It is a fair question for anyone who is struggling with drug addiction or alcoholism: “Do you need a recovery program in order to recover?”
Many people who are exposed to traditional recovery programs such as AA or NA are instantly turned off by them, for a variety of different reasons. For example, some addicts and alcoholics have a level of social anxiety that makes it extremely difficult for them to sit in a meeting, much less to participate in one.
Others may start out in a traditional program of recovery, only to have their growth plateau eventually while their recovery stagnates. What was supposed to be a lifetime solution for recovery lets them down because they do not actively push themselves to keep learning new things and growing in other areas of their lives. So in effect, many addicts and alcoholics who stay in such recovery programs experience common traps where by:
* Safety and security in a familiar program and fellowship lead to complacency and potential relapse.
* Strong faith in “the program” itself keeps the person from exploring new avenues of growth (such as fitness, nutrition, holistic health, etc.).
* Those who get stuck in a rut and stop learning continue to attend the same support groups or meetings, where they are reassured that they are “on the right path.”
* A sense of fear regarding relapse keeps people from leaving traditional recovery programs in order to seek their own solutions, which may be more effective for them in the long run.
* Extreme faith and reverence is put in the program and we put ourselves down as being incapable as individuals. We dis-empower the self in order to stay humble and be accepted by our peers as having a healthy level of humility and caution regarding the possibility of relapse.
In my own personal experience, I started my recovery by using a program of traditional recovery and attended 90 meetings in the first 90 days. However, by the end of 18 months I had stopped going to meetings entirely, and over a decade later I am still going strong without a traditional “program” in my life.
My opinion is that there is nothing wrong with any recovery program, so long as it does not lead you into traps like the ones mentioned above. Anything that gets the struggling addict to take positive action is at least in the realm of being genuinely helpful. But in the long term you have to consider that most people fail to make the jump from short term to long term recovery. This means that:
* Most addicts and alcoholics relapse before the end of their first year of recovery. Pretty much anyone can get by for a few months or so on raw willpower and social “12 step meeting speak” while hanging out at meetings every day. But look at the raw data and see how many are still clean and sober after the 12 month mark. Even AA World Services census data shows that 95% of newcomers leave completely within the first year and never return (see figure C-1). Of those who stay, some even relapse but continue to stick around.
* Short term recovery tactics do not translate well into long term recovery. Holistic health and personal growth become the tools used to overcome complacency in the long run. Really dig into the ideas used in most short term recovery solutions (outpatient treatment, counseling, 12 step meetings) and you will see that they do not push the idea of holistic health or personal growth all that much. No, the substance abuse community uses a certain set of ideas to help people sober up, and then their bottom line is simple “do more of that stuff!” in order to transition to a lifetime of recovery. Fail!