Stanton Peele, PhD – Addiction and Recovery

February 10, 2014

This week, Point of Inquiry welcomes Stanton Peele, PhD., J.D.. Dr. Peele, an addiction expert and author of 12 books on the subject, discusses his views on the current ‘disease model’ view of addiction and the recent tragedy involving actor Philip Seymour Hoffman.

Peele holds the somewhat contrarian position that, depending on the person, abstinence or moderation are valid approaches to treat excessive drinking or other substance abuses. He argues that 12-step programs may do more harm than good and that there is no evidence that they perform any better than “quitting cold turkey.” Peele also suggests that the current model of addiction treatment may even violate standards of medical ethics.

In Dr. Peele’s most recent book, Recover!: Stop Thinking Like an Addict and Reclaim Your Life with The PERFECT Program, he describes mindfulness techniques to stop the behaviors which are detrimental to your life without becoming addicted to the recovery program itself.

This is of inquiry from Monday, February 10th, 2014. 

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I’m Josh Zepps, host of Huff Post Live, and this is the podcast of the Center for Inquiry, the nonprofit that promotes reason, science and secularism. Fans of film and theater have spent the past week reeling from a kick in the guts with the sudden death of Philip Seymour Hoffman. One of the greatest living actors had apparently been clean of drugs for 23 years, but relapsed into alcoholism and heroin addiction. And he was found dead last weekend in his bathroom with a syringe still in his arm. So we’re devoting this episode a point of inquiry to the science of recovery, to shedding some clarity on the often fuzzy world of addiction treatment. Dr. Stanton Peele is an addiction specialist and something of a dissident in the industry as the creator of the Life Process program, which is an alternative to the 12 step model. He’s the author of a dozen books about addiction, and he’s been kind enough to stop by to join us. 

Thanks for being here, Stanton. Can I call you Stanton? Please do. And please tell them the title. Oh, that’s right. The book is called Recover. Stop Thinking Like an Addict and Reclaim Your Life with the Perfect Program by Stanton Peele Day, which I was only just released. This has been such a bad week for me. Stanton losing one of my heroes in such a senseless way, it’s hard to know what to how to think about what he did to himself. Let’s start with a simple question. What is addiction? What was he doing? 

Addiction is a way of intervening, in your experience to make yourself comfortable by finding some kind of an object that allows you to exist by screaming out what you find is it in life and permitting you to filter that experience in a way that makes you able to go through endure life. You won’t believe this when I tell you this, but I wrote a famous book in 1975 called Love an Addiction, where I announced that addiction is not primarily due to the chemical structure of any substance. Forty years later, the diagnostic manual, the American Psychiatric Association, finally agreed with me and said, well, addiction is not really due only to drugs. And they identified one experience outside of drugs that produces addiction gambling. But, of course and they left up for discussion the possibility of Internet gambling. Obviously, people become addicted to those things, to sex, to love, to food, to shopping, to Internet involvement. Addiction is not a relationship with a chemical. Addiction is a relationship with an experience that you find sufficiently calming and embalming in a way that it protects you from those aspects of your world that you find discordant and unable to cope with otherwise. 

So how does a person like Hoffman then go for 23 years without needing to use? And then suddenly need what was what was how is he dealing with the discordance when he wasn’t using? Well, that’s a critical question. 

What is it that allows people what makes them addicted and what allows them to recover? He seemed to have learned, and I’m just judging from media reports, that he had a brain disease and that he was on this precarious tightrope that if you believe him, he walked for twenty three years. I don’t on your percent believe that Philip Seymour Hoffman never had a painkiller in those 23 years. I find that I wouldn’t bet that way. Supposedly the story is he then had a painkiller because it’s a medical issue. And that boom led him to take 40 packs of heroin in a couple of days. He was told that he couldn’t control that experience. That’s the therapeutic model in the United States that you learned through the 12 steps. It’s inaccurate. It’s bizarre. And most importantly, it’s dysfunctional. If you were a medical therapy, you would be sued for malpractise because you’ve told him, listen, you can’t control the experience of narcosis. 

