Control in Addiction Treatment, Where did our Freedom Go?

Addiction Treatment Control

Can someone else control you? Can they control your thoughts, your emotions, your decisions, actions or reactions? Some would argue that my employer “controls” me because I have to go to work every day if I want to keep my job. The key caveat is, “if I want to keep my job.” When you look at it closely your employer isn’t controlling you at all, and as a matter of fact has no control over your actions whatsoever. You’ve simply made an agreement where you perform a task for which you are compensated. If at some point the agreement becomes unacceptable to you, you can certainly seek a new job or stop showing up and let the chips fall where they may. The point is you always have the freedom to do something different than what is expected.

Once again, the question is, can someone else control you? What if there is a gun pointed at your head? You may think, yes, then that person would have control over me, but would they really? Would they have control over your thoughts? Would they truly have control over your actions? The answer would have to be no, they do not, for much the same reasons as the employer/employee relationship. The gunman may tell you to hand over your wallet, and while he may not say it, the implication is, ‘or I will kill you.’ Still your free will even in this situation is evident. I can hand over my wallet and hopefully he will let me live, or I can turn and run and hope I don’t get shot, or I can try and knock the gun out of his hand and fight for my wallet and life, or…the possibilities are literally endless.  Once again I am free to think and do as I see fit for my life at that point in time.

As you begin thinking of millions of examples where people may seem to 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 control model that is specifically designed to convince people 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 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 make their life better.

 This control 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 with whom I associate. 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.

This fact is true for virtually all people throughout the world regardless of their race, genetics, background, environment and circumstances.  Rather than working against the freedom that all humans innately possess, the Freedom Model acknowledges it and embraces it. To truly help people to overcome their problems, you must first show them their immense, inherent freedom which is so incredibly powerful. Without that knowledge, they will suffer in endless struggle, a continuous victim of circumstance; with it, they will realize their dreams.