July 19, 2004
Dr. Lance Dodes (DOE-dess), MD is a psychiatrist with more than a quarter-century of clinical experience. He takes a psychoanalytic approach to working with substance abuse, as described in his 2002 book, The Heart of Addiction: A New Approach to Understanding and Managing Alcoholism and Other Addictive Behaviors.
An article at HippoPress.com, expands on his qualifications:
He teaches at Harvard Medical School and directs the Boston Center for Problem Gambling. He has treated hundreds of addicts and directed various alcoholism treatment units in New England.
And it describes his thoughts on powerlessness:
People with addiction, believes Dodes, need to feel less powerless. This seems to conflict with the Alcoholics Anonymous credo that alcoholics need to admit they are powerless over alcohol… Dodes finds value in AA, but takes issue with this tenet.
On page 4 of his book, Dodes says:
Virtually every addictive act is preceded by a feeling of helplessness or powerlessness. Addictive behavior functions to repair this underlying feeling of helplessness. It is able to do this because taking the addictive action (or even deciding to take this action) creates a sense of being empowered, of regaining control over one’s emotional experience and one’s life.
And, the HippoPress article sums up his response to powerlessness this way:
AA’s injunction to surrender your power “is clearly not for everyone. However, along with other AA concepts, the ‘surrendering’ notion is often described as the only way to address alcoholism … and that is a myth that is both wrong and hurtful.”
Read more about Dr. Dodes in this 3-page PDF at the Harvard Medical School website.
London psychotherapist James Hamilton, whose specialties include addiction and smoking cessation, named Dodes’ book “the most important book on addiction to be written in the last ten years.”
He also explains a key Dodes concept here in the context of a commuter who has fought large crowds and late trains on his trip home after a long day:
Lance Dodes notices something very important that I had missed entirely. He spotted that addicts of all stripes … start to feel better at the moment they have decided to indulge their addiction, not at the time when the addiction action actually takes place. So my commuter, who has decided to get drunk, starts to feel better not at the time of the first drink, but at the moment he or she decides to get drunk i.e. somewhat earlier. There is a moment when the addict, experiencing frustration and helplessness, says “f*** it! I’m just going to drink/inject/smoke/gamble/ring a sex line”; and it’s then that they start to feel better.
Congratulations on this site. I particularly enjoyed your review of Lance Dodes. I quote him extensively in my recent book God and Alcoholism. There is much need these days for understanding that no alcoholic is "powerless." Early A.A. in Akron took the position that he had several prerequisite duties: (1) Abstain. (2) Resist temptation. (3) Believe in God. (4) Seek God's help. The original expressions - much more to the point - were that we admitted we were "licked." The way out was to put on one's boots, face the enemy, and start marching. I found Dodes' works very helpful
29-Aug-2004 05:32 PM
I have read Lance DodesMD,The Heart of Addiction.I have been struggling with alcohohism for many years.His is the first book I have read that actually helped me understand addiction.I now have a way to truely heal.I tried AA type programs for many years.I found them antagonistic and illogical.I could only give up drinking when I gave up AA,and realized that it was not the right psychology for me without feeling like a failure.I came from an extremly abusive family,both physical and emotional.My earliest memories are of fear and embarassment.Though I didnt start drinking untill I was 20,the roots of my addiction are from the age of 3.I have always tried to just put the past behind me.Now I. realize that I have a lot of relearning to do.I am age 42 now and am just starting this journey.Thankyou dr dodes
18-Apr-2005 09:25 AM