Projection and Illusions

 

One year ago this week, I had to bury the cold dead body of someone I loved more than my own life. Ten days earlier and just before noon, I had answered the phone to hear a stranger from the medical examiner’s office in another town tell me she was dead.

For the 15 years prior to that moment, she had been systematically dismantling herself, beginning in small ways but eventually moving on to big, unsustainable ways. She died like the character in The Sun Also Rises went bankrupt: gradually then suddenly.

And now she is just gone.

When she first started going off the rails I was operating with the illusion that she was just missing some vital piece of information which, once she got it, would cause the lightbulb to come on and bring her back to her senses. I assumed that no one would ever make such self-destructive and unsustainable choices unless they just misunderstood the likely consequences. For two years I lay sleepless at night as I wrestled with ways to get some magical and transforming piece of information into her.

Maybe if I say it this way, I imagined, then she will finally understand.

But I was blind to what was really going on because I operated with the false premise that she wanted out of life what I wanted out of life. My lens for interpreting what was going on was the lens of how I personally would have felt in her circumstances. But that reflected a costly mistake of understanding on my part which led to years of ineffectual efforts to help her. For years, what I intended as help was effectively worthless because it was based on the assumption that what she lacked was more knowledge and understanding. It took me too long to realize that she understood exactly what she was doing.

Some people live in circumstances that you or I might find intolerable. But it does not necessarily follow that they themselves find their circumstances intolerable. I have learned, through hard experiences, that some people prefer their horrible circumstance to any alternative that would require changes in self-discipline or the denial of their appetites. Their problem is not a lack of information but that they have consciously chosen their immediate appetites over their long-term well-being. Usually, they know what they’re doing.

“The thought of being sober the rest of my life depresses me.” Those words, spoken by her, went round and round in my head as I stood over her grave last year.

There is a human tendency, I think, to interpret the actions of others through the lens of our own motivations and desires. We assume, usually, that another person’s experience of his own life is like ours would be if we were living with his circumstances. If I would be miserable, say, being in debt, I assume that another person who is in debt must be miserable. If I would be miserable being addicted to drugs, I assume the drug addict must be miserable. As it happens, though, it is often the case that things like indebtedness and addiction are preferable to people for whom the alternative, to them, seems worse. The choices required to avoid debt, or to live life with sobriety, are actually undesirable to them. It isn’t that they don’t understand or that they lack information. It is that they don’t want the alternative.

This business of projecting our own sensibilities onto others, as a way to understand them, contributes to miscalculation and wasted time in many areas of our lives, not least in the area of politics and public policies. Conservatives often blunder, in my opinion, by projecting their own motivations onto the left. Conservatives are generally trying to have a rational conversation about the utilitarian benefits of various policy prescriptions. Because conservatives want the economy to grow, or stable formation of families, or a reduction in poverty, they assume that the left is operating with similar humanitarian concerns, just misguided or uninformed regarding how to actually achieve those ends. Conservatives, I think, misinterpret what the left is up to in this regard. The left probably has no true interest in a reduction of poverty or in a growing economy. Their actions for two generations suggest they have almost zero interest in helping the poor. The left’s interest in the poor is mostly confined to exploiting sentimental rhetoric about them as a way to consolidate the left’s power. Conservatives project their own sensibilities onto the left when they believe they are engaging in a rational discussion with them as a way to persuade.

There’s a famous scene in Indiana Jones where the title character confronts a sword-wielding Egyptian. The Egyptian demonstrates mastery of his weapon with an elaborate and intricate display. It seems impressive, right up until the moment Indiana Jones pulls a gun and shoots the swordsman.

In the conversation taking place between conservatives and the left, conservatives are the Egyptian and the left is Indiana Jones. In fact, a person could be forgiven for suspecting that the populist revolt which started in 2016 was in recognition of this dynamic. A lot of voters recognized, even if conservative politicos did not, that the left and the right are not playing the same game.

It is vital to develop a reality-based understanding of the motivations of others.

The life of drug dependency and dissipation, lived by my late loved one, drew my wife and me into close contact with all of the pathologies of the urban poor. Over the years I spent thousands of dollars of my own money bailing hapless young men out of jail – men who are entirely unrelated to me. I have also paid their fines, propping these young men up so that they can go to work without the imminent prospect of arrest. I have carried both younger and older men to rehab. I have paid, out of my own pocket, the drug rehab expenses of some of them. I have loaded my car trunk with groceries and carried the groceries into the home of a drug dealer in Texas to feed the hungry children who lived there (the drug dealer apparently having uses for his own money other than feeding his children.) None of this was done as part of some organized service or ministry. My wife and I are just followers of Christ, and these are things we’ve done in the moment, when we had some connection, in an effort to be faithful to our understanding at the time of Christ’s calling in our lives.

