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12 Steps to Evading Responsibility

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By Dan Edge from The Edge of Reason,cross-posted by MetaBlog

Anyone who has ever had a loved one addicted to drugs or alcohol has a stake in addiction recovery programs. These programs are supposed to help the abuser get clean and stay clean. Those who commit drug-related crimes are often required by the state to attend addiction recovery groups. Millions of tax dollars and the hopes of countless loved ones are invested in these programs each year.

By far the most popular philosophy guiding addiction recovery is the 12 Step Program. This program was initially developed by a group of alcoholics who later formed Alcoholics Anonymous. Almost all addiction groups approved by the state follow the 12 Step philosophy.

Discouragingly, this popular method of recovery is not at all effective – “relapse” is common. Statistics have consistently shown that 12 Step Programs do not yield any better results than self-recovery. How could such a widely practiced recovery method prove to be so ineffectual? The answer: 12 Step Programs encourage the addict to evade the responsibility of fixing his own problems.

The first of the 12 Steps affirms, “We admitted we were powerless over [drugs or] alcohol—that our lives had become unmanageable.” From the outset, one is compelled to concede that he is impotent to solve his own problems. But if one is incapable of recovering by himself, then how is it possible to recover at all? We are told in step three that we must make “a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we [understand] him.” By the time one reaches step seven, his will is strong enough to “Humbly [ask God] to remove [his] shortcomings.” So if one is successful in staying away from drugs or alcohol, then the credit belongs to God. (Addicts internalize the direct implication: that the credit for “relapse” is also God’s.)

One’s “higher power” does not have to be the traditional Christian God, 12 Step advocates are quick to add. We can choose any conception of a “higher power” we like, as long as it is outside of the self, separate from one’s own will. For this reason, they believe it is impossible to renounce drug abuse once and for all. If one’s will is fundamentally impotent, then he is only capable of staying clean “one day at a time.” There’s plenty of proof that permanent recovery is impossible, we are told – almost everyone in the 12 Step Group has “relapsed.”

The truth is that the 12 Step philosophy sanctions and encourages “relapse” (which is itself a dubious term implying that drug abuse is an uncontrollable disease like cancer). These programs will never be successful because they are based on a false premise: that one is incapable of mending his own character. We all have free will – we have the choice to think or not, to live or not, to stay away from drugs and alcohol forever or to commit slow suicide through substance abuse.

If one truly wishes to overcome drug or alcohol addiction, his first step must be the exact opposite of what the 12 Step Program advocates. He must embrace the responsibility for his own faults and acknowledge that he alone can fix them. His next step must be to renounce drug and alcohol abuse for all time. Otherwise he is setting himself up for failure and “relapse.” One must recognize that no values are possible for the drug addict. What use is there in apologizing for past offenses or creating new values if one is only going to throw it all away the next time he “relapses?” That one’s will is capable of renouncing drugs and alcohol forever is blasphemy to 12 Step advocates, yet that is precisely what one must do if he hopes to live a normal, happy life.

If you ever have the misfortune of witnessing a loved one struggling with drug or alcohol addiction, do not make the mistake of advising him to seek shelter in Alcoholics Anonymous or some similar group. Encourage your loved one to think hard about whether or not he truly wants to get clean. If he is not fully dedicated to reforming himself, then recovery is impossible — neither the will of God nor the will of the group can save him. But if he sincerely wishes to reconstitute his character, refer him to a rational self-recovery program (like www.rational.org). He will thank you for the rest of his life.

--Dan Edge

This article was written for my "Intro to Writing II" class at the Objectivist Academic Center, and is the property of the OAC. It does not necessarily represent the views of the OAC or the Ayn Rand Institute. I reproduce it here with permission.

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