The creative theory of recovery states that we need a replacement strategy for overcoming drug and alcohol addiction. It is not enough to merely stop using chemicals. We need a program of creative action in order to maintain sobriety. Simply eliminating the chemicals is not enough because:
1) Physically quitting is part of the cycle, and in fact perpetuates further addiction, because after brief periods of sobriety and abstinence, we start feeling better, and eventually are able to rationalize more use. We might sober up for a few days and start feeling good. We mistake stability while we are sober for renewed self-control in handling our drugs and alcohol. Of course this doesn’t hold true, and we fool ourselves into picking back up. The problem isn’t stopping, it’s staying stopped. Hence, we need a replacement strategy. We need something more than just quitting.
2) The obsessive mind of the addict will not just sit idle during early recovery. Take away the drugs and the alcohol, and there is nothing left to obsess over, so the mind will return to what it knows best: finding and using drugs and alcohol, planning future use, figuring out how to hide that use, and so on. These obsessive thoughts need to be replaced, so a replacement strategy should become the main focus in early recovery. Achieving a balanced life is the eventual goal. So eliminating the drugs and alcohol is not enough, because our obsessive mind is likely to revert back into “addiction mode.”
3) For most addicts and alcoholics, there is a social structure in place that accompanies their drug and alcohol use. In some cases this will need replacing as well. So simply quitting the chemicals will leave an addict with all of their old associations, which are likely to entice them back into using or drinking. This will be a larger issue for some addicts rather than others. For example, most younger people seeking recovery will have a very strong (and important, to them) social network of using/drinking friends that needs to be addressed in order for them to have a chance at recovery.
4) There is an emotional attachment to the experience of intoxication, as well as a tendency to use the chemicals as an emotional crutch for dealing with feelings. Stripping the drugs out of the equation leaves a person without any coping mechanisms to deal with anything that life might throw at them.
So there is a real need for something more than just abstinence in recovery. This is because addiction completely overtakes a person’s life, affecting them physically, emotionally, socially, mentally, and spiritually. It stands to reason then that any long term solution for a meaningful life in recovery needs to be a holistic approach that gives meaning and purpose to life beyond mere abstinence from chemicals. One example of a replacement strategy is a 12 step program such as AA. Although it does not specifically address all of these components, it does do a fairly good job at functioning as an overall replacement strategy, and also provides a powerful and easily accessible social network of sober people.
Next up: We’ll take a look at some replacement strategies and how they fit into the creative theory of recovery.