiched by two people in the back of the car so I wouldn’t try to commit suicide or run off.”

This latest story has Robbie suggesting that Elton is essentially his AA sponsor:

The only person I knew who understood anything about it was Elton John. After a big bender it’d be [calling] ‘Elton’. How weird is that, when the only person you know can help you is Elton John?’

Elton John of course is a committed 12-stepper who’s been to thousands of AA meetings, and often mentions it publicly. I wouldn’t fault him for caring, or even for taking drastic action to save someone from suicide, but one has to wonder whether his teachings have been helpful. Williams has now spent half of his life repeatedly hitting rock bottom – since he “realized” that he was “out of control” at the age of 19 (no one realizes such an absurd thing – they’re taught this idea by the recovery culture). All of that 12-step nonsense has him believing some really grim stuff, as he said in a 2009 interview:

Robbie said he was still haunted by fears of a relapse, despite being clean of the addiction – believed to be to anti-depressants – for three years.

He said: “I’m aware I have a self-destructive character, but does this hold me back from being happy? No.”

That last statement would also be stupefying if you didn’t know anything about the recovery culture. Those same people who constantly scream that addiction has nothing to do with morality, character, or personal choice, then turn around and teach people that they are broken: damned to eternal relapse with the disease of addiction, that they’ve got a spiritual deficit, and that they’re loaded with “character defects.”

Robbie Williams learned at a young age that he was an “addict” and all the horrible things that come along with that negative label – including being “out of control” or “powerless” over his own behavior. He has subsequently gone on to fulfill the prophecy he was taught. Let’s look at his latest statement again:

I regret that it was all over so fast. I regret the fact I was 19 when I realised I was out of control.

Unfortunately, these teachings ensured that his addiction wouldn’t really be “all over so fast”, and that he would indeed feel and behave as if he is really out of control. It’s a damn shame what the recovery culture does to young people – it overcomplicates and heightens their difficulties, and robs them of many years that could’ve been spent being so much happier. Hopefully, he’ll soon realize he’s not out of control, and can salvage his life from the wreckage this belief will continue to wreak upon him.

 

Comments

  1. Hey Steven, I’m thinking of you during the storm in New York City. I hope all is well with you! Take care, Kelly

  2. Another anecdote from drug addiction research. Chimps were introduced to cocaine self administration in individual cages. Many became ‘addicted’. Then they were group housed and of course heirarchies were establised. The dominant chimps stopped using cocaine while the subordinate chimps continued to self administer cocaine. (From AR Childress in “Rethinking Substance Abuse” by Wm. R. Miller and Carrol, Guilford Press 2006) I guess the message to addicts is get a life and good things can happen.

    • I have to ask, how can the researchers tell chimps are “addicted”? I’m sure they can measure the doses of drugs the chimps take, the blood concentrations & the behavior with/without drugs in their systems. They can probably even measure, to some extent, the withdrawal habituated chimps go through – documenting things like GI distress, frequency of vomiting, length of time sleeping or behaving lethargically. But how could researchers measure a chimp’s “powerlessness” over cocaine? How could researchers tell if chimps required the help of other chimps who had already quit coke to “support” their “recovery”, or whether a chimp using in the social setting was having a “relapse” or was in a continued state of “addiction”?

      Since chimps are social animals, it’s not surprising that chimps caged in solitude would use cocaine if available. If the supply of food is unlimited, solo chimps might choose to eat an unhealthy amount, or they might choose to do whatever is available to try to relieve the boredom & loneliness.

      According to the scenario quoted above, it seems the chimps that were given coke while alone were then put into groups. Some continued using coke – but those at the top of the hierarchy stopped using – that would be the oldest chimps, while the subordinate chimps, who would be younger, continued using. In the wild, chimps live in social organizations in which male chimps have a hierarchy based on age – the oldest male in the troop dominates the younger males. (Female chimps have more fluid & complicated hierarchy relationships).

