There is a great book that came out recently, Chasing the Scream, by Johann Hari, a powerful voice to add to the ever growing choir that is trying to rehabilitate the rehab industry and shift the paradigm on how we view addiction and treatment of substance use/misuse. With this in mind, I decided to repost an old “position piece” of mine (see below). (By the way, the other voices to note are that of Stanton Peele (Diseasing of America) and of Andrew Tatarsky, the leading expert on harm reduction approaches to substance use treatment).
In my previous work as a clinical director of a drug and alcohol treatment program in a county jail and in my current outpatient work with substance use clients I continuously come across a certain iatrogenic (treatment-related) legacy of powerlessness which stems directly from the 1st of the 12 Steps of the AA/NA philosophy (“We admitted we were powerless over our addiction – that our lives had become unmanageable”).
I get it: admitting that you have a problem is a psychologically healthy thing. But admitting that you are powerless to solve it?! What a self-deflating stumble of a step to start a journey of recovery… What were Bill W. and Dr. Bob thinking?!
Perhaps, Bill W. and Dr. Bob were trying to pull off a bit of East-West synthesis? Perhaps, the thinking was that surrender or letting go of one’s attachment to the idea of being in control …