Puzzled by the Governing Approach to Addiction? It's All About "Hitting Bottom"

05/11/2011 22:38 GMT | Updated 05/01/2012 10:12 GMT

If you wish to understand the governing approach to addictions - if you wish to achieve a profound grasp - then focus your mind's eye on the ideology of hitting bottom: suffering and degradation as the purported "cure" for a substance use disorder. A woman who has been through this nightmare wrote to me a few weeks back:

"I'd like to write to you again about my experiences in treatment Hell and with physicians and psychiatrists and 12 Steppers urging me to go out to crash to a lower bottom ... How it led to losing more years of my life and almost led to my death if I wasn't such an endurance runner. I've been alone (or "isolating" if you use AA-speak) for over a decade with my opinions against the mainstream about addiction. Until I read an excerpt of your book last night ... Thank you Peter."

Please dwell on this for a moment: not just some yahoos in 12 Step fellowships, but professionals responsible for her health and safety actually told this woman about her supposed need to mess herself up even more!

Since then she has read my whole book, and we've communicated quite a bit. It all inspired me to write a column on how the dominant approach to addictions revolves around this one idea: hit bottom and suffer because that's what you need.

1. Let's start with drug prohibition. One purported solution to a drug problem is prison and a criminal record. Despite all evidence that this nonsense makes problems worse, the system persists.

2. Consider the plight of a drug addicted female sex trade worker. She might be told by the "helping" professions that if she isn't ready to kick, it is because she has yet to hit bottom. We all know that, for her, that bottom will likely involve beatings and rapes. Only with drug-addicted women does the system still have the gall to advocate what really amounts to rape: it's good for you, don't you know, because it will help you get off drugs. Oh, someone might feel that way about other women, but only with the drug addicted can it be stated so brazenly.

I have said plenty on HuffPo about how this has no bearing in fact: all the evidence has confirmed the opposite - people are more likely to leave their addictions in response to positive developments, whereas tragedy and degradation have consistently been shown to reinforce, and usually to exasperate, the drug using behavior.

Think with me: please stop and really think about what an unadulterated monstrosity the ideology of hitting bottom really is. It's not another "valid" point of view worthy of debate, no more so than Nazism or witch burning. It's bullshit, plain and simple.

Third and final example:

3. Consider the hardline abstinence principle. The idea is that one should not assist efforts to moderate, or efforts to use less frequently - again because these efforts might interfere with the suffering one needs to finally accept complete abstinence. Apparently, you mustn't render someone less self-destructive or less desperate along the way because "that only keeps them in their addiction." Too bad if the evidence is unequivocal: a vast majority who abstain only accomplish that after a few years of slowing down now and then, stopping and starting - essentially imperfect but meaningful efforts. Like it or not, that's the necessary preparation in all but a few rare cases. Yet any effort to assist with that process - one that by now has been proven to be necessary - is derided by the abstinence pushers as useless or even detrimental (they call it "enabling").

All three stupidities share one main feature: an insistence that suffering and degradation are someone's ticket to liberation. Many who push this tripe are well meaning but mistaken. Others have simply found an oasis for the expression of their vilest sentiments. Either way, they participate in genocide: the killing and degradation of an identifiable group.

Think about the Robert Pickton case in Vancouver, involving the kidnapping and murder of drug addicted sex trade workers. Think of the way many justify similar acts in their own minds (and to their friends) with notions of how certain people have it coming anyway.

Get your head around that - let it sink in - and you will start to understand the governing approach to addictions.

When we finally get past this whole thing - war on drugs, hitting bottom, abstinence only - future generations will perceive it all much as we, today, perceive monstrosities like the persecution of witches and the Inquisition.

The governing approach to addictions is an abomination, and a powerful one at that. But the ideology of hitting bottom is the jugular. Take that out, and the edifice will collapse.