If you should ever encounter a painkiller, you’re immediately going to relapse and be completely out of control of that experience. What a bizarre message if you’re a third. I’m a psychologist. If you’re a therapist with a bizarre message to convey to a human being that you’re trying to help buddy, you’re out of control. Suppose so. You haven’t used it heroin or any illicit narcotic in 20 years. That means nothing. If you’re exposed to any kind of a painkiller or any kind of a narcotic. You’re going to completely lose control of your life. No. 

No one will know. What’s your what’s your alternative hypothesis? 

My alternative hypothesis, which all the data shows is that people overcome addictions and. Narcotic addictions by growing to a place where they find life sufficiently rewarding that they are capable of existing and dealing with life’s challenges. So they don’t need to rely on a narcotic. In fact, that is so obvious. It’s a common sensical that to state it is almost embarrassing. Oh, your theory of addiction is that you grow up and you’re able to meet life’s challenges and young, you really need to rely on narcotic and you call yourself an addiction expert. Ironically, addiction experts tell you, oh, that’s impossible. If you were addicted when you were 22, you’re going to be addicted when you’re 46. If you touch a psychoactive substance, you would lose all control of your life. And. Contrary to the messages that are coming down the pike, like David Sheft is portrayed in TIME magazine, that, oh, he needed to be aware that he had a brain disease. Nicholas Philip Seymour Hoffman was acutely tuned in to this crazy concept that he had a brain disease. He was a regular attendee at Narcotics Anonymous. He was had a prescription group, given that frien, which is a way of overcoming withdrawal characteristics. He was so embedded in this disease model that he didn’t give himself a chance to say, you know, come down. 

I’ve grown up. I’ve got three children. I don’t need to give in to this experience in an all encompassing way. Even if I’ve slipped, I can recapture what my life is all about. I’m a talented actor. I’ve got people who count on me, which is what we would know if you weren’t in all informed about modern addiction theory if you talk to your grandmother. She’d say, well, OK, you will make some mistakes. When they’re younger. They grow up, they mature, they calm down, they get married or have a life partner and have children and they behave in a different way. That’s the old model. 

The new model is you have a lifetime permanent disease and it’s self fulfilling. It creates the negative behavior that supposedly that model is designed to remedy. 

But you’re not implying that addicts didn’t exist prior to the 12 step disease model? 

Of course not. Addiction is as long as human history. In 1962, I, a man named Charles Winnick, who still lives in New York City, wrote a book called Maturing Out of Narcotic Addiction by examining federal rules of narcotics addicts. He found that two thirds to three quarters of heroin addicts outgrew their habits by the time they were 35. Which is, if you didn’t know anything about modern brain addiction theory. Brain disease theory, you would say, well, that’s not so surprising, is it? They probably got a job. They got a family and they calm down just like people leave college and they quit the bizarre drinking and marijuana use. They outgrow it. It’s a normal human experience to outgrow addiction. We’ve now communicated to people that that’s impossible, that they have a lifetime brain disease, which is wrong. It’s inaccurate on the basis of the government’s own data, which show that people with all kinds of addictions outgrow them. And here’s the crazy thing. It’s crazy dysfunctional to the extent that Philip Seymour Hoffman believed this theory of addiction that made him that much more likely to relapse and end up dead than if he knew the actual accurate approach that I describe in my book, Recover. 

So what are like? What is that? 

What is that approach them? Suppose that he feels himself teetering on the edge of relapse and he’s tempted. He has a few drinks. He may be snort some heroin one night. He can see himself going over the precipice. And under your model, what you’re saying is that the conventional wisdom about this is that because he’s been so indoctrinated by the idea that his brain is broken and he has this disease and the moment he falls off the wagon, he’s going to spiral down and fall completely out of control. 

That that becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. If that’s not the case. And he turned to you, what would happen? 

I have something called the Life Ros’s program, and I had a residential treatment rehab anywhere along that path. A person has the capability of grabbing a hold of themselves and getting out of it. They go to a bar. They go to a place to shoot up. They get some drugs. OK, perhaps they shouldn’t have they can refuse to use OK, they’ve used they can stop using. 

