The secret of substance abuse recovery lies in the hands of the addict or alcoholic who is seeking help. There is probably never going to be a definitive recovery program that leads to certain success; there will never be a magic bullet or a new medication that solves the problem of addiction. There is always going to be this individual, very human element to the equation, where most of the responsibility for recovery will come directly from personal willingness. There is no way around this, no way to magically make someone want to be clean and sober.
So substance abuse programs will likely always be struggling to help addicts and alcoholics, and modern medicine will continue to try to innovate with new solutions, such as pills that reduce cravings for specific drugs, and so on. But ultimately it is going to be up to the individual to make recovery happen for themselves.
The argument is similar to the idea of being able to “cure suicide.” You can’t stop people who want to self destruct. Sure, you can try to help them. You can give them counseling and give them group therapy, give them whatever support you can find. Try to help them as best you can. But in the end, if they still want to self destruct, there is no magic wand that we can wave that will make them desire otherwise. And so it is with addiction, too. People are going to do what they are going to do.
The twist to all this is that the addict or alcoholic is baffled by their condition, in that they cannot figure out how to control themselves. They love their drug of choice, and they want to use it in the best way possible, but it is ruining their life and they tend to go way overboard with it. Sometimes they can control it for long periods of time, but eventually they get out of control or have an “episode” of some sort. That they hang on to these periods of control is evidence of denial.
So the addict must ask for help. They have to surrender to the fact that they can’t use chemicals successfully. And they have to take responsibility for their recovery. This means that they have to ask for advice and then act on it. Massive action is the key. Actually taking suggestions and following through with them. This is the path to recovery.
There is really no other way. Sure, there are various programs. But this process of surrender – willingness – ask for help – take action is always going to be the same.
The addict or alcoholic has to then:
1) Surrender and make an internal decision that they want their life to change.
2) Become willing to do something about it.
3) Ask for help and seek direction for how to go about doing this. They cannot rely on their own wits for early recovery.
4) Follow through with massive amounts of positive action.
If they don’t take action, then they will not create the momentum needed to turn their life around.
It takes what it takes.