Abstinence. Personal Empowerment. Support. Inclusiveness. www.freestylerecovery.org.
I was reading the Rational Recovery website the other day, and came across the following paragraph on the front page that gave me pause.
"Ever wonder why alcoholics and problem drinkers drink so much? It’s because alcohol produces in them a pleasure greater than all others — an unspoken pleasure far greater than the normal survival drives of sex, eating, family life, the desire to succeed in life, and physical safety. The resulting drive to repeat that pleasure is proportionately stronger than normal survival drives. Alcohol is a synthetic, man-made substance, among a group of synthetic drugs that produce pleasure greater than evolution has prepared us to manage, a disorienting pleasure that causes one's moral compass to point south toward death rather than toward true north and life."
Now there are some great concepts in Rational Recovery, but it seems to me that almost every statement in this paragraph is wrong, which is why it gave me pause.
By the time I was an addict, drinking didn't give me pleasure, it gave me relief - and not much more that was positive. You will often hear former addicts say that they didn't drink to get drunk, they drank to feel normal, and that's how it was for me, too. There is such a thing as chemical dependency, and it has no relationship to pleasure or morals, it is a medical condition, and that is what drives people to repeat their problem drinking over and over again with a drive that is stronger than other drives. People who have never been addicts, and who buy into popular stereotypes, may think addicts are hedonists who have lost their moral compasses, but it is surprising to read this on the front page of Rational Recovery. It isn't true.
Alcohol, ethanol C2H5OH, is a natural substance that forms from fermentation of sugars by yeasts. It has been known since neolithic times, some 9000 years ago, as an intoxicant. The ancient Egyptians and Greeks knew all about alcohol, and in modern times prisoners often make crude alcoholic beverages (pruno) by simply mixing fruit, bread, water and sugar and waiting a while. There is nothing synthetic about it, it occurs naturally, and lower animals are well-known to consume alcohol in the wild and become intoxicated.
Back to the moral compass. Few concepts are more damaging to efforts by society to help addicts than this one. Addiction is not an issue of morals and it never has been - that is an almost prehistoric concept, belonging to the era of the early days of AA. People drink and abuse alcohol for a variety of reasons, often including escape from real problems rooted in childhood, and some fraction of them become addicted (chemically dependent) for biochemical reasons that are partly genetic. Bringing the concept of morals into discussions about addiction may help a handful of people, but it certainly hurts many others.
I guess wisdom is where you find it, but it surprised me to find this paragraph right on the front page of the website of a leading secular addiction recovery organization. I would have hoped for something better, given the very valuable concepts that the same organization teaches, particularly the Addict Voice concept.