      This all sounds very similar to human behavior – younger people experiment with drugs, and as people who’ve used drugs get older, drug use falls off.

      • I think they measured withdrawal somehow. I don’t think the concept of powerlessness was even condsidred since obviously the recovered chimps weren’t powerless.

        • But the larger question remains, how can they determine chimps were “addicted” and not habituated?

          Also, “powerlessness” is an integral part of the definition of “addiction” – in fact, step 1. If “powerlessness” isn’t measured, how can it be claimed the subjects of this study were ‘addicted”?

          • Addiction refers specifically to a pathological and arguably compulsive pattern of drug-seeking and drug-taking behavior, which occupies an inordinate amount of an individual’s time and thoughts, and persists
            despite adverse consequences. (Kent Berridge and Terry Robinson). Addiction is, of course, not permanent nor are chimps or people powerless over it. Let’s not start quoting the 12 steps on this subject or we’ll end up reciting the serenity prayer. The 12 steps are some poor drunks idea of how to recover from his addiction. Unfortunately his view has taken over the approach to the problem in this country.
            I may have used the wrong term referring to the chimps. The correct term is probably dependent.
            I view addiction as a form of habituation. There are other views.

  3. Joe, the reason I quoted a step is because the Steps & AA are the source of the collection of memes that is the (unfounded) concept of “addiction”. My point is that there is no such thing as addiction. The claim is it’s a disease, but there is no physical way to separate the “addicted” from the not-”addicted”. If people back off the physical part, they clam it’s an experience or a mental “disease.’

    Let me pose this question: What makes one person’s drug/alcohol use get labeled as an ‘addiction” & not another person’s? It’s about behavior – the lying, the cheating, losing jobs, committing crimes. When family, school or the law are fed up with people who are being disruptive, if they can, they will use the claim of addiction to help secure less-severe punishment. The people who are otherwise law-abiding, and use recreational drugs without being disruptive or hurting others – and who are fortunate to not be caught incidentally with some drugs in their possession are unlikely to be labeled as “addicted”.

    The thing is, all the behaviors that the “out of control” therefore “addicted” meme identifies are behaviors that 1. people are perfectly capable of doing without any drugs in their systems, 2. are complex behaviors, often requiring successful acts of concealment & continuing for some period of time (which is pretty much the opposite of “out of control”)

    It is sloppy use of “science”, quoting studies of chimps’ drug use in what are very unnatural situations for chimps (solitary cages, researchers keeping tabs on them in some sort of enclosures) & making broad conclusions about what this says about human behavior, that fuels the collection of memes that support American society’s belief that “addiction” is an actual phenomenon. Science says that it’s not. Science also shows that the belief in “addiction” and the “treatments” the recovery movement offers, are more damaging to individuals than the drug use alone is (higher relapse rates, higher death rates). On top of that, the concept of “addiction” gives aid & comfort to those who prosecute the war on drugs, in that it supports the idea that it’s the drugs that are dangerous, justifying unconstitutional actions, courts sentencing people to AA 9even though at least 3 courts have recognized that AA is not treatment, but religion & it’s unconstitutional to force prisoners to participate in religion).

    And if yo don’t think a whole society can’t believe in something that doesn’t actually exist, I suggest you check out the Nov/Dec 2012 issue of Skeptical Inquirer, which has an article on phrenology, which was once widely believed to be scientifically provn & used by many people to run their lives.

  4. I think the word addiction appeared in the English language long before the 12 steps were written so it has a well know definition. I think we’re just arguing semantics. I think we agree we’re not talking about a disease. We can also agree that perhaps habituation is a better word for our discussion. And yes there should be no excuses for bad behavior associated with drug abuse. The points I was trying to make in citing the chimp study were that 1) chimps recover without treatment 2) in this instance it was the chimps who dominate and therefore 3) “the message to addicts (the habituated) is get a life and good things can happen.”
    I think we disagree on the value of the scientific study of ‘habituation’. We can perhaps agree that there is ‘good’ science and “bad’ science. Generally it boils down to proper perspective and interpretation. An example of this featured on this site is Nora Volkow’s fMRI studies. Ms. Volkow claims her results indicate a brain disease. Others see this in the proper perspective and ask but don’t we get the same results when we show a hungry man a steak? This website has a lot of good science properly interpreted in my opinion. And yes I agree; it seems there is an intention among many researchers to ‘prove’ the disease ‘concept’. Hopefully we can help steer them in the right direction.

