Modern Changes in Recovery

There seem to be three types of groups that make up the nature of addiction. First there are ‘The Unbelievers’, those for whom the 12 Step Program is false and unbelievable. This group tries various ways of obtaining and maintaining their sobriety through some type of ideology, science, medication or any other avenue that turns away from the 12 Step Program.

The second group is designated as ‘The Believers’. These individuals have kept their beliefs in the central 12 Step Program which is represented by the classical information from the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous. This group rejects any “improvements” on the 12 Steps and has a deeply held conviction for spiritual principles.

The third group is known as ‘The Adapters’. These are individuals who do not want to be without the 12 Step Program but want to employ a ‘half measure’ or alter the program to fit their own goals because they either want to continue in their addiction or because it simply seems too difficult to work. These individuals are hard to spot because they hang around the program, attend to numerous meetings, say all the right things, but most continue to relapse. They know the language and even express it aloud in the meetings, leaving one to think that they possess a sound program. The greatest problem The Adapter is up against is that he would like to preserve the purpose and goal of the 12 Step Program while altering its content. Anyone that tries to correct the adapter is called a “Big Book Thumper” or worse and is accused of being intolerant and unsympathetic.

The most effective means for the adapter to change the program is by changing the language. This might sound insignificant and irrelevant but as we delve into this further we will see that this language change has dramatic effects. Take for example some recent political language changes that have occurred. With the legalization of gay marriage, the language of marriage has changed. With the legalization of abortion, the language of what is life has changed. With the transgender controversy raging, we now struggle with the language of what sex a human being is.

One insidious but devastating change that occurred in the field of addiction was the ONDCP, NIDA and SAMHSA removal of the word abstinence from the lead sentence in the official definition of recovery. The information that I have gathered leads me to believe that this change was done on a whim and has no sound research to back it up.

So what have the results of this change produced in the field of addiction? Plenty. We now have treatment programs that consider a person in good standings in recovery if they do not use their drug of choice. Meaning that an alcoholic could, in fact, use marijuana or heroin and still feel he is being successful in his recovery program. Likewise, a methamphetamine addict could use alcohol to his heart’s content and feel confident he’s doing the right thing. This small but not insignificant removal of the word abstinence will, in fact, result in an increase in the mortality rate of alcoholics and drug addicts alike.

The Adapter becomes irate when you try to correct their language and feel they have a right to use whatever words they want. Of course, there is no copyright on language, therefore a person has a right to use any language they like. But a person should use the language responsibly, in a way that does not confuse or change the ability of the new person to be communicated to the truth of what recovery is. This changing of the language places both the addicted person and the 12 Step Program in grave danger by The Adapter.

It is no doubt wrong to take the traditional philosophy and the 12 Steps, which has a deep classical history and has proven successful with millions of alcoholics and addicts, and change it into something that it was not intended to be. It is not only wrong but also dangerous to take the 12 Step Program and change its position to include things for which it was originally developed to exclude and oppose. The recovering community is being taught a lie and remains essentially in error until they realize the truth and accept the obvious fact that this progressive way to recovery is simply not working. As a matter of fact it is not only not working, it is contributing to the death of alcoholics and addicts throughout America. Any sound minded person that is associated with recovery would have to admit that things are not getting better. They are much worse.

Government expansion and, financial involvement on both federal and state levels is dictating what constitutes both recovery and treatment. Treatment centers are hesitant to recommend community support groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous. They shy away from spiritual issues for fear of placing their financial source into a situation of separation of church and state thus losing their financial support. Therefore, they fearfully avoid this controversy by eliminating or greatly reducing any meaningful discussions about God.

With the removal of the word ‘abstinence’, we now have clients who are undergoing treatment that are on numerous medications that hinder their cognitive ability to conceptualize and internalize information that is detrimental to their recovery. Even the ones that have a legitimate short term need for these medications are not being treated with a goal of achieving a totally drug-free life at a later date. It is extremely hard to treat people for addictions when they are in fact consuming drugs during their treatment.

I have personally experienced numerous clients who have expressed a desire to use the 12 Step Program as a method of recovery, only to discover that they were not given that opportunity even though their desire was clearly known and expressed. They feel they had ‘worked the program’ and wondered why they had failed. The reason was that the steps had been altered to such a degree that that in most cases they were unrecognizable. A Third Step being nothing more than paperwork slid under the counselor’s door. A Forth Step existing of nothing more than a 1-page biography of the addict’s life. Absolutely little to no concept of what powerlessness really means. But the addicted person feels they have worked the program and that the program has failed. Many die with this feeling of personal failure and hopelessness.

Why the 12 Step Program is being bashed and looked upon as outdated and a failure leaves me in awe. There is absolutely no reason for this. It has been said that the A.A. program has been the greatest social movement of the 20th century. At least 36 others programs have come into existence as a result of this simple program. Millions have recovered from a hopeless disease from almost every part of the world. The A.A. program does not ‘engage in any controversy’ nor does it ‘endorse or oppose any cause’ therefore making its ‘primary purpose’ to stay sober and help others. Where, for God’s sake, is the downside to that? It is absolutely mind boggling!

Whatever the case may be there has never been another program as successful as the 12 Step Program and until something else as successful comes along, it is all we have. No matter how much they try to change the program or change words that redefine sobriety, it will never work. This has all been done in the past and has ended in complete failure and will continue to do so in the future. It simply will not work. All the medication in the world will never match the joy and happiness that the 12 Step Program has given millions of alcoholics and addicts.

May we that know the truth continue to uphold the principles of recovery and give freely to others so that their life might also experience the freedom and joy we have so freely been given.


Written by Bill on December 4, 2015 in Blog

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