Friday, May 15, 2009

Drugs Don't Work

(pick your favorite artist for the song above: Morphine, Radiohead, Ben Harper. They've all come to the same conclusion)

A couple of weeks ago a gentleman came to our Chemical Recovery (CR) meeting with a serious alcohol problem. His doctor told him he needed to quit drinking or his liver would fail. He's in his 30s.

We introduced the program to him, explained that we are faith-based, and reminded him of the first three steps of AA:

1. We admitted we were powerless over alcohol - that our lives had become unmanageable.

2. Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.

3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.

He surrendered to the first, but couldn't accept the second or especially the third. He believed there was a God, but wouldn't turn to Him to overcome his addiction. He strongly believed there had to be an easier way and was going to try medical treatment.

Treating addiction has an interesting history. Traditionally, before 12-step programs, the addict was either jailed (the drunk tank), shunned by his community (the local drunk), or institutionalized (the thorazine shuffle). Addiction was either a legal or medical problem. It wasn't until the Oxford Group started to take hold that addiction was considered a spiritual issue. Alcoholics Anonymous recognized the need to surrender to a higher power, but also the need for community support (the group). Interestingly, when alcohol was introduced to Native Americans, their treatment consisted of taking the alcoholic out to the wilderness to "return him to his roots" with the support of a couple of close friends. So community and spirituality are key to recovery.

Medical treatment sidesteps these two critical ingredients. A recent article on MSN Health discussed a drug that inhibits the pleasure part of the brain that is stimulated by alcohol. The theory goes that if you keep drinking, eventually you'll miss the effect and quit. I'm reminded by the Big Book that "the great obsession of every abnormal drinker is to control and enjoy his drinking." This medicine claims to take away the joy and allow the abnormal drinker to control, or even quit his drinking. The article is filled with mixed reviews of this method, but only twice in two pages does the possibility that it's not just about "enjoying the drink" even get mentioned, raising the possibility of turning to other drugs, or more importantly never dealing with the root causes like depression. That's why those two ingredients of spirituality and community are so important.

A brother once asked me if CR really worked because if you quit drinking, what keeps you from picking something else up? Spirituality and community. Spirituality gives you a hope and a purpose- the will to overcome, while community gives you accountability and help. Medications don't offer either of these.

"When an evil spirit comes out of a man, it goes through arid places seeking rest and does not find it. Then it says, 'I will return to the house I left.' When it arrives, it finds the house unoccupied, swept clean and put in order. Then it goes and takes with it seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there. And the final condition of that man is worse than the first. That is how it will be with this wicked generation." (Mt 12:43-45)

You can drive out all the evil spirits, so to speak, you want with miscellaneous treatments. But until you fill your house with the Spirit of God, your "final condition... [will be] worse than the first."

More to come on this subject

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