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Thursday, December 1, 2011

A Video About Aversion Therapy

Aversion Therapy has long been tried with alcoholics.  In a way, it makes sense: by associating bad experiences with alcohol, the alcoholic will eventually refrain from drinking.

Of course, anyone who has encountered full-blown alcoholism, with its misery and dysfunctionality, would also come to the conclusion that the lifestyle of the alcoholic should be enough aversion in and of itself.

There are countless alcoholics who live in filth, hardship, illness, and despair... enough to give any normal person plenty of motivation to quit.  The problem is, most alcoholics will not quit even when in the very depths the human condition can endure.

This video is around 20 years old, but I'm posting it because it is informative, and because it demonstrates that these techniques have not caught on in the intervening time:

At 7:19, Boris Segal nails the definition of alcoholism: it is a religion.  It becomes a form of idolatry.  When society tolerates it, it becomes an 'accepted religion,' but it can also survive 'persecutions' (like Prohibition in the US or Gorbachev's initiatives).

The Orthodox experience has been that torture and persecution cannot deprive a man of his religion.  The human will is very hard to break, and even the worst tortures usually only get temporary cooperation. 

There is no way to convince a man not to drink if he does not want to, just as there is no reliable way to 'brainwash' a person and have the change endure without the victim's cooperation. 

But, what if the will itself is broken?  What if the person wants to quit, but continually finds that he returns to drinking even when his entire life is destroyed?

Can an external force, like counselling or aversion therapy, work when the brain has been so altered that impulse control and reward centers have been fundimentally altered as they are in addicts?

This is why 12 Step groups, which rely on the concept of a loving God, have been so successful.  Aversion has only limited successes compared to 'working the steps.'  The will is no longer the instrument of change, but rather Divine assistance which the human will cooperates with.  The 'synergy' of Divine and human wills alleviates the reliance on self-will alone.

When I return from Kodiak, I will try to lay out the spiritual framework of human awareness and the will.  By understanding how we are made and how our minds work, we can better understand what methods will and will not work in helping people recover from addiction.

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