You know what the title of this piece, "I am not an addict," means: you are in denial!
So it was with great pleasure that I read Meghan Ralston, of the Drug Policy Alliance's, piece in the Huffington Post, entitled, "I'm Breaking Up with the Word Addict," in which she wrote:
When we do feel the need to reference a state of disability, challenge or disease when describing a human being, we say something like, "my mother has cancer," or "my nephew has leukemia." And we would almost certainly never let that be the only thing said about that person, something that defined them. We do not say or suggest that a person is their challenge. We remember that they are a person first, then if appropriate indicate their challenge as one factor of their existence. . .
I may be in the fight of my life with drugs, but I am not the drugs that I take. I am a fighter, a survivor -- I am never merely "an addict." Please do not destroy the totality of who I am by reducing me to that one word. We retain our full humanity despite our challenges, particularly when our challenges are much deeper than our attention-grabbing drug use might suggest.
My days of chaotic substance abuse are long behind me. I am not "an addict" now, and I wasn't "an addict" then. I'm just a person, who had a period of difficulty, pain and challenge. I battled, I failed, I tried again -- just like most people.
Of course, the 12 steps (and the NIDA/Nora Volkow neuroscience model of addiction) give you just such an identity, against which Ilse Thompson and I fight in Recover! Stop Thinking Like an Addict. As the description of our book at Amazon puts it: "In Recover! Dr. Peele's PERFECT Program takes you through the key concepts of mindfulness--that is, your ability to detach from your addictive experience and to see that it is not who you are. . ."
In the book Ilse and I say:
In other words, if you are addicted, that is all you are, and your life has become worthless, and only the “helpers” can make you whole.
The PERFECT Program rejects this kind of thinking, expressed in the self-labeling mantra, “I am an addict.” It starts instead from two assumptions: every human being is already worthwhile, and you will succeed best when you feel best about yourself, your potential, and your core value. You still need to take responsibility for your actions and practice the discipline required to put your life on track. But you are not your addiction; you are a valuable human being whose qualities endure and exceed your addiction.
These fundamental differences translate into different helping techniques. Instead of focusing solely on the object of addiction and its all-conquering force, as AA and neuroscience do, The PERFECT Program directs you to contemplate your addiction from a broader perspective that takes in your life history, environmental influences, and personal relationships, as well as your feelings, beliefs, and outlooks.
I need some help, obviously, in connecting Meghan's call to freedom as a way of showing that our disease models are way, way off.
Stanton Peele has been at the cutting edge of addiction theory and practice since writing, with Archie Brodsky, Love and Addiction in 1975. He has developed the on-line Life Process Program for addiction. His new book (written with Ilse Thompson) is Recover! Stop Thinking Like an Addict with The PERFECT Program.