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Do you think that current recovery options are sufficient? That addicts simply need more dedication in applying these solutions?
Or is it possible that our current “solution set” to the problem of addiction is lacking in some way?
The relapse rate for recovering drug addicts and alcoholics are dismal. They are absolutely terrible. This is found to be universally true, regardless of who is measuring; regardless of which statistics you believe. Relapse rates are very poor within the substance abuse community.
12 step programs dominate the industry. There are other treatment options out there, but they are spread very thin, are often unknown, and do not offer significantly better success rates. Most people in the field of substance abuse argue that addicts are relapsing simply because they “don’t want it badly enough,” not because the recovery program is lacking.
I believe the argument that “addicts just don’t want it enough” is an excuse for a faulty treatment program. In some cases, it might be true. But look at the numbers. So many addicts try and fail, over and over again.
This is not to say that we can help people who have no interest at all in quitting. But so many who did want to stop have tried and failed. This is ridiculous. Unacceptable, even. There has to be a better way.
Recovery is still young
The idea of recovering from drugs and alcohol is still fairly young. Group therapy, 12 step programs, and drug treatment centers are only a few hundred years old. The struggle against alcoholism and addiction has gone on for several thousand years! And, there are people who find relief from addiction through other means, such as counseling, religion, and so on. So the real point I want to make here is this:
Don’t get stuck.
What I mean by that is that sometimes people get stuck, and if they would just open up to a new possibility, it would solve their problem for them. For example, some people get stuck in religion. They are convinced (usually by other people) that religion can save them from addiction, and it is the answer to all of their problems. I actually know people who have been told not to go to AA, because religion is all they should need. Do you see how this could be limiting to someone?
It’s the same for other situations as well: people get stuck in AA just as easily. Perhaps they would really benefit and grow spiritually through a church, but they are held back because they are constantly hearing an anti-religious message at 12 step groups. This is limiting as well. Why is it that so many communities claim to have the ultimate solution?
Fear is the limiting device that holds people back
If someone struggles with addiction, and finally finds a solution that works for them, they will tend to preach about that solution to the exclusion of other possibilities. This is a fairly natural, fear-based response, and the person justifies their argument by claiming that they are genuinely trying to help others. A large part of their “effort” to help others is simply to reassure themselves of their own security in recovery. They are trying to reinforce their safety in sobriety, which is naturally understandable. The only problem with this is that most addicts and alcoholics are not finding success with universal methods (such as a 12 step program). So it doesn’t make a lot of sense to push your own “ultimate solution” on to someone that needs help. Chances are, that person needs a custom designed creative strategy for overcoming their addiction, not a one-size-fits-all program that doesn’t seem to produce a meaningful success rate when applied across the board.
Does this mean AA doesn’t work?
Of course not….AA is working really well for a lot of people, and there is no reason to discard the program entirely. But it is only one option, and it has become obvious to some that it does not universally work for everyone. It makes sense to expand treatment options beyond just the 12 step program.
AA works for some, and it is still my number one recommendation to the newcomer, because of the concentrated amount of support offered there. But we must expand the solution set if we are to be genuinely helpful to others.
The creative theory of recovery
The creative theory of recovery is a work in progress, and I’m still attempting to define it myself. Here’s what the creative theory of recovery looks like so far:
1) It is wide, and can encompass 12 step programs, as well as those who find recovery through church, religion, religious communities, or group therapy.
2) It is a proactive solution, in that it entails much more than mere abstinence from chemicals. Something with passion must replace addiction in the user’s life.
3) It is holistic and necessarily complicated, because addiction is complex and affects so many aspects of a person’s life.
Action items – what you can do
1) Stay open to the creative process in your life. Be mindful of what actions you take that help you in recovery.
2) Explore what works for others in recovery. Go beyond their current “solution.” Ask them what really helps them stay clean and sober beyond their canned “solution speech.”