Welcome to Outlets, a series where we will explore one substance every month, reviewing what available options for recovery. This month we’re starting with a classic: alcohol. Let us know what you think here or on our Facebook page. Enjoy.
The world is currently bombarded with recovery tools, the list is baffling and endless: controlled drinking, cognitive behavioural therapy, rational emotive therapy, schema therapy, SMART recovery, rational recovery, detox, group therapy and counselling.
Just Google ‘recovery models’ and the results take you on a confusing trip through a plethora of theories about different recovery outlets and their subsequent values. Heads will hurt just trying to spell some of the terms let alone trying to figure out what, in the name of all that is good and pure, they actually mean.
Recovery from what?
So what exactly are these concepts treating? Alcohol causes Alcoholism, correct? The chemical claws of the substance hook themselves into a person and this causes physical dependence, right?
Wrong, it is not quite as simple as that. Our current, general understanding of addiction is based on a series of experiments conducted in the early 20th Century. These consisted of rats in cages being given the choice between two water bottles. One with water and one with an addictive substance. The rats became obsessed by the drugged bottle and consistently drank from it resulting in either overdose or death.
In the 1970’s Professor Bruce Alexander saw something fundamentally flawed in this and built a ‘Rat’s Paradise’ where the animals could socialise, had coloured balls to play with and places to hide. Interestingly, the rats hardly ever chose to drink the drugged water.
Professor Alexander’s experiments show how it is less to do with the drugs and more to do with the dungeon. The theory is that when we are left alone, traumatised and disconnected we will bond with anything that gives us relief. For humans, this could be Facebook, gambling, drugs or alcohol.
What is Recovery?
In active-alcoholism, people seek to numb their pain and, as a result, anesthetise everything, even those things which are good, thus making the agony and disaffection worse.
Recovery is the path away from this disconnection. Any successful treatment must seek to reconnect the client to the good stuff or facilitate a way for them to find new positivity in their lives.
The Disease Concept
In 1956, The American Medical Association first recognised alcoholism as a disease and did so because the condition is chronic and progressive. It is characterised by distorted thinking and physical dependence which can lead to bodily damage.
The disease manifests in physical, emotional and spiritual ways. The AMA further endorsed this in 1991 and recent studies have shown there to be a genetic disposition to alcoholism. So what does all this mean in terms of a practical solution?
Controlled drinking and detox
If we accept this scientific evidence, the idea of controlled drinking as a solution is laughable. The alcoholic, by definition, lives in the bondage of their obsession to medicate their separation from the world. This might be as a daily drinker or as a binger.
There are different modes of a drinker and diverse reasons for that prevailing feeling of disconnection from the world. A drinking diary might help to reveal the extent of an individual’s consumption but it in itself is never going to stop the alcoholic drinking.
Abstinence from alcohol has to be the first step to recovery and a detox is the start of this. However, just being sober doesn’t equal recovery. There has been no work on the emotional, behavioural and spiritual aspects of the illness.
The rainbow of different therapies all, in one way or another, seek to change behaviours, attitudes and ways of thinking. These, of course, have value given the nature of alcoholism as a disease of perception.
If we manage to change the thinking, surely we manage to cure the disease and address emotional problems?
Therapy might reconnect the individual to themselves but often fails to offer the identification and healthy intimacy required to re-affiliate the alcoholic back into the world.
In that case, a recovery group must be the answer! A place where alcoholics can gather and support each other in their pursuit of a new way of life. Often these, and this is a sweeping statement, don’t treat all aspects of the disease.
Take SMART recovery, for example, which teaches self-reliance and self-empowerment. These things are great but what if the alcoholic needs to learn to rely on other people and trust in them? Do these things help?
The 12 Step model
The 12 step model of treatment works on all areas of the disease. It seeks to break the cycle with abstinence, have the alcoholic examine in detail their beliefs and behaviours before learning how to change them and reconnect with the world around them.
Finding what works
A wise man once said: ‘that nothing works for everyone but something can work for someone.’ Recovery is all about seeking out what works for you with the assistance of people who really understand what you are going through and treating all aspects of the disease.
So, do you suffer from disconnection with the world that tips you over into the realms of alcoholism or do you know someone who does?
Start your journey back to the good stuff today and give our expert team at Seasons Luxury Rehab a call to discuss how we can help. We offer individual treatment plans in a 12 step environment which will find what works for you.