People will always have various definitions of addiction and the appropriate modality/ies of treatment. There are two major study guides I have compiled on the topic. If combined, the study guides would easily be a workbook of nearly 100 pages, probably not of interest in the long haul for the people who read my blog/vlog. Such is the life of any thoughtful student.
At what point do we consider people to be scholars?
At what point do we find ourselves walking along a trajectory in real-time, shoulder to shoulder with people who are raising questions like these?
The real fun of this piece is the fact that I’m sharing one chapter from a book, and answers to the questions Dr. Bradford assigned. It is basically a workbook for a book, but please please bear in mind…
We are nearing Thanksgiving. I don’t know many people who would grab the salt shaker and start salting everything on the plate before eating. How would that make the cook feel? How do you know the cook hasn’t already added salt during the cooking process. I encourage you to enjoy the meal, and perhaps add salt after a few bites if you like.
I’ll also add some thoughts from my perspective now, looking back on the writings.
Name 3 things wrong with calling a destructive habit a disease.
The first is that it isn’t true. The second is that it doesn’t help people (and even those it does help might succeed just as well in some less costly, less limiting way). The third thing that is wrong is that it prevents us from doing things that really would help (p. 21).
- These are strong statements for the time of the book and they are strong statements today. However, researchers have offered a wealth of support along the way (i.e. strengths-based research, positive psychology, and even empirically researched Christian practices).
How did the disease model originate?
The disease model started with a set of precepts that were adopted by a small group of severe, long-term alcoholics in the 1930’s. Their ideas were applied inappropriately to people with a wide range of drinking problems. The original group adopted the Temperance Movement ideal that alcoholism is a disease, however A.A. considered it only for themselves, not for everybody else (p. 25-26).
What factors play a role in reliably determining what people will become addicted?
Instead of biological predictors, addiction is more likely to occur in certain nationalities, social classes, and in certain social groups. What matters are the group’s beliefs and expectations about alcohol or drugs. One faulty mindset is that a substance or an experience has magical powers to transform someone’s being (such as “Drinking makes me attractive to people of the opposite sex”). Another irrational thought is that people who become addicted often believe that they can’t achieve the feelings they need in ordinary ways. Attitudes, values, and opportunities are important environmental factors as well (p. 27).
What are the disadvantages of the disease approach?
There are many disadvantages of the disease approach. It attacks people’s feelings of personal control (enabling those who return with a self-fulfilling prophecy that they can’t fix things). It makes mountains out of molehills failing to draw the line between hard-core addicts and minor substance-use dependence. The disease approach stigmatizes people for life. It interrupts normal maturation (that often overcomes addictions naturally). The disease approach presents role models who have been the worst addicts. It isolates addictions from the rest of a person’s life. The disease approach limits a person’s social context to friends who are preoccupied with their addictions. It is too rigid and is founded, “on hunch, not evidence, and not on science,” according to the Director of the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (p. 31).
- On the issue of identity, the term addicted is used in Scripture. It is not used as an identifier (i.e. as something that is attached to one’s identity). It is used in regards to activity, whether the activity of God or man (Matthew 28.16; Luke 7.8; Acts 13.48; 15.2; 22.10; 28.23; Romans 13.1; 1 Corinthians 16.15).
It’s my opinion…
- …that since the word addicted is often translated as appointed or ordained, then most of the references above do not qualify as addictive behavior, at least in the sense that we use the term today.
- 1 Corinthians 16.15 seems to be one of the closest examples of addictive behavior, and it’s a reference to becoming addicted to ministry. Therefore, I strongly dislike any language that attaches people to former lifestyle habits, especially Christians (see 2 Corinthians 5.17).
- I often witness an addiction to ministry among people who are trying to put former things behind them. These people have taken a turn for the better. They throw themselves into a good cause, church life, family life, work, etc.
- It’s good for Christians to have causes on-the-ready, real-time ways for people to enter a breezeway, so to speak. The doors to the former life have closed. In real ways, they need to participate in the good work for a little while in the breezeway. All the while, the church can assist them before God opens the next set of doors.
Why would people be more likely to relapse if they entered Alcoholics Anonymous (A.A.) than if they quit drinking on their own?
A.A. sets up people for failure. People are told that they cannot succeed on their own. If they every stop attending A.A., their convinced that they’ll return to addiction. People are told that they’ll never be able to drink in a controlled manner. The disease-oriented philosophy promotes an inevitable loss of control. It forces them to believe that any substance use for the rest of their lives will lead them back to addiction (p. 32-33).
- Again, historically A.A. members did not seem to vilify drinking. They considered alcoholism a disease only for them, so they would not have endorsed the demon rum mantra of the Temperance Movement. I’m really not sure historically if the Temperance Movement did our nation any good, other than cleaning up Chicago somewhat.
- In contrast, A.A. members do not believe that others cannot drink. They merely recognize that it had become a problem for themselves. My stance about A.A. has softened over time, however there are also Christian faith-based initiatives to consider as well.
What is an addiction?
According to the book, addiction is a habitual response and a source of gratification or security. People stay addicted as long as their gratification outweighs the cost. It’s also defined as the single-minded grasping of a magic-seeming object or involvement; the loss of control, perspective, and priorities (p. 42).
- The key term here, if you haven’t picked up on it already, is habitual. One of the key premises of the book is habitual behavior, instead of the disease model.
When is a person vulnerable to addiction?
A person is vulnerable when there’s a lack of satisfaction; absence of intimacy or connections; lack of self-confidence; lack of compelling interests; loss of hope; lack of family and community support; and lack of constructive activities. When people stress, fear, get uncomfortable, and lose control, they are more susceptible. Contexts where these factors add up are adolescence, the military, times of isolation or grief, and in ghettos, barrios, boroughs, etc. (p. 42-43).
What is the “hook” of addiction?
The “hook” of addiction is that, “it gives people feelings and gratifying sensations that they are not able to get in other ways.” It gets rid of pain, discomfort, etc. In makes the person seem invincible and increases personal good vibes. It, “accomplishes something for that person, or the person anticipates that it will do so” (p. 43).
Assemblies of God Theological Seminary, April 30, 2002).
 Stanton Peele, Archie Brodsky, and Mary Arnold, “Why it Doesn’t Make Sense to Call Addiction a ‘Disease,'” The Truth About Addiction and Recovery: The Life Process Program for Outgrowing Destructive Habits (New York, NY: Fireside, 1991), 19-46.
- I normally adhere to Turabian style. However, since this is a workbook for one book, I am only including the page numbers in the citation.