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Addiction, Recovery, and Personal Character

NEWS - AA Agnostica

Here is a short excerpt from this excellent blog post by Bill White, published on AA Agnostica:

Addiction medicine – actually all medicine – is ill-equipped to address such pathologies of character and to fill the void once drugs are removed from the center of an addicted patient’s life. The person seeking addiction recovery is left with this same challenge: How does one escape such chemically-induced narcissism within a culture that, not just worships the self, but has itself become a “selfie culture.”

Read the full essay here.



In your comments, please show respect for each other and do not give advice. Please consider that your choice of words has the power to reduce stigma and change opinions (ie, "person struggling with substance use" vs. "addict", "use" vs. "abuse"...)

  1. My thoughts is that addiction is a multi-generational trauma passed on from one traumatized child unable to spiritually develop subsequent generations and has its roots in betrayal. Betrayal is taken personally by the immature person that thinks if they are betrayed it means they aren’t worthy of love or relationships working out as they should or keeping the promise of every relationship. I think I completely understand addiction now. Addiction is: “Loving anything that cannot love us back” or “Trauma of fear of relationships caused by betrayal of at least one trusted loved one.” Addiction means slavery.

    The substance of addiction is not a true choice of an isolated individual, yet it is widely seen as a choice and therefore a crime in this culture. Criminalization creates more disconnection, pain & trauma that makes things worse. It wasn’t rationally chosen and yet emotionally “found.” The addict’s emotion of desperation led to finding the pain relief of the substance of the addiction. Humans can’t reason ourselves out of an action based on an initial emotional act alone.

    We all need connection or we experience unbearable pain. The loved one (LO) is afraid of connection because a trusted LO betrayed and traumatized them. Young children take everything personally and if a LO betrays them then they believe they are bad and unloveable nor worthy of connection and love. Isolation means one cannot connect and relieve the unbearable pain of disconnection they are suffering.

    The pain of disconnection needs a quick fix devoid of connection they are terrified of and feel unworthy of. The substance of addiction is the quick fix. “Loving something that cannot love us back.” An isolated individual has been traumatized by a relationship/connection and associates more pain with a new one. The isolation from connection’s love results in unbearable pain.The addict’s substance relieves the pain of isolation yet distances the LO from spiritual development needed to form joyful connection that a child must learn from a trusted LO.

      1. I watched this TED talk Dominique, thx. Absolutely, I agree with all of that. Especially like the cage versus Rat Park analogy; right? Now I am wondering if Gabor Mate (he has enlightened much of my current mind), who endorses a BioPsychoSocial perspective, shouldn’t also add “Economic” and make it a BioPsychoSocioEconomic perspective since in regards to teens they struggle to find skills that will get them into the economic system to pay rent and self support and also the social realm where they will find suitable mates. I just think this adds another layer of complexity in regards to adolescent use and I think while some get economic viability they don’t get social viability and later on that unravels since we need both. And the flip side is some get social acceptance and yet not economic acceptance. We are social animals and yet also we are mating animals that need the spiritual love of a home and hence in comes the economic aspect that I have yet to see Gabor Mate include in a large way into his work. I believe he deserves a Nobel Prize, yet I think if he adds the economic part of it, perhaps along the lines of the work done in the book Escaping the Endless Adolescence (this talks of retooling the education system that disadvantages people that tend towards craftmanship that curriculum discriminates against).

        I have a friend who is stuck in that. He has social acceptance, and his parents left him money, yet now that he has spent it all he has no economic skills. He has friends everywhere that helped him spend all that money and yet they didn’t care to recognize that he wanted to have a job where he could make enough to support a wife. The people that accepted him socially neglected to care to notice that. This can be lost on parents, family and friends. I struggle to mentor him economically because he has so many social friends that distract him from more economical type thinking. I have tried to help him focus on the economic side and yet his social friends always distract him to his pleasant social aspects and yet at the end of the day the social and economic drives seem to almost compete against one another. He seems to be stuck in an endless adolescence.

        He isn’t an addict of drugs yet he seems to be an addict of people and struggles to be able to combine the two aspects of socioeconomics because he is extremely spiritual and those worlds are mostly material and deprived of spirituality and so feed off of his great spirit. Both sides appreciate his spirituality and yet can’t seem to find it in themselves to guide him to find a way to make it all work together for him. I have suggested he open a shop for his craft and sell related things yet also recognizing that customers will be coming in to relate to him and his awesome spiritual and social graces and the products are just a pleasant mode of support for him economically and in a dignified way. Unfortunately he got mixed up with counselors who have been working it from the angle of diagnosing him with a disability and therefore they discouraged him from seeking work since it might jeopardize his disability claim.

        BioPsychoSocioEconomic. I don’t expect anyone to understand the distinction I believe is necessary yet its possible. Johan Hari talks about the social needs of man and the rat park experiment–agreed–yet mentoring for economics is important for one child while mentoring for social graces is critical for another, yet clearly both are needed. Does this make sense? Better yet does this provide a quest for anyone to bridge this gap and get this done? I am tired of us leading these people fall into these cracks. I see my own son struggling to find that socioeconomic balance. I hope he sees that he needs work where he best interacts with people and finds that unique type and amount of connection and interaction uniquely suited to him. Hope this helps.

