What are the key steps to overcome addictions and really turn your life around?
Well, a 12 step program gives a decent outline of the process but it can vary quite a bit from person to person as to how their actual experience unfolds in recovery. For example, the 12 step program is quite young and has only been around for a hundred years or so, and alcoholism and addiction has been prevalent in our world since ancient times. Many, many people have overcome addiction without using a specific program at all, since all of these recovery programs are brand new and have only recently been introduced to the world.
To think that recovery never existed before the last 100 years is just naive. Of course people have recovered in the past without formal substance abuse programs.
So how did they do it? What are the key principles involved?
Well the 12 step program borrows some of that which works well but then it leaves some of the other stuff out too (abstinence from alcohol and other drugs is not suggested in AA, for example).
As a first step in any addiction program, I always believe that abstinence from alcohol and other drugs needs to be the number one priority. For some reason, traditional recovery programs gloss right over this idea. Perhaps it is just implied, but in my opinion, that is still a glaring omission that needs to be corrected.
When I got clean and sober, I had to make total and complete abstinence from all mood and mind altering chemicals my number one goal in life. That was it. I mean, this idea was huge.
I was honestly confused because I attended a number of AA and NA meetings and so many other ideas took precedence over this one. How could these people so quickly forget what their main goal was? And yet, the 12 steps themselves never really addressed this idea, never tackled it head on.
In my opinion, step one in ANY recovery program should be:
1) Don’t use drugs or alcohol NO MATTER WHAT.
You can pretty much follow that step up with whatever crazy crap you care to come up with, and you still have a more direct and sensible approach than what you are normally seeing in traditional recovery circles these days.
They say that 12 step programs are simple. I call BS. If they were simple they would use my step up above and then step two might be “find a higher power and help others to do the same.” BAM. You are done in 2 steps and actually have much more clarity about what you are trying to accomplish.
Sorry to be so critical but it is hard to turn a blind eye when the success rates of those programs are so low to begin with.
I think recovery is somewhat complex myself, and I don’t try to kid people about it. There are all sorts of issues and potential problems when you get clean and sober, and there are all sorts of different things that you might try to use as potential solutions in recovery.
For example, I think this stuff is important to my long term sobriety:
* Helping others in recovery.
* Vigorous exercise on a regular basis.
* Relationships and family.
* Learning and personal growth.
OK so that is only 5 things, but look at how complex that really is when you get into it. This is anything but simple. Why we try to convince ourselves that “recovery is simple” and that “the solution is simple” is beyond me. I think people say those things just to comfort themselves.
No, recovery is complex, and it takes real work and real energy.
Sort of a mixed message to be sure (“don’t use drugs no matter what” but at the same time “recovery is complicated”). But then again, this is sort of the same double-speak that you get in traditional recovery as well.