There is a common idea that has been promoted over the past 70 years that people who struggle with addiction will do better if they have a support system of some kind. It might be a family that supports sobriety, a work environment that supports abstinence, or “recovery” centered therapy that supports the person’s choice to stop getting drunk and/or high, or the various meetings associated with recovery. But do support systems actually increase a person’s chances of staying sober? Do people need meetings in order to stay sober?  Are they required for an individual to moderate their habits?

Addiction Defined: Is Addiction External or is it Internal?

In order for us to know that an external support system is a boon to someone’s change in habits, one must first define addiction as either an internal personal phenomenon, or as an external to the individual phenomenon. If addiction is something internal to the individual; in other words, if it is chosen by the individual; and if it is not defined as a disease; and can be changed by choice, then support systems tend to mean less in the overall situation. However, if addiction is seen as something that “happens to you”; if it’s seen as a disease and as something the individual is “susceptible to” and has no control to change, then an external support system becomes important in the person’s fight against their foe, addiction. These two views are polar opposites – one believes addiction happens to you due to the power of substances, while the other view is internal believing that we choose our addictions and habits.

External – Is it True?

The external view of addiction is a construct of the last century. While the idea that alcohol and drugs have certain “powers” over the human mind is as old as the use of the substances themselves, that view was generally held as hyperbole until the advent of Alcoholics Anonymous in 1935. It was not until then that human free will was marginalized and replaced with the “powers of substances” mythology that is so oft repeated in modern times. The disease of addiction concept mythology is the climax of this external viewpoint. The idea that drugs overtake one’s will is no longer a metaphor in modern society – but is actually believed to be real, and support systems are needed to combat a disease that overtakes your internal will. You essentially are controlled via an external substance, and therefore an external agent – a “support”, is used to prop you up.

Here is why the distinction between an external view of addiction and an internal view of addiction matters in regards to the need for support. Let us use a simple analogy. If a picnic table is missing a leg, it will need a support of some kind when someone sits on it. This is obvious. The support may be a piece of wood brought over and nailed on, or a pile of bricks stacked under the corner of the missing leg, etc. The point is – something other than the existing table is needed to prop up the broken table. The table cannot just grow a new leg – one needs to be brought in, constructed and placed in the correct position. This is an external support – it was brought over, nailed on, stacked up, and propped the damaged table. The reason is obvious – the table is broken, it is missing the leg. The only time we need an external means of supporting something is when that something is literally broken or missing. This makes sense in the physical realm of such things as tables, cars, and the like. But when we begin discussing people’s desires, feelings and drives, this idea that each of them could be “broken” and in need of some propping up via external means such as a support network becomes, well a bit ill fitting doesn’t it.

So much of what we say, when said more deliberately and thoughtfully, will provide us some answers. If you need support to overcome addiction, you are saying you are broken. Not only are you saying you are broken, but you are saying that you are broken based on the will of a substance. This is logically impossible because a substance is lifeless, it has no will of its own – yet we act as if it overtakes our will; our free will. We use disease terms such as relapse and treatment for the disease when describing our habits. While debunking the disease myth has been accomplished over and over again, the finer points of that argument are better left to another article. Let us suffice to say – there is no disease of addiction. That is simply a fact. However, the belief that there is one is the crux of the problem. If the belief is intact in the individual – it is not different than actually being diseased. You see the disease of addiction is shrouded in feelings, drives, and other invisible, intangibles. And so, if the belief that your drives are skewed “by the diseased”, that your choices are not yours, but rather the bidding of the “powers of heroin”, etc., then it is no different than actually being diseased. In short – beliefs matter.

The Choice is Yours

So do you need support or aftercare of some sort to overcome an addiction? If you believe addiction is something to overcome, then yes. If you believe your will is not your own, but the bidding of a substance, then you better get support to block you from that substance and the use of it. But if you decide at some point to challenge those beliefs, and debunk the myths  – then you might be ready to bring back your infinite power – the power to choose. In this case there is no need for support, nor any battle to be waged. Rather, there are just choices to be made based on what you actually prefer. That my friends is freedom – freedom from recovery, freedom from addiction, freedom from a neediness and support. That is bringing the power back where it belongs – internally, where it has always been.