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Post 20

Monday, August 1, 2005 - 12:08pmSanction this postReply
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This is why I have such disdain for 12-step-programs. They require that you admit that you have no power over your addiction. I'm convinced that this is the reason the recidivism rate is so high. If they focused on the fact that ONLY the addict has power to CHOOSE to act or not act they would have more success.
Wishful thinking, Ethan, recidivism rate less with AA than any other program.

Rick:
Post 13 is pure speculation or do you have some stats.





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Post 21

Monday, August 1, 2005 - 12:28pmSanction this postReply
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Jeff,
I've still seen nothing that validates what Jeff Schaler calls the "far-fetched, scientifically worthless fantasy" known as the theory of "physical addiction."



A brief anecdote:

A few years ago, I was sicker than I had ever been in my life. I went to the emergency room where a doctor prescribed a nasal spray (I don't remember the name) and referred me to a specialist. When I saw the specialist he told me to stop using the nasal spray as well as some other medications, with no warning about the consequences.

That evening, I developed a headache that continued to grow more severe as the night progressed. By bedtime, I lay in bed in excruciating pain so severe I literally did not care if I died or not. My wife asked me if I wanted any of the medications I had stopped taking. I told her to give me anything and everything. I didn't care what. I just wanted the pain to stop. Within seconds of using the nasal spray, the pain subsided and I was able to go to sleep peacefully.

When I talked to my general practitioner, he was aghast that the ER doctor had prescribed this nasal spray, saying it should only be taken for a day or two because it is highly addictive. He was equally shocked that the specialist had taken me off of it "cold turkey." He instead had me wean off the spray, slowly replacing it with another spray, and finally no spray at all.

What I experienced, of course, was withdrawal. When some drugs are taken, an individual is unable to function without experiencing the pain of withdrawal. With some drugs, withdrawal may be simply discomforting, other times very painful, in some instances life threatening.

Without reading the entire context of Schaler's statement including how he is defining his terms, I cannot comment further on his thoughts. What I do know is anything that enters the human body has an effect on it and some substances become physically addictive as with the nasal spray I used.

I'm going on vacation for a few days and will be here only intermittently. I've leaving this debate to everyone else. Best wishes, everyone.

(Edited by Bob Palin on 8/01, 12:31pm)




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Post 22

Monday, August 1, 2005 - 1:05pmSanction this postReply
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You people who believe there is no such thing as addiction are clearly out of your heads.
Why don't you ask someone who's been there? I used to drink 10 a night.
The argument about "choosing" to drink or not is ridiculous. It is, in fact, a very weak defense of the "no addiction" argument. Every addict knows full well that he has that choice. Go ask one. He'll tell you, "No shit."
However, with the addict, the pain and mental anguish BROUGHT ON BY THE PHYSICAL ADDICTION are simply too horrible to contemplate and deal with in the short term. The addict will nearly always choose relief from those feelings.
Ever have a hangover? Head feeling fuzzy, thoughts not firing, body aching a bit? That's what the addict feels all the time, at least for a relatively long period of detoxification, when he DOESN'T GET HIS FIX. His head feels like it's filled with an electrical storm. You laid around on the couch with your hangover, didn't you? Well, why didn't you simply "choose" to get up and run a marathon?
Any program seeking to help the addict (I use "help," not "cure") must focus on the long-term, positive aspects of sobriety -- the energy of life. The addict has lost most of his remembrances of those wonderful feelings. When he gets them back, it is empowering. But it takes time. That is what I definitely do NOT like about AA. It hammers you about your alleged "powerlessness" and conjures up Santa Claus and other mythical beings for you to genuflect to in your recovery. It is recovery from a foundation of fear, remorse, regret and supineness. And it never skips a beat in its message that you'll NEVER HAVE ANOTHER DRINK AGAIN. (I'm living proof that you CAN). Sure it works for many, but is that any way to think of yourself?


(Edited by Jamie Kelly
on 8/01, 1:06pm)

(Edited by Jamie Kelly
on 8/01, 1:09pm)




Post 23

Monday, August 1, 2005 - 1:22pmSanction this postReply
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Robert:

What is the recidivist rate for AA?