So I’m not bragging, I’m just explaining. I actually hate writing about these details. But I don’t know any other way to illustrate the fact that my perspective is informed by the rough and tumble of engaging with real people. When you have seen the filth and cleaned the bodily fluids out of an addict’s apartment, these things cease being theoretical. The personal price to me in heartbreak has been far more costly than the money.

And here is what I have learned: Almost without exception, the people I have tried to help have failed to take advantage of the help I have offered. The young men usually end up back in jail. The drug addicts usually end up back on drugs. It has nothing to do with their race. Zero. It has little to do with information. It has everything to do with their character and with their culture.

They love and value the wrong things. Their understanding of the world is at odds with what is true. Their culture denigrates the very commitments and disciplines that could otherwise alter the trajectories of their lives. They do not value work. They do not accept the benefits of delaying gratification. They are dying, not because they don’t understand, but because they prefer the chaos of their lives to what would be required of them to avoid it. In fact, trendy blame games, like “white privilege”, actually serve as a congenial excuse when you are a young man who won’t stop smoking weed, get out of bed, and maintain a steady job.

This is what I have learned: human freedom and moral agency offer far more explanatory power about a person’s actions than does anything about that person’s material or environmental conditioning.

It is actually hard, in the current environment, to give yourself permission to learn from experience when the conclusions you are inclined to draw depart from the cultural narrative. We are so enamored with experts that sometimes we’re afraid to actually learn from experience and form our own opinions. It could be that I’m only speaking for myself, but I suspect not. For generations, we have been told that human behavior is the result of economic and environmental conditioning (e.g., “poverty causes crime”). What if the dominant narrative has the direction of causality entirely reversed?

Anyway, my own unhappy experience suggests that adult poverty in economically free societies is usually self-inflicted and often knowingly chosen by the poor themselves over the personal impositions they would otherwise have to endure. And by all means, we should avert our eyes from the financial incentives of the poverty industrial complex, with its legions of helpers and experts, all of whom would be put out of work without a strong fictitious narrative regarding the causes of urban poverty. Ensuring that we project our own sensibilities onto our understanding of the urban poor will guarantee many more years of employment for helpers and experts.

Conservatives would be well-served by a wholesale reconsideration of whether perceiving the left as misguided-but-still-persuadable is really a case of projecting conservative sensibilities onto the left. Every conservative meme that mocks the most recent logical absurdity of the left is a testament to the right’s abiding perception that the greater intellectual coherence of our arguments offers some kind of advantage over the left. As if the left cared a whit any longer about intellectual coherence.

There’s an old story told about Joseph Stalin which is, I think, apropos. Somewhere along the way, he had done something that was widely expected to receive the condemnation of the Pope. When someone informed him that the Pope was going to be unhappy with his actions, “Oh really?’, he responded. “How many armies has the Pope?”

The modern left is far more Stalinist than Wilsonian. Conservatives need to consider the possibility that our continued belief, that we can carry the day through superior reason, might be an unhelpful case of projection.

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  1. iWe Coolidge
    iWe
    @iWe

    Great post! I absolutely agree. We jump up and down and insist on “The Truth” and “The Facts.” It is almost entirely ineffective.

    To convince the other side, we must first understand how they think so that we can speak their language, not insist that they learn ours.

    • #1
  2. JoelB Member
    JoelB
    @JoelB

    I agree with iWe that this is a great post. The question in my mind is where do we go from here?

    • #2
  3. Old Bathos Moderator
    Old Bathos
    @OldBathos

    Outstanding analysis!

    • #3
  4. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Brilliant, Keith. It must be such a painful realization for you personally, and a difficult one as a member of society. It is amazing that the right has fallen into the same mindset as the Left–that if we try hard enough, we can transform them. Has that been with us for a while, or is that new?

    • #4
  5. PHCheese Inactive
    PHCheese
    @PHCheese

    I have a niece who has not yet died. She is 54 but she also not yet lived. She left home at the age of 12 hooked on drugs. She has a brilliant mind however there is something that keeps her addicted. She has committed  many depravities to obtain a high. At this stage no one expects her to ever reform. We will also bury her and decry a wasted life. But as you say, she thinks her life a success obtaining one high after another. I could never penetrate that mind set just like a supporter of Socialists is beyond my comprehension. I am sorry about your loved one and our once great country. Great post.

    • #5
  6. SkipSul Inactive
    SkipSul
    @skipsul

    Keith Lowery: The left’s interest in the poor is mostly confined to exploiting sentimental rhetoric about them as a way to consolidate the left’s power.

    This is where I have to differ.  This may be true for some on the Left, but it is by no means the case for all, nor indeed even most.  Of course you find grifters and demagogues all over, on the Right and Left both.  And they tend to concentrate in the politicians and “community leaders” because that’s where the power is located.  And power is what such people crave.