      2. I agree 100% with this post you made awhile back relevant to your comment to me. I like to think of “Detach w/Love” as “Detach from fear and anything else except love of my loved one”. I also think one of the most important parts of your great counsel is to “be prepared” and “ready” with “a plan” meaning if a loved one comes and wants treatment we must be able to get them there. One thing that is a problem is a lack of beds because opiate addicts will need a “fix” before a bed is available in many, many cases. We can fix this as a society…right?

        1. Thank you 228. I worked with a wonderful detoxification unit director who once said, the system thinks in terms of available beds or slots, people with addiction think in terms of minutes.

          We will have sufficient on demand access to quality treatment — this must be our mantra.

          Without it, we only get so far. We can train and educate the family, the family can successfully intervene, the Loved One can say yes to treatment, and then what? We are working on the online solution for the person with the addiction…..expect news about this early in the new year.

          Until then find the energy to locate the treatment, the right treatment, and have that door open for the moment your Loved One says yes to treatment.

          Best wishes.

        2. Our Mantra: “We will have sufficient on demand access to quality treatment!”

          I recognize you are aware of this that The War on Drugs is stupid and that the war that short term profit drivers wage against the community and family is where those who “get it” should be fighting. There it is to stop devotion to Wall Streets insatiable appetite for short term profit at the expense of sustainable enterprises. A system that squeezes open beds out of the system just like it squeezes time=money, and sustainability/stability from people’s lives creating the community/relationship disconnections and dysfunctional families and the pain that causes addiction in the first place. In order to make profits in the hospitals that Wall Street investors own it must make the supply of beds less than demand in order to raise profits. This means lack of beds kills people. This means that as long as profits are sought above the need for supply to exceed demand (Wall Street MBAs cringe at the thought) the system is putting a price on human lives. I am for free markets yet it isn’t free when the system socializes the costs of addiction on human lives, criminalized lives, 1/4 of world’s prisoners in the “land of the free”, taxpayers paying for that. Socialized cost to bailout those Wall Street criminals is nothing compared to the costs in the human lives of addicts. I realize its a stretch to blame short term fixation, quarterly earnings reports, of Wall Street on addiction yet I am not alone in making this inference. Many people are making this inference better and better each day and that is the good news. It doesn’t help the families suffering now yet those suffering now can call a senator/congressman and talk and I have and it eased my guilt a bit.

          The better news? We have brains and spiritual power. We can organize and point these facts out to politicians that the war on drugs wastes money that would be better served to decriminalize addictions that are clearly socioeconomically driven. The system that drives dysfunction should be taxed to pay for open/available beds. Look at Portugal that decriminalized/legalized drugs and the addictions went to 50% of previous levels. The Alexander Rat Park model could use the “war on drugs” money in a more effectual way.

          Dominique, would it be a benefit here on our site to create a community activism page with all of the great researchers that have informed my perspective and inspired our mantra and desire for change? We could also identify movements and people in government that are making headway in order to get behind them and gain momentum. I think I read about “Safe Handoff” fire stations here? We could spread those movements to every state. We could also work together on making a kind of thesis that organizes thoughts that the socioeconomic drivers of short term profits are creating and increasingly disrupting the connections that cause the pains and trauma in society that is driving addiction. Hope this helps.

        3. I like your response 228 and I hear every word you are saying. I would also like to point out that Portugal’s fatal opioid poisonings went down from in the 400s to 34. That’s an astronomical number! It’s also important to add that although decriminalization (not legalization and I prefer to term it reclassification) was a foundation of Portugal’s approach, it was by implementing a multi-pronged approach that allowed it to have as much success as it has.

          Treatment on demand, counseling, dissuasion panels, community supports, primary care screening, and so much more.

          I agree, it’s time to end the war on drugs. It’s time to treat SUD as an illness and not a criminal offense. We need to CRAFT-ivise everyone: the police, the fire depts., first responders, nurse and doctors, families, teachers, EVERYONE!

        4. Hi Laurie.

          Railing against “the system” only gets us so far. The status quo keeps bread on the table yet man doesn’t live by bread alone. The dynamics in personal relationships is key.

          At the end of the day it’s been the CRAFT method and Allies in Recovery type people skills that have allowed me to evolve and be an ally to the LO with SUD whereas perhaps most of the politics of the socioeconomic realities are hyper focused on the financial bottom line that doesn’t put a value on a diseased life.

          I’m grateful for people that see a purpose in life to heal the sick and so seek the skills to be a person that makes room for immature and/or diseased people to find their way to maturity and/or health.

          Bizarre living in a pandemic; right?

          I’m so jacked up on bioflavonoids and sunshine(vitamin D) we’ve convinced ourselves will help us survive Covid-19 yet also on the wisdom and friends here on Allies in Recovery.

          Take care and keep up the good work!