Jamie: My point is that every time you picked up that drink you chose to do it. It required conscious effort to do it. That's choice.

Ethan




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Post 24

Monday, August 1, 2005 - 1:37pmSanction this postReply
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Ethan: And every time you picked up that sandwich, with your stomach rumbling, you chose to do that as well. Life sucks without food when you're hungry, but all you simply have to do is not eat, until those feelings of hunger go away, right? That's roughly the equivalent of what an addict faces, only the feelings of emptiness sans substance can be much more powerful than hunger. That's my point. The body has grown so accustomed to the substance that it screams for relief. I understand all about "choice." What we're talking about is addiction. And addiction to a substance is real.



Post 25

Monday, August 1, 2005 - 1:51pmSanction this postReply
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Jamie,
I'd be interested in your take on how one let oneself to be addicted in the first place. I'd think one would have a wider range of choice at pre-addiction stage. The dreadful consequence of substance abuse is no mystery. So why people still keep plunging into it? Am I too naive in asking this?




Post 26

Monday, August 1, 2005 - 1:57pmSanction this postReply
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Jamie,

I have experienced a mild form of Obsseive-Compulsive disorder, so I can understand the internal compulsion to do things, things that in some cases would have caused me harm. Acting out on those compulsions was volutary. Not acting on those impulses required a great deal of will. The result was the eventual end of the compulsions, despite mental stress from initially choosing not to act on the impulse. It was similar with ADD. I was on Ritalin as a child and found the effects to be awful. Eventually my mother let me choose whether or not to continue the medication. I chose not to and overcome the tendancy of my mind to wander through focused effort.

Ethan




Post 27

Monday, August 1, 2005 - 2:34pmSanction this postReply
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Hong:
Your way is one good way of putting it: "You LET yourself become addicted." That is why I believe the addict is fully to blame for his addiction. He chose -- day after day -- to do what he did (as did I). Why? Well, frankly, because IT FEELS GOOD. Not just physically, but mentally: It's a form of escape, of EVASION, from the reality of one's self, one's thoughts, one's emotions, even one's environment. That's why drunks hang out in bars. For the most part, they HATE TO BE IN THEIR OWN ENVIRONMENT, else they would simply stay home and get drunk. Nathaniel Branden wrote in "How to Improve Your Self Esteem," that he could think of no mental problem, "besides those biological in nature," that could not be reduced to a lack of self-esteem. This is correct. The addict becomes an addict generally through a period of abuse, a period of evading reality, a period of evading one's self.
ETHAN: I believe you and I are in basic agreement. I wholeheartedly agree about the "choice" aspect of substance abuse. It is a choice. But it's not really a "fork in the road" choice. With addiction, one road is straight uphill, the other an easy, downhill slide to hell.



Post 28

Monday, August 1, 2005 - 2:40pmSanction this postReply
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Jamie:

With addiction, one road is straight uphill, the other an easy, downhill slide to hell.
Absolutely!





Post 29

Monday, August 1, 2005 - 2:46pmSanction this postReply
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I look at it as a behavior, not a disease. What supports that behavior (social setting, education, physiological aspects, heredity) can be many things.

The simple problem with looking at the choice idea (which, on the whole, I have always agreed with) is that when you put a bunch of alcohol, or whatever, into your brain, it affects choice, the ability to perceive reality as clearly and as rationally as a normal human can, and degenerates you physically and psychologically (chemically induced depression, say). So, at that point, which is relatively early on, you're taking a lot of choice out of the game. You're taking the actual person out of the game.  If you combine all that with the existing conditions a person might be experiencing, Just Say No ain't gonna happen real easily. Not when down is up and up is down. The choice idea is heavily pinned on the condition of having the faculty of reason, which in at least hard cases evacuated the premises long ago.




