It was 1988, I was 18 years old, I had a significant drug and alcohol habit, and I found myself falling apart at the seams. I was emotionally depressed, and filled with anxiety. I knew adulthood was looming over the horizon, and I felt totally lost and ill-equipped to move to that next stage of responsibility and lifestyle. I was like the many thousands of adolescents who are frightened to move forward and who find being wasted a nice distraction from impending adulthood. That December night, I drank myself to oblivion like I had done a thousand times before, and decided to try to outrun the troopers to avoid the speeding ticket and the DUI charge I was assured to receive should they actually catch me. This event was simply the bookend of a long run of misfortune and bad decision making while under the influence; just one more chaotic affair in my short life. I crashed while the troopers were in pursuit, somehow skirting serious injury to myself or my two buddies sitting next to me in the cab of the truck. This was just dumb luck as I’d watched the speedometer bouncing off the limiter when I locked up my brakes to make the corner before losing control and plowing into a pine tree.
Sitting in the holding cell, sore and bloody after my arrest, I determined I should quit boozing, quit the cocaine use, and make an attempt at rebuilding my life. In a way, that accident and arrest were exactly what I needed. I did stop drinking and using drugs, and I set out to challenge myself with finding a career I would enjoy and making something of myself. During the next six months of voluntary sobriety I made progress and felt better physically than I had in years. It felt good to be moving forward!
But then something changed my upward trajectory: the courts decided my progress should include a year of intensive outpatient “drug rehab”, along with nightly AA and NA meetings. I argued with the judge explaining that I’d already quit drugs and alcohol and was making significant progress, and that I did so voluntarily. He said, “It doesn’t matter, Mr. Scheeren, the law deems you an alcoholic, and you need treatment.” I knew the game, but I did not understand why society would place treatment ahead of the progress I’d already obviously made on my own. And “alcoholic” seemed a bit overboard, but I knew this game too. I’d watched my older brothers and sisters go through the rehab scam. I’d spent many days and nights at rehabs on visitation days, and in AA meetings with them. Now it was my turn. It depressed me, but I didn’t have any choice – either complete the year of treatment, or never get my license or freedom back.
Drug and Alcohol Treatment Harms People
Tragically, treatment does not help people – it harms them. It harmed me and I’ve watched it harm many others. By the time I completed my mandated “treatment” I had taken on the identity and self-image of the alcoholic as was required. Any progress I had made prior to my sentence was marginalized and mocked by the addiction “experts”, and I once again felt lost and hopeless. The “experts” taught me I would always crave drugs and alcohol, and that I would always be in need of some form of treatment. They said, the only way I could keep my addiction at bay would be to stay in daily routines that kept me from being “triggered” and in risk of relapse. Now mind you, I never thought any of these things about myself or had any of these ideas prior to being mandated to treatment – these were all ideas and theories that I’d learned while being “helped.” Most of it I rejected initially, as I still had some self confidence from my days of rejuvenation after the accident. But in time, the counselors, therapists and my peers in meetings worked on me and eroded that confidence. They saw self confidence as egoism that was “dangerous to my sobriety.” I needed to humble myself to the disease and accept powerlessness and kneel before the church of forever recovery. And so, in time, I did – and pieces of me died inside with every belief they peddled, until once again I was filled with depression and anxiety. Except now it was worse, much worse – I was an alcoholic, and without careful treatment I’d always be susceptible to allure of substances. I’d never be free, just another hapless addict in remission. I wanted to die.
It is a sad commentary on the state of addiction treatment in the United States, when the substance user’s chances of moving past their habit goes down as a result of their treatment. This unfortunately is the norm here in the US, and abroad where Western style disease-based treatment has been exported. There are many reasons why people get worse as a result of going to rehab, but the fundamental foundation of this lowered success is rooted in the idea that “addicts” and “alcoholics” are powerless over their consumption of drugs and alcohol. This statement is not true – but it becomes true when you believe it. Treatment needs you to be a victim so they can be the answer for you. Treatment creates dependence, not on drugs and alcohol, but on treatment for the use of them. You exchange the hopelessness you feel while getting drunk and high, for the hopelessness that treatment spells out for you. “You will never be free of it.” They say. “You will always be an addict, and you have to accept that if you want to get well.” Once you believe these ideas, you then become a ward of the treatment complex, and once you are a part of that complex, you are trapped in it forever.
80 Years of Failed Disease-Based Myths
But today, after more than 80 years of “treating the disease of addiction” people are seeing that the problem is getting worse; much worse. This raises a serious question; if we’re spending more on treatment, and more people are being mandated or are entering treatment than ever before, why are less people “recovering”, and moving past their addictions?
In 1988, when I was struggling, annual spending on addiction and alcoholism treatment had reached 9 $9B. Today, we spend over $36B (both publicly and privately) annually on the treatment of addiction. Adjusted for inflation, the U.S. is now on track to spend more than twice as much on treatment in 2020 than we were in the 1980s: (*When adjusted for inflation, $9B in 1986 is the approximate equivalent of $20B in 2018.)
And with all this treatment for addiction, the rate of people moving past their addiction is actually going down. Look at the following chart:
What these two charts tell us is that treatment harms people. It is not a neutral experience. It is not a helpful or successful experience. Rather, it lowers an individual’s likelihood of solving their problem.
Spending More, Providing More, but Helping Less
When I’ve shown people that treatment is harmful by demonstrating these facts, they ask, “Isn’t The Freedom Model treatment?” That is a great question. The answer is no. The Freedom Model is the antidote to the message that treatment is necessary and that people are victims of a lifelong disease called addiction. The Freedom Model provides a path out of the very treatment system I was thrust into as a young man. By providing the truth that people get past their addictions at a rate greater than 90% regardless of their level of use, the type of substance, and if they went to treatment or not – is there any reason to send someone to treatment at all? If your rate of success goes down because of the very myths that are promoted in treatment, then shouldn’t treatment be avoided altogether?
What I was taught in treatment was a series of myths: the brain disease myth, the loss of control myth, the need for lifelong recovery myth, the need for ongoing treatment myth, the trigger theory myth, the theory of denial myth, the list goes on and on. I was lucky, I held onto a sliver of my autonomy; my free will and my own pursuits of happiness. I outgrew all of those myths and learned to be free from the treatment industry’s cult-like lies and I have devoted my life and my career to helping others to break from the treatment and recovery trap. It is time for a real change. It’s time to change the way people with addictions are treated and helped. It’s time to show people that they are in control, have always been in control and are addicted because they prefer the object of their addiction. People can and do change a preference. As a matter of fact, based on the consistent data, more than 90% do – that is, until they go to treatment.