OK, they’ve had a bad night happens to the best of us. That doesn’t mean that you need to spiral out of control and go completely back to your worst status. You tell a person that you can get off of that train at any point, which is true. We know that’s true. And you teach them. I teach them skills that enable them to do that. What are some of those skills? Well, you change environments. You recognize that you have the power to control it. You say to yourself, I can stop at any point. You divert your attention, you go into another mode. This is a man who had a life partner with three children. You say to yourself, you remind yourself or help remind you, you know, you have three children. You’re supposed to pick them up tomorrow morning. Why did you just go and do that? There’s nothing that stops you from doing that. Get back into the rewards of your normal existence, your professionalism, your career, your family. Think focus on those rewards. Those rewards can be more powerful than your addiction. If you only think in that mode and realize that that’s a possibility, if you’re convinced. Oh, nothing can match the rewards of addiction. And that’s he. AIMS. Let’s leave them the Vietnam narcotic for twenty three years. Obviously, he knows that’s a possibility. You’re only reminding him and refocusing him on what’s true. My approach, by the way, in the Life Process program in my book Recover, is not to tell people what’s true. I say calm down. What’s the most important thing in your life to you? Let’s just focus on that. Think about your children. How do you care about them? You tell me how that measures up against the appeal of narcotics. You explain to me how those conflict with each other and which of those are more important to you? Because people he was in Narcotics Anonymous up until the moment he killed himself. He was he had a prescription for buprenorphine, which is a A.I. addiction drug. He was seeing therapies, but he had turned his life over to those people. I say to people. Your life is in your control. 

There seems to have been a boom. Correct me if I’m wrong in recent years of more data driven approaches to addiction. There are a few centers like the Center for Motivation and Change. And if you know them, I know there’s obviously there’s this you there. 

In other words, a growing number of alternatives to the twelve step model into the disease model and the neuroscience model, which is promoted by a powerful agency, the National Institute on Drug Abuse, tells people that you have a chronic brain disease that you can’t recover from in the American Board of Addiction Medicine. So we’re in. You’re mentioning individual pockets who say what sounds kind of sensible and commonsensical and who claim to be rigorously using evidence rather than ideology. 

I mean, AA. I have nothing against I. I have friends who are in AA who say that it saved their life. So that’s fine. It wasn’t established on the basis of proven principles. One guy invented it and wrote it down. And then it’s it’s kind of had success ever since. To whatever extent that it has success, it certainly claims to be very successful. It’s hard to know whether the numbers are true. Anecdotally, it seems to be successful. Why do you think that. Of all that? 

Let me just jump in here. There have been a few clinical trials of AA where people who have an obvious alcohol problem there were arrested for drunk public drunkenness or whatever were randomly as this is how you do things in medicine. You know, people say apricot pits cured their cancer. God bless them. You know, I’m going to argue with Jesus. Sure. The Riddick’s their addictions or their cancer. Fine. But the way medicine works is that you clinically assign randomly people to one treatment or another every in every case where that’s been done with AA. 

It’s come out inferior to not only the alternatives, but to doing nothing. Now, that doesn’t downplay that, hey, could save a human life or an individual. What it does tell us is that in general, for the population at large, its effects are actually more negative than positive. You know, the AA is like God, you know, when somebody hits a home run, that’s how I thank God that I hit a homerun. But the pitcher he was praying to God to AA only counts as successes. So, Seymour, Philip Hart, Philip Seymour Hoffman was in N.A. at the time he died. But nobody is going to say, oh, God. And it doesn’t work. They don’t do that. They say, oh, he didn’t follow what they told him in N.A.. I look at it as being. There’s thousands of failures like that which are we’re in America. I understand you’re not born here. You have the misfortune of being born somewhere else or you wouldn’t even be interviewing me because you’re saying, you know, a new Murray is a little bit unusual in the degree to which they rely on these disease concepts. I’m not concoct totally familiar with that. And in America, we have the character. Every country has a characteristic of believing that their personal habits are universal rules of nature. But we’re especially prone to that problem in America. So we say, well, obviously, AA is the solution of everything. You know, when we came up with a cure for polio, the reason we knew that was a cure was because people stopped getting polio. But you can’t. Nobody believes that we’ve cured addiction. Nobody believes it. Addictions declining and effective. You most experts, everybody will agree it’s increasing. So the fact of failure doesn’t discourage people from saying still, it’s a disease. Let’s do the Zis model. Let’s keep going with something that leads to a person’s death, like halfling often. 

