We all saw it. We all heard it. The headlines in early May of 2018, “Kayne West proclaimed that slavery was a choice during an interview at the TMZ Headquarters.” If you’ve ever seen the gif of the blonde hair, blue-eyed guy blinking, that is the perfect depiction of the initial reaction that most people had (Google: white guy blinking gif and you’ll be like “oh yeah, she’s right”). Now you’re probably asking yourself, “What does Kanye West’s crazy outburst have to do with addiction or The Freedom Model?” The answer to that is, well….. more than you think!
To start, we all know that slavery was definitely NOT a choice, nor is it ever something to talk about lightly. I don’t agree with his statement, but I do think that he was onto something that should be talked about more and more in this day and age. If you’ve seen Kanye West in the spotlight before, other than for his music or romping around Calabasas with his red MAGA hat, it was probably because of his “mental breakdowns” where he was hospitalized and then labeled with the lifelong diagnosis of mental illness. Right there, before our eyes, we watched yet again, another pop media icon fall into the trap of institutionalization.
It seems as though every month we hear of another celebrity going off the deep end and being sent to rehab. They begin their “journey through recovery” spreading the message of how addiction is taking over our generation, and that we must be vigilant to fight it. They don’t realize that they are completely wrong, and spewing rhetoric that is fueling the problem. The message they should be sending is to refuse to allow a cultural belief based in fear mongering, lies and moral bullshit to define who we are and how we see ourselves.
As Kanye preached that we need to free ourselves from mental slavery that’s been engrained in our culture for centuries, he fell to his knees and accepted that he does not have control of himself due to being diagnosed with bipolar disorder. In turn, he took on the identity that was given to him. The second you are labeled with a mental illness, you are told it’s a life sentence and there is no way out. You are told you must accept it. Much like addiction, once you’ve been told you’re an addict and take on that identity, you must live your life in fear: fearful that you are powerless, fearful that you’ll be triggered to drink or drug, fearful that you are out of control. What I THINK Kanye was trying to say is now, more than ever, we must understand that it is our beliefs about ourselves and how we fit into the world that enslave us. That, right there, is what Kayne West should have said.
During my time teaching The Freedom Model course in a one-on-one setting at our retreat, I met many people who had not yet gone through addiction treatment. Regardless of their lack of experience being physically institutionalized, most, if not all, had taken on the identity of being an “addict” or “alcoholic”. This identity led them to behave in certain ways that are in line with cultural expectations for those identities. Some people believed that if they drank too much they would cheat on their spouse, so they did. A few believed that they simply could not be happy without getting high, and that was their fate. Others believed that heavily using drugs and alcohol was the result of having depression, anxiety, stress, or PTSD. At one point or another, these people believed that something beyond themselves controlled them and their behaviors, and because they believed this, it became their reality. In that very moment they accepted that identity, they became slaves to our society’s definition of addiction.
Over the last 30 years, the researchers at The Freedom Model have studied addiction focusing on exactly how people solve their problem and move past addiction. In doing so they systematically debunked the myth of addiction being a disease or disorder, and showed that once those who are struggling reject the addict identity, they are able to free themselves of their lifelong struggle with addiction. They saw that those who were able to recognize that their thoughts, beliefs and behaviors were fully within their own control, stopped feeling enslaved to substances. They became free to think beyond cultural stigmas that once trapped them from progressing in life. They gained full control of themselves. They gained full mental freedom.
So again, what did Kanye West’s crazy outburst have to do with this? The American culture and mainstream media has convinced us that there is a large portion of our population who are out of control and forever enslaved by drugs and alcohol. When sent to treatment or rehab, these people then become enslaved to the culture of addiction recovery. They become enslaved to the identity of an “addict in recovery” forever, and most continue to struggle. It’s important to understand that with the correct information, and the desire to change, people move past these problems, completely. There is no need to feel enslaved to the identity of alcoholic or addict. It is crucial to understand that your mind is incredibly powerful, (and oh, by the way, alcohol and drugs actually have no power at all – they are lifeless substances.) You get to define yourself and your future based on your vision. You get to create your own reality and free yourself from any stigma or identity that may be holding you back from your own personal happiness and pure, unadulterated freedom.
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