Remove the Moral Aspects of Addiction Treatment?
I talk a lot about the moral aspects of treatment and I am very resistant to removing morality from the conversation about addiction and recovery. I understand why people want to do that. It’s to bring down the stigma to address the confusion around the free will issues, for it to be covered by insurance, I agree with all that. I agree with the reasons. My hesitation is that there is a huge moral component to addiction and recovery, and let’s talk about what that looks like in recovery.
In recovery, the moments where we gain the most growth are the same moments where we gain the most growth in life.
One of the most pivotal moments of growth in my life, there are moments when I’m in a moral conflict and I’m not sure what to do. What is the right thing to do in this moment? If I’m in a marriage and I don’t know if this marriage is working and I have kids and I’m trying to figure out– I’m- some of them in this world conflict, what is the right thing for me to do? If I’m tempted to go into a career largely for money, but it’s not my passion, I’m in a moral conflict what is the right thing for me to do.
The most serious conflicts in our life are these moral conflicts with competing claims on each end.
The reason why I’m hesitant to remove that from the conversation is, it is the moral conflicts that induce inhuman beings the most important parts of ourselves. In order for me to wrestle with a moral conflict, I have to draw on all of these different parts of who I am and my personality. Right?
So a common conflict and treatment that happens is, my roommate snuck out and got drunk and I know. My roommate comes back and says, “Don’t tell anybody,” and suddenly there’s a couple of things happening.
One, I am asked to keep a secret. And in general, secrets, those kinds of secrets are not the healthiest things to keep inside of us.
Number two, I’m in this interesting quandary around loyalty to my friend, but on the other end I’m in an interesting quandary about being honest with the people that are helping me: counselors, therapists, the community at large and treatments. I have these competing claims. I also have me. I don’t want to be walking around with lies in myself. I don’t want my friend to get in trouble, which is a normal thing, but I don’t wanna be dishonest, and suddenly I’m in the midst of a moral conflict.
What somebody does in a predicament can be the make or break moment in somebody’s treatment experience.
When somebody can say, “Hey, you put me in a really bad position by asking me to keep your secret because you act it out and I’m not willing to co-sign that with you, and it wasn’t okay, and you need to go work this out because you’ve put me in a bad situation. You’ve put you in a bad situation. You’re an alcoholic who allegedly is here to get sober. I get that you don’t do this thing perfectly but you need to straighten this out,” right? That’s a high level response. That’s not the government’s fault, but imagine if somebody is used to cosigning everybody’s everything all the time in life, they’ve engaged in a program of recovery. They strike them, they built what we call a moral core, some center about what the right thing to do is. They’re challenged, they’re in the middle. They’re stuck there in the hallway. They don’t know whether to go left, whether to go right. Right? Suddenly it’s like, okay, and they have that conversation. You know what that does for me. That’s everything. That’s the turning point for people’s recovery.
The moment when you have the difficult conversation with your parents or your loved one that you’ve never had, we build that moral core.
Begin to put yourself in the equation. That’s where we get the most growth. Not only do we get that growth morally, we also get it psychologically. We are moral psychological beings that come hand-in-hand. Right? To be– if you meet somebody who’s evil, which is a moral term whether you believe in evil or not, but behaves in evil ways depending on their level of narcissism and the way in which they act out, you would have a difficult time saying, “Well, that person is mentally healthy. They’re just evil.” Right? In general, those things come together. Right?
So, you know, to use the extreme example. Adolf Hitler was not only evil. There’s such a thing exists. He was also mentally ill and a methamphetamine addict. Those things come together. So our moral behavior in our psychological wellness, they’re integrated with each other. We have to understand that. So we cannot remove morality from the equation of recovery addiction. We have to figure out how we incorporate that in the conversation about well-being, psychological well-being, spiritual well-being, etc.