Most approaches to recovery from addiction are tactical.
This is because addiction is complicated. There are so many potential underlying causes, so many behaviors, so many different motivators….addicts have all of these fears and emotions swirling around, character defects, and so on. It can become overwhelming for the newcomer.
Drug addiction and alcoholism are so complicated that the substance abuse industry has had to patch together a complicated solution. Even the 12 step program is arguably complicated, with no less than 15 or so spiritual principles to be learned and utilized.
In order to simplify things and make a workable, day-to-day program for the recovering addict, what we need are a handful of guiding strategies, rather than dozens and dozens of tactics. For example, the creative theory of recovery proposes 3 overall strategies that can guide a person in any decision: Caring for self, networking with others, and personal growth. In other words: “Does this action help me or hurt me?” or “Am I connecting with support in this relationship or is this person going to sabotage my recovery?” or “Will this help me become a better person? Will this help me grow?”
That’s an example of how a recovery strategy can work in your daily life. But let’s get back to the tactical approach and see exactly why it is flawed:
Tactics treat symptoms instead of the underlying problem
Tactics don’t really get at the root of the problem, they simply mask it in most cases. For example, say you have an urge to drink. A common tactic for this situation is to call one of your peers in recovery or to call your sponsor and talk it out. There is nothing wrong with this, but notice that it doesn’t necessarily address why you got the trigger to begin with. The tactical approach of calling someone and venting is not necessarily going to prevent future triggers or urges.
Keep in mind that with the creative approach, you still might end up calling a friend or sponsor in this situation, because one of the key strategies focuses on relationships and networking. However, it’s more likely that you can progress in your recovery and avoid triggers altogether through the combination of personal growth and building self esteem through caring for yourself.
Tactics are not purpose driven or visionary in nature
Most recovery tactics are not actually building anything positive over the long term. If you use relapse prevention tactics every day, you won’t necessarily grow into a highly creative and purposeful individual some day. That’s because a string of tactical solutions lack any sort of visionary purpose. They are not unified and pulling you towards an ultimate goal like the 3 strategies are.
Tactics are short term solutions, whereas sobriety is (hopefully) long term
Tactics in recovery tend to be short term solutions to an immediate, pressing problem. But our lives are long and our hope is that our sobriety lasts for the long haul. Because of this, it makes sense to have long term strategies that build up our self esteem as well as to help us grow holistically.
Consider the long term strategies for a moment:
1) Caring for self = You are continuously building up your self esteem. So you love yourself and care for yourself. Your overall health improves. Your overall attitude and outlook improves. Continuously. This strategy becomes a positive feedback loop.
2) Personal growth = You are continuously improving yourself, in all areas. Physically, spiritually, emotionally, and so on. You continuously push yourself to grow as a person.
Now look at these 2 strategies and ask yourself: “Why would I not be doing both of these for the rest of my life?” Caring for yourself and trying to improve yourself. That’s it. Those are the goals. Those are the big secrets. They are secrets because we have done the opposite for so long while we were drinking and drugging.
The 3 strategies are central to recovery. It doesn’t matter which program you’re working, if you achieve long term sobriety, then you are using these 3 strategies. They are fundamental. Stop using one of them and you risk a slide into relapse.