Alternatives to 12-Step Programs for Recovery

Recovering from a drug or alcohol addiction can be incredibly difficult, but it is not at all impossible. Many people who are addicts turn to traditional 12-step programs to get better for themselves and their loved ones. Unfortunately, 12-step programs aren’t for everyone as they focus on a variety of lifetime changes that need to be made that aren’t necessarily right for everyone. Plus, a good majority of 12-step programs put religion at the forefront of recovery, and this isn’t always the correct option for those who are not religious.
Here are a few alternatives to 12-step programs:

Self-Management and Recovery Training

Self-manage and recovery training, also known as SMART, is one of the best alternatives to 12-step programs. Instead of taking a long and difficult approach to recovery, SMART simply focuses on managing urges and balancing problems in life that may cause you to turn to drugs or alcohol. With SMART, you’re also surrounded by people who are trained in addiction recovery as well as other people who are trying to get sober and clean.

Online Forums and Support

If you’d rather take a more private approach to your recovery, you might want to consider the benefits of joining an online support forum. These forums are ideal for people who want to recover but do not want to join a local group or 12-step program. The forum allows you to connect with others who are either addicts or recovered already, and you can share stores, share advice and help each other on the journey through life. Be sure that when you’re looking for an addiction recovery forum that you’re joining something that is focused primarily on recovery rather than simply focusing on people who are addicted who always talk about their problems, as this may not be of much help to you.

Self-Help Books

There are literally thousands of self-help books out there specific to drug and alcohol recovery. These can be picked up at your local bookstore or downloaded to an e-reader device. These books are almost always written by either doctors or former addicts, and they can be incredibly beneficial in your fight to recover from the hell that is addiction. The great thing about getting and utilizing a self-help book is that you can do so in the privacy of your own home and at your own pace.

Just because you don’t feel the traditional 12-step program is for you does not mean that you’re doomed to a life of addiction. There are a variety of methods you can utilize to overcome your addiction and get the help that you need. You should also discuss your options with your doctor or healthcare provider to ensure that you’re doing the right thing. Your doctor may also tell you of other ways you can recover and in certain instances, medication may be able to help your situation. Getting clean and sober is more possible than you might think and doesn’t always require the traditional 12-step route.

If you are suffering from an addiction — whether it’s a cocaine addiction, heroin addiction, or marijuana addiction — it’s essential that you get treatment for your substance use disorder. If you are addicted to certain substances, you may be concerned about withdrawal. (For example, is cocaine withdrawal the same as benzodiazepine withdrawal?) It’s important that you educate yourself as much as possible.

Is Marijuana Addictive?

There has been a lot of controversy surrounding the topic of marijuana’s addictiveness. Some people say it’s an addiction while others state it as merely a “marijuana use disorder”. Recent data finds that around 30% of users may have this disorder, but does that mean they’re addicted? Based on my research, marijuana can be addictive but it is really rare. However, from a clinical standpoint it can be seen as addictive due to the withdrawal symptoms it leaves frequent users with. It’s been shown that many users who smoke regularly in large amounts may have physical dependence towards the drug due to the tolerance their body has built for the drug. This is because the user has to smoke more and more to get the desired effects that occurred when they first started using the drug. This leads to minor withdrawal symptoms like irritability, anxiety, and cravings for the drug when they stop using cannabis. This is because the brain doesn’t have the right amount of endocannabinoid neurotransmitters that it’s supposed to have, creating these symptoms. However, drugs like alcohol and heroin have noticeably more severe withdrawal symptoms with psychological addiction playing a huge role. Because this is not the case for marijuana, people say that it isn’t addictive. Very few people ever become so psychologically addicted to the drug that their brain depends on it. Some people think that marijuana becomes addictive when you can’t stop using it even though it is interfering with your personal life. This basically occurs when the drug is harming a person’s life but the individual continues to use it because of the cravings. For example, an addicted cannabis user will still use the drug even though it’s causing them relationship problems, academic problems, financial problems, and physical/mental problems. In other words, you stop caring about important life aspects and are more focused on the drug itself. This is basically the definition of “addiction”.

Overall, it’s kinda hard to tell if someone’s addicted to it or not because most of it is based on perception. Like I stated earlier, you need to smoke a tremendous amount of weed over a long period of time to actually become psychologically addicted. For most people, addiction is perceived when it conflicts with the well-being of your personal life. And even though you might have Marijuana withdrawal symptoms because of the dependence, these usually fade out within two weeks. All in all, it’s all on how you look at it.

Moderation in Drug and/or Alcohol Addiction: Is it Possible?

In most recovery programs, total abstinence is advocated. Is there another way, however? Is it possible for the alcoholic to drink moderately? Is it possible for the heroin addict to use heroin moderately? You may see how ridiculous that sounds.

In other areas of life, many people say that everything is fine in moderation. However, I would argue that this is not the case. While many people are advocating moderation management in the treatment of alcoholism and drug addiction, I believe moderation doesn’t work.

