Do the causes of drug addiction or alcoholism change what the treatment should be, or affect your chances of getting clean and sober?
Yes and no. There is some evidence that there are at least two “types” of alcoholic, and that one type has a higher percentage chance of achieving sobriety. I believe the same study that looked at that conclusion also said that the other type of alcoholic who was less likely to get sober was also likely to stay sober for longer than the other type. Confusing data, to be sure.
But ultimately, looking for the causes of your addiction is almost always a waste of time. In the 12 step model, there is some digging into your past, and you might uncover some causes of your addiction, but the point of that exercise is not to identify causes really, nor is it trying to match up a treatment method with those causes.
No, the reasons that we used drugs and alcohol are not so important, because they almost always boil down to the same thing. It does not much matter what made us take the first drink or drug, but rather, what kept us using. Why did we continue to self medicate? What made us into an addict?
The reasons for that are pretty universal. The addict likes the effect that the drug produces on them, at an emotional level. We are medicating our mood. We medicate how we feel. We like that we can change our mood in an instant by using our drug of choice.
Having a bad day? Just use your drug of choice. Pow. Instantly better. That is what makes a drug addict tick. Their drug of choice solves their problem for them. What problem? Feeling comfortable in their own skin. Being high or drunk becomes the new “normal” for the addict.
So the cause of addiction is not so important, really. It is the fact that the addict likes the effects of drugs so much, that they like to medicate their mood, that they like to regulate their emotions. This is what drives the addiction more than anything.
So the cause of alcoholism or drug addiction is not so critical for treatment. What, then, is the ideal treatment? If the causes do not matter much, should not the treatment become fairly universal for everyone? Do we really need different forms of treatment, different treatment models, and so on?
People may have different needs in recovery, but the underlying principles of success in recovery from addiction are going to remain constant. So what is important in successful treatment is that these underlying principles are always met by the addict.
Those principles are:
1) That the addict or alcoholic surrender fully to their addiction and that they stop trying to control their intake. They make a firm decision for complete abstinence. They decide to quit.
2) The addict makes this goal of total abstinence the most important thing in their life, their number one priority.
3) The addict sets out on a course of continuous self improvement and personal growth. It is not enough to be clean and sober, they must be making progress in their life, every day.
That is pretty much it in a nutshell, and so that is what every addict and alcoholic in recovery must adopt as their recovery model if they want to remain clean and sober. Most recovery programs, including the 12 step model, do tend to emphasize all of these principles (though the 12 step program does not specifically address the idea of total abstinence being the most important thing in the person’s life).
The first 2 ideas there are about physical abstinence from drugs and alcohol. The third point is the “recovery program” itself, the goal is continuous self improvement. If you are on a path of personal growth then you have a better chance of maintaining your recovery. If you become stagnant in your personal growth then this can lead to relapse eventually (they call that “complacency”).
This model of recovery is pretty much mandatory, regardless of what caused you to start drinking or drugging in the first place. The treatment is the same regardless of the causes.