Drug addiction is a myth, and drug addicts and alcoholics are total fakers. This may seem hard to believe, because the idea of drug addiction is so ingrained in our consciousness. However, we believe in drug addiction even though we never experienced it ourselves. Although the theory seems plausible, we are completely reliant on the accounts of others, and that they are accurately representing their internal experience. Unlike other diseases like cancer and arthritis, for which there is clear physical evidence, and even for some mental disorders such as schizophrenia, there is no clear physical representation for addiction. In fact, as shown elsewhere on the site, the medical evidence for addiction is often invalid and inconclusive at best. Is it really a disease? Or is it a modern myth? To what extent are the addicts themselves aware of their lies, or do they actually believe the addiction myth, making it a self-fulfilling prophecy?
To answer these questions, we must first understand that there are actually several different types of so-called ‘addicts’, and the answers differ for each group. Each group by itself can be shown to be composed of fakers and liars, but when specific qualities of each group are taken together, they form the ideal of the Mythical Addict that exists in our public consciousness.
Types of addicts:
The narcissist uses drugs for fun, drama, and attention. They feel superior to the average person and drug use is a prerogative of being special. They generally are in good physical health and have access to a strong social network and solid financial backing. They enjoy trying and experimenting with lots of different drugs and scenarios. This is normally an exciting time in their life, usually in their youth, sometimes they get into minor scrapes with the law. The fun lasts for several months or years, and then after a while it loses its appeal. This can happen for various reasons, such as growing older, or needing to take on more responsibilities. Also, drugs lose their potency after a while, and subsequent highs cannot match the first. Most adjust naturally to the new circumstances and move on. But some get ‘stuck’ in the drug scene and take on the identity of ‘addict’. Celebrities are good examples of his. Robert Downey, Charlie Sheen, Russell Brand, and Lindsay Lohan come to mind. These people love the drama of drugs and being able to play the bad boy/girl. They might want us to think they are suffering, but in fact they are having the time of their life – or at least trying to stretch it out as long as possible. By pretending to be addicted to drugs, or at least teasing the public with the suggestion, they can continue to behave irresponsibly and act out, getting the attention that they crave, all the while knowing that in the end they will have our sympathy and admiration after they overcome their demon addiction. It will make for a great book.
High school rebels are another example of this category. If they are struggling in school, or just lazy, they can fake an addiction. Suddenly they are the center of attention — all the while insisting they want to be left alone — there is nothing more gratifying to the narcissistic psyche. Sometimes there is the added bonus of a mini-vacation from daily responsibilities, and the awe and respect for having ‘done time’ in rehab.
This category – the narcissist – is aware that their addiction is fake, but they have no problem getting away with it. This is described in the previous post, “The Real Addicts”. The prognosis for these people is quite good. After a stint in therapy or rehab they are back on their feet and ready to tackle the next phase in life, often with great success. Relapses are generally brief and inconsequential (although they like to make hay of them).
Unfortunately some narcissists are unable to successfully navigate this phase in life, and forever cling to the regret of lost youth and opportunities. These people can be quite sad, and the outcome may be tragic, whether they are still using drugs or not. Plastic surgery is one symptom of this syndrome. Performers who take their own life at a young age are usually examples of this.
Despite faking their addiction, the narcissists are generally not abusive manipulators in other parts of their lives. They can justify the lie in their own mind by believing that even though they themselves are not serious addicts, there are others. For this reason they may create exaggerated accounts of their addiction to ‘help’ the hard-core addict. And example of this is Kristen Johnston’s book ‘Guts’. She tries really hard to make it a gut-wrenching account of drug abuse, but really it all boils down to coming to terms with her weight problem. Or as she puts it, “Feeling comfortable in my own skin.”
The soul seekers take on the addict role because as humiliating as it is to call yourself a ‘drug addict’, the reality of their life is even worse. These are often lonely, unsuccessful, frustrated people who never seemed to have found a place for themselves in the world. Often they lacked interest in education and left school without a solid background in any field. By taking on the identity as a drug addict they assume a new identity that serves a dual purpose of instantly belonging to a group, and being a victim of a disease. The advantage of the disease model is that they now have an explanation for why their life didn’t turn out as they had hoped: they are the victim of a powerful disease that limited their potential. These people take on the addict role as a badge of honor. “Hi my name is Bob and I am 1 year and 4 months sober,” they will state at every opportunity. Now everyone knows that this person has overcome great hardship and his low station in life is explained away – is in fact noble.
