Phillip Seymour Hoffman did not have choice or free will and neither do you.

Phillip Seymour Hoffman 1967-2014

Phillip Seymour Hoffman 1967-2014

In the wake of the tragic loss of Phillip Seymour Hoffman, a great artist, partner, father, brother, and son, I offer the following facts about the neurological disease of addiction.

The overwhelming majority of adults in the western world have passed through experimental stages in their lives where they have dabbled with some kind of brain altering addictive substance, i.e., cigarettes, alcohol, prescriptionpain killers, ADHD medication, anti-anxiety medication, and yes, even marijuana (save the ‘it’s not addictive” arguments for later, please).  And the overwhelming majority of these adults will emerge from their experiments unscathed, believing that their free will and good choices are what saved them from becoming addicted.

The problem with this thinking is that it is factually incorrect.  In other words, they are all wrong.

What saved them (you) from becoming addicted is that their brains did not respond in the same way that an addict’s brain does. They were born with a resistance to addiction. Their free will and good choices had nothing to do with it.

It is time for all of us who got through unscathed to stop patting ourselves on the back for our genetic good luck, and it is time to stop judging those who were not born with the same good genes as defective.

About Phillip Seymour Hoffman, a relapsing drug addict, you may have had the thoughts, “He knew better.” or “Shame on him for throwing his life away.”

Let’s look at these ideas through the lens of how the brain actually works. Yes, he “knew better.” He ‘knew better’ in the frontal lobes of his brain, where we all execute our better judgment and can make calculations of our behaviors and circumstances based on risk and reward.

Here’s the problem, the activity of our frontal lobes can be shut down by the other parts of our brain when there is significant stress in our body. This comes from what is called the “fight, flight, freeze, or faint” mechanism.

This mechanism in the brain is hard-wired into each of us for survival purposes. It is the part of the brain that puts someone into shock when they have been injured and/or traumatized. It is also the part of the brain that can allow a person to lift a car by themselves if their loved one or someone they care about is in danger.

The brain does not analyze the type of stress it is experiencing, that is, this ‘fight or flight mechanism’ is binary. It functions on a “yes” or “no” basis.  “Yes,” there is enough stress to activate the mechanism or “no,” there is not enough stress to activate the mechanism. Human beings have no control over when this mechanism is activated.

This is how PTSD works. Seemingly innocuous sights, sounds, smells or sensations trigger this brain mechanism even when there is no actual threat to the person. The stress in the body is not even consciously recognizable to the person with PTSD. The brain reacts to the trigger and the person is put into the experience of being threatened without choice or control because the frontal lobes cannot get their signals through. When this mechanism is activated free will and choice become impossible. This is true for each and every human being on the planet, whether we like it or not.

The brain of an addict, Phillip Seymour Hoffman in this case, experiences withdrawal symptoms as stress. And since it operates on a binary system, it does not sort out “good” stress (I’m so sick because I’m kicking heroin-good for me!) from “bad” stress (I’m so sick because I’m kicking heroin I’d better call a doctor). The brain only knows if the stress is present or not and how much stress is present.

When withdrawal symptoms, i.e., physical distress, anxiety caused by emotional stress, etc. reach a certain point in the brain, the brain automatically cuts off the access to the frontal lobes (in a manner of speaking) and begins to direct the body rebalance the stress, to find equilibrium, so that the brain can return to “normal” functioning.

“Normal” functioning to the brain of an addict is defined as having the addictive substance in the body. So while any relapsing addict “knows better,” the addict literally cannot access the part of his brain where his/her better judgment is stored. The addict loses his choice and free will and is at the mercy of his brain which is in extreme stress and working to regain it’s equilibrium, at any cost, i.e., get more of the addictive substance.

The idea of losing choice, of relinquishing free will, is unthinkable to most of us, especially those of us fortunate enough to live in the U.S. where we have so many choices in so many areas of our lives. Also, human consciousness defends heavily against the possibility of ‘no choice’ which is paradoxical considering we each carry a brain mechanism that removes choice, but I digress.

Suffice it to say that according to our brain physiology, choice and no choice are equally important to the survival of the species. The problem is that we humans are only conscious of the importance of choice (and the free will to make those choices).

