Is it a disease? Is it merely a set of circumstances? Is it a lack of character or maybe, deficient morals? Maybe it’s a juvenile outlet that becomes a habit? Can it be cured with 12 step meetings? Are drug replacement therapies causing more harm than good? Did we do this to ourselves? Can we blame it all on Big Pharma? How do we fix it? Can it be cured? Is it chronic? What is the “works for everyone” answer?!
I have been spent the last week reading countless articles, studies, debates, and statistics on addiction treatment. I have seen every method hailed as the savior and then criticized as a complete failure. Not one method made it through the gauntlet of human opinion and came out the other side unscathed. Every single treatment was nitpicked to death. And all I can think is, “If I have almost 3 years clean and this makes me want to eat a bullet, then how must the desperate addict who’s searching the Internet for a glimmer of hope feel?” The probable short answer: completely hopeless.
There are so many questions, that develop into debates, which springs into addiction effected people pouring their hearts out across the Internet, drawing a proverbial line in the sand, and defending whatever side they happen to believe in. It is a never-ending argument that touches the lives of many Americans. The purpose of this post is not to argue what I personally believe. No; it is to look at the biggest issue. We all think we’re right and that there is no way but our way.
If you’ve read my previous posts then you obviously already know my personal beliefs about addiction and what worked for me. Let me be the first to say, that’s irrelevant here. I have seen all methods of recovery work. I have seen 12 step programs transform lives and transition “under the bridge junkies” into recovering addicts who die with 25+ years clean. I have seen SMART recovery give addicts a new lease on life, a sense of self control, and years clean. I have seen church and religion bring addicts from the pits of hell to the gates of heaven. I have seen addicts, who couldn’t get a single day clean from illicit opiates, regain manageability and a sense of hope in their lives, through opiate replacement therapies. I have also seen people white knuckle their way out of their addiction and never turn back to drugs using nothing but their own willpower. This last group is the most rare of all; nonetheless, they do exist.
There is obvious failure and obvious success in every single one of these options. For every heart-warming story of recovery to be told, there are ones of gut-wrenching pain and failure. What saves one addict’s life can very possibly, kill another. What brought me hope and years clean, was a misery fest for someone else. What worked for her, destroyed him. We could argue this all day for each and every one of the treatment models in place today. Here’s the twist: we aren’t going to. This is not going to be another WordPress post that debates the merits or failures of any number of treatment options. I will not be citing an incomprehensible list of statistics that will in no way tell you how to better help your daughter, your father, your son, your sibling, your friend. I will not be using my own personal success to promote the method of recovery that I chose. What I will be talking about is something that I personally feel, everyone is missing.
No two human beings are created equal. We all have an infinite number of things that make us unique and different from the next. We have dissimilar upbringings, particular morals, different religious beliefs, opposing viewpoints, contrasting realities. We are all perfectly individual.
So why, in regards to recovery, do we have this “one size fits all” mentality? Why is everyone trying to prove that their way is the only way? Why are we turning addicts off to any of the resources that could possibly help them by speaking poorly of something that didn’t work for a select few? These select failures don’t determine everyone’s possible success, do they? We’ve created an Internet (hell… an entire world) full of criticism. THIS is what the addicts of today have to wade through to try and find some help. And we wonder why they’re dying at alarming rates? Jesus.
I remember being in the grips of active addiction and reading through thousands of websites jam-packed with information about Methadone, Suboxone, Vivitrol, NA, AA, SMART recovery, and much more. I remember reading message boards that condemned every method and all the while, the terror in the pit of my stomach increased in size. I remember feeling more hopeless than ever AFTER reading all these articles and information pieces. So much so that I stopped reading them altogether. I literally mentally banned myself from message boards and addiction articles because I knew they were making my mental and emotional outlook worse. They were a detriment I couldn’t afford. They made me feel as if nothing would work. I knew I needed as much hope as I could muster in order to get clean and all reading this vast amount of information did was make me feel doomed, confused, scared, fucked. All these criticisms of various treatment methods quite literally gave panic attacks. I closed Safari feeling more convinced that I was going to die an addict than I ever had before.
