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The Addict/Alcoholic Self Image

Chapter 8: The Freedom Model

Everything Changes Once You See Yourself as Addicted

It's hard to quantify in data exactly what changes when people see themselves as addicted, but it's like a general sense of defeat and dependency washes over them. Their spirit seems to wither and fade as they accept their fate. The Freedom Model authors have experienced this state of despair themselves. Mark had quit drinking for over a year, but was trapped in the recovery society due to court mandates. He was in outpatient programs where counselors worked daily to get him to conform to the disease view, and to see himself as being in for a lifelong struggle with addiction, even while he had already happily and willingly quit on his own. As he thought of this lifelong struggle, it brought him to the point of hopelessness.

Michelle took on this identity before even taking her first drink or drug. She was told at a young age that she had inherited the "alcoholic gene." Her father and both his parents were diagnosed "alcoholics", and several other relatives had severe alcohol and drug problems. When she was 10 years old after her father was mandated to attend AA meetings, she was told by a well-meaning AA member they were "saving a seat for her." She took her first drink at 12 years old and she liked it but she already felt the sting of shame and guilt. Her fear of the immense, supernatural powers of alcohol and her supposed genetic predisposition to alcoholism were engrained and reinforced throughout her adolescence, so when she began "partying" in high school she drank seemingly uncontrollably. Once in college she progressed rapidly from the weekend warrior to a daily heavy drinker and drug user and she struggled with severe depression.

Steven experienced it too. He'd been a multi-drug user and used heroin on and off nasally for a few years before treatment. He hadn't behaved in the desperate ways of an addict yet and knew he would never inject drugs. But within a week following his stay at an inpatient treatment program (a program that featured seven 12-step based sessions a day) he began injecting heroin, stealing from his family to support his drug use, and became the desperate junkie stereotype that the addiction treatment providers taught him to become. He remembers vividly being told in rehab, "You're not done yet. You'll be shooting up soon. They all do." And that's exactly what he did. Prior to this treatment the idea of shooting up was foreign and he never considered it an option. That point is important for you to know. Consequently, once crossing that learned line, his spirit was crushed. This was the beginning of 5 years of hell for him as the fatalism of his new addict self-image ate away at his life.

We see people with crushed spirits like this every day. One of the worst symptoms of this is that they go from simply wanting or liking intoxication to needing it. Again, they don't really need it. They've learned that they need it through the "help" and "awareness" offered by the recovery society. They go from thinking substance use is something they like right now, to feeling like it's a compulsion they'll be stuck with for the rest of their lives.

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