Over the centuries, mankind has had tremendous difficulty acknowledging and treating brain disorders of all kinds.  And we haven’t made much progress in our supposed “enlightened” age of civil rights either.  Consider this, it was less than 50 years ago that 90+% of those born with Down’s syndrome were institutionalized for life.  Also, in spite of (or maybe because of?) a tremendous increase in the diagnoses of brain disorders in the last 40 years, all but a small percentage of treatment centers and publicly funded programs for treatment have been permanently shut down.

What we have on our hands in the U.S. is a mental health, i.e., brain health, crisis. This is abundantly clear to us every time someone with a serious brain disorder buys an assault rifle. Actually, those instances are but the tip of a gigantic iceberg. And even though we have had great breakthroughs in neuroscience, we are woefully lagging behind in treating people who suffer and offering support to their families.

How did this happen? There are more than a few ways to answer that question. One of the important answers is that we are naturally defensive against the idea that brain disorders which disconnect us from our free will exist. It’s too frightening an idea to consider, so we come up with stories.

A century or more ago our stories revolved around the idea that the person suffering was possessed by demons, and that these demons ran in the family. Perhaps the person’s mother was possessed? May she was a witch? Someone in that family must have sinned and now they are being punished, etc.

It was stories like these that ran so strongly through our cultures that families up until, well now, actually hid loved ones away in mental institutions and even disavowed knowledge or connection to them in order to avoid the stigma that would be placed on the healthy family members also.

We have made some progress, but as Mr. Hoffman’s death painfully points out, not nearly enough. We seem to have compassion and some amount of treatment and support available for those who have schizophrenia, psychosis, delusional disorder, autism, and Downs syndrome.  (It’s not nearly enough treatment and support and the families and loved ones of those with these disorders suffer an enormous amount financially, emotionally, and physically with the burden of lifetime care of those who live with these challenges.)

Outside of these few of the many neurological disorders that exist we lose all compassion and concern for people and their families who are suffering, and we tell a modern day version of the demon possession story about them.

We continue to isolate and reject people suffering from a physiological disorder of the brain and force their families and loved ones to bear the lifetime burden of their care in shame and silence, in 2014, in the wealthiest nation the planet has ever known.

Our stories about these people who look so normal, so successful, on the outside but whose lives come crumbling down upon them or are cut ridiculously short no longer revolve around possession by evil spirits but by a defect in their character (selfish, lazy, greedy, arrogant, gluttonous, apathetic, hedonistic, etc.), a defect in their temperament (evil, violent, narcissistic, vain, eccentric, etc.) or a defect in their judgement or intelligence (immature, moron, idiot, being an a**hole).

In the absence of knowledge about how the brain functions these stories created theories about the causes of these behaviors (moral corruption, low character) and consequences which mirrored our cultural value system (it’s their own fault, they got what they deserved).  Out of our stories came ideas on how to avoid these behaviors (work hard, believe in God, be kind to others), consequences of these behaviors (why goes around comes around, God helps those who help themselves) and systems of support to uphold the implementation of these ideas (church, 12 step, therapy). Sometimes the theories, ideas for correction and the support systems even work, but sadly, not most of the time.

All of the above stories/theories are normal individual and cultural adaptations to the unexplainable. This is how we humans learn and grow. Gratefully, these days few if any people think a person with a phobia has had a spell cast upon him by a witch and now needs an exorcism while the family and neighbors have to find and lynch the witch.

Neither is a person with an addiction suffering from poor character, temperament, or judgment from which he can be cured with hard work, belief in God, attendance at church, 12 step and therapy. (Hang in there, recovered and recovering 12 steppers. I’m on your side. See ** below.)

What we fail to see is  a) how self-serving these old stories are, and b) how ineffective our current treatment modalities are (see #a). Our theories about addiction don’t really exist to explain the illogical behavior of someone who is suffering, but mostly to separate ourselves from that behavior with the assurance that what has happened to that “loser” won’t happen to us. And when the need to distance ourselves from that “loser” is satisfied we don’t bother to fact check our theories. Nor to we bother to notice if the treatment schemas we’ve created even work (they don’t).  Rather good proof that our theories are self-serving, don’t you think?