I imagine how I felt, is how many addicts feel. I imagine the loved ones of these addicts are equally as terrified and confused. We’re trapped in this constant race that can only end in recovery or death. People’s lives are at stake. Their families are hanging in the balance and we’re all overwhelmed by the amount of information available today. Yes, we should be grateful there is any information at all; past generations had little or nothing to work with. We are much better off. However, the methods with which this information is delivered are flawed. We spend so much time arguing which method is “the right one” that we forget the much bigger truth. That truth is that there never was and there never will be “the right ONE”. There is no “one size fits all” treatment option. Why? Because, like I said 3 paragraphs ago, no two human beings are created equal. Therefore, no one recovery program, medication, or idea will work for everyone. We are all too different to be treated exactly the same.
Unfortunately, the only things we have accomplished by arguing what method is the best, are mass confusion and prejudice. Addiction is still skyrocketing. We are still burying addicts (a.k.a., fellow human beings) at staggering rates. It is estimated that addiction is so rampant in our country that not a single person isn’t somehow impacted or touched by it. What we are doing is not working. If you’ve made it this far in the post you may be wondering by now what exactly it is that I’m proposing. Fair enough…
What I’m proposing is this: why not offer this amazing amount of information that we have at our fingertips without then criticizing the hell out of every single method? Let’s flood the Internet with all these perfectly viable treatment options and let people try them without being weighed down in doubts. No, they will not all work if we stop criticizing them. Yes, people will still die. No, it will not cure addiction. What it will do however is give people the information they need to find and try different treatment options without first convincing them that it won’t work. One perspective I can offer is this: I have seen people come into NA completely broken, wanting to get clean, and while they are there (which is amazing), they are also already convinced that it won’t work. Why? Because so and so said their cousin died even though she tried it. Because the Internet says 12 step programs are “cults”. Because this and that site said it doesn’t work. Can you imagine this person having any real chance at recovery if they’re only half committed to their chosen method whilst toting a mind full of doubts? I can’t.
What I’m suggesting is simple enough. I don’t believe that the treatment methods themselves aren’t working. I think the amount of doubt placed on each method is making the addicts themselves not work. No treatment program in the world will work if an addict isn’t truly committed to it. There’s an old saying: “If you don’t work as hard to stay clean as you did to get high, you will relapse.” I personally believe this. Whether it’s NA, AA, SMART recovery, or opiate replacement therapy combined with counseling that’s chosen, what matters the most is the commitment to making it work. If you’re thinking that it isn’t up to us how hard an addict works for their own recovery, then you’re absolutely right. I’m simply suggesting that maybe if we didn’t nitpick every single method within an inch of its life then addicts (just like myself) could believe in them a little more. If an addict truly believes in a program then they’re more likely to dedicate themselves to it. The more dedicated they are, the more likely they are to recover. Then, maybe we won’t have to bury as many people this year as we did last year. Maybe we can stop addiction from ravaging our country, our world, our lives.
If you are an addict or someone who’s being effected by addiction then consider this; in order for a person to recover they need the best chance possible. Right? They need that hope that addiction has completely robbed them of. They desperately need something to believe in. Most addicts lose faith in themselves throughout their active addiction. They disappoint and hurt themselves just as much as the people around them. They have no faith in their ability to recover. And only through recovery may that faith be restored. So all we can do is give them something to have faith in.
As a recovering addict myself, I know these feelings all too well. I know what it’s like to believe that I’m trapped and drowning and there’s no light at the end of the tunnel. I know how it feels to accept death as my inevitable fate. I know what it is to see true pain and fear in the eyes of those who love me because of me. But, I also remember how it felt to have that tiny sliver of hope that maybe NA could work for me because I had seen and heard of it working for so many others. I am not promoting NA here. I said I wouldn’t. But I can only speak on my own experience. You may replace NA with any other treatment option you see fit. My point is this: that sliver of hope brought me to my first meeting. It helped me keep coming back. It grew into real hope as I continued to recover. It saved my life. Every addict deserves that chance. They are already broken. They are already confused. Let’s give them the information we have and let them see how it works, for them personally, before taking that hope away by condemning an entire treatment model because of the addicts who may not have even given it a chance. There are many things statistics can’t show us. One of those things is how dedicated the participants were to their own recovery. We can’t truly know why this or that didn’t work for so and so. I honestly believe that most methods can work if the proper amount of effort is put in. But would you put your entire life in the hands of a program that’s been criticized to death? I doubt it. We need to change how we handle this. We have so many resources. I think it’s time we stop rendering them useless. Do you agree?
Stop criticizing. Start spreading hope. Let’s break the stigma of addiction, together.
by Ashley Hebner
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