What defines alternative alcoholism treatment? Well if you look at the numbers out there in the substance abuse community, you will see that it is largely dominated by the 12 step model that uses the program of AA in order to treat alcoholism. Alcohol treatment centers will have groups and lectures, but they almost always supplement this with 12 step meetings, and the 12 step program remains a focal point of treatment. This is true for the vast majority of treatment centers, although there are a few alternatives out there.
So basically anything that is not 12 step based is considered “alternative treatment.” What is available in this area?
Well first of all you have religious and Christian based alcoholism treatment. These are programs that are based on the idea that religion can keep you clean and sober. Based on available evidence, these programs actually do work for some people, though many will be against them on the basis that they are not religious and do not want to use religion as a solution for their problem. Success percentages do not vary much from traditional treatment by the way.
Another alternative to traditional alcoholism treatment is to simply rely on counseling or therapy in order to work through your problem. Now this is certainly nothing new and most would not even all it an alternative, but when it is used in place of a 12 step program then it is certainly not a popular path through recovery. Most “experts” would say that as a recovery program, counseling by itself is lacking, though probably better than nothing.
Another model of treatment for alcoholism might be the fitness and nutrition model. This is really starting to push the boundaries of what is possible but there are some programs out there that advocate using exercise as a primary strategy for recovery from alcoholism. Of course this will not work for everyone but these fanatics can probably teach us all a little something about the value of exercise in overcoming addiction and a bit about the holistic approach in general.
Perhaps the best alternative model is that of personal growth. Sounds a bit simplistic, but if you pursue holistic health and keep pushing yourself to make personal growth in your life, then you will be fairly well protected from the threat of relapse. This model makes most sense in long term recovery, when the threat of relapse due to complacency is the highest. Continuous growth is the secret to staving off complacency, and those who do so will enjoy a lifetime of sobriety.
Now if you want to know the truth, the success rates in traditional alcohol treatments are not all that great and the rates are quite similar when you look at all of these alternative programs. The only real common thread of success is in massive action. Anyone who is clean and sober today can look back at their recovery and–regardless of what sort of program they used to get sober with–they can see that they took massive action in order to do so.