Abstinence In Addiction Recovery
The prevailing view in addiction treatment and recovery is that abstinence is the best approach. This means that once drugs or alcohol are removed from the body following detox, the addict resolves to totally abstain from using them. The reasoning behind this idea is that an addict is incapable of moderation. Many addicts in recovery believe that they have learned how to partake responsibly and that they can have a drink or two at a party. Is it really possible? Or do you need to abstain for the rest of your life?
Abstinence as a philosophy for addiction treatment has been around for decades. Alcoholics Anonymous is one of the oldest support programs and is one that firmly believes in the importance of abstinence. Another model, similarly based on the 12 steps, is called the Minnesota Model and also calls for total abstinence from drugs and alcohol. For both programs, and any 12-step based program for addiction treatment, the primary goal is lifelong abstinence.
These addiction treatment programs advocate for abstinence because they believe it is the only way that an addict can return to a normal way of life. They claim that an addict in recovery cannot handle having just one drink, or using narcotic prescription painkillers. One small slip-up may lead to a downward spiral and a return to full-blown addiction.
Are There Any Non-Abstinence Treatment Options?
As addiction treatment advances and evolves, experts have developed models and programs that do not necessarily require abstinence. For example, harm reduction is a philosophy of treatment that is gaining ground. Long used for heroin addicts, harm reduction means taking steps to reduce risks and harm caused to addicts. It allows for addicts to reach sobriety on their own terms and in their own time. Heroin addicts being treated in this way are given maintenance drugs like methadone, or clean needles to reduce the risk of spreading infectious diseases such as HIV/AIDS, or hepatitis B and C.
Heroin addicts are not the only ones who are experimenting with non-abstinence. Other types of addicts are embracing the idea of moderation. Using alcohol moderately and responsibly is becoming more popular as a way for addicts to re-enter society as a contributing member. One such group advocating this approach, Moderation Management, believes in the possibility of changing behaviors without requiring total abstinence. In particular, they advocate for problem drinkers to learn how to become moderate drinkers.
Is Abstinence Best For Me?
Whether you need to embrace complete abstinence is a personal choice. Some people respond well to a non-abstinence-based approach. They can be successful at learning how to moderate drinking, how to drink socially and how to be responsible about drinking without taking a headfirst dive back into addiction. For others, however, this approach simply doesn’t work and complete abstinence is the only safe way to remain healthy and well.
Making the choice to embrace moderation is not a decision to make alone. If you are already in recovery, talk to your therapist, counselor, mentor, and your closest friends and family members. Getting treatment was not something you could do alone and making this choice isn’t either. If you decide to try drinking in moderation, make sure that the people who support you know about your choice and respect their opinions. If everyone says it’s a bad idea, listen. If you do try to drink and it causes a bad relapse, don’t feel bad. Just get back into your recovery routine, resume therapy sessions, if possible, and recommit to sobriety.
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