Addiction Treatment that works
AA says that alcoholism, and by extension any drug addiction, addiction or acting out, is fundamentally irrational, mad, a form of insanity characterized by denial. As the Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions used in addiction treatment puts it, “Few indeed are the practicing alcoholics who have any idea how irrational they are, or seeing their irrationality can bear to face it.”
Addiction Treatment Affirmation: My alcoholism and addictions make me irrational.
Losing control over drinking or drugs — obsessive use despite the recognition in some small part of your mind that you must stop or die — means that willpower alone cannot restore control because a rational, logical approach to an irrational problem can’t work. Most first timers try this in rehab. It is noticeable to the counselors. It is frustrating to the clients in addiction treatment looking for logical answers. Once you’ve lost the ability to regulate drug use, the Big Book says, “probably no human power” can revive it. That’s why AA looks to a “Power greater than ourselves” for a solution in addiction treatment. If you feel you’re exempt for this and you can make your own solution – you’re still trying to solve problems as you always have – how long now have you been solving your problems 5, 10, 20 years? Honestly, how is it working for you! Time to wake up?
Addiction Treatment Affirmation: My way doesn’t work
Many addicts find the assertion that they’re insane, and AA’s reliance on a Higher Power and a spiritual solution, to be a huge obstacle. Calling it a Higher Power instead of God can seem like a distinction without a difference.
Like many, however, my attitude about the diagnosis started to change when one rehab counselor told me AA’s definition of insanity, adopted not from any spiritual source, but from Albert Einstein: “It’s doing the same thing over and over and each time expecting a different result”. Like all the times we promised ourselves to have just one or two drinks and woke up the next morning asking through our hangovers, ‘How did that happen again?’ Like all the times it happened again and again and again, all the months and years we continued to do the same thing, each time expecting a different result.”
Addiction Treatment Affirmation: when we change the way we look at things, the things we look at change. Not a second before!
Addiction treatment & Spiritual Concepts
Even if you accept that addiction is a type of insanity, there’s still “the God thing.” In addiction you have actually been playing lead role as “the God thing.” In response, the AA literature says that doubt in the existence of God is not a disqualification. Many participants entered the program as agnostics or atheists but were still able to recover. All it takes, AA says, is an open mind. As The Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions puts it: “First, Alcoholics Anonymous does not demand that you believe anything. All of its Twelve Steps are but suggestions. Second, to get sober and stay sober, you don’t have to swallow all of Step Two right away, third, all you really need is an open mind.” AA says that if you practice its program, you will develop a Higher Power “of your own understanding” when you complete the 12th Step. Anything greater than you and your ego in addiction is more powerful, more effective and more able than you have been? Surely? You will find many members who have crossed the threshold just this way.” In that case, “God” can be an acronym “good orderly direction” that a sober group of drunks suggests. If you’re not ready to do things a different way. If you still want to rely on yourself to stop drinking; you’re going to end up frustrated and in relapse. Addiction treatment requires that almost everything changes!
Addiction Treatment Affirmation: I will faith it till I make it.
Recognizing that there is a power greater than yourself, whatever that power is to you, means accepting the humility necessary to jettison reliance on your willpower as an answer to the insanity of addiction.
What Science says
Neuroscientists don’t use terms like “sanity,” or “insanity.” But they agree with AA’s basic observation that addiction is a disease of fundamental irrationality. They say the emotional brain circuits hijacked by drug abuse (which are actually pre-rational from an evolutionary point-of-view), overpower rationality in the addict brain, resulting in the irrationality of the disease. This makes addiction treatment so much more complex to treat.
It’s gonna take time.
Appeals to all the sensible, reasonable and rational justifications for quitting drug use will rarely be enough to motivate an addict into treatment. Usually, that requires an emotional breakthrough. That’s what a bottom is. It’s an emotional confrontation that pierces the dense fog of denial and forces an addict to surrender and seek help. But surrender to what?
AA says that one surrenders to powerlessness, that willpower is useless as a defence to addiction. In other words, one surrenders to the irrationality of drug abuse. Particularly in early sobriety, before the brain’s balance is restored, the most important battles will continue to be joined in emotional systems rather than rational ones. With continued sobriety over time, the toxic emotional memory of the benefits of drug use subside and others can look forward to dealing with a much more rational loved one.