Addiction, Denial and
The American Dream
of an Endless Supply
by Allen Tate Wood
It is a common place among treatment professionals, twelve-step participants of all shapes and sizes, that recovery (recovery from addiction/alcoholism) doesn’t begin to take actual shape for the addict until he begins to acknowledge, question and deconstruct his denial system. Apprehended from a ‘systems’ stand point, the purpose of a denial system or defense structure is to make it safe for the addict to continue the use of his drug of choice. In the active addict the practice of his addiction has become the central fact of his existence. Whatever other purposes, dreams, goals they may have, these are relegated to the back burner or the oblivion of, “ Oh ! yeah…I’ll get to that later.” Later for the active addict never comes. The psyche of the addict collapses around the pursuit, acquisition and consumption of the addictive substance.
The Guardian at the Gate
In this system, denial is the ‘guardian at the gate’. It restructures the psyche around the central sacred event of consumption of the addictive substance. Over time denial takes what can be called an increasingly absolute and dictatorial control over the consciousness of the addict, to wit: memory, emotion, will and decision making. Another aspect of the victory of the denial system is the superimposition of a rigidly adversarial world-view. The application and utility of that world-view are powerful and immediate. Who approves of or accepts the addict’s use of the addictive substance? These are the real people, the true people, the good people…. The people “ who really know what is going on.” Who rejects the addict’s drug use? These are the squares, the lops, the uncool, the frozen, rigid zombie minions of the “establishment, the government and the Man.” —in short the people who don’t really know what is going on. This adversarial splitting of reality is a step in the direction of both psychic economy and initiation into a mystical realm of “higher knowledge.”
Do these Notions about Addiction and Denial
remind you of something ?
· manifest destiny
· the Inquisition
· criminal organizations
· corporate structure
· military institutions
· fervent nationalism
· destructive cult groups
· extremist and terrorist organizations
All of these in their broad outlines and general morphology reflect the psychological landscape and imaginative structure of the addict. The addict in his pursuit of his addictive substance employs an ‘end justifies the means’ modus operandi. This operational mode is used in the fulfillment of the divine mandate: get the drugs no matter what the cost, no matter who suffers, no matter what the consequences. The ideology of the drug culture sustains the addict in his ‘ends justifies the means’ mode of action with its “us and them” psychology.
Busting Our Denial
The worldview of our present leaders is ushering us down the road to perdition. What we need in this country is the moral courage and tenacity to examine the relationship between cause and effect, to actually look at and study our history, to begin the arduous task of breaking our denial about who we are and what we have done—what we have done to ourselves, our children, the people of other nations and cultures, what we are doing to the oceans, to the air and the world in the service of our addictions. In this vein we need to examine the Bush administration’s record of undoing environmental legislation put in place in the last 30 years to protect our water, air, and forests, not to mention the health of our children. We need to examine and re-evaluate the privatization of the military. Who is being served by this privatization? We need to examine and re-examine a corporate culture whose main psychological and pragmatic thrust is the realization of man’s unbridled dreams of greed. We need to examine an executive branch, which rejects dialogue with alliance partners, which sneers at international treaties and which exempts itself from scrutiny by international courts of law. We need to examine ourselves as a nation addicted to oil and the combustion engine. We need to put two and two together and acknowledge the connection between our present administration’s penchant for pre-emptive war and our nation’s deadly dependence on oil.
Demagogues and Dictators
Demagogues and dictators, kings and corporate titans, religious zealots and jungle revolutionaries have used these two principles: the end justifies the means and adversary psychology to harness armies, enslave workers and unleash untold pain, suffering and carnage on the barbarian, the heathen, the outsider, the infidel, the heretic, the yeoman farmer. The follower, the faithful, the worker, the midlevel technician , the foot soldier is blinded by the beauty and power of the vision, the siren song sung by the ‘great selfless leader’. The foot soldier inspired by “divine mandate”, imbued with higher knowledge and energized by redemptive love commits atrocities untold in the service of a hidden agenda, which is never vouchsafed to that foot soldier. “Hey!!! It’s on a ‘need to know’ basis.”
The First Step
I see no way forward apart from admitting our addictions be they ideological, religious, cultural political, economic, military or chemical. Yes!!! I mean to include drugs, alcohol, cigarettes and oil. It appears to me that in the pursuit of oil the reborn philosopher kings of 21st century America are launching us on a jihad to establish a global Pax Americana. An early analysis of the process reveals catastrophic results: A world not safe for us or any one else; an America in which questioning authority is increasingly seen as unpatriotic; the arrogation of power to the executive branch in a geometric progression; the erosion of civil liberties; the collapsing of the boundaries between church and state, and so on. As power is increasingly concentrated in fewer and fewer hands in multiple arenas, in the name of democracy and Christian civilization we in the west are marching toward Egypt, not 21st Century Egypt, but the Egypt of the Pharaohs.