We’ve got plenty more fascinating conversation with Stanton Peele coming right up, but I just want to pause and tell you about Squarespace, our Moil sponsor. You’ve been meaning to get around to getting a Web site. I know that you want a Web site, and I know that you do want to pay thousands of dollars for a Web sites. I know you don’t want to go to some crappy, tacky little site. We a Web site. Looks like you just made it yourself. Well, the solution is Squarespace. It won’t look like you made it yourself. And you don’t even know how neat to know how to do anything. It doesn’t matter whether you want to blog or whether you want to share photos, whether you want to. I don’t know if you’ve been on a trip you but you’ve got beautiful photos you want to share and with all your friends, just throw it up there. You don’t need to just go to Tumblr. You can make it look like yours. You can make it look like you. You can make it look like your personality. There are beautiful designs for you to start with. There are all kinds of different style options to make the site look like you. It’s very easy to use. You don’t need to know how to do stuff. It just walks you through it. Squarespace is a big company that’s on the rise. The super committed to helping you out. If you contact them at any point of the night or day, they will respond within 60 minutes. A real human being will respond. It’s not just a little online chat thing. A human being will read your email and get back to you with specific answers to your questions. 24 hours a day within 60 minutes. You don’t give me your credit card information to try it out. This is a great company. It’s a great opportunity. Go and play around with it. Where a charity. We’re fighting the good fight. We provide this podcast for free. If you like our work. And you’ve been thinking about maybe getting us off a Web site. Go to Squarespace dot com. Use our offer code inquiry for a free trial and 10 percent off your first purchase. You’ll be helping us and more importantly, helping you. 

Now back to Stanton, pal, in most other fields of medicine. We are quite comfortable about using data and doing tests. What how did it come to pass that in the field of addiction study? We have resorted to assumptions and presumptions and theories and ideologies without being rigorous about whether they work. 

People don’t realize the extent to which our modern views of addiction all the way up to modern neuroscience are steeped in American culture. I’m going to tell you something that will blow your mind. We made alcohol illegal in the United States for 13 years. Can you believe that? Here’s the concept. Alcohol is inherently addicting. Let’s hibbett people from tasting it. And that’s a great solution for addiction that grows out of the temperance movement. 

The temperance movement exists primarily in Scandinavian and English cultures. And I understand you come from one of those, but nowhere. 

I wouldn’t call the ELSS very temporary. They are new, is closer, but they do have temperance attitudes. We’re probably the most Hellenistic of the English speaking cultures. But good point. 

But let’s let’s just I’ll point out that in Italy, Spain and France didn’t come up with the concept of, hey, let’s prohibit production and sale of alcohol. Are you surprised to learn that they never get a Greece never came up with that concept, that that idea was invented 13 years. Al Gore is illegal in America. So the whole we have a modern every reasonable way or modern neuroscience. What a great Bonnot approach. They’re steeped in American tradition, which is completely ambivalent about the concept of intoxication and the impact of intoxicants. 

I mean, are you saying that you think that the Puritans sort of strain the Puritan disdain for having fun while intoxicated feeds into the disease model of of of the temperance, conservative Protestant ethic? 

Those, by the way. I mean, so far, be it for me to speak up for the Berens, the Puritans drank alcohol. Mormons don’t drink alcohol. Southern Baptists, 93 percent of them are abstinent. There’s a kind of conservative breed of Protestantism that grew up in the United States that led to temperance. 

And their attitude was you should ever drink all of those groups, all Mormons, Baptists, when people. This is critical to understanding the experiences of Philip Seymour Hoffman. All of those groups have a right in radically high levels of alcoholism and binge drinking. Here’s the deal. They tell you, never drink. You’re fine if you do during. It’s uncontrollable. That’s a strange, strange model of existence, which is very American. And some other groups, the Irish are another group that are having incredibly high levels of abstinence and now goals in mind. 

