Author: Justin Mckibben
Working in the blogging and social media sector of the world-wide web you get to see a lot of differences of opinion on a lot of topics; from the most mainstream to the most infamously controversial. In fact, pretty much anyone with a Facebook or Twitter account has exposure on a regular basis to a variety of intense debates and collective views. Of course another thing the internet does is provide us with perspective and statistics, and some of those data inventories actually make a strong impact on our own opinions. However, some figures may miss the mark when it comes to truly all-inclusive data. This is especially true when it comes to the measure of success in recovery from addiction.
Some people claim that the majority of support groups and programs don’t have very impressive or even adequate rates of success in recovery. Others will go as far as to claim that these support groups and recovery programs hurt more than they help. If you dig deep enough, there are plenty of people claiming that nothing out there works for helping addicts and alcoholics who need help.
But is that accurate? Truthfully, I have more than enough reason to doubt these claims for a very simple reason…
Who is truly capable of quantifying someone else’s “success”?
Instead of asking if drug treatment is successful, maybe we should be asking the real question… what is the real measure of success in recovery?
Talking about Treatment
Back in 2013 TIME magazine wrote that because there is no standard definition or what “rehab” is, there is no standard metric for measuring their success. The therapeutic community at one point said they could only claim a 30% success rate. However, the source also indicated that they only count ‘success’ by those who complete the entire program, and between 70% and 80% of people drop out of aftercare around 3-6 months after treatment. To sum that up, some people just stop reporting on their progress, so their ‘success’ could not be confirmed.
Other treatment providers will measure their success rates on how many patients report being completely abstinent for an extended time after leaving treatment. However, as we discuss later in the article, abstinence is not the requirement in the definition of success.
The fact is, because there are various addiction treatment models, to measure the success of recovery based on the numbers even treatment providers themselves gather is actually inappropriate and ineffective.
Focusing on the Fallen
When was the last time you saw a story on the news about an overdose victim? These days if we go 24 hours without seeing one it is surprising, right?
Well… when was the last time you saw a story on the news about a recovered addict who owns their own business, or is working a 9-5 and volunteering in their community? When was the last time you saw a breaking report about the alcoholic who went home to be an amazing parent to their newborn child or started a foundation to help the less fortunate?
I thought so. But allow me to blow your mind… because these people do exist!
This is probably one of the greatest injustices dealt to the recovery community. I’ve written about this before, and about how changing the communities views means overcoming stigma. Media outlets are always itching to give a dramatic account of every drug overdose or crime committed by an addict. Thus, that is all the rest of the world sees. It should be no surprise that people claim the recovery programs and support groups are failing, because no one pats you on the back for being a decent person. The only time people seem to applaud recovering addicts in the media is when they’re a celebrity.
It is easy to claim that drug addiction treatment doesn’t work when someone only focuses on the overdose rates in their community. It is easy to point to the individuals who have fallen, who need another chance at getting healthy, and say they are proof that the institutions are broken. Raising awareness on all those who still need help is important, but it is counterproductive to use them as indication that no progress is being made.
One conflict with measuring success is with 12 Step programs, mainly because they are anonymous programs. As a member of a 12 Step program I am definitely not trying to discredit these methods. The reality is true success rates of 12 Step programs are such a matter of contention because the standard of anonymity. Many people will simply not wish to be involved in studies based on their desire to remain anonymous.
When trying to debate the success rates of 12 Step programs we have to take any statistics with a heaping serving of salt. Out of the pieces of data available, those numbers are not an all-encompassing assessment.
Also, the only data for success in recovery from 12 Step groups is ongoing sobriety percentages, measured by years. And just about any member will tell you time does not equate sobriety. And limited data means the programs may help people to find a meaningful life, but if they do not remain members then they are not included in those success rates.
Some will only measure their success in recovery on a 24 hour basis, because they take life a day at a time.
Even 12 Step literature will point out that they have no monopoly on spirituality or recovery. 12 Step literature acknowledges that some people reach a point where their drug abuse or drinking caused great physical, personal and professional damage, but after intervention and treatment some can turn their lives around without a 12 Step program. Of course abstinence is often suggested as the best course of action for most recovering addicts and alcoholics. Once drugs or drinking create enough devastation, turmoil and helplessness many people find it is far too late to ever go back. Yet, abstinence is not necessarily the requirement for “success in recovery”.
Success in Recovery is Subjective: Speak Up
What truly transcends the debate over effective drug treatment is how we measure success in recovery in the first place. How do we decide someone is successful in life? Because isn’t that what recovery is; building a life that is happy and whole? So how do we calculate the extent of someone else’s transformation?
In essence, that is what we are talking about; discovering a fulfilled and meaningful shift that allows freedom to pursue happiness and connection. Given this description, success in recovery is definitively subjective. The meaning of recovery is more conjectural.
The measure of successful recovery should be a more fulfilled life.
Not just with material wealth, prestige or surface value but with connection, contribution and genuine gratitude. In the end, men and women who struggle with drug abuse or alcoholism recover in innumerable ways. Some turn to religious bodies, while others thrive on support groups. Some focus on physical fitness and mindfulness. There is no way to measure every success story, because they are life-long journeys through self-awareness. Each puzzle piece makes a different picture.