It should be noted that moderation management is only ever taught with alcoholics. No one believes you can moderately use heroin or crystal meth and still live a normal life. But the problem with “moderate drinking” is that for the alcoholic, having a beer a week will be fine until something stressful happens that would cause a relapse. The abstinent alcoholic will be forced to find some other way to cope with the stress. However, the “moderate drinker” may feel that because he or she is already drinking, it’s okay to just get drunk. It’s easy to fall back into the habit of drinking every day.

For a person who has no successful history of being a moderate drinker, moderation is extremely difficult to master. Having the self-discipline to stop at one drink is even more difficult than having the self-discipline to not drink at all.

There are many different opinions on the effectiveness of moderation management. Still, many addiction specialists continue to argue against moderation management. Studies have shown that programs that require abstinence see a much larger success rate in alcoholics and drug addicts in recovery. There is a reason 12-step programs are so popular. They work.

On the other hand, some people in 12-step programs do take it to the extreme, refusing wine at communion at church or refusing to use mouthwash that contains alcohol. Some people will refuse medications that would otherwise be helpful. While this is necessary for some, there is a difference between having a sip of wine at communion and having a beer once a week. You are not likely to slip and relapse because of communion wine or mouthwash.

Some people argue that 12-step programs are not for everyone, and this is true. You should find the recovery program that works for you. However, that program should almost certainly include abstinence from drugs and alcohol.

Loving Someone Who is an Alcoholic or Addict in Early Recovery

Being a relationship with anyone can be a challenge. You have to constantly communicate what you are both feeling to each other, and you have to be willing to adjust your own behavior to meet your partner’s needs. Being a parent, sibling, or relative can also be difficult at times. This is especially true if the person we love–our partner, our brother, our sister, our parent–is an alcoholic or an addict. There are several things you need to remember when you love an alcoholic or addict.

Relapse happens.

Do not take it personally when the person you love slips up and relapses. Even though they know drinking and using drugs is destructive, addiction is still a disease. If someone is early recovery, it’s likely that they are going to slip up at some point. It may make you angry, but the best way to react to the situation is with understanding, kindness, and forgiveness. Be firm and encourage your loved one to start over again tomorrow with his or her recovery. Do not panic and end the relationship when your loved one relapses for the first or even second time. Allow them the space to relapse programs.

Addiction is a disease.

It’s important to remember that addiction is a disease just like cancer or Alzheimer’s. You wouldn’t leave someone or stop speaking to your daughter or son because they developed cancer and started chemotherapy, which made them violently ill. You wouldn’t leave your parent in a nursing home if he or she developed Alzheimer’s and could no longer remember who you are. You have compassion for people with these diseases, and addiction is no different. Do not take it personally. Your loved one is sick.

They need your support.

Your loved one needs you to be supportive. Do not drink or do drugs around your loved one. Be willing to go to meetings with your loved one if he or she wants you to. Be willing to read helpful and supportive literature with them. Maybe try going to church with them or getting them involved in some other activity.

The important thing to remember when you love an alcoholic or addict is that they really need your love. They need you to be compassionate, kind, and forgiving. Because like cancer or any other disease, addiction is a disease that they deserve to be able to fight.

Drugs Statistics You Need to Know

There are several institutions in America that conduct surveys related to substance abuse on an annual basis. These surveys contain valuable information on America’s substance abuse issues. Here are some statistics from the 2015 survey that you need to be aware of.

  • It’s estimated that illicit drug use and alcohol abuse have cost over $36 billion in health care costs (National Institute of Drug Abuse).
  • The number of total annual deaths because of drug use is well above 50,000 for 2015. That’s up from just 20,000 in 2002 (Centers for Disease Control Prevention).
  • 23.5 million people who are age 12 or older required treatment for a substance abuse problem in 2009 (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration).
  • The number of opioid prescriptions (such as oxycodone and hydrocodone) has gone up from 76 million in 1991 to 207 million in 2013 (Senate Caucus on International Narcotics Control).
  • In America alone, over 15 million people abuse prescribed medication (Foundation for a Drug-Free World).
  • Between 2007 and 2011, heroin use increased by 75% (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration).
  • 59% of teenagers believe that prescribed medication is safer than illicit drugs from the street (Foundation for a Drug-Free World).

It’s clear when we look at those above figures and statistics that drug abuse has become an epidemic in this country. It’s very important that people be educated and made aware of the ways drugs and alcohol are affecting our communities. Teenagers are experimenting with drugs and alcohol at a younger and younger age.

It may seem like a hopeless situation, but there are also a lot of positive statistics about addicts who have recovered. For example, while the relapse rate of drug addiction is around 40 to 60%, this is actually lower than the relapse rate of hypertension (50 to 70%) and the relapse rate of asthma (50 to 70%) (National Institute on Drug Abuse).

If you are an addict or alcoholic, do not give up hope. There are a ton of success stories about addicts and alcoholics who have overcome their addictions and gone on to be successful people contributing to society. The most important thing is that you get the help that you need in order to successfully conquer your addiction.