black and white image of man staring out window

“In order to have the things that Other People Don’t,
You have to be willing to do the things that Other People Won’t”

Motivational sayings, inspirational readings, books and motivational seminars…. We pay money to have others motivate us in business, sports and life…. We have people like Tony Robbins, Les Brown, Zig Ziglar, Eric Thomas, Norman Vincent Peale, Charles Shuler, Brian Tracy…. the people that get paid millions of dollars to travel the country to motivate us are endless. They say “You can achieve your dreams,” “You can accomplish the impossible and live beyond your potential,” and “The Power is within”. The books that are sold, the CDs and videos that are marketed and the training programs that we buy to actually take us to another level are all around us. Self-help is a billion-dollar business but we don’t consider self-help as a staple for the treatment of addiction.

In business, companies pay incredible amounts of money to motivate their employees at conferences. In sports, coaches pay motivational speakers to rally their players to work harder, to become greater than they believe they can be. Schools often hire presenters to motivate students, to get them to look within at their self-worth, their courage and their ability to achieve their goals. Throughout the country, there are plenty of examples of resources and motivational materials that are designed to show us that greatness lies within us, and that if we are willing to go the extra mile, to dig deeper, to reach deep within ourselves to push ourselves, we can achieve what we thought was impossible. Its self-help mixed with self-motivation… but for some reason, throughout the entire addiction treatment field, I see very little of it.

In this American Epidemic, there’s so much measurement on death and the focus is on the problems. Newspaper headlines and lead stories tell about how many overdoses we’re experiencing or how bad one town is getting hit. Stories about fentanyl, heroin and other adulterated substances abound. New synthetic drugs with given names like Flakka, Bath Salts or Moon Rocks continue to grow. Each year is more deadly than the last. It’s the doomsday of drugs. It’s horrible and it’s getting worse. It’s that messenger of misery that we begin to listen to. But, should we focus so much on the problem in order to solve it?

The National approach to this epidemic is one of triage obviously. We do some things in crisis that we wouldn’t normally do if we had time for preparedness. That’s one thing this country didn’t have in this public social health crisis – time or planning to prepare for this. Many people predicted this, though few listened. It was slow developing and since 1995, the 20-year epidemic journey has shifted our focus. I fear we are losing our focus on the solutions. My fear is that the pendulum has swung so far in the opposite direction that we’re losing sight of the value of motivation and optimism, self-determination and commitment of life. I know that this is controversial and there will be some people that will adamantly disagree with me, but I don’t believe we are doing what’s best for those that are in the grips of addiction, or their families for that matter.

Much of the discussion, the remedy, the approach for people to deal with addiction is to look at it through an illness lens. We want to treat addiction as an illness, a brain disease that has somehow altered the very nature of how our brain works. We tell people that addiction is a disease, and that it’s a disease from which there is no known cure. There are fellowships that embrace self-professing oneself as an addict or an alcoholic for the rest of our lives. There are people who believe that we must place people on medications, maybe even forever! Some people point to this as a medical condition that needs to be treated as such, but I don’t know any other medical condition that we treat this way – it can only be managed and kept at bay – for life? There’s nothing we can do about it? Why isn’t there a cure? Why isn’t abstinence it? Why must we look at it as a life-long, debilitating defect and never move beyond it to live our life to the fullest? Why are we in recovery, and not recovered?

Reflecting back to the world of motivation and the concept of finding your power within yourself to achieve your goals, I think about addiction. In so much of life- our careers, sports, gym, and most importantly- believing in yourself and believing that you can accomplish great things – again, I think about addiction. Why wouldn’t we work to build more self- confidence in those that are seeking recovery? Over the past few years, I have heard many people from Mike Tyson to a counselor in a treatment center group say that, “Relapse is part of recovery”. Why wouldn’t we encourage those in recovery to refuse to relapse? Why do we so openly accept failure as inevitable, especially when failure almost certainly means death?

If the power to overcome addiction doesn’t lie within us, but in something outside of us, can we truly recover? No one else can recover for us. We must recover ourselves, right? It’s not something that many in recovery agree upon, and I accept that. But I can’t look at addiction as something that is so unique from any and every other aspect of my life. I need to take a unique approach, especially when I see the approach that’s were using is failing so many people so miserably. If looking within at my inner strength will work for me in the gym, my career, my educational quests, and in all the other aspects of my life where I must be the driving force for success, then it will work in my quest to recover from my addiction. I just wish we would give more credence to such a powerful force – ourselves!