What is the most effective alcoholism treatment for maintaining abstinence from drugs and alcohol?
I can best answer this question based on experience, and by sharing what has worked for me.
But in addition to that, I also have worked full time in an alcohol treatment center for the last 5 years, and I get to watch many, many people in recovery who are trying to build a new life for themselves. Some succeed, and many of them fail. I know that they fail because most of them keep coming back to treatment, over and over again.
So my suggestions and advice on this website are based on more than just my personal experience. They are also based on my observations, from watching hundreds or even thousands of people who try to recover.
So what have I learned, and what do I believe to be the most effective treatments for achieving abstinence from alcohol?
Let’s take a look:
* Passion is probably the number one thing. Let me revise that actually: sustained passion is what is so important. Many, many people are passionate about recovery when they get into treatment. Some folks refer to this as a “pink cloud.” Whatever. The point is, if you have passion about staying clean and sober then your chances of doing so increase greatly. If that passion wanes or you suddenly lose enthusiasm, then you run the risk of relapse.
Now since we all have our good days and our bad days, we all have ups and downs in our life, then it is those who learn how to sustain their passion during the rough times that things will work out well. It is easy to stay clean and sober when everything is going well. The real challenge is to maintain passion and enthusiasm when the chips are down (which they eventually will be, for everyone….life is cyclical).
* Early recovery = narrow focus. Long term recovery = personal growth in many areas. See the difference? Most people do not, nor do they adjust their recovery program as they continue to stay sober in long term recovery. This is a big mistake and anyone who fails to evolve in their recovery is doomed to relapse.
I have said it before, many times: “What got you clean and sober will not keep you clean and sober.” Why not? Because you grow and change in your recovery.
You have to grow in your recovery. That means change. And, it means changing what you do in order to maintain your sobriety.
* Move towards an holistic approach as you stay sober. In early recovery, holistic methods do not really make much sense. You do NOT need an holistic approach when you have 1 week sober. No, at that point, you need a narrow approach that focuses almost exclusively on physical abstinence from drugs and alcohol. As you stay sober for longer, however, this approach needs to change.
Many people will use a 12 step program to get clean and sober. That is fine. But are you going to stay stuck in meetings for your whole life, and not push yourself to grow outside of the boundaries of 12 step dogma? The most successful people in recovery learn how to branch out and make growth in other areas. This happens slowly over time as they increase their sobriety time.
No, it does not have to happen all at once. No, you cannot rush the process. But yes, you need to move toward holistic growth in your recovery. Many who stay stuck in traditional recovery circles end up relapsing because they quit growing. You can get stuck in an early recovery solution. Push yourself to do more, to learn more, and to grow as a person. This is the holistic path of growth that you need in long term recovery.