Key Concepts of Success in Alcoholism Treatment Programs

Key Concepts of Success in Alcoholism Treatment Programs


How do alcoholism treatment programs help those who struggle with alcohol addiction?  What is the method by which people actually recover from the disease of alcoholism?  Let’s take a look.

First of all, as a method of treating alcoholism, moderation programs are not held in high esteem.  Basically they do not really seem to work for “real” alcoholics, and if they do, then that is great!  Go and drink and be happy.  But for “real” alcoholics of the hopeless variety, there is no such thing as moderation….at least not consistently.  That is what defines their problem, and so no program can teach them how to moderate successfully.  If it can, then this is great news, and they should go be happy as a now “normal drinker.”  Real alcoholics need something more though.

That “something more” is an abstinence based program of recovery.  For example, Alcoholics Anonymous is an abstinence based program, where the premise is that you will stop drinking entirely.  It is my belief that for the true alcoholic, then total abstinence is the only way to go.  Alternative alcoholism treatment does exist, and is not dependent on a 12 step program, but these are generally abstinence based as well.

Creative Commons License photo credit: John C Abell

So how does a program actually work in a person’s life?  Well, alcoholism is a lifestyle disease.  It affects almost every part of a person’s life.  It affects them socially and who they hang around with.  It affects their physical body and my entice them to use other drugs or smoke cigarettes.  It affects the way that they deal with emotions and handle stress.  It affects their relationships with others.  It shuts them off from a spiritual connection.  And so on.

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So an alcohol treatment program, if it is any good, needs to address all of these issues.  Some programs, such as AA, focus almost exclusively on the spiritual connection part, at the exclusion of almost everything else.  This can be helpful for some people but it does not really address all of the ways in which alcoholism affected the person.  In order to really recover, a holistic approach is needed that can help a person change in multiple ways.

For example, look around in a traditional 12 step meeting and you may find many people who are not using a holistic approach: they might smoke cigarettes, be in poor health, not exercise, not eat well, have messed up relationships, and so on.  Fixing all of these things should be part of their growth experience in recovery, especially if they want to avoid complacency in recovery and stay sober in the long run.

Treating our life in recovery as an exercise in personal growth makes a lot more sense because:

* Many alcoholics die young, even in recovery, because many continue to smoke cigarettes and may also be out of shape.

* Statistics show that quitting smoking actually increases your chances of staying sober in the long AND in the short run (which most people do not believe anyway).

* Numerous benefits can be had from pushing ourselves to grow in areas that are not necessarily related to recovery directly, but still have an impact on our overall health.  For example, practicing good nutrition is not going to stop you from taking a drink.  However, it might keep you out of the hospital, and ultimately help you avoid–for instance–becoming addicted to painkillers.

Addiction works in mysterious ways.  The holistic treatment is more important than we give it credit for.


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