We also fail to notice the fear and sadness that comes up for us when we hear of the tragedies that befall those with high-functioning neurological disorders, especially now. It’s 2014 and tragedies like the death of Phillip Seymour Hoffman have been happening steadily for 40+ years, with no end and no answer in sight. In light of this kind of repetitive hopelessness we are left with little choice but to blame the victims in order to soothe ourselves. And it is difficult, if not impossible to create solutions in the presence of hopelessness.

The mental health/brain disorder crisis we are facing right now, this decades-long epidemic, is with the so-called high-functioning neurological disorders, i.e., depression, anxiety, bi-polar, ocd, anorexia, bulimia, and addiction (I have left out more than a few of the disorders, but these are the most familiar of the lot).

However, neuroscience is offering us the best reason to hope for good treatment outcomes in decades. The more we learn about how the brain works (like when the fight/flight mechanism is activated) and how it works when it is “broken” (fight/flight mechanism too easily triggered in addicts) the easier it will be for people who have these brain glitches to be identified and treated without shame and blame.

The first, most effective way to face our cultural crises of too many people with brain disorders being undiagnosed and untreated is to educate ourselves about these disorders and learn to spot the people who are suffering so that we can help them understand what is wrong with them and help them to agree to receive treatment.  We have to change our cultural view of addiction and the like before we can create more effective treatments for it and the other high-functioning neural disorders.

The change has to come from those of us who either do not have the disorders or have been successfully treated for the disorders because those with the disorders are not able to help themselves.

I like to say it this way, the last person to know that his brain is broken is the person with the broken brain.

This is just the way human consciousness works.  The only organ in the body that seems to make self-diagnosis impossible is the brain. I mean there is no mistaking a kidney stone trying to pass. When someone is in that kind of pain they don’t blame it on their lack of character. But the brain is expert at being able to reframe and explain away its own glitches.

Whatever isn’t working in a person’s brain is that person’s “normal.”  Over time people with high-functioning neurological disorders develop plausible explanations for their symptoms and adapt to them as best as they can.

And when life problems that are obviously (to those around them) connected to their neurological disorders become apparent on the outside of their lives (car accidents, drained bank accounts, lost jobs, broken marriages, etc.) they usually blame their own character defects or someone or something else. Therefore, the person with the problem is the least likely to be able to get themselves the help they need.

The way to begin to help people like Phillip Seymour Hoffman (deceased-drug addiction), actor Cory Monteith (deceased-drug addiction), singer Amy Winehouse (deceased-alcoholism), author David Foster Wallace (deceased-depression),actor Jon Hamm (depression), TV personality Nicole Richie (anorexia), actress Karla Alvarez (deceased-anorexia/bulimia), actress Amanda Byne (bi-polar disorder), actor Howie Mandel (ocd) , reality TV star Vinnie Guadagnino (anxiety disorder),  actress Brooke Shields (postpartum depression) is to become educated about the physiological causes of these disorders so that when you see the behaviors in friends and loved ones you can begin to educate and support them.

Here is where the education begins, when otherwise high functioning people think and act in ways that defy facts and logic and threaten their well-being and the well-being of their loved ones, then we need to understand that they have a brain disorder, not a moral or character disorder; and they need medical treatment, not shaming, blaming, therapy or a sentence to a 12 step program.

This means that alcoholism, drug addiction, eating disorders, suicide attempts, phobias, adhd, anxiety and depression, et al are all disorders of the brain and as such need the treatment of a medical doctor first.

(Read that again. It’s a truth, not a theory. But since the truth is not widely known it will seem counter intuitive. You will want to say, “Yeah, but…..” Read it again. Alcoholism is a brain disorder. Drug addiction is a brain disorder. Let it sink in.)

Here’s why this is true–otherwise high functioning people could not be high functioning without good judgment, good enough character, and at least average intelligence.  If they can hold down a job, go about the activities of daily living, have friendships and loved ones, and display empathy towards others before and during their lapses, melt downs, relapses, et al.,  then their frontal lobes are fully functioning.

