Off The Wall: The Key to Kicking the Cycle of Addiction

Mike, I’m a fan. I love your shows, and I love what you’re doing with your foundation. But I hate the fact that you sell whiskey! My family has been devastated by addiction, and it’s disappointing to see you promoting a thing that’s done so much damage to so many people. Addiction is a disease, and we must all take a stand against it. I wish you’d use your influence to do so.
Denise Catterton

Hi Denise
First of all, I’m sorry for your trouble, and for the pain your family has endured. I too, have seen the impact of addiction on people I care about, and felt the helplessness of watching them self-destruct. I’m also mindful of the impact of addiction on our country. Every week, I navigate the streets and sidewalks of San Francisco, and see the evidence with my own eyes. Addiction is very real, and the results are very disturbing. But is addiction really a disease?

A lot of medical experts say it is. Just ask Google, “Why is addiction a disease,” and you’ll find a laundry list of acronyms and associations who explain with great certainty why it absolutely, positively is. Of course, if you ask, “Why is addiction NOT a disease,” you’ll find a similar list of experts who explain with equal certainty, why it absolutely, positively is not. (For even more enlightenment, ask the medical community if a man can become a woman, or a woman become a man. Apparently, there have been some enormous changes in basic biology.)
Fact is, we live in a time when experts in every field can no longer agree on the fundamental truth of a great many topics, so the layman has no choice but to consider the arguments on both sides and come to his own conclusions. That’s what I’ve done with addiction, and my conclusion is this: there are two kinds of addicts – those who use, and those who don’t. Those who don’t use, all have one thing in common – they decided to stop using. And those who succeeded in staying sober, usually do so with the help of people who supported them in their efforts to retake control of their lives.

I know a guy whose done some remarkable work in this area and helped a lot of people – including himself – get into a state of recovery and stay there. His name is Scott Strode, and I was pleased to have him on my podcast a few months ago. If you missed our conversation on The Way I Heard It, please give this short video a quick look. Better yet, share it with anyone you know who is struggling with addiction. Scott’s program, The Phoenix, is expanding all over the country, and I’m honored to support his efforts today. Here’s a link to an app that’s already helped thousands of people. Perhaps it can help someone close to you. I sincerely hope so.

PS Regarding my own “influence,” (and those who might be under it,) I learned a long time ago that there is nothing I can say that everyone should hear. That’s why, on a platform with 6 million individuals, I try not to paint with too broad a brush. For instance, in spite of my personal disgust with the obscene cost of a four-year degree, and the absurdity of the whole “college for all” mantra, I realize that a college education is still a viable option for a lot of people. And so, even though I run a foundation that attempts to elevate the importance of trade schools, I never publicly claim that “college isn’t worth it,” because I know there are people listening who would be well served, (and can still afford), a university experience. Likewise, in spite of my personal fondness for a wee dram before dinner, and my decision to promote a line of whiskey with my grandfather’s name on it, you’ll never hear me say, “whiskey is good for everyone, and an essential part of a well-balanced diet!”

Beyond that, Denise, what would you have me do? Stay out of the whiskey business altogether? I can understand why you’d want that. You’ve lost people you love to alcoholism. But then, what’s next? Fast food? Soda pop? Sugar intake? Home Shopping Channels? What about social media? As I’m sure you know, millions of people are hopelessly addicted to the device you’re using right now. The data is overwhelmingly negative. The time wasted online is mind-boggling, the sheer magnitude of fraud and mischief is stupefying, and the impact on kids in particular has been proven to be devastating. Should I therefore quit social media in order not to enable those who are overly susceptible to its many temptations? Should I use my influence to persuade the people who follow this page to join me in abandoning Facebook? If not, why not?

Like it or not, we’re a country filled with millions of grown men and women who are responsible for making an endless series of consequential decisions. These people all have the right to own a gun, make a baby, buy a house, open a business, take out a student loan, cast a vote, open a TikTok account, or drink my whiskey. Some of them – many of them, perhaps – should be affirmatively discouraged from doing any of these things. Alas, I just don’t know which ones…

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