    But most people on the Left, as indeed on the Right, actually have very little interest in power.

    You’re not at all wrong to point out that many on the Right are utterly hung up on their theories and principles.  And the swordsman metaphor is not inapt, because for those who do not understand the arguments, those wielding the arguments look and sound like villains who lack all compassion and mercy.  And this is because the Left is projecting its own sensibilities onto the Right.  Those aren’t “Stalinest” by any means, or Wilsonian.  

    Rather they are coming from a place where, like an over indulgent parent, they have come to see traditional order and morality as repressive and oppressive.  This is why they so often find sympathies with libertarians, and preach that people can only become their truest liberated selves if unbound from behavioral constraints – if some cannot handle their “freedom” and so ruin themselves with drugs or whatnot, that’s either the price they pay for that freedom (the libertarian argument) or a sign that society is still too corrupt and inhumane – essentially the argument of the Left.  

    And that’s really the core of the worldview for many on the Left: people would not pursue self-destructive ends like crime, nor find their pursuits (drug use, promiscuity) destructive, in a more just and humane society.  They seek a utopian process of greater and greater freedom and liberation from what they think is oppression and [patriarchy, capitalism, some other demon of the moment], always chafing at our natural physical, intellectual, and moral constraints, and the society that has developed around those constraints.  It putting the cart before the horse.

    But this is why they reject any explanations or conservative theories – to us it is telling the truth, to them it is propaganda and apologizing for evil.  It is like blaming umbrellas for causing rain.

     

    • #6
  7. Jim McConnell Member
    Jim McConnell
    @JimMcConnell

    Keith, I think you must be a very old man to have accumulated so much wisdom. As other have said, “Great post!”

    • #7
  8. Jules PA Member
    Jules PA
    @JulesPA

    Your story makes me sad. I pray you find comfort, peace and joy.

    We can not control others. We can only control our own life, and walk in such a way as to be an example and a refuge for those in trouble. 

    It is hard to discern if a troubled person is the source of their own trouble or not. 

    It is harder still to let someone live a life of dissipation by their own choice. 

    Yet, that is the foundational balance of freedom and responsibility that makes up a life. 

    • #8
  9. Flicker Coolidge
    Flicker
    @Flicker

    Very good and insightful post.  Thanks.

    It happens to answer for me why the Left “projects” its plans onto the Right, even though it gives away their plans.

    It seems as though the “projection” of the Left is not so much conscious projection of their own thinking onto the Right, as telling the Left’s followers what to unconsciously project onto the Right.

    • #9
  10. CACrabtree Coolidge
    CACrabtree
    @CACrabtree

    Wow; Just Wow.  Any time I question why I am on Ricochet, I read something like this and I know.

    Those chilling words, “The thought of being sober the rest of my life just depresses me”.  Here in Appalachia, there have been so many folks that have said those same words, if not to others, then themselves.  My boyhood home county has the distinction of having the highest rate of opiod-related deaths in the entire state of Ohio.  With each death comes the inevitable head-shaking and tsk-tsking.  And the next…and the next.

    Meanwhile, the Sackler Family and others in Big Pharma, pay their billion dollar fines, yawn, and go back to their mansions in New York and Connecticut, secure in the knowledge that they will never have to see the wretched hills of our region.  Perhaps they, at this very instant, are sitting around the table discussing their latest contributions to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Guggenheim or the Smithsonian.

    Politicians, such as our own Sherrod Brown, will continue to pontificate on the “human tragedies” but will slyly have their hands out for even more contributions from scum such as the Sacklers.  

    Keith, my condolences on the death of your friend.  May she, “…mount up with wings like eagles…”

    • #10
  11. Flicker Coolidge
    Flicker
    @Flicker

    CACrabtree (View Comment):
    Those chilling words, “The thought of being sober the rest of my life just depresses me”.

    I remember years ago talking to an early-thirties addict about changing and I’ll never forget the emptiness of her answer.  “I now this will kill me.  I don’t care.  I’ve been off drugs before, once for two years.  I had a job, was a wife and mother, did the normal things that I was expected to do.  I would wake up in the morning and see no point in getting out of bed.  I’d see others, what they were doing to live their lives and it seemed pointless to me.  Life was boring.  I’ve given up.  I’m going to take drugs and then die.  And I’m okay with it.”

    • #11
  12. Manny Member
    Manny
    @Manny

    Keith Lowery: This is what I have learned: human freedom and moral agency offer far more explanatory power about a person’s actions than does anything about that person’s material or environmental conditioning.

    I don’t know. Being addicted to alcohol is not a free choice. 

    • #12
  13. Charlotte Member
    Charlotte
    @Charlotte

    This is one of the best essays I’ve ever read on Ricochet. I’m not sure I 100% agree with your conclusions, but I am so grateful to you for writing it, @keithlowery.