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Post 30

Monday, August 1, 2005 - 3:16pmSanction this postReply
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Rich:
EXACTLY. "Just Say No," intoned Mrs. Reagan. I remember a deliciously satirical headline from "The Onion" a while back: "NATION'S DRUG PROBLEMS OVER: Addicts, dealers learn you can 'Just Say No' with Reagan appearance on 'Different Strokes.' "
A symptom of addiction is the behavior associated with it. The behavior itself is not the addiction; it is the easiest choice to make in response to the addiction. And trust me, the alternative (sobriety) can be the most excruciating of choices, depending on the degree of physical addiction. For my part, I still drink a beer or two -- never more -- on occasion (Andrew Bissell and I have tinked glasses before). And three months ago, I gave up cigarettes. Hooray for me.



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Post 31

Monday, August 1, 2005 - 3:19pmSanction this postReply
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Ethan asked:

"What is the recidivist rate for AA?"

In the case of my drunk-all-weekend-twice-during-the-week spouse, it's 130%

My spouse got very frustrated with AA because everyone there had to attend those meetings by court order. He was the only voluntary exception. He would come home more depressed than when he left, finally, he just stopped going and now he drinks more than ever in our 5 year marriage. I don't drink at all, maybe a glass of wine twice a year. I just don't have time for the effects of alcohol.

There is nothing wonderful about a drunk, and really nothing wonderful about an asshole drunk.

My father was a very heavy drinker for most of my growing up years. One day, he just stopped, quit. He never went to AA, but he had some wonderful friends that loved the shit out of him, and my mom, of course. He did the same thing with smoking, just quit after using nicotine since he was 15 years old. I don't remember him being particularly grumpy about it either, but then again, I do remember him plunging into work like a freight train about this time, too.

I have no doubt it's all about making the "choice," and committing to it. That's all I'm gonna say about this. It's an extremely unpleasant subject for me. I figure if my father, who only has a 6th grade education, can give up his "addictions" without batting an eye, everyone else should be able to too.

 





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Post 32

Monday, August 1, 2005 - 1:55pmSanction this postReply
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"What we're talking about is addiction. And addiction to a substance is real."

Far be it from me to argue with a man's religious faith.  To each his own.

But I've been down that road, too, Mr. Presumptuous.  That's why I don't need to "ask someone who's been there."  And that's why I know better.

JR





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Post 33

Monday, August 1, 2005 - 3:29pmSanction this postReply
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Jeff:
Ooh, sorry. Didn't realize you're from the "If you drink a fifth of scotch a day, you don't suffer the delirium tremens when you quit, it's all in your head, grow up" school of thought. And don't you dare accuse me of having religion. But perhaps you should get one, since this atheism thing ain't working out for your social graces.
(Edited by Jamie Kelly
on 8/01, 3:41pm)




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Post 34

Monday, August 1, 2005 - 3:42pmSanction this postReply
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I think there is a difference between what constitutes "addiction" and what is "dependence."

If you are "addicted" to something, it means you compulsively do it despite its negative consequences. Someone who spends lots of money on new cars while loading up tons of debt is an addict.

Chemical "dependence" is when there is a physiological shift in the human body from using a certain chemical that makes it especially difficult to stop using it, because of withdrawal symptoms. People can get this with alcohol, and opiates, but not many of the other drugs that tend to be most addictive. According to much of the scientific literature, for example, cocaine may not have qualities of physical dependence.

Someone can be an addict and yet quit the second he chooses to. Someone can be dependent on a drug, which makes it harder to quit, because of the physical harm of ending it cold turkey.

So I would agree that there is not really "physical addiction" as much as there is "chemical dependence" and "addiction," the latter of which is ultimately a choice. Someone can have a chemical dependency on something, such as water, and not be addicted at all. And without chemical dependence, another person can be more addicted to something, such as political power, than any crack addict is to his crack.



Post 35

Monday, August 1, 2005 - 4:32pmSanction this postReply
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Good post, Anthony. You've been sanctioned!

--Brant




Post 36

Monday, August 1, 2005 - 6:45pmSanction this postReply
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Robert said-
"1. Alcoholism is an inherited trait.
2. Psychology is not a science."

Terse and absolutely perfect. In at least the past few days this is an example of the fewest words stating the most truth that I think I have seen.



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Post 37

Monday, August 1, 2005 - 7:19pmSanction this postReply
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I was addicted to alcohol for five years. Since I am very hard-headed I did another five years on crack cocaine. It has been several years since I have stopped. (I also did some minor addictions like cigarettes.)

