Saturday, March 17, 2018

"The Freedom Model..." -- An Empowering Perspective on Substance Use

"The Freedom Model for Addictions: Escape the Treatment and Recovery Trap" is a book that has a unique, intriguing, and ultimately empowering perspective. The work is very much worth reading especially for those with an interest in the recreational use of alcohol and drugs, and the treatment and recovery processes prevalent in our society. 

I found the statistics on how many so-called addicts resolve their problems on their own, e.g., upward of 90% for alcohol, marijuana and cocaine, quite surprising. (page 22) 

Of course, you have to want to moderate or quit. (page 31 et seq.)  That is the basic message throughout this book.

Some other key concepts contained in the book follow:
·     "Moderate use [of alcohol and drugs] is possible for anyone, because loss of control is a myth." (page 11)
·     "The Freedom Model says...that people are actively and freely choosing each time they take a dose of drugs or alcohol, and that one simple thing motivates them to do so: the pursuit of happiness." (page 18)  Also referred to as the Positive Drive Principle (PDP). (page 121)
·      Pleasure "is the primary reason people prefer to be intoxicated." (page 67)
·     Determining whether your current substance use makes you happy enough or you'd be happier with some level of change is everything." (page 140)
·     With regard to the terms “problematic,“ heavy,” and “moderate/adjusted” substance use, the authors note that “we haven’t defined what levels or those descriptions...These are all subjective terms, the definitions of which will vary according to everyone’s personal judgment.”  (page 207)

I didn't agree with all that the authors said.  This statement, for example: "[C]hoices are made in the pursuit of happiness and that there are no exceptions."  (page 125)  This statement ignores the fact that sometimes we are forced to choose between the lesser of two evils—not to be happy but to be less unhappy.  To cite a drastic example, consider a man on death row choosing between hanging or firing squad.  Or as happened to many during the Viet Nam War, go to jail or join the Army.  Is either seeking happiness?  Obviously not.  The are deciding on the less painful choice.

I also found the chapters (17 and 18) on Questioning Drug Effects, and The Illusion of Emotional Relief (respectively), often unpersuasive, especially regarding the authors' reliance on a pharmacological analyses.  The authors’ seeming indifference to catalytic impact also bothered me.  However they did allude to catalytic impact on page 293 where they noted, "The emotional stress relief some people feel at some times while using substances is coming from their own minds."

Another problem I found was that there was much repetition in the book which tended to detract.  Perhaps the authors were just trying to hammer things home.

However, I especially liked that the authors suggest at the end of Chapter 9 that some people will by the time they read through the first nine chapters (the first 172 pages of 469 pages total, including 90 pages of Appendices), they will be able to see through the treatment and recovery ruse, and feel free to change.  In other words, for some, the book ended there.  Those "caught deeper in the trap of recovery mythology" were encouraged to read on.  I would describe myself as NOT being in the latter group but kept reading anyway and was not disappointed for having done so.  There was much more worthwhile reading that followed.

Chapter 21, on The Benefits of Adjusted Substance Use, I found somewhat perplexing.  After referring to “moderation” numerous times previously throughout the book, in Chapter 21 the authors used a different term in its place, i.e., “adjusted substance abuse.” This seemed like a matter of semantics, but the authors disputed that notion saying, “This term, adjusted substance abuse, is not about just a matter of semantics [sic]. The point of it is to get you to think of what you would have to adjust to get better, happier, more satisfying life results for yourself.”  (page 343)

Fair enough.  And I did appreciate the list that immediately followed regarding the “potential adjustments” that can be made to change substance use habits, e.g., using less per occasion, using safer substances, etc.

In a segment discussing the pitfalls of goal setting toward the end of the text (page 370), the authors express their message very effectively, essentially advising readers to ask themselves “one simple question.  Do you believe that you can be happier reducing/quitting your substance use than you can by continuing as it is?  That’s it.  That’s all you need to know.  If you don’t believe you will be happier [or less unhappy, in my view], then you will not be motivated to change.”

Agreed.  It’s a question that those folks wondering whether they should quit, moderate, or adjust their substance intake, need to ask themselves.  No doubt about it, you’ve got to WANT to change.