    I am so sorry for your excruciating, devastating loss. 

    • #13
  14. Gossamer Cat Coolidge
    Gossamer Cat
    @GossamerCat

    Keith Lowery: But I was blind to what was really going on because I operated with the false premise that she wanted out of life what I wanted out of life. My lens for interpreting what was going on was the lens of how I personally would have felt in her circumstances. But that reflected a costly mistake of understanding on my part which led to years of ineffectual efforts to help her. For years, what I intended as help was effectively worthless because it was based on the assumption that what she lacked was more knowledge and understanding. It took me too long to realize that she understood exactly what she was doing.

    Don’t be too hard on yourself.  I realized that too late with a friend too; I had cut off relations in an attempt at tough love.  I regret that now.  The end result would have been the same because you can’t help someone who won’t help themselves, but I could have been in his life so he didn’t die thinking he had been abandoned by his friend.  Addiction is a terrible thing.

    • #14
  15. CACrabtree Coolidge
    CACrabtree
    @CACrabtree

    Flicker (View Comment):

    CACrabtree (View Comment):
    Those chilling words, “The thought of being sober the rest of my life just depresses me”.

    I remember years ago talking to an early-thirties addict about changing and I’ll never forget the emptiness of her answer. “I now this will kill me. I don’t care. I’ve been off drugs before, once for two years. I had a job, was a wife and mother, did the normal things that I was expected to do. I would wake up in the morning and see no point in getting out of bed. I’d see others, what they were doing to live their lives and it seemed pointless to me. Life was boring. I’ve given up. I’m going to take drugs and then die. And I’m okay with it.”

    I’ve known only a handful of individuals who were addicted to drugs or alcohol and one thing always stuck with me.  Every time I looked in their eyes, it seemed to me that there was no one home.  Their eyes were utterly empty.  

    • #15
  16. SkipSul Inactive
    SkipSul
    @skipsul

    Flicker (View Comment):

    CACrabtree (View Comment):
    Those chilling words, “The thought of being sober the rest of my life just depresses me”.

    I remember years ago talking to an early-thirties addict about changing and I’ll never forget the emptiness of her answer. “I now this will kill me. I don’t care. I’ve been off drugs before, once for two years. I had a job, was a wife and mother, did the normal things that I was expected to do. I would wake up in the morning and see no point in getting out of bed. I’d see others, what they were doing to live their lives and it seemed pointless to me. Life was boring. I’ve given up. I’m going to take drugs and then die. And I’m okay with it.”

    This reminds me of an essay on Cracked.com from about 7 years ago.  It was an essay entitled “5 Unexpected Things I Learned from Being A Heroin Addict”.  The author talks about why he started on heroin in the first place:

    The really bad part of heroin isn’t the physical dependency — it’s the addiction, and there’s a difference. Telling people heroin will get them “instantly addicted” is a fine scare tactic, but it disguises the real danger. I was using heroin daily not because I had jumped off the swings and accidentally touched a needle discarded on a playground, thus allowing the addiction-gremlins inside my brain, but because my firsthand experience with the drug told me that it was a risk-free way to escape from my problems. So when I realized I needed to kick, that meant facing not only the physical agony of withdrawal, but all the demons I had been running from in the first place. And I don’t know if you’ve ever seen one run in the wild, but demons are fast.

    This was the closing (emphasis mine):

    But my problems aren’t over, because the drug itself isn’t the problem — the addiction is. Remember, I was using heroin every day for weeks before I developed a physical dependency, so heroin was just my attempt to fix problems that were already in place. If you know someone who’s using or has used, you should know that this isn’t as simple as them making bad decisions. They’re running from something that, to them, seems a whole lot scarier than a needle.

    The full post is here.  Be forewarned – it’s quite vulgar.

    For far too many, they see their own ordinary sober life as too painful and too dull – the demons seem to be better company.

    • #16
  17. CACrabtree Coolidge
    CACrabtree
    @CACrabtree

    SkipSul (View Comment):

    Flicker (View Comment):

    CACrabtree (View Comment):
    Those chilling words, “The thought of being sober the rest of my life just depresses me”.

    I remember years ago talking to an early-thirties addict about changing and I’ll never forget the emptiness of her answer. “I now this will kill me. I don’t care. I’ve been off drugs before, once for two years. I had a job, was a wife and mother, did the normal things that I was expected to do. I would wake up in the morning and see no point in getting out of bed. I’d see others, what they were doing to live their lives and it seemed pointless to me. Life was boring. I’ve given up. I’m going to take drugs and then die. And I’m okay with it.”

