Physical dependence is easy to deal with. Spend a week in a detox ward, and you’re done. Deeply ingrained beliefs are not quite as simple.
No medication or surgical procedure can change the fact that someone believes that chasing the cheap thrills of drugs and alcohol is a better use of their time than any of the other things they could be doing. And in fact, there is really no outside force that can change such a belief. It’s a matter of volition, in which the holder of the belief has to open their own mind to become more aware of their other options, and then evaluate them in relation to each other.
That’s a tall order – which is why god and spirituality is usually invoked for the task. The recovery world has refused to recognize that it’s an internal process, and in missing this fact, they’ve sincerely tried their best to find the outside force that seems to be needed – a nebulous “higher power.” But when you go to a 12-step based rehab or support group and things like doorknobs, oak trees, or a Group Of Drunks (GOD) among other things, are each suggested as a higher power, it should become clear to any sober minded observer that it’s all a mind game.
Does a doorknob or an oak tree really have a “will” for you? Or is your idea of this higher power’s will for you really just your own creation of better ways to spend your time than being in a drunken/high stupor?
Let’s cut to the chase and be honest about what’s really going on: heavy substance users believe that heavy substance use is the most rewarding way they can spend their time. If they can find a process of thought that helps them to change this belief, then they will change their behavior – bottom line.
Note to 12-Steppers: The thoughts expressed in this article are not meant to insult you, or to delegitimize where you are now. It’s fine if you used the method of creating a belief in a higher power, creating that higher power’s “will” for you, and then surrendering yourself to that will – as a means to change your beliefs about whether or not heavy substance use is the most personally rewarding use of your time. I’m happy for you. Unfortunately, this path to changing personal beliefs doesn’t seem to work for most people. So we shouldn’t pretend as if there is no other way. We should get to the conceptual core of what is happening, and find ways for people to do that. And if you missed the point – the core of what’s really going on is that people change their beliefs about how valuable heavy substance use is to them in relation to other ways they might pursue personal happiness – you don’t need to construct a higher power in order to do that.