The next 30 or so articles on Spiritual River are going to attempt to define the overall (creative) addiction recovery approach. Look for articles coming up over the next month on the following topics:
Part one: The Creative Theory of Recovery (defined)
1) Introduction to creative recovery and my personal story. How I overcome addiction and built a new life using the creative process and holistic techniques.
2) surrender – very important for recovery
3) disruption – necessary to escape from addiction (rehab, detox, etc.)
4) zero tolerance policy and mentally managing your recovery
4.5) What to Expect When You First Quit Drugs or Alcohol
5) Do you need a spiritual experience in order to make positive changes and real growth?
6) the balance between growth and acceptance, between action and reflection (cycle of personal growth)
7) holistic health (direction of personal growth, always toward greater health)
8) cumulative personal growth – stacking your success and building momentum
9) taking massive action and staying inspired
10) Long term sobriety and avoiding complacency
Part Two: Applying the Creative Theory in Your Life (personal application of the creative theory)
11) How to Reach the Point of Surrender When You Are Stuck in Active Addiction
12) How to Find the Right Level of Disruption to Overcome Addiction
13) How to Mentally Commit Yourself to Total Abstinence
14) How to Start Yourself on a Path of Personal Growth
15) How to Reflect on Achieved Goals and Evaluate Your Next Growth Challenge
16) How to Use Holistic Health Concepts to Enhance Your Life in Recovery
17) How to Build Momentum in Recovery By Achieving Successive Goals
18) How to Establish Healthy Habits for Long Term Sobriety
19) How to Avoid Complacency in Long Term Recovery
20) How to Achieve Meaningful Recovery without Programs, Meetings, or Medication
Part Three: How Addiction Treatment Can Set You Up for Success
21) Breaking through Denial and Becoming Willing to Attend Rehab
22) Surrendering and Making the Decision to Go to Rehab
23) Addiction Treatment Costs Weighed Against a Future of Chaos and Misery
24) Inpatient Rehab is the Best Solution We Have For Beating Addiction
25) Foundations of Addiction Treatment 1: Disruption and the Safe Environment
26) Foundations of Addiction Treatment 2: Asking for Help and Community
27) Foundations of Addiction Treatment 3: Follow through and Aftercare Recommendations
28) The Best Treatment Centers Offer Choice Between Religious and Non Religious Recovery Paths
29) The Best Form of Treatment is One that Uses an Holistic Approach
30) How to Personalize a Successful Recovery Program Post Rehab
Recovery is complex no matter how badly we want to simplify it
I have been writing about addiction and recovery for about six years now, exploring concepts, testing ideas, and doing a whole lot of observation as I worked and lived in a rehab facility. I was actually paying attention when I worked in rehab and I tried to figure out exactly what was working and what did not work so well for people who were trying to recover.
I did the same thing when I was living in long term rehab for almost two full years. Not only did I watch and observe others, but I talked extensively with my peers about recovery, about who was staying clean and sober, about who was bound to relapse, and so on. My peers and I attempted to pick the recovery process apart all the time.
One thing that I have learned is that recovery is complex. It just is. We want to simplify it so badly, we recovering addicts and alcoholics have a need to try to simplify it, to boil it down, to state the solution very plainly. In AA they always proclaim that “this is a simple program for complicated people.” But this is nothing more than the human tendency to want to simplify something that is actually complex.
It has to do with fear. If someone in AA admits that recovery is actually very complicated, it is a defeat of sorts for them. Because if it is complicated then that means there is room for error. If recovery is complex then that means they might have to actually think in order to survive. The fear that drives the typical recovering addict or alcoholic very much wants to wrap the whole recovery process up in this little box and show everyone how easy and simple it all is. They want to do this in order to convince themselves that they are going to be OK, that they can recover, that they can stay clean and sober.
But the truth is that recovery is messy, it is complex, and it cannot be simplified and boiled down as much as we would like. There are many “arms” to a successful recovery program, and it all sort of depends on the addict.
For example, take someone who is trying to recover from addiction that has layers upon layers of issues from their childhood, issues that prompted them to seek out drugs and alcohol in the first place. Such a person can still recovery, but they are going to have to address specific issues using therapy that others in recovery may not have to deal with at all. Their unique situation may demand a certain approach in recovery. If recovery were truly simple (as everyone likes to say that it is) then this would not be necessary, and the 12 steps would be able to solve all problems.