    This reminds me of an essay on Cracked.com from about 7 years ago. It was an essay entitled “5 Unexpected Things I Learned from Being A Heroin Addict”. The author talks about why he started on heroin in the first place:

    The really bad part of heroin isn’t the physical dependency — it’s the addiction, and there’s a difference. Telling people heroin will get them “instantly addicted” is a fine scare tactic, but it disguises the real danger. I was using heroin daily not because I had jumped off the swings and accidentally touched a needle discarded on a playground, thus allowing the addiction-gremlins inside my brain, but because my firsthand experience with the drug told me that it was a risk-free way to escape from my problems. So when I realized I needed to kick, that meant facing not only the physical agony of withdrawal, but all the demons I had been running from in the first place. And I don’t know if you’ve ever seen one run in the wild, but demons are fast.

    This was the closing (emphasis mine):

    But my problems aren’t over, because the drug itself isn’t the problem — the addiction is. Remember, I was using heroin every day for weeks before I developed a physical dependency, so heroin was just my attempt to fix problems that were already in place. If you know someone who’s using or has used, you should know that this isn’t as simple as them making bad decisions. They’re running from something that, to them, seems a whole lot scarier than a needle.

    The full post is here. Be forewarned – it’s quite vulgar.

    For far too many, they see their own ordinary sober life as too painful and too dull – the demons seem to be better company.

    From the little I know about the subject, the drugs hit that area of the brain that deals with pleasure and produce a “high” that nothing can replace.  Sex, love, contentment; forget about all of them.  All that matters is the next “hit”.

    • #17
  18. Duke-On-Watts MD Inactive
    Duke-On-Watts MD
    @DukeUponWattsMD

    I’m sorry you had to go through this, and sorry your loved one felt this was the best path for their life.

    You can’t want it more than they do. That only prolongs the pain and disappointment and frustration, but – as addicts well know – a dull, familiar pain is far less threatening than the hopelessness of acceptance.

    • #18
  19. Keith Lowery Coolidge
    Keith Lowery
    @keithlowery

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):
    Has that been with us for a while, or is that new?

    @susanquinn – I think it’s in the very cultural air we breathe. At least since Freud, and then Skinner.

    • #19
  20. Keith Lowery Coolidge
    Keith Lowery
    @keithlowery

    Manny (View Comment):
    I don’t know. Being addicted to alcohol is not a free choice.

    @manny Well, that’s really the question, isn’t it — does chemical addiction trump human agency? I came to believe that it does not, but a great deal depends, I suspect, on the assumptions we make about the nature of our existence (e.g. Is the universe entirely mechanistic, or is something else going on?)

    For a contrarian view on the general subject of addiction, I recommend Theodore Dalrymple’s small book, Romancing Opiates.

    From the Introduction:

    “I soon discovered that the medical services set up to assist addicts took a technocratic attitude towards them and their problems. They focused on the psychological aspects of opiate addiction since these were susceptible, at least in theory, to medical intervention, which in practice meant the prescription of a drug rather like the one the addicts were addicted to. And there was a strenuous, almost outraged, rejection of the idea that addiction was, at bottom, a moral problem, or even that it raised any moral questions at all.”

    Such moral questions as he hints at can only adhere if human beings are something more than chemical machines, and if that something actually superintends the actions of our bodies.

    • #20
  21. Keith Lowery Coolidge
    Keith Lowery
    @keithlowery

    SkipSul (View Comment):
    But most people on the Left, as indeed on the Right, actually have very little interest in power.

    I’m inclined to agree with this as it relates to the rank and file voter who is generally not seeking a role in actually implementing the policies he or she is voting for.

    My comments in this essay/post about “the left” were more focused (I should have been more clear) on left wing politicos who either have, or are seeking to have, their hands on the levers of power.  About them I stick to my view that they’re not really interested in helping the poor. The basis for that judgement is that their policies have consistently resulted in harm to the poor and the left knows that they have.  We have a multi-generational existence proof that the left’s concern for the poor is not for their well-being but for their dependency and for their votes. Conservatives deceive themselves when they assume that the left is dumb and unable to learn from the past.  It isn’t that they are unable to perceive that their policies haven’t helped the poor. It isn’t that they’re blind to the economic and social history of what they are advocating.  It is that helping the poor is not the intent of their policies, notwithstanding their rhetoric to the contrary.

    I’m quite sure that, as you say, left-leaning voters are often sympathetically inclined toward the poor and are, no doubt,  sometimes even themselves poor.  

    • #21
  22. MarciN Member
    MarciN
    @MarciN

    SkipSul (View Comment):

    Flicker (View Comment):

    CACrabtree (View Comment):
    Those chilling words, “The thought of being sober the rest of my life just depresses me”.