I did not stop the major ones merely by choice. I had help. I needed help. I could not do it alone. That is the way it works for stopping hardcore addiction. Of course there are probably exceptions out there, but I have yet to meet one. However, I have met many who have stopped with help.

One thing that aided me enormously in every case was finding something that became more valuable to me than the substance I was addicted to. That was always a bitch to find, too, when I was in full bloom as an addict (or alcoholic).

For you guys who say addiction does not exist, I can introduce you to some pretty interesting gentlemen from South America who would probably pay good money to have that particular viewpoint spread. Meanwhile they will laugh all the way to the bank while a bunch of "non-addicts" in all walks of society do almost anything to get their hands on money to give to them in exchange for their own "choice."

Have you ever been to a crack house? Even worse. Have you been to the street corner at night when crack addicts sell the stuff they ripped off from their house and loved ones? You can get really good deals there. Ten bucks in money will get you a three hundred dollar anything. Even better deals. You can order many things also, since those who were never thieves before their addiction will go out and steal stuff for you if you pay cash.

For your information, I have seen in Brazil that even most marijuana is now highly addictive. We can thank the genetic engineering sponsored by Pablo Escobar for that. The grass people smoked in the 60's and 70's is nothing like what is around today. I had to see that in a dearly loved person to believe it, but it is very real.

I have a great deal to say about this, but I am reserving it for an article. AA and NA were wonderful organizations for me to be able to stop the insanity. I encountered there a group of people who understood my problem. As these organizations are not goal oriented and production oriented like Objectivism is (and like I am even without Objectivism), I found that I could not continue there without being uncomfortable and rocking the boat for others. So I stopped going.

But I will not disparage these organizations. When I needed a helping hand (and believe me, we all stumble at something sometime), there was precious little the rational world had to offer me. I took what I could get and I am damn grateful for that.

Hong made a very good question. If you know where it leads, why start?

Hong, I have yet to meet a down-and-out drunk or gutter addict who started out wanting to be that way. I know that I did not - in both cases. I listened to those who said that addiction did not exist. I believed them. They said I could control it and I believed them. They said many things that I swallowed whole.

What happens with addiction is that you can start with an addictive substance for many different reasons (I did for several). Most everybody ignores the danger (I certainly did). As time goes on, a new problem arises that has its own nature. That is the craving (I had it bad). Then as more time elapses, the craving gets worse and the pleasure (or whatever reason you started) gets weaker so that all that's left is the craving and getting some kind of temporary relief from it (that was me in spades). I know of a guy who shot up battery acid to get relief from heroin jones. He got it too. God knows how he survived.

This is a very complicated and serious issue that deserves more than a one-size-fits-all bromide.

I don't think anybody would be foolish enough to think that there is only one kind of heart disease. But when they take a substance, like crack for instance, they think there is only one kind of addiction to it - or one kind of way to face giving it up, like choice or will-power or whatever. There are several kinds of addiction and they depend on the biochemical propensities of the different individuals, their psychological make-ups, philosophies and a whole lot of other factors. That goes for any substance that causes addiction. Crack is devastating because its core physical addictive property is actually pretty much the same for everybody. That makes people ignore the rest.

Like I said, I could go on all day about this. Now, however, I have some works I am writing. They are extremely important to me. They do not allow me to dedicate my time any longer to being a former hardcore drunk or ex-drug addict. They require that I become a writer.

Michael



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Post 38

Monday, August 1, 2005 - 7:29pmSanction this postReply
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Well said Michael



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Post 39

Monday, August 1, 2005 - 7:34pmSanction this postReply
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I appreciate the various perspectives presented in this discussion. My only significant chemical addiction is to caffeine, and since coffee has a tendency to tear up my stomach these days (I'm 57), I tend to drink much less coffee than even 2-3 years ago (down from 8-10 cups/day to 2-3 cups/day). But I was married for 13 years to a woman with various addictive/compulsive/habitual (whatever!) behaviors, including what got her to treatment: addiction to prescription tranquilizers. After a year of being "clean" from chemicals, she was still shoplifting (and lord knows what else), and we parted ways not long after that. But while we were still together, she went to 4 Twelve Step meetings (2 AA, one Narcotics Anonymous, one Adult Children of Alcoholics), and I attended 2 Al-Anon meetings per week. Al-Anon is for friends, colleagues, and loved ones of those with alcohol (and other) problems, and they often have some of the same attitude and life problems that the alcoholics/addicts have, so the same Twelve Step principles are used/adapted for them, too. And since I am convinced that I benefited greatly from those meetings, I do have some comments in reply to what others have said about those kinds of meetings.