For these people, AA is central to their life. It fills the void in their soul. This is often bewildering to their family, who may have no other experience with addiction and don’t understand their child’s/sibling’s obsession with it. Each time they meet, the ‘addict’ mentions AA, or counters an unsympathetic attitude toward sobriety. A family member then asks: “Are you still in that group?” Or, “Aren’t you better now?” This is of course taken as further evidence that they don’t understand, and AA is the only group who really understands them. The AA group and disease model protect them from an unsympathetic and judgemental family – both socially and emotionally.
These people often claim to have experienced a happy childhood without significant trauma or predispositions to addiction. This is generally true.
The very first step in AA’s 12 step program is: “Admit you are powerless over alcohol”. You cannot join the group unless you profess immediate belief in this — equivalent to stating: “I am a drug addict”. These people – the soul seekers – are particularly vulnerable to this form of brainwashing, because they feel so empty inside and have a desperate need for social acceptance. Some take the first step, knowing that it’s not true but proceeding regardless, while others rush headlong into their new religion. Either way, after this point, none will retreat, and the myth of addiction has been propagated anew.
The malingerer is the saddest form of fake alcoholic. They usually start their drug use to treat persistent physical pain or mental anguish. As time goes on they find they need more and more drugs to overcome their discomfort. These people soon become dependent on drugs, in that stopping the drug can result in various forms of withdrawal symptoms that they exaggerate in their own mind to convince themselves that the drugs are necessary, and that they are severely addicted. (Because they are already in pain, they are particularly susceptible to the withdrawals. For example, Delerium tremens for alcoholics can last a few days, and pain and flu-like symptoms for codeine withdrawal can last up to a week.)
For this reason, the malingerers quickly take on the mindset of addict, though they often try hard to hide it for fear of losing access to their drug of choice. Even if the underlying pain goes away, they may still hold fast to their addiction since it provides comfort. These people may become debilitated and homebound. Some think these people are victims of the overuse of powerful new pain killers like Oxycontin. They are considered by some to be a lost cause – teetering between states of constant pain and mental haze – and never to resume a normal life. To this extent, ‘malingering’ may seem an unfair term, since they really are in pain, but I am using it to describe the addiction itself, which is fake, although one can sympathize with the sufferer and appreciate the reasons for exaggerating the symptoms.
Many people suffer from mental anguish, such as guilt, shame, anger and jealosy. Most people are able to deal with these emotions in a healthy way and move on. But some cannot, for various reasons, and so they turn to substances to reduce the pain. One example would be being financially dependent on someone you didn’t like. Another example would be a man in a relationship with a woman whom he did not find attractive, but at the same time he didn’t think he could do better and so is ‘stuck’. Another example is someone who has a defect in their appearance, such as being overweight or a bad complexion. Almost any drug will do to suppress the pain and provide distraction, and so these people become ‘addicts’ of all types – alcohol, cocaine, ecstasy, meth, etc. As usual, the drug works great in the beginning, but loses its effectiveness over time. As the mental pain re-emerges, they start to take on the role of ‘addict’ as a way to somaticize their suffering. It is easier to say, “I have the disease of addiction”, than “I am not happy with my boyfriend any more, but I don’t think I can do better if I left.” Among women, some concomitant symptoms are anorexia, purging, and self-cutting.
The mid-life crisis among both gay and straight men also precipitates the downward spiral into excessive drinking followed by the salvation of sobriety offered at AA. Self-medication by alcohol suppresses the grief and regret stemming from the loss of sexual prowess and gradual decline in health and stamina. Most men navigate this period successfully, but some men (usually single men and playboys) get stuck, and continue drinking. AA may come as a welcome relief, as they encounter people in a similar predicament. Although the solution offered by AA may not seem satisfactory at first, in the end, the sufferer would prefer to take on the identity of an alcoholic than of a “balding loser”. We don’t want to admit the true, and humiliating, cause of our suffering.
Some of these people inflict abuse on their partners or benefactors (e.g. parents), who feel they have no choice but to continue to support their loved-one who is apparently an innocent victim of a disease. They don’t understand that it would be far better for both parties to cut the ties, since the relationship itself is causing the pain. Good looking people and young people are particularly manipulative with this type of addiction, because their partners want to keep them around at all costs, despite the abuse and scorn heaped upon them.
Many ads for drug addiction services such as inpatient treatment promise that their therapy will restore the happy family — an irresistible offer for which parents will pay thousands. The irony is that the relationship itself is causing the problem, and the best and simplest solution is for the parties to go their separate ways.
