When Help Isn’t Help

We have all been arrogant enough to think we are helping in a situation that we were unequipped to handle. “All you have to do…” is often a phrase that is used when we think we’re helping people, but we really aren’t. In our minds, and from an outside perspective, we think the solution is simple. All the person has to do is follow these steps, and everything will be fixed. Nope! It doesn’t work that way. This can actually be several logical fallacies: the domino fallacy and the false alternatives fallacy. Just because one thing is true, doesn’t mean the next step we suggest will be the one to follow. Also, there might be other alternatives than the one or two things we think should fix everything.

In face, this situation is full of logical fallacies by friends and family. I’m not saying I’m not immune to logical fallacies, and I am probably committing a few of my own; however, we must all realize that none of us have all of the information needed to form a fool-proof way of helping.

Casual Determinism: These people are addicts because they drink every day and abuse drugs (alcohol, illicit, and prescription). That’s not technically true. I drank every single day for years. Many years. I’m not addicted to alcohol. I do not have an innate desire to consume it. In fact, after a while, I feel like shit and hate it. I’ll not drink for a week or two. When I drink, I might have one, or I might have many. Just because someone abuses a drug, it does not mean they are addicted to it. We cannot assume they are just because others have and been addicts. drinking or abusing drugs doesn’t necessarily have to cause addiction. I can though.

Going with casual determinism and substance abuse, just because you want help doesn’t mean AA, NA, or counseling will help. Those organizations have helped many people, but they cannot help everyone, and a lot of people have not passed those 12 steps. It can help people, but just because someone goes to one of those organizations, it doesn’t mean the person will be helped.

Substance abuse is often a symptom of other mental health issues. It can turn into an addiction, but it doesn’t always have to. If you treat substance abuse with methods used to treat addiction, the help will fail. While some of the addiction methods will also help mental health issues, it doesn’t seem to be the most effective way when the person isn’t an addict. For example, if I could actually handle my stress better, I would rarely drink. Treating me for addiction isn’t going to do shit to help me handle my stress better. Only focusing me on creating tools to help my stress management will reduce my stress and allow me to drink less.

If someone hates themself, no amount of AA, NA, or addiction treatment will help them not hate themself. People who are self loathing often abuse substances. Why? Same reason why I drink: to numb the brain from thinking too much about it and to create a distraction that just kicks the can down the road. Fixing self hatred requires a very long process. First, the person has to figure out why they hate themself. This isn’t an easy task. Things often mask the truth. Only after that is done can work be done to ease the hatred and boost self esteem. Each person is different. There isn’t a cookie-cutter fix. Trying to push a square peg through a round hole just damages the peg and the hole.

We often say things meant to help ease people’s thoughts and fears. This doesn’t usually work. It usually hurts the person’s recovery more than it helps. Telling someone they need to do something isn’t always constructive either. Being able to say something without saying it is a skill many people lack. Accountants, lawyers, IT people, programmers, etc usually make shitty therapists. Those fields, there is an obvious right and wrong. There are steps to an outcome. In the mental health field, the steps are not so defined. It takes having a plethora of knowledge and experience to make a good therapist/counselor. Even though I’m good at math, I suck at accounting. That’s why I don’t do it.


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