Thursday, February 24, 2011


Part of my job is dealing with chemical addictions and the addicts who have them. One definition of chemical dependency that I particularly like and have seen validated over and over again is this: "Chemical dependency is essentially a committed pathological love relationship to a mood altering chemical substance."

This reality is sometimes hard to believe, especially when you regularly observe the chaotic mess most of the lives of addicts are. Especially the chronically homeless (because of drugs); the chronically penniless (because of drugs); the chronically friendless and isolated (except for other addicts); and the chronically angry and paranoid (because of drugs). But, if you ask an addict why he takes drugs, he is very likely to tell that he likes or enjoys them.

From a review of the book linked above:

The McAuliffes conclude that chemical dependency is a disease. Some would say it is a choice, but choice does not apply to the addict. It applies only before addiction. Once the love commitment is made, reason and choice are not available. The shift is made to emotional compulsion. The addict is now in the grip of an emotional commitment that warps reason and restricts freedom of choice. A rigid defense system is also produced, warding off any interference with the addict's behavior. And the seal is set to the situation by delusion. The addict's perception of reality is distorted, which further impairs his reason and judgment. If these elements were mildly present in a love relationship between a man and a woman, it would be normal, even comical. But in a love relationship to a chemical it is disastrous, producing a debilitating downward spiral, toward both personal and social disorder and destruction.
The only thing I disagree with in the above is the comment that, "choice does not apply to the addict." On the contrary, as long as the addict is human, choice always applies; especially before addiction, but also every time an addict is effectively "detoxed", i.e., successfully weaned from the physiological effects of his or her particular chemical of choice. It is at that point that they can start anew both biologically and psychologically.

The problem is getting them to commit to the weaning and the long process of staying away from the substance they KNOW will destroy their life. It is the opening in which therapists attempt to convince the addict that they can have a life worth living without this destructive and toxic relationship.

Meanwhile, the addiction that they cling to also happens to bring disorder and destruction to everyone around them. Family and friends are often all too aware that the addict's perception of reality as well as his judgment is markedly impaired.

Some people are addictd to alcohol; some to heroin, cocaine and other opiates; some to amphetamines and hallucinogenics. Then you get onto the psychological addictions like gambling; or sex or porn.

Without minimizing all these very real societal problems, I submit that an even greater number of people in our society are addicted to spending other people's money.

Their love of and dependence on your money is extremely strong. They feel they cannot live without it; and they will fight to keep on getting it--even behaving in ways that are deplorable and socially reprehensible. Like the biological addicts, they are willing to lie, cheat and do violence in order to remain in this committed and pathological relationship with your money. And, in addition, they have the delusional belief that they are entitled to it without question, without possibility of alteration for forever. Are you broke? Too bad. They are entitled to continue to get it.

Withdrawal or even detoxification efforts (gradual changes) are met with anger and rage and increasingly unreasonable demands and threats. Having had free access to your money for so long time, their perception of reality is distorted; their judgment is impaired. They can no longer see what is happening in the world around them and attempts to make them understand how their behavior is impacting the rest of the social network is met with utter and complete psychological denial.

Lately, we have been witnessing the rage of these addicts on a daily basis on our TV sets and even perhaps in our communities.

And just like those who are chemically dependent, this type of addict has its enablers.

In psychiatry--and particularly addiction medicine--we talk about people who "enable" addicts. Enabling refers to any behavior or action that assists the addict in the continuation of their addiction.

Enabling can be either intentional or unintentional, but enabling behavior allows the addict to continue their destructive behavior. An example of enabling behavior with an alcoholic, for example, is someone who, although they verbally disapprove of their spouse/friend's drinking, repeatedly will go out and purchases alcohol for him/her.

Frequently enablers tell psychiatrists that they "only want to help" or that they are "afraid" of what will happen to them if they don't do the things that help the addict (e.g., the addict will beat them up or make their lives difficult in some way).

Thus you can find enablers who "call in sick" for their addict; even doctors who write addicts notes for work.

You find enablers who will not confront the behavior of the addict and its consequences; or those who even accept blame for the addict's behavior.

Often, out of compassion, people will give addicts "one more chance" which evolves into another, then another and another; gradually distancing the addict from taking responsibility for his or her behavior. It should be obvious that, rather than "helping" the addict, they actually makee it easier for him to get worse; escalate his behavior and to feel even more entitled.

Some people (or political parties) like to hang around addicts because they know they can easily take advantage of, or manipulate people whose sense of entitlement is stroked and whose judgment is distorted. These sick relationships serve the psychopathology of both the enabler and the addict.

Whatever the motivation of the enabler, they will always "help" the addict to avoid responsibility for their destructive behavior. ,

Am I making my point? This is what the Democrats and allthose who have sucked up to the out-of-control public labor unions have been doing for years.

The absolute denial of fiscal reality is the hallmark of both the person addicted to the taxpayers' money and the groups that enable them.

But the process of detox and withdrawal must begin. These people are not slaves. If they don't like the terms of their employment, they can find jobs elsewhere, just like the rest of us. They are not entitled to taxpayer money in perpetuity and if the taxpayers want to renegotiate the terms of their employment because the taxpayer is going broke, then it is time for them to face a little reality.

Deciding to stop addiction and a dysfunctional relationship is a tough choice. It can be very uncomfortable and even painful for a while. But, it is a process of slowly waking up to reality and accepting responsibility for one's own life.

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