Friday, January 18, 2008


Despite never having had a drug or alcohol addiction myself, there are two shows involving the subject that I've been watching religiously...Intervention, which has been on for a couple of years now; and Celebrity Rehab, the new reality show on Vh1 with Dr. Drew Pinsky that started a week or two ago.

Intervention begins by showing the addict in their day to day, self-destructive lives. Along the way it provides insight into why the person turned to their drug of choice (be it narcotics, alcohol or even food) in the first place. The family and/or friends then step in, with the help of an addictions specialist, to try and get the addict into a treatment program.

Celebrity Rehab began by taking a bunch of two-bit, mostly washed up and/or barely known "celebrities", paying them to go through rehab, showing a little bit of what withdrawal does to a person, and is now slowly revealing the deep-seeded issues that eventually lead these people to their addictions. Essentially, Intervention seeks to pull you in with empathy, then moves on to sympathy. Celebrity Rehab tries to do the reverse. Both are the proverbial train wreck that you can't take your eyes off of.

Each time I watch these shows, an incident that happened while attending a group during my last hospitalization keeps coming to mind. The group was about addictions and the first question the therapist leading it asked was "who here doesn't believe that addiction is an illness". I was the only person that raised their hand. What the therapist failed to do is ask me why I felt that way. He assumed I viewed it as many do, as a moral weakness, and proceeded to persuade me otherwise. That's one thing about mental health workers I detest. They make immediate assumptions based on a single statement without ever asking for an explanation or without ever allowing you a minute to offer up clarification about why you hold a certain view you do.

Having met and talked at length with many addicts, there is no way I could conceivably think addiction is a moral weakness. But is it an illness in and of itself? No, I personally don't believe it is. Is it a symptom of an illness? A resounding YES to that. Addiction can also lead to the development of other illnesses, but I have yet to be convinced by the medical establishment, through their studies and their lectures, that as a stand alone problem, addiction is an illness. As research continues, maybe one day the data will sway my opinion.

For now, I'll watch Intervention and cry because I relate all too closely to the reasons behind why these people became addicts in the first place, knowing full well that I too could easily be one of them. As Celebrity Rehab gets more into those reasons, I'll probably cry watching that show too. Maybe I actually do have a tiny bit of empathy and sympathy in me after all.


Anonymous Borderline Crazy said...

Typical. Was this therapist just taking a survey or something? WTF? These questions are endlessly fascinating and debatable. I originally was going to argue with you, but I think I would be splitting hairs. I argued against the disease concept of alcoholism for a decade or so, but I've come to believe in the "allergy" concept used by AA. I also think the "symptom" paradigm makes greater sense than an out-and-out disease model (why else would sober addicts still manifest other characteristics of addiction?). I wonder if this will ever really be determined...

7:25 AM, January 19, 2008  
Blogger anna said...

Today is my 9 month clean anniversary and I still can't watch Intervention yet. I tried when it was showing a script addict and I ended up in big time craving mode. :)

I have watched both episodes of Celeb rehab, mostly out of curiosity about the differences in "poor people rehab vs rich people rehab".....It's a good show but only a couple of the celebs actually demonstrated true withdrawal like I experienced or saw others go through in rehab. It hasn't made me crave as of yet.

I do believe that addiction/alcoholism is a disease. It is like they say, "chronic, progressive, and then fatal", just like diabetes or heart disease when untreated. It will get worse, not better and will kill your ass eventually. Substance abuse truly follows a continuum.

Brain imaging has also shown that addiction can severely alters brain areas that are critical to decision making, memory, and behavior control.

It's light years beyond just will power. Beyond. Not to mention the role genetics has been proven to play. After all, 60% of addicts have a family history. And there is also the large amount of us addicts who have co occurring mental disorders. Fun times! :)

You can most certainly take the substances away and still have an addicts behaviors and thoughts, that's why it's so vital to be part of a recovery group, whether it be a 12 step kind or what, and even with working the steps, sometimes even the most dedicated recovering addict can't stay clean with NA/AA alone.

The disease always lies and waits and wants the addict to believe "they can handle it" just one more time.

I'll get off my soap box now. Great post Sid!


4:10 PM, January 19, 2008  

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