These addicts are well aware of the lie, but sustain it because the truth is too painful or inconvenient to admit. They may cycle in and out of rehab for years. Also, gay men who have not accepted their sexuality usually fall into this category.
By far the worse type of addict is the psychopath. These people are dangerous! They are perfectly well aware that their addiction is a lie, but use it to abuse and manipulate others. For example, some men target lonely and vulnerable middle age woman, and after a quick marriage, proceed to strip them of their financial assets, using drug and alcohol addiction as the excuse for reprehensible behavior. “I’m sorry I hurt you, but I am a drug addict and I can’t help it. It’s the disease that makes me punch you and drain your bank account.” For this reason, the woman sticks by her man, as long as he claims to be attending 12 step meetings. The woman hopes against hope that that her loyalty will ultimately be appreciated, even though often these men have left a trail of devasted and destroyed victim-brides in their wake.
Children addicts – who were often spoiled as kids – can also be quite the psychopaths, and have little regard for their family or anyone else. Because of some perceived injustice during childhood, they may proceed to destroy the family’s finances through credit card fraud, outright thievery (particularly of cherished items), and expensive but futile attempts at treatment, even at the expense of their siblings who are deprived of critical resources such as educational funds.
Criminal defense lawyers seem to have a particular affinity for AA. This is not surprising considering that these people must lie or at least stretch the truth for a living, and certainly deal with unsavory characters and reprehensible crimes. AA provides a fertile test bed to perfect one’s attitudes and techniques. You will not be seriously questioned since no one would claim superior credibility.
Business men in seedier industries such as adult entertainment and night clubs are other examples of this type. They thrive in unethical environments and take advantage of customers and business partners. They may even consider themselves to be con men. They are hard partiers and drink and drug to excess. Their financial books are as fake as their addiction. Later in life they may come to regret some of the things they did. Fortunately they can claim to have been under the spell of an evil drug at the time, and all is forgiven. (They may have drank in part for the purpose of suppressing guilt over shady dealings.)
Many of the these people admit to being liars, and often take pride in claiming to be ‘master manipulators’ since childhood. They say they were hopelessly addicted to drugs and alcohol. They lied about everything else — now we are supposed to believe them about their “addiction”?
For the psychopath who is less successful financially, the addiction lie is the perfect cover to inflict all types of abuses and avoid taking responsibility for one’s life. These people will not stop until they are shunned by everyone who tried to ‘help’ them. Once in AA, they can continue in their evil ways sober, by preying on vulnerable newcomers for financial and sexual gain.
The alcoholics of the psychopath type have a history of lying and agression that preceded their first sip of alcohol, or first taste of a drug. They may enjoy getting into fights whether drunk or sober. They may have a history of telling lies and stories about fake past accreditations and achievements. But given they are liars to begin with, why should we believe them when they say that they have an extreme compulsion to drink/drug? Of course they don’t. They are just saying that because it’s a convenient and self-serving lie. If your disease makes you do reprehensible things, you have the perfect alibi. People will not realize that simply you are a reprehensible person to begin with. (And yes, there are terrible, reprehensible people out there. Many will not reform until very late in life.)
In fact, an alcoholic often posses traits from 2 types (though rarely more than that). For example, Amy Winehouse was a ‘narcissist’ type with a touch of ‘malingerer’. The malingerer self-destruction eventually lead to her death.
Bill Wilson – the prototypical Psychopath
AA philosophy promotes the addiction myth that serves the psychopath perfectly. Bill Wilson, the founder of AA, was a well-known womanizer. Of course, you wouldn’t know it by reading the Big Book, which he wrote, and describes his own alcoholism. In the book, he is an innocent and powerless victim of extreme urges beyond his control and best intentions. He’s happily married and, for example, in the middle of a promising financial deal, when suddenly he finds himself with a drink in has hand, things start to get fuzzy, and the next thing he knows he’s lying in a hospital bed convulsing with delerium tremens, after having been unconscious for a day. His wife and family look on, sobbing. He is as surprised, frustrated, and saddened as they are.
In fact, he knows exactly what is going on. He is drinking because he is unhappy with his wife and his life in general. As he says about his wife:
- There had been no real infidelity, for loyalty to my wife, helped at times by extreme drunkenness, kept me out of those scrapes.
- Lois has always been more like a mother to me.
These statements suggest the kind of thinking of a man who had no real loyalty toward his wife, and this is confirmed by people who knew him. He was an inveterate womanizer (known in the groups as “13 stepping” for members who target others for sexual purposes). Instead of loving his wife and spending time with her, he turned to the bottle, and turned to other women using drunkenness as his cover.