Current treatment options tend to not be comprehensive
If you try to get clean and sober today then it is highly likely that you will be steered into the 12 step program of AA or NA. I was always a bit perplexed that those programs seemed to acknowledge that addiction was a “holistic disease,” and they seemed to realize the fact that addiction could affect a person spiritually, physically, mentally, socially, and so on. And yet the 12 step program does not address any of that stuff except for the spiritual aspect. The 12 step program is limited entirely to the spiritual part of the solution. Unbelievably, it does not even demand physical abstinence from drugs or alcohol. This always mystified me, that this was the number one solution that our world has come up with, and yet it only addresses one aspect of recovery (and of addiction), the spiritual aspect. Each of the 12 steps is geared towards the bringing about of a spiritual experience. That’s it. The program can be reduced to “find God, share AA with others.”
To me this is just crazy, because the spiritual aspect of addiction is just one sliver of the whole pie. I had even asked people in AA about this as I was early in my recovery, and they always gave answers that only reinforced how crazy this all was. They would say things like “Oh yeah, everyone knows that exercise and physical health is an important part of recovery, but the 12 steps just focus on the spiritual stuff, because that is the tricky part.” Well if the physical aspect of recovery is so important, then why is it not addressed in the steps? Why are we just making assumptions, or picking up the slack on that in meetings? If it is important, put it in there!
And this is a large part of what has prompted me to write and explore over the last six years. Programs like AA and NA just did not make sense to me. They were far too indirect for my mind, apparently. Not that I am terribly stupid or anything, but honestly, the first step in the twelve step program should have been “I decided not to use drugs or alcohol any more, no matter what” or “I made an agreement with myself not to use drugs or alcohol ever again, no matter what happened.” This would have been much more effective for me than the sort of roundabout path to surrender that the 12 steps lead you through. I need a more direct message with clear instructions I guess.
I needed a complete philosophy of recovery that could encompass my entire life and traditional 12 step programs did not do this
In my mind, the 12 steps left out a whole bunch of important stuff. They address the spiritual element of recovery, but they do so in a very indirect and sloppy way. I think that there is a whole area of addiction and in recovery that should deal with physical stuff, for example. First of all you have the physical abstinence from drugs and alcohol themselves, which is not even directly addressed in the steps (it is only assumed I suppose). Second of all you have the concept of exercise, and of regular movement as a form of meditation and of health for the body. This is definitely not addressed at all in the program and for me it has been of critical importance. I do not believe that I would be clean and sober today after eleven plus years if I had not discovered the power of regular exercise and getting into shape. Then you have other physical elements such as improving your nutrition and diet, which can help in recovery as well. I have friends in recovery who died young because they continued to smoke cigarettes and were overweight, even though they attended AA religiously. Why was this OK for my friend to feel justified staying sober in AA, but not addressing the physical elements that eventually killed him? He should have been motivated (instructed?) to address his physical health and well being, but the program of AA does not concern itself with the physical aspects of recovery. It only deals with the spiritual solution, which to me makes it a very limited program.
I saw a real need for a more comprehensive solution. I am still defining that solution in my writing. The next 30 articles are going to zero in on that solution and flesh out many of the ideas. I will stop picking on 12 step programs and shift to talk about only what works in recovery, not about what is wrong with existing solutions. But I think it is important to realize that there is a gap in treatment today and that this gap can only be filled with a more holistic approach, with a more comprehensive approach, with something that reaches beyond AA. Therefore we are simply establishing a need for “creative recovery,” or for this modern recovery that I speak of.
When I was first introduced to recovery I could not believe how unrefined the field was. Science has just recently started to deal with addiction. Up until this point it has really been the domain of religion to deal with it, as evidenced by the nearly 100 percent spiritual program of recovery that is outlined in AA. The program of AA does not suggest that you exercise, because it is not a scientific program. It is a spiritual (or religious) program. If it were scientific I believe it would suggest to the newcomer that they find a healthy way to move their body, to get into better shape and to make a habit of regular exercise. This can be backed up with studies that show how recovery rates and success rates increase for those who make a habit of regular exercise. It can be shown how vigorous exercise replaces many of the “feel good chemicals” that our bodies cried out for during our addiction.
Now that modern medicine has got a grasp on the size of the addiction market (they see that there is money to be made and that the problem is largely unsolved) they are trying to solve the problem using medications. So the drug companies are testing various medications and bringing more and more addiction medications to the market than ever before. Some of them are replacement drugs, some of them attempt to reduce cravings, all of them hope to be the magic cure that will take off, solve the addiction problem, and sell like hotcakes. Perhaps some day the drug companies will really solve the problem but for now I believe that people can recover without medications. None of the current medications that try to address addiction are worth much anyway, none of them really work as we would hope they would. There is no magic cure as of yet.
