We consider the following observation to be self-evident: every single person, in everything they do, is just trying to achieve/maintain a happy existence.
As simple as that statement is, it's turned out to be the most important insight we've had over the past three decades of running our retreats. It's important for understanding heavy substance use habits, and it's important for making changes in substance use habits. We call it the Positive Drive Principle or PDP for short, and define it simply as a drive to pursue happiness. We definitely aren't the first to make this observation. Great thinkers over the ages have noted it frequently.
When it comes to choices that aren't seen as good or benign - the choices that are seen as too costly, irrational, or risky- many people have a hard time seeing happiness as the motive. They think the person making those choices must be sick, dysfunctional, or inherently immoral in some way. The prime example here is heavy substance use. As you saw above, and earlier in the text there are plenty of reasons people prefer substance use, and they all boil down to a pursuit of happiness. But then there's that nasty issue of the costs and consequences. And indeed many people often don't prefer their heavy substance use in hindsight. The outcomes can be quite costly monetarily, legally, mentally, emotionally, socially, and physically. With experience, these costs become completely predictable and are often known and thought about when choosing that next drink or hit. The prevailing school of thought is, 'Nobody would freely choose such destructive behaviors.' This is the argument we hear most often in favor of the idea that there is a state of involuntary behavior called addiction.
It's time that we break down that argument and challenge it thoroughly. What it's really saying is the fact that a particular behavior or choice is extremely costly proves that it is involuntary. Or, another way of understanding this is that irrational choices are impossible, and so if a behavior turns out to be irrational in the final analysis then it must have been compelled rather than freely chosen.
We know that many of you will have your doubts. You think, 'it can't be this simple'. You may feel that your substance use must be out of your control in some way, that there must be a deeper darker truth to why you feel stuck. If you didn't believe this then you wouldn't have sought any help. It is essential that you rediscover your freedom, and do away with the addict self-image that creates these doubts once and for all. The following chapters will explain why you feel this way, and how you got there, so that you can eventually shed this destructive self-image.