The only explanation, for their behaviors then, is that their frontal lobes (where their high-functioning skills are located) have been hijacked by a different part of their brain.  When someone’s brain is highjacking their frontal lobes, they need medical treatment.

Blessedly, neuroscience is catching up with us and giving us facts about how our brains actually work.  So it is time NOW to drop those stories we have made up and begin to apply the facts of neuroscience as we understand them to the untimely deaths of addicts of all kinds and to the public meltdowns of otherwise functioning adults.

And it is way past time that we spread the word about what is really going on with these people who struggle mightily and their families who bear the burden of loving them and having to care for them.

Remember, these people don’t know that their brains are broken.  They are high-functioning and so they blame themselves. And they come to hate themselves for their problems more than you can imagine.  They live in a dark and self-loathing world where they come to believe that they don’t deserve any help which is why they don’t surrender themselves for treatment. They need the help of their friends and families and the world around them in order to get around the obstacles of their broken brains to get help.

When our entire culture understands as common sense that addiction is an individual neurological disorder that requires immediate medical attention then a person like Phillip Seymour Hoffman has a chance to understand that he has “one of those brains” that will shut down his frontal lobes and take away his ability to exercise good judgement and control of his behaviors.  And until he knows this fact about his brain in same the way that he knows a bone sticking out of his leg means he needs to go to the ER, then him and those like him will not be able to ask for help.

And a guy like Phillip Seymour Hoffman isn’t going to know these things until we all know them.  And that time is NOW.

Phillip Seymour Hoffman died from having a combination of sensitivities in his neural wiring that caused his brain to override his better judgement, take away his free will and caused him to take the actions that ultimately killed him. It appears that these sensitivities were unknowingly activated by a prescription of pain killers that were necessary at the time to treat a different medical condition.  Because of his previous 23 years of being clean and sober he was presumed  safe to take the pain medication. And it looks like what he and maybe even his doctors didn’t know about how his brain worked kept him from staying in treatment long enough to allow his brain to rewire itself around those sensitivities and render him clean and sober again. For this, like all addicts in this situation, he deserves our kindness and compassion.

If this post has helped you to understand addiction please do share it.  My passion is to help educate us all so that more people with neurological disorders will get the treatment they need.

Debbie Bayer, MA, MFTI

**A note to my 12-step friends:  There are two caveats to the success of 12-step work 1) It works when you work it. and 2) You have to be honest, and some people are constitutionally incapable of being honest with themselves.  There is no doubt that over the last 70+ years the 12-step community has the highest success rate among alcoholics of any other treatment modality. This community is also incredibly successful in the support of sobriety among drug addicts of all kinds.
The problem lies in the millions of people who cannot meet the two criteria for success in a 12-step program due to other types of brain disorders.  Their suffering demands that health professionals continue to seek out effective treatment strategies for them.  I am certain that you have compassion for their plight and support these more unfortunate folks in their recovery.
DB

1,496 thoughts on “Phillip Seymour Hoffman did not have choice or free will and neither do you.

  1. Much of my writing is inspired and informed by research elsewhere, but the subject of addiction is one where I have direct personal experience. Indeed it was in seeking recovery from addiction that I first became fascinated by the incredible power, wisdom, and relevance of spiritual principles.

    I am going to try to provide an overview of my understanding of addiction, and why spirituality is the universal solution. Given the brevity of this piece, it is not intended by any means to be the whole picture.

    Addiction is an illness of the mind, and hence any solution must come from a place other than the ego-mind, which itself is the source of the problem.

    There are numerous forms of addiction. Alcohol, drugs and nicotine grab most of the headlines, but other examples include over eating, under eating, self-harm, gambling, sex, work, and obsessive-compulsive disorders. Other less obvious examples include such things as money, power, fame, relationships, and thrill seeking. In fact we can become addicted to just about anything, if this is what we use to cope with life and feel good about ourselves.

    We develop coping strategies for the challenges of life, and once these habits become engrained in our sub-conscious minds then they become impossible to fully shift. We may wish to stop, and indeed we might be able to abstain for periods of time, but sooner or later some event or emotion will trigger us and we automatically revert to our old behaviour.