     

    This reminds me of an essay on Cracked.com from about 7 years ago. It was an essay entitled “5 Unexpected Things I Learned from Being A Heroin Addict”. The author talks about why he started on heroin in the first place:

    The really bad part of heroin isn’t the physical dependency — it’s the addiction, and there’s a difference. Telling people heroin will get them “instantly addicted” is a fine scare tactic, but it disguises the real danger. I was using heroin daily not because I had jumped off the swings and accidentally touched a needle discarded on a playground, thus allowing the addiction-gremlins inside my brain, but because my firsthand experience with the drug told me that it was a risk-free way to escape from my problems. So when I realized I needed to kick, that meant facing not only the physical agony of withdrawal, but all the demons I had been running from in the first place. And I don’t know if you’ve ever seen one run in the wild, but demons are fast.

    This was the closing (emphasis mine):

    But my problems aren’t over, because the drug itself isn’t the problem — the addiction is. Remember, I was using heroin every day for weeks before I developed a physical dependency, so heroin was just my attempt to fix problems that were already in place. If you know someone who’s using or has used, you should know that this isn’t as simple as them making bad decisions. They’re running from something that, to them, seems a whole lot scarier than a needle.

    The full post is here. Be forewarned – it’s quite vulgar.

    For far too many, they see their own ordinary sober life as too painful and too dull – the demons seem to be better company.

    We need to do a better job understanding and helping people cope with anxiety. A lot of people start out on these drugs as a way to get through moments of tremendous anxiety. 

    I read a fascinating article a couple of years ago in the Wall Street Journal: “Anxiety Looks Different in Men.” Understanding this emotional dynamic is imperative. 

    Anxiety is the underlying problem in a lot of mental health areas–anger issues, homelessness, long-term unemployment, suicide attempts, . . . 

    • #22
  23. CACrabtree Coolidge
    CACrabtree
    @CACrabtree

    MarciN (View Comment):

    SkipSul (View Comment):

    Flicker (View Comment):

    CACrabtree (View Comment):
    Those chilling words, “The thought of being sober the rest of my life just depresses me”.

     

    This reminds me of an essay on Cracked.com from about 7 years ago. It was an essay entitled “5 Unexpected Things I Learned from Being A Heroin Addict”. The author talks about why he started on heroin in the first place:

    The really bad part of heroin isn’t the physical dependency — it’s the addiction, and there’s a difference. Telling people heroin will get them “instantly addicted” is a fine scare tactic, but it disguises the real danger. I was using heroin daily not because I had jumped off the swings and accidentally touched a needle discarded on a playground, thus allowing the addiction-gremlins inside my brain, but because my firsthand experience with the drug told me that it was a risk-free way to escape from my problems. So when I realized I needed to kick, that meant facing not only the physical agony of withdrawal, but all the demons I had been running from in the first place. And I don’t know if you’ve ever seen one run in the wild, but demons are fast.

    This was the closing (emphasis mine):

    But my problems aren’t over, because the drug itself isn’t the problem — the addiction is. Remember, I was using heroin every day for weeks before I developed a physical dependency, so heroin was just my attempt to fix problems that were already in place. If you know someone who’s using or has used, you should know that this isn’t as simple as them making bad decisions. They’re running from something that, to them, seems a whole lot scarier than a needle.

    The full post is here. Be forewarned – it’s quite vulgar.

    For far too many, they see their own ordinary sober life as too painful and too dull – the demons seem to be better company.

    We need to do a better job understanding and helping people cope with anxiety. A lot of people start out on these drugs as a way to get through moments of tremendous anxiety.

    I read a fascinating article a couple of years ago in the Wall Street Journal: “Anxiety Looks Different in Men.” Understanding this emotional dynamic is imperative.

    Anxiety is the underlying problem in a lot of mental health areas–anger issues, homelessness, long-term unemployment, suicide attempts, . . .

    Yeah, I’m sort of wondering about that (among a lot of other things).  One of the many disturbing items in my morning newsfeed was this:

    https://www.washingtonexaminer.com/news/alaska-military-base-alcohol-sales-suicide

    Now, it’s not uncommon for base authorities to occasionally limit sales of alcohol due to fighting in barracks, drunk driving, etc.  However, this is the first time I’ve seen an alcohol prohibition because of troops taking the Midnight Express.  

    It’s troubling; Very Troubling.

    • #23
  24. Manny Member
    Manny
    @Manny

    Keith Lowery (View Comment):

    Manny (View Comment):
    I don’t know. Being addicted to alcohol is not a free choice.

    @manny Well, that’s really the question, isn’t it — does chemical addiction trump human agency? I came to believe that it does not, but a great deal depends, I suspect, on the assumptions we make about the nature of our existence (e.g. Is the universe entirely mechanistic, or is something else going on?)

    For a contrarian view on the general subject of addiction, I recommend Theodore Dalrymple’s small book, Romancing Opiates.

    From the Introduction:

    “I soon discovered that the medical services set up to assist addicts took a technocratic attitude towards them and their problems. They focused on the psychological aspects of opiate addiction since these were susceptible, at least in theory, to medical intervention, which in practice meant the prescription of a drug rather like the one the addicts were addicted to. And there was a strenuous, almost outraged, rejection of the idea that addiction was, at bottom, a moral problem, or even that it raised any moral questions at all.”

