The New Paradigm for Addiction

When we choose to change the way we look at addiction, addiction itself will change. Currently we see addiction as a disease, as something that the individual is not responsible for, did not choose and is powerless to change. While this essentially leaves the addict and alcoholic a victim of life, this perspective also breeds a sense of hopelessness and helplessness. As we know, our current perspective about addiction does not translate into any kind of effective treatment for the addict and alcoholic as the relapse numbers clearly reveal.

It is my belief that we need to develop a paradigm that honors and values human consciousness. Before the development of AA, there was a philosophy about human beings that was diametrically opposed to any kind of victimization and supportive of empowerment. This new perspective believed that we are absolutely responsible for all of our experiences, that we choose how life will be for us and that we have the power within us to transform, to change the trajectory of our life. This movement valued human thinking and the thoughts and beliefs that we create.

At the basis of this new philosophy is the idea that the most important thoughts and beliefs we have are the ones we have about our value and worth as human beings, our self-image. It is our self-image that generates our self-esteem, how we feel about ourselves, about others and even life in general. Given that this is a basic tenet of modern cognitive psychology, that our thinking creates our feelings, which dictates our behavior, I believe that we need to develop a new philosophy that embraces and utilizes this type of powerful perspective.

We need to believe that developing a positive self-image and with it good self-esteem or self love is the primary goal of treatment for addicts and alcoholics. This would also necessitate that we conceive of addiction not as a disease but rather as a thought problem or disorder. Being ideational in nature, thoughts and the condition can be changed. The addict and alcoholic would now have a sense of hope for change and transformation. While not easy to implement, the addict and alcoholic would eventually come to assume responsibility for their life, accept that they are choosing how life is appearing before them and that they have the power to live the life that they say they want.

Dr. Harry Henshaw