It reminds me a little bit of I mean, one of the criticisms that I think can fairly be made of the clergy and religious institutions and their abuse of children is that when you when everything is a sin, when you conflate all sins to an equal level of wrongness, then you can be capable of doing all kinds of horrendous things because a sinful thought, you still have to apologize to God for masturbating. You still have to apologize to God for what difference does it make whether you actually rape a child? You’re gonna have to it’s still a. Everything’s a sin. You can’t escape this. The inherent sinfulness of humankind. 

Therefore, that’s a burger, you know, when everything’s prohibited. Everything in the sense is possible. 

Now, are you aware? I think you might be in Alcoholics Anonymous. If you go out one night and have a sip of wine, you’re exactly as guilty as if you went on a five week binge. You have to come in and say, confess, oh, I had a drink. I have to. No mine. Days of recovery to zero. You might as well infer a dime in for a dollar. You might as well go on a five week binge. What the hell? They’re equivalent because in the Catholic Church, although the Catholic Church isn’t ban on alcohol. Perhaps your youth. Are you Catholic? 

Not really secular at the Center for Inquiry. Good to know. They do give you wine during religious ceremonies and it’s mainly other than the Irish. It’s a protest. 

The old disease concept is very American, very Protestant, very northern European. Here’s a quick question that people often fail the Scandinavians. They drink less or more than Southern Europeans. 

I thought if I had to guess, I would say they probably have higher rates of alcoholism. But on the whole OP per capita, they probably drink less. 

You’re you’re a bad guy for me to pull this. 

That’s exactly right. Yeah. And the answer to that question is, well, how do they drink less and more alcoholism? 

Obviously they drink and being cycles you get. You can go to a place like Florence, Italy, and not counting stupid Americans. College students never see a drunken person in years and years. You can go to Oslo. Nice people to skin the names of the greatest people. Nora Hurley. And on a Sunday morning, you find drunk people lying on the street. Regular normal people, they are con. The temperance concept is you can’t control a substance use of a substance in for a dime in every dollar you drink. Boom. 

I mean, I have family in the south of France. I get my uncle comes home from work in the middle of the day, polishes off a bottle of wine over lunch and then get back to work. And he doesn’t have a drinking problem, at least as far as the French are concerned. I mean, he doesn’t. He doesn’t. He can handle his alcohol. But alcohol is so clearly woven into the fabric of social and cultural life that it’s it’s inescapable. 

One of my qualifications is I was a consultant on the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for not five people don’t know this, but addiction and recovery are not defined in terms of consumption. Technically, you could drink two bottles, three bottles of wine. 

It’s how many problems you have in life that defines both addiction, remission and relapse. If you drink, if you take any substance and it doesn’t create problems, you’re not addicted. You have to identify how it’s screwing up. Who defines what’s a problem? Well, they make an attempt. And I was part of that process that I’m now stand by it. If you’re getting arrested, if you’re having car accidents, if you’re losing your job, if you’re abusing somebody, if you’re having marital problems, that’s I’m willing to call. I’m a psychologist. I’m a kind of a practical person. When people come, let me tell you, I deal with the person AA says declare you’re an alcoholic. Boom. 

And in my book, Recover that I wrote with Joseph Thompson. Stop thinking like an addict. Here’s how I approach a person. They come in the room and I say, tell me what we’re here for. And they say, well, people think I have a substance issue. And I say, tell me about your substance use. Tell me why you take the substance. Tell me why you feel it’s OK. I’m happy with that. Have you encountered any problems? You tell me what those problems are. If you don’t confront people, you everybody talks about addiction, denial. 

If you go with people, they’ll tell you all they know what their problems are better than you can ever know where their problems are. And you can’t persuade people they have a problem. You can only have them tell you what their problems are. And I say, fine, I’m going to call you an alcoholic or an addict. Those problems that you’ve identified, let’s think together about the best way of remedying those problems. I’m not going to tell you what that best way is. We’re going to try on what’s going to be the best way. Usually was smoking. It involves quitting entirely, but I don’t even tell people who smoke that they can. They know what the answers to these questions are. If they say, well, I probably should drink less and I say, OK, OK, what’s less? And they tell me and I say, well, why don’t. 

