Wednesday, January 11, 2006

More on James Frey

One really important reason to be unhappy that this man's book is taken to be nonfiction is that he claims to have beaten several different addictions with essentially willpower alone.

I am a long way from AA's biggest fan. But it really does seem to work for some people and claiming that the disease model of addiction is "garbage" as Frey calls it, is not a good thing coming from a man who has not fought addiction to really nasty drugs like he says he has.

(e.g. If I were to write my bestselling book "How I beat breast cancer with a vegan diet" wherein I said chemotherapy was garbage and giving up animal products got rid of cancer just fine, when none of that was true, then what I would be doing would be somewhere between irresponsible and homicidal. What it wouldn't be is excuseable.)



Psyton said...

I haven't read the book... but really, I sort of agree that the disease model of addiction is bullshit.

I recall an anecdote from a biology book where a bunch of chimps were observed eating rancid fruit that had pretty much fermented into rather potent alcohol. They were quite inebriated and seemed to be having a good time, but the next day they were quite hung over, withdrawn, and cranky. The most stunning observation was that they never touched the rancid fruit, or anything smelling of alcohol again.

This leads me to think that humans are intelligent social creatures that find themselves in situations where they rationally decide 'tis better to repeatedly poison themselves for the sake of a rush or distraction rather than actually deal with the isolation, persecution, or desperation that is facing them at a given moment.

Granted, after one develops a tolerance, it becomes more of a bitch to kick... but really, outside prison dramas, an addiction is a concious choice to get into, even if it is rife with delusion. It's also quite funny that bad addiction seems to be an issue with poor people than it happens to be an issue with [insert genetic trait here] people.

I don't like the disease model of addiction because it isn't scientific and because it takes away personal responsibility or the examination of surrounding social issues. It suddenly turns addiction into a problem that is just waiting for the right cure, and it stigmatizes addicts as unable to deal and gives them a rationalization for falling back into bad habits: "Oh, I'm pre-disposed for this anyways".

I do like AA because it gets a bunch of people together to talk about their problems and not judge each other. That, and the "alcohol/substance is just too much of a crutch for you and you probably shouldn't incorporate it into your lifestyle anymore because you have a tendency to abuse it" philosophy is a good one to have for people in recovery.

But really, "how I figured out getting over myself and getting some positive hobbies allowed me to crawl out of the bottle" is relatively beleivable to me as opposed to "how a vegan diet beat breast cancer" .

Now, James Frey might have been making even wackier claims... but I can sort of see willpower being the thing that mostly helps anyone overcome an addiction.

LaReinaCobre said...

It is hard for me to comment on this, never having been a drug addict.

I don't think there's an either/or scenario here, however. Theories about addiction are, I think, intended to help people overcome them. If the notion that addiction is a disease helps you to cope with it, and beat it, hooray! If the idea that addiction is a choice helps you to find power within yourself, great!

Hopefully people will keep their eyes open and look for the model that works for them.

For my part, my biological father (now a born again Christian) was an addict, and I am mindful of this. I also take into account that one of my grandmothers was a gambling addict. I keep on the lookout for obsessive or avoiding behavior within myself, not because I view addiction as a genetic disease, but because I think our natural defense mechanisms may be partly inherited.

People need to know themselves better, and be honest with themselves. They need to be okay with saying, "That's not for me."