It should come as no surprise to most people that addiction is a deadly disease that is very difficult to treat properly, or even at all. The idea that you can “treat addiction” sort of leads us to believe that we could take any given drug addict or alcoholic and put them into some sort of program or environment in which sobriety would be the natural given result.
The idea that we can “treat” alcoholism almost makes it sound like we could force a solution on someone.
Of course everyone knows that this is not the case at all, and there is no way to force treatment on anyone who is not 100 percent willing to change their life. Sure, you could force someone through the motions when it comes to rehab, but you cannot actually make up their mind and force them to try to change everything. The decision to get clean and sober is such a big life shift that it has to come from deep within the individual. That is what they refer to when they talk about “surrender.” No one else can surrender for you, or make the decision for you.
Even once the individual has finally decided that they have had enough of this addiction madness, it can be very difficult to treat the disease well. This is because addiction is inherently complex, in spite of what so many people want to believe instead. It is not simple, nor is the solution. The disease of addiction and alcoholism are very complicated, and the effect that addiction has on a person’s life is very complicated as well. Just look at how many different things can be affected by a pattern of destructive drug or alcohol use: physical health, family relationships and functioning, friendships, spiritual growth, emotional health, mental status, and so on. To say that addiction is simple is just plain wrong. No, it is complicated, and that makes it difficult to treat.
So then when you confront people with this truth about how addiction is complex, they will generally retort with “OK fine, addiction is complicated, and the effects of addiction can be complex and far-reaching, but surely the solution is still simple. Recovery is simple.” People cling to the idea of simplicity, because it gives them permission not to have to think. People are lazy like that, and so they love simplicity.
But recovery is anything but simple, and is necessarily complicated just like addiction is. Why? Because so many of the complexities that addiction forced into our lives can become tipping points that lead us back into relapse. In other words, addiction was complicated, and it screwed up our lives in many ways, and so on recovery we have to address ALL of those issues or we run the risk of relapsing because of it.
For example, many addicts and alcoholics let their health fall by the wayside due to their addiction. They have a choice in recovery: strive for better health, or continue to ignore their health problems or issues. The fact is that IF they choose to ignore their health issues, those issues will lead them to relapse. I have seen this happen over and over again, and in fact, it is probably the second most common cause of relapse that I see in recovery.
Another example is that of relationships. (Which happens to be the most common cause of relapse, by the way). People who have screwed up relationships in addiction now have a challenge in recovery: learn how to communicate effectively and treat people well, or suffer a relapse. And guess what? Dealing with relationships is anything but simple. It takes work, it takes commitment, and it is just plain difficult to make all of our relationships flow smoothly in life. And yet this is just one of the many challenges that the addict or alcoholic faces in recovery. Fail this challenge in a big way, and relapse results. Note that this is the number one reason that all addicts and alcoholics end up relapsing (or should we say it is the number one excuse?).
So ultimately you have to use an holistic approach to recovery, one that is necessarily complex, if you want any sort of chance at maintaining lasting recovery. It is not easy because you cannot just ignore difficult problems in your life. You have address everything as a whole or some detail has the potential to bring you down and cause a full relapse.
People claim that a solution such as a 12 step program can address all of this in a simple way, but they are stretching the truth a bit. Sure, the 12 step program CAN actually work, but that does not mean it is simple. No, there are still dozens of major challenges for any person in early recovery to face and overcome if they are to stay clean and sober, and the 12 step program does not deserve 100 percent credit for anyone’s recovery. It is a framework that can help with problems, but it does not solve the actual problems or overcome your challenges for you. Sorry, some hard work is still gonna be involved, no matter how “simple” you believe your solution to be!