Each one of us has the free will to be open-minded and to think for ourselves. Open-mindedness means taking the effort and time to listen to another point of view and to explore the evidence that supports opposing positions. It’s good and healthy to compare and contrast differences. We then can accept or reject any or all of the information, but it’s at least done from an informed perspective.
Some people dismiss any data that is contrary to their belief system regardless of whether the information is correct or not. A Course in Miracles teaches, “No amount of evidence will convince you of the truth you do not want.”
The phenomenon of contempt prior to investigation is what sociologists refer to as cognitive dissonance. When the truth is too uncomfortable, it’s merely rejected.
Most people don’t even realize what they are doing or why. Something is said that evokes an uncomfortable emotional response, and the unwanted information is dismissed. Shutting someone down does not allow for learning and growth, and it reenacts the dysfunctional family rules, “Don’t think, don’t trust, don’t feel, and don’t talk about it.”
Contempt before investigation stems from fear. When we reject information based on how it makes us feel, we decide against our own best interests.
Recently, a licensed mental health practitioner contacted me and took issue with the title of my book Exit the Maze: One Addiction, One Cause, One Cure. Like many other critics, he concluded without ever reading the book.
“Addiction is a physiological response. The brain injury that is responsible for addiction is in the mid-brain. Please stop publishing misinformation about addiction just to make money. You are killing people with your misinformation. You should probably lose your license — Research Dr. McCauley at Center for Addiction Studies. Addicts can love they just can’t function in relationships. You cannot love your way sober. You can’t think your way sober and there is no cure for addiction. Please stop this nonsense.”
He’s right, of course. Substance abuse does damage the brain. Images of brains that have suffered substance abuse clearly look different than non-substance abusers. But, like any other organ, the brain can heal.
Studies of animal’s substance-abuse brains and studies with twins raised with and without addicted parents, but these lack sufficient evidence to support the hypothesis that human addiction is a brain disorder. We currently don’t have studies of the same brains pre and post addiction, so there are not enough scientific facts to support this premise.
As for birth defects, I don’t believe babies are born with addictive brains. As of yet, we don’t have studies that follow the infant’s brains from birth to addiction to compare with the brains of non-addicted people. Until we do, we can’t assume that this type of brain disorder is a congenital disability. Nor is there a study that proves there’s a gene that dictates a person must drink, smoke, take drugs, or do anything else compulsively self-destructive.
If addiction is treated as a brain disorder, then the standard protocol is medication. Some people need medication but not as the first measure, only when it is a medical necessity. Obviously, with severe brain damage, the use of drugs is common sense.
The second premise that addicts can love, but they just can’t function in relationships, ignores the fact that many people who are addicted are in loving relationships. Difficulty in relationships is usually due to previous trauma and failure to bond with a healthy parent. There is no scientific proof that addicts can’t have relationships.
The third premise that you can’t think your way sober also fails to recognize how effective Cognitive Therapy has been to help addicts stay sober. Thousands of people who were otherwise unable to succeed have stayed sober with programs such as Smart Recovery. By learning to be aware of self-defeating thoughts, Smart Recovery teaches people how to retrain their thinking toward rational thoughts that consequently produce self-empowered feelings. Many of these patients are not on medication.
To say the McCauley’s way is the only way is the same faulty argument as saying there’s only one religion. Most of the information on the website is sensible, but it’s not the only way to get sober.
The most crucial point of all — my critic equates addiction with only one addiction — substance abuse. While it’s true that brain scans show differences in the amygdala and the hypothalamus with some addictions, these studies have not taken into account all of the hundreds of other addictions and their effect on the brain. Until we do, the evidence is deficient.
There are plenty of studies that show changes in the brain in anticipation of the reward; drugs, alcohol, etc. But again, where are the brain studies that compare bad rewards with good rewards such as hugs, kisses, watching a favorite show, going on vacation, seeing a loved one, etc.?
The premise that addiction is a brain disorder, and must be treated only as such is not an absolute fact.
When I refer to love being the only cure, I’m not talking about treatment. A person can do everything recommended in treatment and never be cured. Abstinence and emotional healing are essential, but if a patient doesn’t find self-love, they are unlikely to stay sober.
A cure is defined as “The absence of symptoms.” An addict is cured when they no longer think about addiction other than something they used to do that no longer holds any interest.
Once a person reaches the point that nothing or no one could ever make them engage in any addiction, they are cured.
A person who is cured is not only sober but has also been restored to their life’s purpose. They have healthy relationships, treat their bodies like a sacred temple, have fun, enjoy hobbies and interests, and share and receive love with others. They are no longer disconnected; their brains work just fine — maybe not perfect, but good enough to have a meaningful and enjoyable life free of addiction.
Everything that helps an addict to get sober and stay sober is part of loving oneself. People who love themselves avoid self-harm at all costs. When people learn how to love themselves, they stop substituting addiction for love.
Lest we be like semi-trucks spinning our wheels in the mud, let us learn to be open to different points of view. It might feel uncomfortable to explore the many facets of a controversial issue, but there is no other way to make informed decisions.
Communication can bring us closer or farther apart. When we openly and lovingly discuss different points of view, we are healing the separation and coming together for the common good of unity.
There is nothing to fear. “Seek only truth, and the truth will set you free.” When it comes to addiction, until someone loves themselves, they will never be completely free of addiction.
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Donna Marks is an educator and licensed psychotherapist and addictions counselor in Palm Beach, Florida. In 1989. She has worked with over 6,000 clients. Donna’s struggle with addiction brought her to a worldwide search for healing. She became licensed as a Mental Health Counselor in 1987. In 1989, she earned a Doctorate Degree in Adult Education, then became Certified in Addictions, Gestalt Therapy, Psychoanalysis, Hypnosis, and Sex Therapy. Donna developed an award-winning addiction training program at Palm Beach Community College. She co-owned an outpatient treatment program and is a consultant to treatment centers. Donna is the author of the multi-award-winning, Exit the Maze-One Addiction, One Cause, One Cure, and created an online course for people who want to be cured of addiction.
Donna is a public speaker and has shared her methods with hundreds of thousands of listeners on podcasts and radio shows.
www.drdonnamarks.com 561–436–9360 email@example.com