A Letter to the Judge Who Sentences Robert Downey, Jr.
An Open Letter
DEAR JUDGE, OR, ROBERT DOWNEY, JR. HAS
A DISEASE YOU DON'T UNDERSTAND AND CAN'T EVEN CONCEIVE OF TODAY,
To Whom It May Concern:
This letter is not to ask you to be lenient, fair, just, or
enabling to Robert Downey, Jr. This letter is not about Robert
Downey, Jr. per se, but about you and how you perceive the seemingly
recalcitrant addicts who come before you in your courtroom, how
you perceive drug addiction and addicts so that you might have
the needed insight and wisdom necessary to deal with Robert and
other addicts in a way that will preserve public safety and
help some addicts at the same time.
The most thorough way to get my message across is to ask you
to read my book, Hypoic's Handbook, the book that explains in
an objective way the neurobiology of addictions and why addictions
are symptoms of a disease that can't be controlled by its victims
or society until they are understood in a completely new and
different light, the light of science; the science and its implications
that only exist in my book, nowhere else. And then, not controlled
but surrendered voluntarily, something Robert can't do because
he doesn't know about the disease that requires this approach
to recovery. In fact, both you and Robert are attempting to fight
an unfightable disease, inevitably losing, and misunderstanding
why. Both of you consciously want to win, but the funny thing
about addictions, as you will see if you are willing to read and
study my written material, is that you two can only win by losing;
surrendering to a foe that can't be beaten, the disease that causes
addictions and all its abominable related behavior. Surrender
of control is the only way to recovery from addictions because
of the way the human brain is organized and works in producing
addictions. This last sentence is the reason we, as a country,
are handling addictions and addicts incorrectly and failing despite
trying harder and harder to control them. Instead of surrendering
and admitting defeat, we erringly persist in trying to defeat
the disease and coerce its victims.
Have you ever tried defeating a disease with will power? Name
a disease that yields to the power of the human will. There is
none, and the disease causing addictions, Hypoism, is no different.
The only way to help patients with diseases is to first understand
the diseases, and then to use that understanding to devise relevant
recoveries. This simple sequence is not happening in addictions
because the understanding of the disease is wrong primarily. How
can recovery follow from a misunderstanding of a disease? It can't.
This is why both you and Robert are failing; you're attempting
to force recovery from a position of ignorance about the disease.
You and others say, "But many people stop their addictions
this way, and we must continue to do it this way." This is
a misinterpretation of what is happening. Some percentage of addicts
stop their addiction through force, but they are not in recovery
from the disease, the disease that causes their addictions and
other behaviors too, and are subject to a high rate of relapse
and even switching addictions. Stopping an addiction does not
equal recovery from the disease because the addiction is not the
disease. An addiction is a symptom of the disease. We, addicts
and society, must deal with the disease instead of the individual
addictions for real, effective, and prolonged recovery to occur.
Only this kind of recovery will produce the kind of thorough benefits
to addicts and society that we all desire but are unwilling to
obtain because we are unwilling to change our thinking and understanding
of addictions to get them. Thus, I ask you to read my book before
dealing with Mr. Downey.
You say, "But addictions are willful misbehaviors. And,
even if addiction is a disease or part of a disease, recovery
is a matter of will. Relapse is willful as well."
What disease is a willful misbehavior? None. Addictions are
misinterpreted as willful misbehaviors only because we can't conceive
of any behavior not being willful. Because of this misperception
we then force addicts to accept responsibility and punishment
for their addictive behaviors as we do to all people who behave
badly. Victims of what other disease are perceived this way? Leukemics?
Heart attack victims? Cancer victims? Diabetics? Rheumatoid arthritis?
Multiple Sclerosis? Seizure victims? Manic Depressives? Schizophrenics?
Alcoholics? Homosexuality? When was the last time you put one
of these victims in jail for just having their disease or relapsing
after treatment absent interpersonal damage? Or, mandating them
to jail for treatment? Never. Why? Because you understand these
to be real diseases despite many of them causing potential danger
to the patients and to society.
Perception of addictions, despite all the talk about their
being diseases, is still biased by moral and superstitious coloration
much like many other disease once were. Even addicts see themselves
in exactly this way because their perceptions of themselves are
biased by the same beliefs. Thus, the need for religious based
recovery so prevalent today; the need for forgiveness from god
to achieve recovery. What other disease requires forgiveness from
god or man to achieve recovery? None.
Addictions stem from a physiological mechanism that can be
recovered from if they are understood as such, just like all other
symptoms of diseases. That this understanding doesn't exist today
is our fault, not Robert's. Despite all the words that come from
his mouth, and all his promises, he has no idea what is happening
to him. His failure at recovery is not his fault, but ours. We
have been steadfastly insisting that we understand addictions
and their recovery when we don't. Thus, when an addict fails to
recover when and how we tell them to, we punish them. This makes
as much sense as punishing a leukemic who relapses.
The fact is, we don't understand addictions as based upon the
current paradigm. Hypoism, a quantum leap in addiction theory,
however, does understand addictions. Its individual and societal
benefits will only come to pass when we acknowledge this and switch
paradigms. A good beginning would be made in this direction if
you would take the time and make the effort to study Hypoism and
use its science and wisdom into addictions to deal with Mr. Downey.
That's all I ask. Please take the time to learn about addictions
from a paradigm that makes biological sense and whose implications
will help all of us to find solutions to addictions that will
finally be both effective and obvious despite any residual prejudices
we might have against addicts. Someday even these biases will
disappear as they have with other diseases wrongly misunderstood
from the past.
Dan F. Umanoff, M.D.
Author of Hypoic's Handbook, The Hypoism Paradigm of Addictions.
President and founder of The National Association for the Advancement
and Advocacy of Addicts (N4A), a not-for-profit organization offering
free educational and legal services to discriminated against and
abused addicts of all varieties, "substances" and "behavioral,"
and their families. 163 Hendrickson Ave. Rockville Centre, N.Y.
11570, 516-763-1315, www.hypoism.com