How do you actually maintain sobriety and clean time? What do you use for support? Which systems are most helpful?
I think there is some danger in personal “success bias” when it comes to treatment solutions.
The idea of “success bias” is simply this: the alcoholic or addict struggles for their whole life with addiction, and they try some things here and there in order to try to stop. Nothing works.
Finally, they hit bottom, fully surrender, and then whatever solution they try at that moment–it works out great and they finally achieve recovery.
Now, their bias will always lean toward whatever solution finally worked for them. That person will believe that they “finally stumbled on the one treatment that actually worked,” when in fact, they had finally become ready to change.
It was not that they found the magical solution. It was that they had finally become willing.
Various support systems for recovery
So there are lots of “recovery solutions” out there and the most popular of course are the 12 step programs of AA and NA.
Also very popular is the route of simply checking into drug rehab or an addiction treatment center (most of which are based on 12 step programs as well).
Not as popular, but certainly widespread, are the religious based treatment centers that offer a twist on the 12 step philosophy. Or rather, they basically use the same ideas but they don’t dress it up in “higher power” language.
There are also some support groups out there that are not 12 step or religious based, but they are spread very few and far between, and are not even accessible to most people.
Online recovery is another option, and a way to get support, if that seems to work for you.
Some people get support through an addictions counselor or therapist.
Key ideas concerning support systems for recovery
So here are the key ideas that I believe are most important:
1) Try various support systems until you find what works well for you.
If you try a religious program and fail, then get back on the horse and try AA next time. Nothing seems to be working for you? Try seeing a counselor or a therapist. Maybe you’ve done that. Try a new one.
Not every recovery solution will work for every person.
Thus, you might have to experiment a bit.
2) Use support systems heavily in early recovery, but think about reducing your dependency as you move into long term sobriety.
This is my personal opinion, so feel free to disagree. But I believe that long term dependency on most support systems is a mistake. I believe that those who are healthy in long term addiction recovery should eventually start to create their own positive reality, rather than relying on a support system in order to help them to deal or cope with life.
In other words, I think recovery should be growth oriented. That means that you grow, learn, and evolve in recovery. You do not stay stuck at the level of “life is really hard, recovery is hard, and so I go to meetings or a therapist or a support group every day and whine about my problems so that I don’t relapse.”
That is no way to live in long term sobriety and I think the people who stay stuck and heavily dependent on recovery support systems are going to end up limiting their growth in this way. They might not be whining, but they are probably holding themselves back from real growth opportunities in some fashion.
Successful recovery from addiction should not create a new dependency, even if it is a socially acceptable one such as group therapy, counseling, or daily meeting attendance.
If your only point in continued involvement with a support system is to maintain abstinence, then you are missing the point. Recovery is about growth, about life, about improving yourself as a human being.
If your support system is pushing you to grow and to learn new things and to improve as a human being, then that is positive. But if you just use it to maintain sobriety and you are basically stuck with it and not really growing as a person, you might want to look at changing things up a bit.