  5. Hi, Hoe,

    Yes the word addiction is not new, but the collection of memes that are current in our public discourse are a direct outgrowth of Bill Wilson’s creation of AA, the steps & the Big Book.

    The word habituation is also not a new word.

    There’s nothing wrong with studying a documented physical phenomenon like habituation. There also would be nothing wrong with studying how & why the collection of memes that is addiction/recovery developed & spread – we could learn a lot about how people view what is evidence for a phenomenon, how people come to accept labels on themselves, how malleable our recall of our own life stories is, and how overlaying different interpretations of our memories affects how we operate in the here&now.

    All kinds of brain study is interesting, and there have been many surprising discoveries about what is/isn’t physically going on in brains. An example I love is Capgras Syndrome. Over the centuries, there have been instances in which a person insists that someone important in their life is replaced with a replica. The interpretation that stood for a long time was that it was an error of thinking, and perhaps the person making the claim was getting something out of it. Freud added his Freudian touch by claiming that the person who claims his mother is a replica is just trying to work out a way to convince himself that he’s not having sexual feelings for his mother by convincing himself that his mother is not his mother. Then a guy named David was in a car accident in California & began insisting his parents had been replaced with replicas. After a couple of years, his mom became so frustrated, she hit on a brilliant idea – she went outside with her cell phone & called David. He was so happy to hear from her – he told her all about the replicas. She said she was going to come in the house – and when she did, he accepted her as the real, not replica, mom. Dr Ramachandran studied this case & discovered that the car accident had caused a disconnect between David’s visual center & his amygdala, disconnecting the emotion David felt at the sight of his mother (and father) from the sight of is mother (and father), which his brain confabulated into the replica story.

    I agree with you that the biggest problem is researchers going in & trying to “prove” theories of “addiction” . Science is much better served when researchers go in asking questions, not searching for evidence to support a fixed belief.

    I think it’s important not only for science, but for society, to get back to what is factually known about how people interact with drugs & alcohol, because the collection of memes that are taken for information about “addiction/recovery” are doing a lot of damage to individuals & our society.

  6. I am so sorry, that should have read Hi Joe wish there was an edit function.

  7. Hey, Joe, I’m not surprised at all. Considering I didn’t believe the brain scans were reliable information, I wouldn’t say I was punked.

    Here’s something I saw a while back that confirmed my suspicion that “brain scan science” is nowhere near a reliable enough source of information to justify calling it a science at all: On a recent episode of NOVA about sleep science, the scientists being featured said that if the brain scan of a subject looks like a brain scan that is typical of someone who is dreaming, if you wake the subject, the subject may report Not dreaming. And vice versa, sometimes a brain scan typical of a person not dreaming will show up for someone who is awakened & does report a dream.

    At this point, I think the only thing that brain show with any reliability is where radioactive sugar molecules lodge in brains.

  8. There’s more to the science than just the neuroscience. There are some good studies of alcoholic behavior and of course some of the demographic studies are quite good also. The demographic studies show substantial rates of recovery normaly without formal treatment. There are good studies which show that even alcohol dependent individuals will control their drinking in certain situations and that one can fool an alcoholic with ‘fake’ drinks. The neuroscience is in its infancy but there is good science there also. That science indicates that users experience brain reactions that are much like normal brain reactions to normal stimuli. But we should always beware of scientists pursuing funding. It’s really a shame what’s going on at NIDA.

  9. Joe, I wasn’t dismissing all of neuorscience, just inflated claims about what “brain scans” can reliably show.

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