Recently the chaos caused by substance abuse entered my life through the back door. Being the person that I am, I immediately sought ways to resume control of my life. It took a few months for me to figure out what was going on or I never would have stumbled into the nonsense of 12-step programs or the myth of 'treatment.'

It started last November when a young woman with a three year old child told me she had no choice but to leave her drug-using husband. 'Good for you,' I told her. She was doing just exactly what should be done under the circumstances, but oops, that wasn't really what she meant. She really wasn't going to leave him; she just needed him to change. 'Fat chance,' I thought, but I kept my thoughts to myself as I got sucked into the muddle other people made of their lives.

There is nothing unusual about the details of the months that followed. The heartbreak, anger, and financial ruin are inevitable whenever someone shuns responsibility for pleasure of drugs. However, this was the first time that I have ever been personally affected by the lies and manipulation that are the standard way of life for drug users. Because I only knew about this kind of tragedy through rumor and hearsay, I thought there were mental health professionals who offered some kind of treatment or at least advice. After all, drugs and alcohol have been a problem throughout history. Of course I believed that modern science had dealt with it. Especially now since science had defined alcoholism as a disease. I thought that 12-step programs such as Alcoholics Anonymous gave substance abusers logical, well thought out advice on how to control addictions.

Was I ever wrong!

Treatment and counseling always requires the substance user to join a 12-step program. Before this series of events intruded in my life, I thought that 12-step principles promoted by groups like Alcoholics Anonymous offered advice about how to quit using alcohol and drugs. Instead, what 12-step programs say is that the substance users have no control over whether or not the chemical gets in their bodies. The user is diseased and will remain helpless and addicted for the rest of his or her life. Even thinking that they can refuse drug and alcohol use is given a mumbo-jumbo name, 'denial.'

AA is actually founded on the principle that drunks and junkies do not possess the same free will as non-diseased people. While claiming to be spiritual rather than religious, these programs and the drug treatment counselors that recommend them, tell users that they are not responsible for their actions. Although it isn't clear whether it is a god or demon that controls their behavior, it is clear that they simply cannot ever, for their entire lives, determine their own fate. They are warned against any thought of cutting the puppet strings because as counselors, courts, and AA tells them, they suffer from a disease.

How pathetic it must be to have an incurable disease that requires a lifetime of shame and self-flagellation. How tragic that these addicts are powerless against demons whose goal is to force nasty chemicals down their throat or into their veins.

Yes, I have gone back to my original belief that using drugs and alcohol is a conscious choice. I believe that junkies and drunks desire their drug so strongly they forget their responsibility to family. I believe that as long as AA, the courts, and the 'treatment' industries give users the made-up excuse of 'disease' we will continue to have a substance abuse problem.

Fortunately, many years ago, I heard of a program called Rational Recovery. Four months in to the nonsense of 12-step programs, I "Googled" Rational Recovery and was relieved to find their web site. RR states that the substance user is the only one in control of whether or not he or she drinks or uses drugs. Any person who chooses to quit on their own had a better chance at success than a practitioner of a 12-step program or a 'treatment' program. Considering the evidence published by Alcoholics Anonymous themselves, I think it is time to speak out against Alcoholics Anonymous and the disease theories of addiction.

Yes, speak out against it. AA not only offers excuses to drunks and junkies to continue their destructive behavior, it offers them an opportunity to do so with the childish excuse that they can't help themselves; they don't have any choice; they are defective due to a disease. As an added bonus, they can attend meetings where they can sit around and reminisce with other users about how good it feels to be high.

The truth is that users get pleasure from alcohol, drugs, or cigarettes. The pleasure they feel is more important to them than the pain they cause to their families. At any time, the user of any substance has the power to say, 'I will never do this again.' No demon or supernatural entity has the power to administer the substance into the user's body.

As much as 12-step programs are about hopeless lack of self-control, Rational Recovery is about taking charge of life, celebrating free will and self-determination. Although RR states that a user can quit without RR, the program offers some strategies to help people get out of the disease-victim mode of thinking.

I also learned, and I had my suspicions beforehand, that there is no such thing as treatment for substance abuse except to just stop. Alcoholism has been listed as a disease, but there has never been any scientific data to base this on. Twelve-step programs have a success rate of no more that 5%. AA, NA, and Al-anon are entirely religious belief systems that negate the concept of personal freedom. AA depends on 'wearing away of the individual.' RR tells individuals to take responsibility for their actions.

So if you want to drink, drink. If you want to use drugs - that's entirely your free choice, and you already know what the consequences might be. But when substances cause so much chaos in your life that you want to quit them once and for all, you have the ability to do just that.

Nancy Sherer

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