#Addiction #Recovery – It’s all Greek To Me

Greek PhilosopherTo my mind, and in the views of others (see below); a large amount of what the ancient Greek philosophers had to say about life in general, still has a great deal of validity and use in today’s society…

Especially around how we perceive situations, ourselves and others, in particular types of situation or circumstances. For me, I would far rather follow the Stoicism of Epictetus, rather than the shallow, materialistic and commercial thoughts and opinions of some selfie generating, sycophantic, self-appointed ‘lifestyle guru’ on Instagram. (Other social-media platforms are available!)

EpictetusEpictetus taught that philosophy is a way of life and not just a theoretical discipline. He opined that external events are beyond our control; we should accept calmly and dispassionately what happens. But most importantly to my mind, individuals are always responsible for their own actions, which they can examine and control through rigorous self-discipline, if they so choose – sounds logical to me!

The Discourses of Epictetus (108 AD) offered three significant tenets, or fields of training, for anyone’s understanding around a philosophy for life; desire, choice and assent.

There are three fields of study… The first has to do with desires and aversions, that they may never fail to get what they desire, nor fall into what they avoid; the second with cases of choice and of refusal, and, in general, with duty, that they may act in an orderly fashion, upon good reasons, and not carelessly; the third with the avoidance of error and rashness in judgement, and, in general, about cases of assent. (Epictetus — Discourses, iii. 2. 1)

According to Epictetus; true education lies in learning to distinguish what is our own from what does not belong to us. By this he was alluding to the fact; there are things we can control and those that we can’t… there is only one thing which is fully our own — that is our will and personal choice. That choice we always have to see things the way we choose to see them. When we do this rationally, without too many emotional biases, our thoughts can direct and define our happiness.

Recently I asked my readership… Is today a Happy Day? But something we tend not to understand very well is; feeling happy and actually being happy are often very different things, differing and relative states of emotions and thoughts. To my mind, any effective examination of our happiness, just like our health, needs some rational (non-emotive) understanding, at least when done from a personal perspective.

DDN-June-2016Reading the June 2019 edition of DDN Magazine I found a voice to echo one of my common philosophical thoughts i.e. In addition to the modern science and research, Ancient Greece has a great deal to offer in our understanding of addiction and support for recovery (read full article).

The ancient Greek concepts of akrasia and mania are central to Yate’s thesis. I concur and strongly agree with his opinion; “Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle characterised such “appetites” as an impairment or defect of the soul” and consequently – we should focus on working harder to fully understand and mitigate against the causation factors of the ‘defects’ in the souls of people impacted by addictive behaviours.

They Greek Philosophers argued that when appetite rules the soul, as opposed to reason and logic, the soul falls into a state of disorder. A disordered soul has the capacity to turn a good life into a miserable one. (Yates)

We also need to consider the thoughts, feelings and behaviours of individuals. In a far broader sense than many of the stereotypes and convenient ‘labels’ tend to dictate. It would be more productive if we were better able to formulate ‘understanding’ in the context of an individual’s specific circumstances.

In the Classical Greek period there was no conception of addiction. … a constant struggle to resist the pleasures offered by, for example, food, drink, drugs and sex. Some could not resist these temptations and went on to indulge their appetites to excess. The Classical Greek philosophers, Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle characterised such “appetites” as an impairment or defect of the soul. (Dr Albert Yates, A theory of addiction founded on classical Greek philosophy)

Today, perhaps more than ever before, due to austerity and strategic (political) direction; therapeutic and supportive client and key-worker relationships have been significantly constrained. With these reductions in effective interventions what hope for any increased understanding of individuals and their specific needs?

The constant application of ‘business constraints’ – from policy and procedural perspectives – tends to present profoundly negative impacts for individuals. Public pots of cash are not finite and probably never should or could be however; the continued reduction of resources, in this constant pursuit of VFM within PbR frameworks, tends to sideline a great deal of organisational purpose… providing support for vulnerable individuals.

That said, this type of ethos (perhaps) needs to prevail for business efficiency drivers in development and delivery of strategic policy and operational process, but not at the expense of a robust service-user focus, for any treatment and recovery support provider.

If “addiction is a disorder of the soul” – characterised by self-medication and escapism in the excessive use of psychoactive substances, or the excessive involvement in certain non-substance related activities – shouldn’t we always provide help and support for those with a desire to move on from that place? And not simply from the perspective of pursuing society’s often hypocritical moral higher ground.