    Such moral questions as he hints at can only adhere if human beings are something more than chemical machines, and if that something actually superintends the actions of our bodies.

    Well, you tell me, how many addicted alcoholics do well in life?  And how many opiate addicts do well in life?  I bet there is data.  It seems to me it certainly plays into the life choices a person makes.  I’m not a psychologist and apparently Dalyrymple is one psychologist with that opinion.  I don’t think (though I haven’t looked into it) that Dalyrimple is following the consensus of psychologists.  And given Dalrymple is a political advocate, I would not find him to be the most solid of medical guides on this.  Was that Romancing Opiates a medical peer reviewed book or a political advocacy book?  I bet it’s a political advocacy book.  Libertarians have a very distorted perception of drugs and the impact to society.  I’ll bet Dalrymple is a Libertarian and not a conservative.

    • #24
  25. Manny Member
    Manny
    @Manny

    Actually here is the full title of Dalrymple’s book: Romancing Opiates: Pharmacological Lies and the Addiction Bureaucracy.  That hardly sounds like a medically peer reviewed book.  That sounds like pure politics.

    • #25
  26. Bryan G. Stephens Thatcher
    Bryan G. Stephens
    @BryanGStephens

    Manny (View Comment):

    Keith Lowery (View Comment):

    Manny (View Comment):
    I don’t know. Being addicted to alcohol is not a free choice.

    @manny Well, that’s really the question, isn’t it — does chemical addiction trump human agency? I came to believe that it does not, but a great deal depends, I suspect, on the assumptions we make about the nature of our existence (e.g. Is the universe entirely mechanistic, or is something else going on?)

    For a contrarian view on the general subject of addiction, I recommend Theodore Dalrymple’s small book, Romancing Opiates.

    From the Introduction:

    “I soon discovered that the medical services set up to assist addicts took a technocratic attitude towards them and their problems. They focused on the psychological aspects of opiate addiction since these were susceptible, at least in theory, to medical intervention, which in practice meant the prescription of a drug rather like the one the addicts were addicted to. And there was a strenuous, almost outraged, rejection of the idea that addiction was, at bottom, a moral problem, or even that it raised any moral questions at all.”

    Such moral questions as he hints at can only adhere if human beings are something more than chemical machines, and if that something actually superintends the actions of our bodies.

    Well, you tell me, how many addicted alcoholics do well in life? And how many opiate addicts do well in life? I bet there is data. It seems to me it certainly plays into the life choices a person makes. I’m not a psychologist and apparently Dalyrymple is one psychologist with that opinion. I don’t think (though I haven’t looked into it) that Dalyrimple is following the consensus of psychologists. And given Dalrymple is a political advocate, I would not find him to be the most solid of medical guides on this. Was that Romancing Opiates a medical peer reviewed book or a political advocacy book? I bet it’s a political advocacy book. Libertarians have a very distorted perception of drugs and the impact to society. I’ll bet Dalrymple is a Libertarian and not a conservative.

    I am a therapist, and I rather resent his blanket condemnation of treatment. I also strongly disagree that addiction is a moral problem, as he puts it. That is just flying in the face of science. We know for a fact that addiction rewires the brain. The rewards systems is compromised permanently. It is not about willpower. For almost all those who struggle with addiction it is about the their damage, and their attempts to cope with that damage. Drugs are a shortcut. The best treatment is to use drugs to detox people, get them off everything (I am not a fan of things like Methadone) and help them learn new ways to cope with themselves. 

    Also, unless  Dalrymple is 100% the weight he desires to be, and is in exactly the best shape he can get himself into, then he has no standing to sit in judgement of others’ struggle with their limbic systems. No one who cannot perfectly control his or her eating can cast any stones on an addict. Same system, but the drugs are much more racially powerful than french fries. 

    Moral problem. Might as well tell them they all deserve to die because they are bad people. Disgusting.

    • #26
  27. Keith Lowery Coolidge
    Keith Lowery
    @keithlowery

    Bryan G. Stephens (View Comment):
    Moral problem. Might as well tell them they all deserve to die because they are bad people. Disgusting.

    @bryangstephens

    With all due respect, no one, not even Mr. Dalrymple, has been suggesting that every moral failure should be considered a capital offense.

    As I said in my response, I offered Dalrymple’s book as an example of a contrarian view regarding addiction because his views were relevant to the question we were discussing in that comment, which was volition and moral agency in the context of chemical dependency.

    I agree with some of what he has to say but not all. I can tell you I didn’t draw sweeping conclusions about his views on the basis of a single paragraph from his Introduction. I would encourage you to refrain from doing that as well.