Is is possible that Wilson was not aware that his ‘addiction’ was just a lie to cover his infidelity? This man is well known for his egoism, so perhaps he managed to justify the lie as somehow noble. It’s interesting that modern understanding of addiction almost always requires an underlying psyhic issue (as Dr. Drew is apt to point out). Wilson professed a strict belief in the disease model, so he would probably not be very happy with that. At some level, he must have known.
Wives: The real victims
The chapter “To Wives” in the Big Book was supposedly written by AA wives: “As wives of Alcoholics Anonymous, we would like you to feel that we understand as perhaps few can. We want to analyze mistakes we have made.” In fact, this was written by Wilson himself, and is a self-serving defense of the alcholic, and confirms the wife’s duty to stand by her man even in the face of repeated abuse and relapses (now known as “codependency”). In fact, the woman should leave him, but the chapter reminds women of their sacred vows: You must continue to love your man, even in the face of his repeated abuse, and even in the face of your own instincts. He goes so far as to make the wife share the guilt:
- We have had long rendezvous with hurt pride, frustration, self-pity, misunderstanding and fear.
- We have been driven to maudlin sympathy, to bitter resentment.
- We have had retaliatory love affairs with other men.
- In desperation we have even got tight ourselves — the drunk to end all drunks.
- In nearly every instance the alcoholic only seems to be unloving and inconsiderate; it is usually because he is warped and sickened that he says and does those appalling things.
- Try not to condemn your alcoholic husband no matter what he says or does. He is just another very sick, unreasonable person. Trust him when you can, as though he had pneumonia. When he angers you, remember that he is very ill.
This chapter, more than any other, demonstrates the brilliant evil of the Addiction Myth. Not only is the psychopath abusing the innocent family, he can rely on them for support for his continued drinking – food in the cupboard and a warm bed to pee in when he comes home plastered.
It is interesting that at no point in Wilson’s account of his own alcoholism does he ever admit to abusing his wife. And yet he seems to know so much about the propensity to do exactly that. Leaving out these important truths in his own case makes him a liar and hypocrite.
Interestingly, Wilson’s grandfather, himself an alcoholic, spontaneously resolved to stop drinking at about the same age that Wilson did, although many years earlier, in some kind of religious fervor. Thus it seems more likely that aging is the cure for alcoholism much more than AA, and it’s no coincidence that most AA members stop drinking for good at middle age.
The Mythical Addict:
The mythical addict in the public perception is a young person with great potential, who has their entire life ahead of them, but through a couple errors in judgment they partake of illicit substances. Before long they are full blown addicts, having descended into the depths of depravity, lying and stealing for their habit, losing friends and family and living on the street, sometimes near death.
This myth is actually a conflation of the 4 types of addicts:
- narcissist - young person with potential
- soul seeker – no history of addictive traits
- malingerer – sickness and withdrawals
- psychopath – lying and abusive
Though addicts may combine traits of two groups, they never can be truly of all 4 types. Bill Wilson would like us to believe that he was the mythical addict. But he was really just a psychopath with a touch of ‘soul seeker’. The rest of his autobiographical account is fiction.
The persistence of AA and the addiction myth relies on the combination of all 4 types of fakers and the qualities that each brings to the organization. Many of us know an addict personally, whom we believe to be a faker, but we think, “Perhaps he’s a faker. But there are other real addicts out there, and I know this because otherwise AA wouldn’t exist.” In fact we are all just keeping the myth aloft through a mental game of hot potato. There are no real addicts.
Fundamentally, the narcissists, soul seekers and malingerers all provide cover for the psychopaths to prey on the vulnerable, both in the groups and out in the real world, operating under the noble and tragic guise of the Mythical Addict.
The True Devastation of Drug Addiction
The self-serving myths have served only to rationalize the reprehensible behavior of addicts, have created a huge healthcare industry that takes in billions of dollars a year from innocent families (and taxpayers), and justify the imprisonment of millions of people. Worst of all, the Myth of Addiction is used to justify slaughter of many thousands of innocent people around the world each year, both from the drug war itself and the concomitant casualties caused by corruption and overstretched and outgunned security.
It is ironic that the the drug war is justified as preventing the scourge of ‘addiction’ when in reality it only serves to protect psychopaths. All the while, it is spreading real physical death, injury, and destruction around the world (e.g. Mexico, Afghanistan). Many of the children of these wars will be psychopaths too. We must no longer tolerate the Myth of Addiction.