    Addictions also tend to progress, with the mind and body craving more and more of the same fix in order to function. The rate of progression seems to vary person to person but the trend is ever downward, and it impacts friends and family as well as the addict.

    The root cause of addictive behaviour is fear. Addiction brings consequences in terms of physical health, mental wellbeing, relationship difficulties, behavioural problems and self-esteem. As things deteriorate, so the fear increases and the thought of stopping seems ever more impossible. Many addicts are in complete denial because they do not want to face the thought of living without their particular way of feeling safe.

    Addicts are often perceived as being weak-willed, but it reality it takes great willpower to persist in addictive behaviour despite physical deterioration. Fear leads to selfishness, and increasing self-centred desperation produces enormous willpower. The solution is not simply a matter of self-control. Ironically, it is the surrender of willpower that leads to recovery, rather than abstinence through sheer determination. This is why addiction is so widely misunderstood by those who do not suffer.

    Understanding addiction does not provide the solution. Understanding resides in the mind, but the mind is the problem. The solution comes from taking action to let go of the powerfully negative mind and embrace a deeper, more spiritual basis for living. This approach requires maintenance, because the mind will quickly try to regain control given half a chance. If this happens, the whole downward spiral will recommence however long we may have been abstinent.

    The good news is that a spiritual basis for living provides many more benefits than just recovery from addiction. It leads to an unfolding of latent potential that has been stifled for so long.

    My view is that addiction is far more widespread than we may care to admit. The degree of suffering may vary, but in truth all of us are addicted to our own minds in one way or another. Recovery comes to those who become desperate enough to seek a solution, and in this respect suffering can be seen as grace.

    On a personal note, I should say that despite an ongoing recovery from alcoholism I am still addicted to nicotine and other habitual behaviours. If anything, my other addictions have strengthened in recent times as my mind tries to cling on to some semblance of control. I am convinced that I am on a positive path but I still have a long way to go. Such is the spiritual journey.

    Many will look to science and the medical profession for a solution to addiction. My experience has been that the solution can be found in the adoption of simple spiritual principles and practices. The trouble is that the mind does not like this idea at all. We each have a choice, but often it is not an easy choice to make. For more, please see http://www.farmorethanwethink.com

    • Dear Michael, Thank you for posting. I believe that the research into the effects of addictive substances on the brain can help to remove the stigma from addiction which will serve to get more addicts treatment and help others in recovery stay clean and sober. The best outcome of all would be that fewer and fewer people ever use/abuse and become addicted at all. This of course, is out of our hands. Still, those of us who can have a responsibility to make the attempt. Blessings, Debbie

  2. As an addict/ person with an neurological autoimmune illness I can assure you I highly disagree with not having a choice in addiction. I have plenty of choices. I can choose to relapse. I can choice to abuse my meds. I can choice to work or not work recovery. I was told by my psychiatrist he was uncapable of dealing with addictions. You are wrong on many accounts and apparently not an addict of anything nor suffer from a neurological condition. Love you anyhow.

    • I am an addict as well and the fact that you still think you have a choice1)proves her point and 2) that you do not understand the pickle you are really in. I have been sober for quite some time and I am acutely aware of what a miracle this is. If I could choose to relapse it wouldn’t be relapse it would be CHOICE. If I could choose then I would not be an addict.Everyone in recovery should know this. Because you do not means you have been grossly misinformed or you are delusional. Either way I hope you will one day realize your situation and get the help you need.

    • A rather interesting video featuring people who Know very little but like to say a lot… Of very hilarious lol things. Almost funny in places. Please share

  3. Really STUPID blog !!!! Of course he had free will. He chose to use drugs the first time. Some of us were smart enough to never try them in the first place. So we CAN pat ourselves on the back. It’s not like someone drugged him the first time and he got hooked. It’s a shame we lost this man. I enjoyed his movies immensely. But to say he didn’t have free will makes the writer of this more ignorant than he was.

