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IMAGE: Christina’s World, Andrew Wyeth
Can someone else control you? Can they control your thoughts, your emotions, your decisions, actions or reactions? Some would argue that laws control you and your behavior. But people choose to break the law everyday in all kinds of ways, both large and small. Some would say that an employer controls you; but when you look at it more closely that’s not true either. Sure, you have to go to work if you want to keep your job, but at any point in time, you can decide your job is not important to you anymore and do something else. The point is, you always have the freedom to do something different than what is expected.
As you begin thinking of a myriad of examples where people may lose their freedom, there is one important fact to remember: no one else ever has control over your thoughts, and thus they do not have control over your actions. Probably the book that illustrates this most convincingly is Man’s Search for Meaning by Dr. Viktor Frankl, an Austrian psychiatrist who was enslaved in a Nazi Concentration camp during WWII. When recounting his traumatic experiences Dr. Frankl said,
“Everything can be taken from a man but one thing; the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”
So there it is: the stark reality that no one can ever truly be controlled by someone else. Nor can they be controlled by circumstances, by disease, by law enforcement, or any force external to themselves. Our thoughts are always our own.
Why then are all alcohol and drug treatment programs based on a model that is specifically designed to convince people that they are powerless and as such need to be controlled by others and forces outside themselves? From belief in a Higher Power, to relying on a program, counselors and meetings, to relying on a sponsor, to relying on medication and therapy, all drug and alcohol treatment is designed to convince people not only that they cannot control themselves, but they therefore must rely on others to change them. Of course, this is impossible, and as such addiction treatment is largely ineffective. In fact, studies have shown it may be worse than doing nothing at all.
The addiction treatment model is contrary to the single most important fact of life, no one can control me; and in fact, at all points throughout my life I get to choose. I get to choose how I think, how I behave, how I act and react and who I associate with; I get to choose what I eat, what I drink, what drugs I take and how much of them I take. I get to choose each and every activity in which I engage and each and every word I say; and I get to choose even with whom I fall in love. Most important I get to choose my own addictions both good and bad because they are nothing more than thoughts and behaviors. I get to build my own habits, break them and build new ones. And I can do this throughout my lifetime.
This fact is true for virtually all people throughout the world regardless of their circumstances. Rather than working against the innate freedom that all people possess, the Saint Jude Program acknowledges it and embraces it. Treatment is unnecessary for behavioral problems because they are not the result of a sickness. And treatment is ineffective for that same reason.
People struggling with substance use problems (i.e. addictions) have chosen behaviors and developed habits that are hindering their personal development and pursuit of happiness and fulfillment. All people use their freewill to seek their own ideal of personal happiness and fulfillment. While some people find it in reading a good book, others find it in skydiving and still others may find it in eating ice cream or using heroin. When we continuously go back to a specific behavior it becomes habituated and in some cases, can adversely affect our health and/or interfere with our personal relationships and obligations. When this happens most people simply abandon the habit in favor of behaviors that are more in line with their personal goals. Think of that college friend who always partied a bit too hard, but then graduated and simply grew up. Those who continue to struggle may or may not seek help.
When people do seek help there are basically two kinds of help available: help that tells you that you are powerless and suffering from a progressive, incurable disease and need forces outside yourself to fix you, such as 12 step groups and all forms of addiction treatment programs. And then there is St. Jude’s non-treatment approach that shows you the immense power all people have and provides a guide for self-directed neuroplastic change.
Ask yourself this question: when struggling with an addiction is it better to believe you have the power to change or you don’t? Is it better to believe you will struggle forever, or can overcome your problem and build the life you truly want?
People who struggle with addictions are not suffering from a mental disorder, disease, or sickness; they have simply lost their way. The most compassionate and effective approach is to simply light the pathway to change by providing the truth and showing each person the abundance of incredible life options at their disposal.