Can you do that? And they say, I think I can. I say, OK, you know, they’ve been they’ve been having drinking rooms or two or five or 10 or 20 years. I don’t need to cure them today. I say let’s meet next week or next month. Let’s see how you did with what you think is a better approach. Let’s test it out and we’ll see how it worked and let’s evaluate it if it work. God bless. We’re on the right path. If it didn’t work, we can try it again or we could try a different method. So I don’t tell people to quit. What I don’t don’t want the problems on until them to quit or to cut back. 

I say let’s try all of this one. And you and I are working together to remedy the problems that you’ve identified. I haven’t told you that you’re an alcoholic or an addict. I’m just here to help you deal with what you recognize to be your problem. 

Fancy using data and experimentation in psychology. What a thought. There must be differences those dantin between different types of substances. Right. I mean, you might be able to say a person shouldn’t feel like they’re falling completely off. I mean, I you know, if they have a drink, if they have a sip of a sip of wine, but there’s no safe level of heroin consumption. 

I’m going to give you another quiz question. OK, you ready? You’re. I’m going to tell you that most people quit addiction. There’s a gigantic study that I refer to and recover in my Huffington Post. 

I’m sorry, am I having the boasting of my pieces reason called Goldney. It interviewed 43000 Americans about their lifetime drinking and drug use history. Most people overcome alcoholism without being true. Seventy five percent of people who have ever been alcohol dependent are no longer alcohol dependent. More than half of those have recovered continue to drink at lesser degrees. Only 12 percent have been in AA. 

These are crazy, wild statistics. Sorry, I have to reveal them. But the government, the NIH for. I won’t even tell you what that is. Did this research the half life for alcoholism is I’m going to ask you which is longer or shorter. Cocaine addicts, marijuana addicts and cigaret addicts. If you say it, I’m going to. This is the question. Have. How many years the half of the people who’ve ever been addicted to alcohol, cigarets, marijuana, cocaine quit, which is a lesser number. Cocaine. Cocaine. The shortest at five. Marijuana is six, Arko Walls at twelve. And smoking’s at 20. So the answer to the question it and they didn’t have enough. Believe it or not, interviewing 43000 Americans, you don’t get enough heroin addicts. But separate studies put a heroin somewhere between our global and smoking in terms of the half life, meaning that it takes a long time to take to kick the habit in comparison to other hard drugs, like twice as long as cocaine and marijuana, half as long as smoking. 

OK, there’s variation, as you point out. It depends on a lot of things. Well, smokers don’t quit because this sort of legal and whatever enjoy as a general rule of thumb, illicit addictions are harder to maintain. And amazingly enough, that means that most human beings will give them up shorter and shorter rather than longer periods of time as they get older, as they leave college, as they get out of their 20s, as they have a family. The essential thing to recognize, essentially all of these things follow the same process that people become addicted at a relatively young age. Most people mature out of it. It takes shorter or longer periods of time. And my my approach with those that Thompson recover is to say we’re not going to make you non addicted. You make yourself on addicted. I’m 68 years old. I’ve seen one or two addicts now and how they do it. I’ve studied the literature. I know what that looks like. I can help you come up with a game plan for doing that. It involves believing you can do it. It believes that recognizing what’s important in your life. Do you know what I mean? If I were doing therapy with Philip Seymour Hoffman, I’d say, let’s talk a little bit about your children. You I mean, I believe you love them. I understand. Let’s just focus on that for a moment. Let’s think about and feel what that means to you. Let’s be deeply let’s put that in your own mind on a balancing scale about whatever it is you get from taking heroin, which we’ve already discussed. Is there any other way that you can get those experiences that doesn’t endanger what’s most what you’ve told me is most important to you? I’m not trying to sell you a bill of goods. I’m trying to help you sort out in your own mind what’s most valuable to you. 