    • Dear Tino, My blog is about his relapse into addiction, not his early choices in life. That being said, there is ample scientific evidence that choices in adolescence are significantly warped in judgement due to our undeveloped prefrontal cortex and the reaction of the reward centers in our brains to the presence of our friends at the time. There was an article about the reaction of our brains to the presence of our friends last week in the New York Times. Some of us just got lucky with the right friends and lower levels of stress in our young lives. A blessing to be grateful for, but I would hesitate to pat myself on the back for it. More importantly, I would NOT judge young people less fortunate than myself, i.e., dangerous friends and high levels of stress, for the choices they made, since their choices were warped by their undeveloped brains and circumstances beyond their control. Blessings, Debbie

      • Hi,
        I am not a Dr. or any type of trained professional so I don’t have anything to go on but my own experiences but I really believe that even beyond first experiences some people have a choice while others do not. Myself, I have been exposed to many substances over the course of my life. I have tried, done, used all sorts of stuff with various people and or groups of friends.I, myself have always had a choice. I could do something, like it, love it, do it for a time if I chose and then stop when I chose at anytime. In my lifetime I have met a few other people who are like me. On the other hand there are the majority of my friends. Some of them may have the choice as I do and they may just like getting high but some of them are really really stuck and would rather have their own life and not be dependent on a substance but they just can’t do it. There has to be a difference between myself and the people that are stuck. I have always thought so. Otherwise, why am I not an addict? Why are they? I don’t condemn them. I try to understand. For me it is simple. Maybe some of the people here insisting that the stuck people have a choice are like me and it is a simple choice for themselves, only they do not see that there is any other perspective.

      • Dear Debbie, if you blog is not about his early choices in life, then you shouldn’t have titled it in such a way as to say that no one in the world has a choice or free will. I read the article in the Times and I’m well acquainted with the correlation between the prefrontal cortex and adolescent choices. You are WRONG !!! Some of us didn’t get lucky with the right friends. Some of us used our free will to stay away from the bad kids and to make friends with the good kids. It certainly would’ve been easier to choose the bad kids and not do our homework, stay out late, party, etc… But some of us made a conscious choice to be wholesome. And I think that any kid that makes that choice deserves a pat on the back. And at no time did I judge young people less fortunate than myself. On the contrary, my heart goes out to people with afflictions of any type. But there is also an enormity of evidence that says that people rarely get addicted the first time they “try” a drug. That makes it FREE WILL. That makes the next time they try it their free will as well. And the next, and the next, until they are addicted. Then parts of this blog apply. But NOT to every single addict. You cannot group them all together and say that what you spoke about in your blog applies to every single addict out there. That’s just FALSE. They aren’t all exactly the same. And if you were not the doctor that examined these celebs you mentioned, you have NO basis for claiming that they were afflicted in the way you said. You may have been correct. But if you weren’t their doctor, you don’t know for sure. You’re just guessing. And that is the problem I have with your blog. Regards, Tino

      • Dear Tino,
        The title of the post is meant to point to the fact that under certain circumstances the response of our brains takes our choices away from us. It is important not to confuse character with neurological response. Character and neurological response co-exist, while each of us is more than the sum of our brain’s reactions to stimuli, neurological processes can over-ride character. This can go either way. For instance, a person of very low character can possess a brain that is biological resilient in terms of stress, addiction and mood disorders and never become an addict (perhaps a thief, or a con artist instead). Or, a person with strong character and good moral values and a brain that is vulnerable to stress and addiction and become addicted to a legal substance such as alcohol, prescription medication, or tobacco. And plenty of people with good character do more than experiment one time with alcohol. And in doing so could be playing a game of Russian roulette, if they have unknown vulnerabilities in certain parts of their brains. I believe the points you are making refer to the necessity of healthy people to develop their character and live by good choices. What I have written about is neurological processes that can hijack good judgement and strong character.
        You write with clarity and great passion. I respect that. And I welcome you writing again and sharing any new information/research you can find about the differences in among addicts, especially in their neurological processes. I am not aware of differences in the addiction process of the brain, except for the chemical differences between different addictive substances. I am open to all new information because I believe that it is being educated that will help more addicts get the treatment they need and deserve.
        I know that reading generalizations about people in the public eye can be annoying and frustrating. I know that I don’t know Philip Seymour Hoffman, but I do know a lot about the brain of an addict, and because it is my understanding that the process of addiction is the same in every brain, I am in a position to make a fairly sophisticated and educated guess about Mr. Hoffman’s brain. And the only reason I did so was to help people to know more about disease of addiction so that more addicts will recover than die. I hope you and others will forgive my using a celebrity example for this important cause.
        Blessings,
        Debbie

