This is a common topic when someone calls us for help for their drug or alcohol issue. “What kind of aftercare do you provide once John completes his stay with you?” “Is there relapse prevention so Donna will have the tools to avoid relapsing?” “Derek needs employment when he finishes the program or he will get drunk again.” “I will definitely need aftercare as I’ve been to treatment and relapsed several times.”
These kinds of questions regarding post-treatment planning arise because of the massive misinformation that has been promoted in the treatment industry for the last 60 years. They are based in the idea that “addicts/alcoholics” are weak and cannot overcome the cravings they are taught they will inevitably endure after they leave rehab. By teaching this disempowering view, treatment providers build the argument that “ongoing care” is necessary for the freshly released patient to remain sober.
But what if this perspective is wrong? What if instead, people are taught a message that is so clear and concise, and that addresses addiction from an entirely different and empowering perspective that such safety nets are totally unnecessary? That model exists.
The normal path that is taken by disease-based treatment centers is a 1 to 2 month residential program, followed by a “sober living” facility for a few to several months in which “relapse prevention” classes and 12 step support meetings are offered. (Many of these sober living houses say they offer these services, when in fact they are actually warehousing “addicts” to collect their insurance money. In far too many cases, such as the now famed “Florida shuffle”, an entire criminal enterprise has flourished on the backs of vulnerable families sending their children unknowingly into “sober living facilities” that are actual drug houses backed by insurance fraud schemes.) The point of all this is the push for patients to attend a sober living or relapse prevention protocols post-rehab, regardless of the fact that this path has very high rates of return to heavy use, and tragic high rates of death due to overdose, suicide, and criminal activities perpetrated on the innocent.
So what is the answer for people seeking a solution? The answer is relatively simple; ditch all you know about addiction. That’s right — throw it away. You’ve been sold a lie. You are not powerless, and never were. You developed a strong preference for a substance and the activity surrounding using it for very personal reasons. And you’re in good company as it’s estimated 1 in 4 people will struggle with substance use at some point in their life. Here’s the truth that no treatment provider will tell you: more than 91% of people who once qualified as addicted, fully get over the problem; and most do so with no treatment at all. This is based on the largest epidemiological studies on addiction that have been done to date. (See National Epidemiological Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions NESARC I, II, III.) So not only is addiction treatment completely unnecessary but so is addiction aftercare; and as a matter of fact, it keeps you chained to a past problematic behaviors needlessly thereby reducing the likelihood that you will successfully move on from it.
If you’ve ever been in a long term romantic relationship that has gone sour, and then left it successfully, then you already know how to do this. Whether your problem was with alcohol, marijuana, opiates, or other substances, you fell in love with that substance; with the feeling it gave you, with your perception of what it did for you, with the ritual of using it, and with all of the perceived benefits you were getting. This is exactly what happens when we fall in love with a person. You feel you need that person to be happy, in much the same way you feel you need that substance. As such, getting over it requires you to question the benefits you were getting and allow for the possibility that you will be happier making a change.
When you do this, there is no need to be sheltered from triggers, or go to relapse prevention, or aftercare, because there are only personal choices to be made. If you prefer to abstain or moderate because you personally see more benefits in those options than in heavy use, you will naturally move in that direction. Maybe it is time to choose complete freedom and move past the entire addiction disease construct for good.
Mark Scheeren is the co-author of The Freedom Model for Addictions, Escape the Treatment and Recovery Trap, and is the co-founder and Chairman of the St. Jude Retreat, the only residential non-12 step model for addiction in the world. For addiction help, call 888-424-2626
For more information about The Freedom Model go to TheFreedomModel.org