There are several unique methods of sobriety; several ways to stay clean and sober.
Most people in recovery do not believe this. They believe that their is only one path to sobriety, and that they are on it. They believe this because everything they had previously tried in getting sober has failed them, and now they have something that actually works. So they believe that this must be the only method that truly works.
I have watched a number of different recovering addicts and alcoholics over the years. Many of them have relapsed. A few have managed to stay clean and sober through the years with me.
What’s truly amazing is how different each person’s program of recovery is. This should tell you something: It’s not the program, it’s the conviction. Much of what I explore on this website is the common themes that all the “winners” in recovery seem to share. In other words, what really helps an addict or alcoholic? How do we find real success in recovery?
To illustrate these differences, I’ve highlighted several case studies here (I’ve changed the names to protect anonymity). Each of these people are unique individuals that I have known in recovery.
Case Study # 1 – “Bob”
Bob attends AA meetings, but he doesn’t go every day. He hits maybe 2 or 3 each week, and also has a sponsor in AA that he meets with once per month.
Case Study # 2 – “Joe
Joe started with AA but eventually left the fellowship and started attending a church instead, and also becoming heavily involved with the church community.
Case Study # 3 – “Dan”
Dan started in long term treatment and then after leaving has been doing one-on-one counseling sessions with a therapist. He is nervous in groups and prefers the one-on-one.
Case Study # 4 – “Phil”
Phil is heavily involved in AA and attends meetings every day. He also sponsors newcomers in recovery and tries to help them recover.
Case Study # 5 – “George”
George is a therapist at a treatment center and works with newcomers trying to get clean and sober on a daily basis. He no longer attends daily AA meetings but might hit his homegroup meeting once a month.
All of these case studies are based on real people that I know that have achieved multiple years of continuous sobriety (most over 5 years).
The key to success in each case is due to the level of commitment and conviction that each person has to stay clean and sober. They all work different “programs”, but they are all working them to the best of their ability.
Could we honestly say that any one of these individuals is more likely to relapse than the others?
In the past, I have watched different addicts and alcoholics in my recovery and tried to predict the success stories and the failures. I have failed miserably at predicting the winners. Not only that, but everyone else that I have talked with in recovery cannot accurately predict the winners. Sometimes the angriest and most “at risk” addict seems to stay clean, while the person who we thought was “working a great program” tends to fall by the wayside and relapse.
Part of the reason for this is because recovery is an inside job. Some people talk a great game and put on a front that they are working a great program, but eventually relapse because they aren’t truly growing in a meaningful way. Others might seem to be fragile and at real risk for relapse, but they are taking real action and growing in a spiritual way that allows them to maintain sobriety. It is very difficult to tell through observation, and because of this, we can even fool ourselves.
Action items – What you can do:
1) Find a solution that works for you. This is much easier said then done. There is often tremendous pressure among different recovery programs to “conform” to a certain method of recovery. “Finding what works for you” is much harder than it sounds. It means you have grow and change and learn until you find the path that’s right for you.
2) Find growth in multiple areas of your life. This is part of the balance that will help you stay clean and sober over the long haul. Constantly find ways to improve yourself as a person: education, health, diet, spiritual growth, networking, relationships, career, and so on. Don’t limit your life to one dimension.
3) Avoid assumptions about recovery and ignore statistics about relapse that do not apply to you. You are a unique individual. Find what works for you and stick with it!