    • Before you go spouting nasty comments to prove your point, Tino, you might want to educate yourself by actually going over the latest research in this regard. Go ahead and pat yourself on the back but arm yourself first with the latest facts. Debbie suggests that we all read the book, Clean, by David Sheff. I bought two copies and find it amazing, current and a fresh approach to a subject that holds so much stigma and criticism. You might read that as well. Also, if you have never had an addiction issue, you really have no right to voice your point of view here or anywhere, especially in a critical fashion.

    • Tino, do you drink anything w/alcohol in it? If so, do you drink alcoholically? Or do you suspect you might have a problem w/alcoholism? If you can honestly answer ‘no’ to the 2nd and 3rd questions, thank your lucky stars. And know that you have nothing to congratulate yourself about for remaining addiction free.

      It’s not a moral achievement not to have alcoholism – or any other disorder on the addiction spectrum. It’s also not a moral achievement not to have any other neurological disorder. Nor is it a moral failing to have an addiction or a neurological disorder.

      Each one of us is endowed w/free will by our Creator. To imagine that our free will cannot be compromised by conditions – including addictions – that highjack our body/mind and soul is to misunderstand throughly (and dangerously) the affliction. I agree w/you that one’s free will cannot be completely eradicated – even by addiction. Can you see that a free will held hostage to active addiction can experience a powerful kind of enslavement – that a person can become so despairing that hopelessness can become an ordinary state of being?

      I’m guessing that you’re here because in some way or another your life has been affected by addiction. I’m well aware that the disease doesn’t harm only the primary addict, but all who are proximate. Try to keep an open mind and learn from people who actually do have some experience and knowledge about this baffling condition. At the very least, any gain in your knowledge and compassion will be a help to those still suffering.

  4. Also I came from dangerous friend, high level stress land then moved to less populated, relaxed countryside mostly to get away from the stress that addictions grasp had on nearly everyone around me. It was good for a few years. That was until the “Farms” turned into “Pharms” courtesy of you know who… and the “dangerous friend” became the mother or grandmother of the affected child because” it must be OK if it came from the Dr.” so there’s some kids making choices on bad advice and getting started like that too. It’s bad all over these days

  5. You could certainly see your expertise in the article you write.
    The world hopes for even more passionate writers
    such as you who are not afraid to mention how they believe.
    Always go after your heart.

  6. I am an addict and I truly loved your article. This is the best article I have read in a long time. I must say that it is refreshing to see someone post the unadulterated truth. Carl Jung said that,” you cannot fix a broken mind with a broken mind.” It took me a long time to grasp the concept of no choice. Once I truly accepted it I was set free. I now have an understanding that helps me to help ALOT of fellow addicts. This is the best scientific description I have read. (Next to the big book) I am very fortunate to have had the help I have had. I had Doctors who were willing to risk telling me the truth. I was able to find peace with myself with this understanding. I know it is not a moral dilemma and have a way of living in place that drastically changed the emotional charge on my brain. I have been free for a long time. In 12 step terms recovered. Your description is truly what makes recovery for people like me a plain outright honest to God Miracle.

    • blessings on your sobriety, Jason. My fiance died of the disease of alcoholism..I know the battle…so when i see, hear and know people in the rooms i give you all alot of credit…i know its one day at a time thru Gods grace or Higher Power…i also know that Danny did not choose to be an alcoholic nor wanted to die and hated it. He was simply a wonderful man, the love of my life with a generous heart with a bad disease. I believe when he died…one received the grace of sobriety in this life…so once again Jason, blessings, keep working the program…it works if you work it and you are worth it

  7. Hello Debbie…AMAZING read!!! I would like to e-mail you a proposal around your blogging. Would you mind contacting me via e-mail so that I might run it past you?

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