Life on the Rocks: Finding Meaning in Addiction and Recovery

Life on the Rocks: Finding Meaning in Addiction and Recovery

Language: English

Pages: 216

ISBN: 1942094027

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


Addiction and recovery are, at their core, about the meaning of life. Life on the Rocks is the first book to address addiction and recovery from a Western philosophical perspective, offering a powerful set of tools sharpened over millennia. It introduces some of the core concepts and vexing questions of philosophy to help addicts and those affected by their addiction examine and perhaps transform the meaning they make of their lives.

Without assuming any familiarity with philosophy, Dr. O’Connor illuminates issues all addicts and their loved ones face: self-identity, moral responsibility, self-knowledge and self-deception, free will and determinism, fatalism, the nature of God, and their relations to others. Life on the Rocks is an indispensable guide to the deeply philosophical concerns at the heart of every addict’s struggle.

Peg O’Connor, PhD, is professor of philosophy and gender, women, and sexuality studies at Gustavus Adolphus College in Minnesota. She is the author of the popular Psychology Today blog “Philosophy Stirred, Not Shaken” and contributor to the Pro Talk series at Rehabs.com.

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function. My healthy eating now means that I need to say no to the chocolate-glazed doughnut taunting me from the bakery case. Saying no to things is exhausting, as Baumeister and Tierney argue. We live in a world of unending temptations, and it can seem as if we are constantly caught in a deluge of wants and desires. Having said no to ninety-nine things makes it more likely that we cannot resist when the hundredth temptation crosses our path. So, all those times we resist what are weaker

self-knowledge. With privileged access, no one else has access to what is happening in my mind, so I’m the only one who has the perspective and authority to say what is going through my mind. This raises two questions. First, can I really know the truth but willfully ignore it? Second, can I ever be wrong about what is going on in my mind? Knowing but willfully ignoring the truth is a common dynamic. It embodies the classic “Yeah, but . . . ” approach. For example, I know that I really do not

the form of a hypothetical imperative. How about the person who has moved down the spectrum of a substance use disorder such that many parts of her life are adversely affected by her use? Let’s make this scenario even more complicated. She genuinely does not care what happens to herself. Her counsels of prudence have long since been extinguished. Should this person stop? Kant might argue this person has a duty to stop using. One part of his argument would be that the person is using herself to

or those great times, we require more and more of our substance of choice. Perhaps the fun starts to wane or comes at a cost, if small at first. We may well be ready to pay that price. As the price increases, however, we renegotiate and perhaps reset our expectations of what counts as “fun.” Fun must always include alcohol and drugs. Kierkegaard’s second existential stage is the ethical one. Here, moral norms and values are the ties that bind. The focus is on realizing the universal moral norms

and William James. Nietzsche boldly proclaims, “God is dead.”77 God may be dead, but each of us is alive and can make his or her own life meaningful and valuable. James offers a conception of “higher and friendly power” that can encompass a Christian notion of God, but also principles, commitments, and a sense that there is more to the world than just a single person.78 Kierkegaard, James, and Nietzsche all share a belief that one must make and live a passionate commitment in order to lead a

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