At last Ben Cousins can take as many drugs as he likes. The David Beckham of Australian Rules Football has spent the last 5 years being the bad boy of football. The governing body, the AFL have been drug testing him almost every week for recreational drugs. Never tested positive but he has been banned from playing on a number of occasions for a variety of misdemeanours off the field in a highly publicised way.
However the AFL holds the sword of damocles above all players. If they take recreational drugs and test positive they risk loosing their income and right to play football in that league. Ben Cousins retires in two weeks and thus the sword of damocles disappears and he can take as many drugs as he likes. And you know what, he now has the chance to really deal with the drug issues he has. This raises the issue of the difference between externally driven prohibitions and internal choices in the want to use drugs.
The problem if you have an external force whether that be a spouse, a parent or the AFL, pressuring you to stop using then it does not allow you to make your own decisions. Or at least it makes it harder to make your own decisions as this diagram shows.
If an outside person or organisation gives the directive “Don’t use” (particularly if they are using some kind of punishment like loss of income) then the user is pressured to respond from an AC (Adapted Child ego state) position. They can adapt to the directive in two different ways. They can either conform and don’t use or rebel and the use simply goes under ground and they try and outsmart the detection system.
The problem with both of these responses is neither is about what the user wants. The external prohibitor makes it much harder for the user to find out what they actually want. That comes from the Free Child aspect of the personality and it is here that one gets the possibility of the user deciding that drugs are not for him or he uses recreationally or he is OK with his current drug use. The decision comes from inside the psyche of the drug user and not as a reaction to some outside pressure.
Now the AFL can no longer pressure Ben Cousins about his drug use, he is much more likely to be able to find out what he actually wants in relation to using drugs. And that is his decision.
As I mentioned before, with pressure from out side the person can continue using by rebelling against the pressure and the use simply goes under ground. This is why drug counsellors need to be careful not to present themselves as an outside pressure because the client will simply stop telling the truth about their drug use. Then the counselling starts to flounder.
Others respond to the outside pressure by conforming and do stop using. But this is fragile because the use depends on the other remaining present. In this sense the person becomes addicted to the outside force which at times can be something like a religion. If the person drifts away from the ‘force’ then the risk of using significantly increases and thus we have the new “addiction”.
Having said this sometimes this approach can work in the longer term with AA being an example. In the initial stages the person becomes addicted to AA, the sponsors and uses them to stop drinking by responding from a conforming position to the ‘pressure’. If the conforming non use can persist for a long time then the person can construct quite a solid non drinking type of life style. Such a person is less likely to fall off the wagon because their whole life style and family are structured to ‘pressure’ them not to drink. And some remain sober for the rest of their lives. A good result indeed.
However in my view, by and large it is better for the user to be given the opportunity to take a look at self with no outside pressure. Then they can begin to decide what they want out of life and one is more likely to get longer term change in their drug using patterns. Again it is their decision.