Tall tale: A guy who hasn't used narcotics in over a decade gets kidney stones and the doctor won't provide him with pain killers - so he gets his own, ends up in jail where they give him Demerol, then send him to rehab, where he is denied meds and so he volunteers to return to jail. And every word is true!


The Stanton Peele Addiction Website, January 30, 2011. This blog post also appeared on Stanton's Addiction in Society blog at PsychologyToday.com.

Jail Beats 12-Step Rehab

I just returned from Vancouver where I gave workshops to the staff and a public audience under the auspices of PHS - the largest harm reduction service provider (meals, housing, medical treatment) for addicts in Canada, North America, and perhaps the world. Liz Evans, PHS's executive director, wanted me to emphasize that, in offering people such basic services, her organization is actually performing a treatment function, one far superior to convincing her clients that they have a lifetime disease that they can never escape. This very much corresponds with my Life Process Program, which emphasizes that most people outgrow addiction and that treatment succeeds best by encouraging and supporting the natural processes that normally propel people out of addiction.

There were several AA buffs at the public lecture, and when I made the statement, "Even people stupid enough to believe the 12 steps are great for all adults don't think they're suitable for teens," sure enough, they proved me wrong! "I know 15-16 year olds who come to my meetings, and then become sober," several said. When I asked, "Can you see any possible danger to putting kids into AA?" two such worthies denied that there were any - thus proving better than anything that I could say that AA creates people who shouldn't be allowed to have any influence over other human beings.*

Just in case those imbeciles and others like them are reading this, here's an e-mail I just got from a guy who says jail is better than 12-step rehab (the title of this post is the subject line of his mail):

Dr. Peele - I've spent the last several hours going over the info on your site and it confirms what I have long suspected, and probably in my own life proven true.

I grew up in a pretty bad situation, my father was the Vice President of one of the country's largest "Outlaw" motorcycle gangs, a drug dealer, a pimp and in general a jerk who is now in prison. When my mom was not zoned out on Valium she was committed to the psychiatric ward.

It's probably not a huge surprise that when, at age 16, I tried heroin for the first time I loved it. During the time I was in high school I would use three or four times per month. I grew up in a small city in ______, and was accepted to NYU for college. It did not take me too long to develop a daily heroin habit there, get a girl pregnant and flunk out of school. [Hey, my daughter went to NYU!]

The daily use continued until I was 24, when one afternoon my mom came over to my apartment and found me passed out with a needle in my arm (I hadn't overdosed, I'd just had some pretty good heroin) and called 911. The law got involved and they told me I could go to treatment or go to jail. I'd actually been trying to stop for about 4 months at that point, just could not get through the withdrawal, so going to treatment did not seem like the worst thing ever to me.

I spent 7 days in Detox and 9 days of the 28 days in rehab the judge ordered. I couldn't take the BS they tried to shove down my throat every day. They told me if I didn't shape up they would tell the judge I was not in "compliance" and I'd be held in contempt and sent to jail. I had nothing else going on and half of my family and friends at the time were in jail so I told them to call the judge and tell him I wasn't going to stay in treatment. That did succeed in getting me 90 days.

Fast forward 11 years and I had not touched an illegal drug or put a needle in my arm during that entire period. I drink from time to time, but rarely. I got custody of my daughter and she lives with me. I have a successful business that I love that made nearly $5 million last year and employs 14 people. I have amazing friends and hobbies that I enjoy.

All was very good in my life until recently I got kidney stones. I went to the ER, and the doctor actually remembered me from my "overdose" 11 years ago. Even though I've been clean and sober that entire time, he would not give me any pain medications "because it wasn’t worth the risk." [Oh no - the medical system under the spell of the disease theory! - Chuck O'Brien pay attention.] Once it became obvious that I was not going to die from the stones (though if you offered me death I may have taken you up on it) and that I was not going to be treated for it, I decided to leave the hospital and take care of myself. Since pretty much everyone related to my dad is a drug addict or dealer, it was pretty easy for me to get something to relieve the pain.

Well, a cousin told my mother (my mom is now a "rehab tech" in a 12-step based program) about my "relapse" and she called the police to have them come do a safety check on me. [Un-oh – the most dangerous of all mixtures – 12 steps and the police state!] I had smoked some of the heroin about 15 minutes prior to them showing up and, since I'm not used to its effects anymore, my condition was pretty obvious. At jail they hadsomeone from a 12-step recovery program assess me. She was 21 or 22 and decided that I was in full relapse and that my life was in danger unless I got treatment.

Next morning the judge agreed, and so off I went. Keep in mind that I still had kidney stones at this point. However, throughout the night they had me in the medical ward at jail and the PA there gave me Demerol. [What - too ignorant to know this was the relapse of a disease? - obviously someone not trained by the American Society of Addiction Medicine.] I get to treatment and they will give me nothing but Advil for pain. I left and got a cab to bring me back to the county jail. At the medical ward there - unlike the "health care" facility I had just left - I was actually treated for my kidney stones for the next two and a half days.

Once the stones passed they put me back with the general population. Since I've gotten used to eating real food and not hanging out with convicts all day I decided I'd give this rehab thing another try. The people at the treatment center were happy to let me back since the fact that I would have rather been in jail proved how sick I really was with my addiction.

I did my 28 days and survived the experience - however stupid and meaningless it was. The treatment center and the courts got the Department of Human Services involved, so I've had to wear a patch to prove that I'm not using drugs again, which aside from being an invasion of my privacy [hey, buddy - this is America - we'll tell you when you're addicted and what to do about it!] is nothing more than an itchy inconvenience, since I have no desire to use narcotics again.

Well, this has gone on like half of a book. I was just so glad to find your site and find someone who understands the madness of all of this and who is qualified to say so. I wanted to share my story with someone who wouldn't judge me as a lost-cause-hopeless-never-to-recover addict because I'm not going along with anything they told me to do in treatment, aside from the most important part. . . don't do heroin.

P.S.: Please, can those nincompoops in Vancouver and their ilk write in that this guy is a "dry addict" in relapse and how they are praying that he starts using again to prove the 12 steps right.

* Just so you don't think I would let AA bullshit escape unanswered, I subsequently called on a woman who said, "I never send kids to AA - where they'd learn that if they ever drink or use anything again they're doomed - but which of course they're going to do anyway. It sets them up for relapse and, worse, a lifetime identity as an addict or alcoholic."

P.S.S.: Better yet - a commenter divines I am an alcoholic (but at least he calls me "high-functioning" - or, wait a second, is he saying that's a myth?):

The hostile-aggressive behavior on this blog author attests to the myth of a "high-functioning" person with alcoholism -- drunk or sober.

Mean, angry, destructive and vicious -- sure. Standard symptoms of the disease and a brain that just can't feel normal and relaxed. Too bad its harms so many others and the afflicted.