    For the record, Theodore Dalrymple is the nom de plume of Dr. Anthony Daniels, a widely respected psychiatrist in the UK. He worked for close to 40 years within the UK prison system and at hospitals situated among the urban poor. He also did charitable medical work in Africa. He is a widely respected expert witness and consultant in criminal cases and, by many estimates, one of the finest essayists of his generation.

    Even with all of that to his credit, he might still be wrong. But you won’t know on the basis of a single paragraph.

    Please believe me when I say that whether or not you embrace his point of view is a matter of complete indifference to me. I am certainly not evangelizing the totality Dr. Daniels’ views concerning opiates on Ricochet. I merely referenced one piece of his writing which was relevant to the discussion. Every person will have to decide for himself.

    I will own the fact that I do not believe that human beings are chemically programmable to quite the degree that popular culture and some professional helpers would have us all believe. We may have to agree to disagree about that, but it’s certainly not something to be overwrought about.

    • #27
  28. Bryan G. Stephens Thatcher
    Bryan G. Stephens
    @BryanGStephens

    Keith Lowery (View Comment):

    Bryan G. Stephens (View Comment):
    Moral problem. Might as well tell them they all deserve to die because they are bad people. Disgusting.

     

    With all due respect, no one, not even Mr. Dalrymple, has been suggesting that every moral failure should be considered a capital offense.

    As I said in my response, I offered Dalrymple’s book as an example of a contrarian view regarding addiction because his views were relevant to the question we were discussing in that comment, which was volition and moral agency in the context of chemical dependency.

    I agree with some of what he has to say but not all. I can tell you I didn’t draw sweeping conclusions about his views on the basis of a single paragraph from his Introduction. I would encourage you to refrain from doing that as well.

    For the record, Theodore Dalrymple is the nom de plume of Dr. Anthony Daniels, a widely respected psychiatrist in the UK. He worked for close to 40 years within the UK prison system and at hospitals situated among the urban poor. He also did charitable medical work in Africa. He is a widely respected expert witness and consultant in criminal cases and, by many estimates, one of the finest essayists of his generation.

    Even with all of that to his credit, he might still be wrong. But you won’t know on the basis of a single paragraph.

    Please believe me when I say that whether or not you embrace his point of view is a matter of complete indifference to me. I am certainly not evangelizing the totality Dr. Daniels’ views concerning opiates on Ricochet. I merely referenced one piece of his writing which was relevant to the discussion. Every person will have to decide for himself.

    I will own the fact that I do not believe that human beings are chemically programmable to quite the degree that popular culture and some professional helpers would have us all believe. We may have to agree to disagree about that, but it’s certainly not something to be overwrought about.

    I understand who he is, thank you. As long as we treat addiction as a moral problem, we are telling people that they are no good. Believe me, that is not how to get addicts into treatment that they desperately need. 

    Also, for someone telling me not to take one paragraph from Dr. Daniels, you have taken several paragraphs to attack me for one line. 

    • #28
  29. Manny Member
    Manny
    @Manny

    Bryan G. Stephens (View Comment):

    Manny (View Comment):

     

    Well, you tell me, how many addicted alcoholics do well in life? And how many opiate addicts do well in life? I bet there is data. It seems to me it certainly plays into the life choices a person makes. I’m not a psychologist and apparently Dalyrymple is one psychologist with that opinion. I don’t think (though I haven’t looked into it) that Dalyrimple is following the consensus of psychologists. And given Dalrymple is a political advocate, I would not find him to be the most solid of medical guides on this. Was that Romancing Opiates a medical peer reviewed book or a political advocacy book? I bet it’s a political advocacy book. Libertarians have a very distorted perception of drugs and the impact to society. I’ll bet Dalrymple is a Libertarian and not a conservative.

    I am a therapist, and I rather resent his blanket condemnation of treatment. I also strongly disagree that addiction is a moral problem, as he puts it. That is just flying in the face of science. We know for a fact that addiction rewires the brain. The rewards systems is compromised permanently. It is not about willpower. For almost all those who struggle with addiction it is about the their damage, and their attempts to cope with that damage. Drugs are a shortcut. The best treatment is to use drugs to detox people, get them off everything (I am not a fan of things like Methadone) and help them learn new ways to cope with themselves.

    Also, unless Dalrymple is 100% the weight he desires to be, and is in exactly the best shape he can get himself into, then he has no standing to sit in judgement of others’ struggle with their limbic systems. No one who cannot perfectly control his or her eating can cast any stones on an addict. Same system, but the drugs are much more racially powerful than french fries.

    Moral problem. Might as well tell them they all deserve to die because they are bad people. Disgusting.

    Thanks.  It should be pointed out that the OP’s (and I assume Dalrymple’s) world view is not conservative but Libertarian, containing all the fallacies of Libertarian philosophy.  

    • #29