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There are certain responses that are common to specific groups, for example, adolescents. Most adolescent defenses are guilt based. "You made me this way. If you would just leave me alone, I'd be fine." And, "Oh, sure - when you drink, it's not a problem. But, when I smoke a little dope with my friends, all of a sudden it's a problem. Did you know that booze is worse than smoking a joint? You're such hypocrites."
Alcohol treatment facilities view all of these defensive responses by people that they diagnose with alcohol and drug problems as symptoms of their addiction disease. However, it is well documented that many of substance users who are referred to alcohol treatment facilities (by the courts, by family members, by employers or by way of other interventions) do not actually have substance use problems. These people simply get caught up in the "alcohol treatment facility machinery" of the culture, often as a result of experimenting with substances or experiencing one negative consequence as a result of a brief lapse in judgment. So, when they claim that they don't have a drug or alcohol problem - oftentimes, the truth is: they don't.
Faced with pressure from loved ones and alcohol treatment facilities, substance users may become defiant, abusive, self-pitying, or even severely depressed. Their defense response may change from, "I don't have a problem," to "I do have a problem; I'm diseased!" At this juncture they may begin the cycle of multiple alcohol treatment facilities, psychiatrists, and admitting surrender and defeat over and over again. Yet, the vast majority will continue to get high and drunk, but now they have an industry that supports their learned helplessness and powerlessness over substances and over their life in general.
This is when therapists, alcohol treatment center "professionals," and those close to the substance user become mystified or negatively judgmental. The substance user sounds as if they are totally ready to quit their habit; yet, they keep going back to it. For those witnessing it, the frustration is enormous and the addiction disease theory once again emerges as an easy explanation. Some may think, "My God, they must really be in denial to keep doing what they are doing," or they might think, "This really is an awful disease."
For the substance user, the frustration is equally detrimental and depressing. What at first seemed to be a great explanation and excuse for drinking and drugging to excess suddenly has become a severe burden.
This vicious cycle of misinformation can have tragic consequences. Unless the truth about substance use is made clear, the truth being that substance use is a choice; substance users may completely give up hope and drink or drug themselves, literally, to death. It is extremely important to understand that regardless of how seemingly hopeless and self-pitying substance users are, they are only as hopeless as they think they are. That is why alcohol treatment facilities teach the disease myth to an already vulnerable, emotionally immature, struggling group of people. Those less vulnerable would find the logic to be counterintuitive and certainly counterproductive.
In the absence of the denial theory and the disease concept, there are no excuses. Without the empty theories and rationalizations, substance users realize that it is within their power to choose sobriety or to continue alcohol and/or drug use. Even the seemingly gray area, where denial looks somewhat plausible, is seen clearly for what it is-false. Fictitious theories and incorrect diagnoses only serve to prolong indecision and actually contribute to the self-destruction of substance users.
There are an average of 1,100,000 substance abusers in alcohol treatment facilities in the United States on any given day, learning that they have a disease and that they are in denial. As these people accept the misinformation from these alcohol treatment programs, it provides them with an opportunity to avoid their reality and an excuse to avoid making the hard decision to abstain or moderate their usage or continue using substances to excess. In essence, alcohol treatment facility programs replace the substance user's natural powers of common sense and free will with an external imaginary power of a simple substance.
Millions of these "hopeless" types have had the courage to search out and find better lifestyle alternatives. They have chose to stop drinking and drug using and have attained happiness for the rest of their lives. In fact, most of these people do this on their own. What keeps people active in their substance use is their perception that there are no better alternatives to drugs and alcohol for sustaining a level of happiness and fulfillment. This lack of more attractive lifestyle alternatives is the simple, but accurate, explanation to a seemingly complicated problem. Choosing to change is the beginning of a life transformation and cannot be underestimated.