So, Stanton, the disease is sort of AA and a model of addiction basically gives Philip Seymour Hoffman a a pass because it says he was a disease. He never quite kicked the habit. And it took him. It’s a wily, cunning, crafty thing, addiction. And it snuck up on him and he was essentially helpless. And it took him the same way that a terrorist attack might have might have taken him. Your model ascribed greater personal responsibility to people’s choices. Does that mean. Under your model, I have a right to be angry at him. 

Ironically, by the way, along with AA as well, that I want to throw in the modern brain, chronic brain disease and a.D.A. Show me mean people think, well, what a great modern scientific idea. 

It’s actually the modern version of a twelve day, you know, AA and then A, they claim to be non evaluative, but that’s the farthest thing from the truth. Obviously they’re completely moralistic. They say you had a drink, for God’s sake. What’s the matter with you? My approach is a non moralistic virtue. I’m not there to cast negative aspersions on him. I so it so happens that the lift in the head. I heard him interviewed. 

This is James Lipton of Inside the Actor’s Studio. 

And he said, I just am a conservative when it comes to drugs and alcohol. I just don’t think it’s right. I don’t think people should do it. I ran it. I had a residential rehab and I now have an online program called the Life Process Program. People come to me and generally they’re not feeling that good about themselves. When a person ends up in a residential rehab, they’re not usually in a good place. Philip Seymour Hoffman wasn’t feeling good about himself. Anybody who can look at him can see that looking on his face, looking the fact that he broke up with his life partner. It’s not the job of a therapist to weigh in on the negatives. Look what you’ve done to yourself. 

What a horrible person you are. Who asked you to have the first slip? That first drink, the first shot? 

I didn’t do that. I don’t feel the people suffer from a too positive vision of themselves. Isaac. Calm down. You’ve made some negative moves. That doesn’t say that you’re not a good human being and not a good parent. Let’s focus on what it means to be a good human being and a good parent. You have the capacity within you. I’m not here to add to the negative weight that you already are crushing yourself with. Philip Seymour Hoffman didn’t kill himself because he was feeling too well about himself. It’s almost one way to read what he did in shrooms like leaving Las Vegas. It’s almost like he committed suicide. It’s almost like he felt he had to punish himself. I don’t feel this is my job as a psychologist, as a Thurber’s to do. To add to the negativity that was clearly crushing him. You know, The New York Times, an article I think just this morning where he’s confessed to some casual acquaintance at the film festival. I’m in a heroin ad. 

Yeah, I think someone didn’t recognize him. A reporter, a foreign reporter, I think didn’t recognize him at Sundance and came up to him and said, what do you do? And he said, I’m a heroin addict. 

And David Sheff in Time magazine says his problem was he didn’t realize he was an addict. That’s not what his problem was. 

His problem is he defined his whole life and existence in terms of being an addict. What I try and do is to cycle people out of that and say, you’re in recovery, say you’re something like an addict. I say you’re a human being. You have obviously great skills and forget your skills as an actor. You’re a concerned parent and a partner dream another human being. You’re a valuable person. Let’s rock. It’s called radical acceptance in Buddhism, which I incorporate into cognitive behavioral therapy. I say, let’s just accept who you are, that you’re a good person. What’s it going to take for you to navigate, to get to being what it means to be a good person? It doesn’t. It doesn’t. In AA, they come in, they say first thing you have to do is say you’re an addict or an alcoholic. Secondly, you have to do is recount all of your sins, for God’s sake. All of us have enough sins. But people, by the time they end up in a area, they have maybe a little extra couple of sins. That’s not your job. Your job is to not to decompose them. Your job is to compose them. I say to people, tell me what your greatest success is or tell me what your happiest moments have been with your children. Obviously, Eve’s probably not high on heroin or alcohol when that happened. What would it take for you to regain those moments which aren’t that far in the past, for God’s sake? They were months ago. It’s unlike some foreign planet. My job is to reconstitute the positive part of a person, not to convince them that, you know, it’s quite close from a religious sin motion. You’re born sinful. 

It’s original sin to saying, oh, you have a chronic brain disease. You can never escape. 

Yeah, I’ve never quite understood how you can be born an alcoholic when you’ve never even tried alcohol when you’re an infant. But that’s by the by. You mentioned incorporating Buddhism into cognitive behavior therapy. One of the things that a lot of people find distasteful about the 12 steps is the reliance on a higher power as the invocation of of God. 