The almost one third emphasis on professional treatment services and how that fits into creative recovery
Almost one third of the article lineup to refine the ideas about creative recovery involve professional treatment services. This may seem contradictory because I tend to be against traditional recovery programs (such as AA) but at the same time I seem to be for professional treatment services. How can this be?
The reason is because I believe that treatment still works, and it works better than any other options that we may have. This does not mean that rehab is a magic bullet, or that I believe it is ultimately the answer for everyone. But I do believe that inpatient rehab should be part of the solution for nearly every addict and alcoholic.
The concept of “disruption” is terribly important in recovery. You cannot transition to this new life without a serious disruption in your life. Inpatient rehab provides this disruption, if nothing else.
People believe that they go to rehab and learn the secrets of recovery there. People believe that they go to rehab and somehow go through this magical process while in treatment that somehow allows them to turn their addiction or alcoholism “off.” The truth is that rehab is really just a form of disruption, a way to interrupt their lives and put a temporary stop to the intake of more drugs and alcohol. It is a chance to get your bearings and decide if you really want to keep poisoning your body with toxic chemicals or not. There is no magic in rehab centers just as there is no magic in the 12 steps of AA. You still have to make the decision to not use drugs or alcohol no matter what. Ultimately that decision to NOT use your drug of choice has to be made each and every day. There is no way around that. No program, no set of steps, and no rehab center can somehow magically take that burden away from you. You will always have the burden of relapse on your shoulders, you will always have the ability to walk out the door and go get your drug of choice right now, this very moment, and so ultimately you will only have your own mental conviction to keep you clean and sober and held in check. No amount of rehab or steps can take this burden away from you, so you should learn to deal with it head on and face it as part of your recovery. You must decide you want sobriety for your own life, for your own benefit, and make an agreement with yourself that you are not going to use drugs or alcohol no matter what. The rest of the stuff you do in recovery (12 steps, spiritual growth, exercise, nutrition, meditation, emotional work, relationship work, etc.) is all just extra stuff to help you deal with that decision. But ultimately it all comes down to that agreement that you make with yourself.
People who relapse in recovery have failed to make this agreement with themselves, that they will not use drugs or alcohol no matter what. Either they failed to make that agreement or they stopped caring and they decided to violate that agreement. Either way, that agreement with yourself not to use drugs or alcohol is what is going to keep you clean and sober. Your decision and your commitment to recovery is all that matters. Everything else is window dressing. Programs, steps, sponsorship, meetings, creative recovery–all of it is just details about how you might better maintain your decision not to put drugs or alcohol into your body today. But ultimately all of it is just details and the thing that really matters is your agreement with yourself and your commitment to stay sober.
In a similar way, the disruption that you get from going to rehab and/or detox is sort of like one of the most important ways to kick start your recovery. If you never get this disruption then you may never even attempt to get clean and sober. When you go to detox and inpatient rehab, staying clean and sober (while you are there) is incredibly easy. Detox is easy. They give you medications and try to keep you comfortable and the entire process of being clean and sober while in a controlled facility is actually really easy. I don’t care how hard core you think your addiction is, being in rehab and being sober for a week or two is drop dead easy. Just show up, let them search your stuff, go sleep in detox for a few days and take meds to help with the withdrawal. Any addict or alcoholic can do this and it is really easy to do.
But obviously this is not the hard part. The hard part is what happens when you walk out of rehab, when you walk out of that controlled facility. That is when the real challenge starts and that is when your agreement with yourself will be tested (“I will not use drugs or alcohol today no matter what.” Yeah, that agreement!)
So this is why there is a strong emphasis on professional treatment services–not because they are magical, but because the disruption aspect of them is so necessary. Even in the early days when AA was just forming, they used a form of disruption to get people started in recovery. They would take a drunk into their home and nurse them through detox, in a controlled environment with no access to alcohol. Rehab and detox is just the modern day equivalent of this setup. We still need disruption in order to get past withdrawal and get started on a new life in recovery.
The article lineup may change based on refinement of ideas
So watch for the next 30 articles and the refinement of these ideas. Addiction is complex and therefore so is recovery. Current recovery solutions focus entirely on the spiritual aspect and therefore they are not comprehensive. Therefore I write about the need for a more comprehensive recovery solution. The next 30 articles will be an attempt to explore and better define these ideas.