Michael E. Marotta wrote:
The failures of whatever therapies to cure all addicts only reflects the failures of the theories of therapy.  Different people respond differently.  Trashing out AA is fine if you are an Objectivist.  It is no surprise that they find a lot of success among Irish Catholics who accept the religious framework.  For an Objectivist, some other model would work better.
I agree with this, in general, especially if you are at all fastidious about the kind of "God talk" that goes on while you are trying to concentrate on straightening out your life (from the devastation caused by harmful use of chemicals or dysfunctional relating to those who harmfully use chemicals). Me -- I just set it all aside and concentrated on what I took to be the focal point of the Twelve Step program: the Serenity Prayer. Reinhold Neihbur's "serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference" was endorsed by Ayn Rand in "The Metaphysical and the Man-Made," because it is the correct way to look at the world and the correct attitude about the actions you should or should not try to carry out. When I stopped trying to control/change/fix "my alcoholic" (i.e., my drug-addicted &c. wife), and instead put my focus on doing what was healthy and rational for myself, guess what? My life got a lot better! In particular, I lost 180 pounds of ugly fat -- 50 from my body and 130 from my apartment. :-)  More importantly, I realized that my wife's refusal to go to marriage counseling with me was one of those things I wasn't going to be able to change, and that I had better stop putting all my romantic apples in one basket (or that one basket, anyway!). Instead, I became a better, healthier person, improved my existing friendships (and abandoned the toxic ones), and made new friendships, both male and female, including the woman I eventually married (and to whom, 15 years later, I am still happily married).

I think that, had I been a, shall we say, rigorous Objectivist at the time, I probably would not have been able to make appropriate and effective use of the Twelve Step program of Al-Anon. I would have instead made the sign of the dollar and retreated into "rational," righteous monitoring and condemnation of my wife and continued to watch my own personal life shrink and wither. (I'm not saying that good Objectivists would necessarily have done this, just that my own understanding and tendency toward moral judgment would have taken that form at that time -- the late 80s.) Yes, I could have just walked away and left her with the kids. I could have tried to fight a horrendously expensive and devastating court battle with lawyers and psychological testing. But I chose not to. Instead, we had mediation and a more or less amicable settlement, and I think everyone is better off for it. My now adult children and I are still on very good terms, and I don't have to witness or think about my ex's abominable behavior any more. And those are all good things. :-)

Ethan Dawe wrote:
This is why I have such disdain for 12-step-programs. They require that you admit that you have no power over your addiction. I'm convinced that this is the reason the recidivism rate is so high. If they focused on the fact that ONLY the addict has power to CHOOSE to act or not act they would have more success.
My understanding is that this Twelve Step admission is for the purpose of getting addicts to realize that "nature, to be commanded, must be obeyed." If alcohol abuse sabotages your mind and behavior, then you have to acknowledge that fact, rather than puffing yourself up with the notion that it doesn't have to affect you adversely if you don't want it to. I do agree that controlled drinking is possible for some -- while apparently not for others. But the attitude that you are stronger than alcohol is a very dangerous one, because for some it is a very destructive delusion.

As for the current flap about Linz, I really don't know or much care whether he has an alcohol problem. What's clear is that his "passion" gets out of hand at times, and he has trouble managing and constructively channeling his anger. Some would label this "rage-aholism." I don't know Linz well enough to guess where he is on the continuum. I do think it would be good for him to see a counselor; couldn't hurt, and might help a lot. There are times when we all need help, and being ganged up on by friends and acquaintances is not necessarily the best way to get it.

Best to all,
REB




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