What do you make of that when the IDL Bible, despite the fact that virtually every court and I say sentences people day, it happens to be illegal. There’s a very famous court case, which I love. 

AA happens to be illegal. 

It’s illegal to force a person to go to AA if they feel it violates their values or the religious spirit. Yes. And it’s been it hasn’t been decided by the Supreme Court, but it’s been decided by their 9th Circuit. Believe it or not, I’ll confess, I’m also an attorney. Well, I’m retie. I’m sixty eight. But I was an attorney for out of the 9th Circuit. Appeals courts in the United States have declared that it’s illegal to call. The government can’t cause people to go to AA. The best known case of that type was the 9th Circuit, which includes Hawaii, California, Oregon and Washington. It knew he was a Buddhist and they said we have to go to AA before we give you parole. And he went to AA. And Buddhism doesn’t work well with a they don’t have that higher power or they don’t have that kind of original sin guilt. And he stopped going. They you know, they said, let’s say you violate your parole. He died, but his son carried through Desert Gordon. So you can’t force a person to go against his really, you know, court the penal system, force a person to go against the religion to in order for him to stay out of prison, ironically or not. That’s the best thing. You don’t violate people’s values to get them to do well in therapy. You don’t say screw what you think you’re going to do. What I. That’s not therapy. That’s a religious indoctrination. Only in the United States in the First Amendment says the government can’t tell you what your values are. Those are yours for yourself. 

So if they say to you, OK, we’re going to let you walk on this drunk driving charge, but you have to go to AA, if you say to them, you know, I’m not comfortable in AA, I don’t I’m not a higher power person. I’m an atheist. I’m Jewish. I’m a Buddhist. 

They can’t say to you, screw you. You want to stay out of jail, you have to do this. That happens to be un-American. 

If there are people listening in. It’s unfreedom. 

It’s on it’s it’s, um, it’s on First World even or as Australia, even if they don’t have that constitution, you know, that’s not right. Yeah. 

To a person, if people are listening to this and they feel that they have a problem with alcohol or a substance or that a loved one has a problem and they don’t quite know what to do because they assumed that the only way in is either a or the highway. 

What do you suggest they do? 

Well, I mean, mention my products. I have an online life Ros’s program. I have a book called Recover Stuff. Things like an alcoholic, I would tell people. 

The vast majority of people recover without going into any kind of formal treatment. It can be done. But you have to set if you’re say, your spouse of an alcoholic, you have to stand up for yourself. You have to say we’ll hear certain things that can happen. You can’t be intoxicated around the children if you can’t. Perhaps you need to live somewhere else. I’m not saying that means you can ever see the chipping in. I’m saying that only means that you can only see the children when you’re in a state to see the children. I’m not I’m not judging against you, but this has to happen. There are ways to do that. You can see a normal ordinary. You can tell if you were a spouse reverse. You say if you want to go a day that works for you. God bless. If you want to see a psychologist or a therapist or if you want to read a book, there are other non AA type groups called Smart Recovery, which is a non AA non twelve step support group. Of course, everything is accessible now online. You have to let people seek their own level of achieving something. You can’t tell them what’s the best way. If you ask people, you know, somebody who quit smoking and you see them, how do you quit smoking? And they say, well, I just envision my lungs turning black. And you say, oh, that’s the best treatment for something that’s not the best treatment, smoking. They decided they wanted to quit smoking because their daughter said to them, Daddy, why are you killing us? Don’t you love me? And they figured out what works best for them. The thing is to focus on people’s purpose and values, to hold them responsible and to work with them to find their own best method for achieving that standard, pal. 

Thank you so much for being on point of inquiry mentioned. Can we mention my book one on the book one more time? The book is called Recover. Stop Thinking Like an Addict and Reclaim Your Life with the Perfect Program. Its author is Stanton Pal Stanton. Thanks so much for being on point. It was a great pleasure to be here with you. 

Josh Zepps

Josh Zepps

An Australian media personality, political satirist, actor, and TV show host. He lives in Brooklyn, New York. He was a founding host for HuffPost Live.