Not much has changed today with respect to finding a solution to the drug problem that is currently threatening our society. The drug epidemic has actually gotten worse over the past several months. In Ohio “mobile morgues” have even been created to handle the growing number of deaths from drug overdoes. When are we going to wake up and admit the necessity of asking different questions and even difficult ones with respect to finding a solution to this problem? It is apparent that more and more people are dying everyday from the drug epidemic that is plaguing this country. It is also apparent that we have no solution. It appears as though the President has now gotten involved and is appointing people to help fix the problem. It is very doubtful that this strategy will be fruitful.
Regardless of what the President or anyone does to try to fix the problem we have to face the truth about what has been and is currently being done to resolve this growing, human disaster. Stated simply, nothing that is being done today to solve this problem has worked, nothing that is being done has had a major impact on resolving the epidemic including what our treatment industry is currently providing to the public. I believe that our treatment industry is inadequate and as a result simply will not be able to provide us with the remedy that we so desperately need. Putting more money into a inadequate system will not fix the present drug epidemic that now faces and even threatens our society. Putting more money into a system that does not work will simply waste our precious resources and in the end we will be left with the same if not a worse problem.
Besides having a serious problem with motivation and intension, our current treatment industry has been using an inadequate paradigm from which to provide services for resolving addiction in general and the current drug epidemic in specific. The focus of our current system is on the external person, the ego, if you will, on putting the physical person back together during treatment, on making sure that the individual looks and feels good, to others and especially to the individual himself. Most people who leave treatment look and feel better physically. The façade that is supported if not promoted is that looking good and feeling better equates to being better. This illusion will hinder if not stop the needed transformation for recovery. However, there is little if any emphasis put on the exploration or transformation of the inner person. Change of thinking is a mere footnote somewhere in the back of the book.
There are reasons why emphasis is put on the external person and not the inner person. To explore the inner person takes time and a great deal of effort on the part of both the client and clinician. Exploration of the inner person tends to not be a part of the 28-day magic or miracle that is marketed to the public. However, it is in the inner person that the “inferiority complex” exists and is to be discovered, that which is believed to be the real cause of addiction and the drug epidemic. To assist with this therapeutic process and to conduct this type of psychic surgery also takes a great deal of skill and knowledge about what the disease is really all about. Many of the interns that are assigned to clients in treatment centers do not have the knowledge or skill to effectively do this type of work. Most are not clear about what the disease actually is let alone able to acknowledge that it exists within the individual. As a treatment industry and even society in general both are also fixated on trying to fix other people, places and things and have lost site of one truly responsible for the problem, the addict himself. Our focus is still on the external, the supply and not the demand, the internal world of the addict and alcoholic.
When are we going to have the courage enough to stop and start to ask different and even difficult questions about what we have been doing to help individuals suffering from drug and alcohol addiction, including and especially those involved in today’s drug epidemic? If we do not seriously and honestly evaluate and correct what we have been doing, if we continue to do what we are doing and have been doing in the past, we should not expect any kind of different result to happen for the individual addicts being treated today. The outcome statistics for treatment are clear. If we do not change our approach, the drug problem will most definitely continue to get worse. We need to first admit that we have no solution, that we are powerless over it, like doing a first step as an industry, and then become open and willing to explore new possibilities and, in my opinion, need to redefine the focus of treatment if we are to help the addicts and alcoholics to change. I believe that it all starts with redefining our definition of the true cause of drug and alcohol addiction.
The focus of counseling or treatment for an alcoholic or drug addict should be, in my opinion, their self-esteem or self image. While there are other issues and problems that will need to be addressed and worked through in the process of treatment, the addict or alcoholic’s self-esteem is the core, the root from which all of their other problems evolve. The “inferiority complex” is the poor or negative self-esteem that runs the show for the alcoholic or addict, that which is truly killing him. I believe further that the goal in counseling should be to get the addict or alcoholic to explore what they think and how they feel about their value and worth as a human being and how this story about themselves has negatively affected their life and even the lives of others. This self-exploration amounts to an exploration of their disease and how it has impacted their life. The disease of addiction is their self-image, their poor and even self destructive self esteem.
After an exploration of their poor self-esteem the next goal in treatment should be for the individual to transform himself and for the counselor to help the addict with his journey of what amounts to reinventing himself. To face and confront the negative story they have created about themselves, to let go of this destructive and self-sabotaging story and with it their past and to powerfully stand in the present and reinvent oneself is the transformation of thinking that must take place or happen if the individual is to change what they have been creating much of their life. If this therapeutic and recovery oriented process does not happen, the individual will continue to do what he has done in the past and there will be no true change or transformation, merely a life filled with more negative and self destructive events from his past. Given today’s drug market, if there is no true change or transformation death will always be a real possibility.
To put our focus on changing and transforming the self-esteem of the addict or alcoholic is to focus on the demand, the reason why the supply even exists, and not merely on the supply as we are doing today. If the fundamental nature of the demand for something changes then the supply is directly affected. Change the demand for a product or drug and the supply of that drug will out of necessity be altered. If the demand for the drug starts to lessen or even stops, the need for and as a result the using of the drug will eventually stop. The key to this new paradigm is to understand that the poor self esteem of the addict or alcoholic is the demand. This unhealthy and self-destructive demand then sources the supply, the drugs, for the relief that the drugs initially provides to the individual addict. If the demand is not transformed the supply will continue to be sourced by the addict and again, with it, the possibility of death. However, we can change the tide of the epidemic if we help the addict and alcohol learn how to love and respect himself.
Dr. Harry Henshaw
Enhanced Healing Wellness Center in Miami