“Recovery” from a drinking or a drug problem is a strange idea. On the one hand, if you drink heavily or drug heavily there is likely a period of recovering physically from the ravages of heavy substance use. But that usually isn’t what people mean when they talk about addiction recovery. They are actually describing the idea that you need an overall lifestyle change to be able to stay sober and drug free. This idea, while totally false, has become an integral part of our culture surrounding addictions and getting over them.
Recovery is seen by treatment zealots as a lifelong endeavor or “relapses” become inevitable. This is not now, nor has it ever been supported by research. But because it is a mainstreamed idea, people believe they need a support network and alternative lifestyle to survive and stay away from drug and alcohol use. Nowhere is the reality that our beliefs guide our behaviors more evident than in the addiction recovery world where relapse is expected, and long term abstinence is rare.
While it is true that your physical body may need several days or weeks to fully recover from heavy substance use, there is no requirement for an overall lifestyle shift to maintain “recovery”, abstain from drugs and alcohol, or to moderate successfully long term. Furthermore a true non-12 step model has no requirement for recovery because it’s based on the truth that there is no disease present – so therefore there is nothing to “recover” from.
In our book, The Freedom Model for Addictions, Escape the Treatment and Recovery Trap, we discuss the folly of the recovery movement:
“As we discussed in the introduction, recovery ideology tells you that you’re suffering from an incurable disease that requires treatment, a lifelong effort to battle, ongoing support, and yet, will inevitably result in periodic relapses for which you’ll need more treatment. So right off the bat they’re presenting a grim prognosis, and based solely on this description of the problem and solution, many people give up immediately and don’t even try to change. After all, if it’s going to be a losing battle, then why not just continue to drink and drug as is? Substance use is at least offering some pleasure. And if you believe you need substances to deal with stress, anxiety, and depression, then the stress, anxiety, and depression most people feel when presented with this dire prediction is enough to make them turn back to substances immediately. This is why the one-year retention rate of popular support groups is in the single digits. This is also why the rates of “relapse” to heavy substance use immediately following inpatient treatment is estimated at 75% or greater. (Miller, et.al., 2001)Trending:
There is more bad news; to deal with this “chronic disease”, you’re told that you’ll need to take on a recovery centered lifestyle, which entails constant work. This means you will need to go to meetings every day; get involved in active service work outside meetings helping other alcoholics and addicts; avoid places where people drink and drug including regular family holiday parties and weddings; avoid triggers, such as driving by that old bar or part of town where you scored drugs; avoid images of drugs and alcohol on television; make sure you don’t feel stress, anxiety, anger, or depression or else you’ll relapse; work on every life issue you have, or else you’ll relapse; never have so much as a sip of alcohol or puff of a joint ever again for the rest of your life because it’ll turn you into an uncontrolled substance-using zombie. The list goes on and on.
None of these recovery ideas need to be understood or fulfilled to move past an addiction. In the non-12 step model, all you need to understand is that you have a preference for heavy use that is based on your perceived benefits of the substance and the way in which you use it. This then makes the work to get past the habit an inside job of mentally deliberating the merits of those perceived benefits, not one of external recovery processes or altered lifestyles. Essentially the non 12 step view has no need for external means for you to be able to change your substance use habit. You can learn factual information about addiction, about yourself, and about substances, and figure out how you can be happier in your life. You can make an informed and empowered decision on what is best for you. That’s non 12 step based freedom!