In order to show that there is hope, I hope more of us speak up about our experiences in recovery from alcoholism and addiction. There is so much emphasis on the bad, there is more of a need than ever to show the world something good. This means shattering the stigma that stands against us. People will never know we can succeed if we don’t try to show them how we already have. Recovery from addiction should be outspoken more often. Not because I think anonymity isn’t important; I have great respect for the traditions of 12 Step fellowships.
But… I do believe that if we don’t speak up for ourselves, stigma is going to keep speaking for us.
Every community, including yours, is filled with people who have empowering and inspiring success stories after overcoming drugs and alcohol. It all begins with a foundation. It is up to you to measure your success, but it’s also up to you to take action and make your success story possible. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free now.
CALL NOW 1-800-951-6135
Sad news for the entertainment industry and “Parks and Recreation” fans: Harris Wittels has passed away.
Mr. Wittels was co-executive producer of the hit comedy show, which is in its final season, and the last episode is set to air next week; he sometimes appeared on the show, as well.
In addition to working on “Parks & Rec,” Wittels produced and wrote for “Eastbound and Down” and “The Sarah Silverman Program.” He’s also credited with making “Humblebrag,” a thing on social media, even turning it into a coffee table book.
According to law enforcement sources, the actor and comedian was pronounced dead around 1 PM yesterday in his Los Angeles home. He was found lying on his couch and there was allegedly drug paraphernalia in the house. Furthermore, there were no signs of trauma to his body.
The official cause of death has not yet been confirmed, however, it’s believed that Mr. Wittels died from a drug overdose, in which heroin is suspected. In the past, Wittels had often spoken about his struggles with sobriety in both his standup and podcast appearances, most notably during an episode of “You Made It Weird with Pete Holmes” in November.
Speaking openly about his battles with drug addiction, he had gone to rehab twice.
Wittels performed stand-up Wednesday night at The Meltdown – an L.A. comedy theater. During his set he talked about being clean and sober and said he was in a good place.
Wittels was 30 years old.
The disease of addiction is a killer. This is a sad fact that is proven to us time and time again. However, recovery is possible and help is available to get you on the right track. Please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135 to speak with an Addiction Specialist today.
(This content is being used for illustrative purposes only; any person depicted in the content is a model)
By Cheryl Steinberg
So, you’re clean and sober but, you might be blind-sided by some common things that most recovered people don’t realize. Here are 6 things you don’t realize about being an addict until you quit.
#1. You will experience cravings
We start off the list with this one because it’s probably the least surprising. What you might not realize, though, is that you might experience cravings from tie-to-time even years after you’ve quit drinking and drugging. PAWS, post acute withdrawal syndrome, is a set of symptoms – including physical cravings as well as cognitive issues, such as memory problems – that can last anywhere from two years to the rest of your life. The good news is that there are things you can do to alleviate PAWS symptoms.
#2. You’ll hear about your Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde personalities – a lot
Once you get clean and sober, family members and loved ones might enjoy pushing the “it’s OK to talk about my past” envelope by telling – and re-telling stories – about what you were like when you were under the influence. More than likely, you will think that they are over-exaggerating but, then again, their memory is probably better than yours, ya know, due to all the junk in your system at the time. This leads to the next item…
#3. You will experience guilt and shame
First, as any human being would, you’ll look back on your days of active addiction and feel embarrassment, even guilt and shame. This is normal. However, it’s totally unproductive and could actually lead to relapse. So, first of all, you have to learn to forgive yourself so that you can continue to recover.
#4. People will assume you drink…
And will actually expect some kind of explanation about why you don’t. Because alcohol is such a socially-accepted drug – and it is a drug (one of the worst, I might add) – people, such as coworkers, neighbors, and the like, might invite you out for a casual drink. It’s completely up to you how you handle this. Some people might say, “Yeah, some other time” and then try to dodge those people. Others might just say they don’t drink. If you go this route, be prepared: you will most likely be met with questions about why you don’t imbibe. This can be awkward, especially if you don’t want to disclose that you’re in recovery from alcoholism. To most, it’s weird that someone just doesn’t drink; they want an answer, dammit!
#5. You will lose a lot of your friends
Well, let’s face it, these were more like drinking buddies than actual friends but, they were the people you spent most of your time with. Now that you’re not drinking, you won’t have a reason to hang out with them, which is a good thing, since it’s very important that you change people, places, and things when you stop drinking and using other drugs. Plus, you probably won’t even want to be around them, as our last item discusses…
#6. Active alcoholics and drunks will annoy the sh!t out of you
Being around drunk people or people stuck in the cycle of addiction will – plain and simple – really annoy you. First of all, drunk people are sloppy and either overly friendly or else belligerent. They probably tell you the same thing over and over again – in the course of the same night. Active alcoholics will annoy you with all their talk about all the excuses they have to keep drinking or how unhappy they are, yet they are unwilling to change.
If you are struggling with alcohol or other drugs and are willing to change, help is available. I know, it’s a scary thought to give up what you have become to rely on: your routine of substance abuse. And as they say, the devil you know is better than the devil you don’t know – basically, it refers to the fear of the unknown. Trust that recovery is possible and a much better, happier way of life. If you call toll-free 1-800-951-6135, you can speak directly with someone who has been there and who can answer your questions.
By Cheryl Steinberg
So you’re clean and sober and still you struggle with feeling happy, joyous, and free on a daily basis. First of all, it’s time to manage expectations. Not every day is going to be your best day; let’s face it: life shows up (a nicer way of saying “sh!t happens”).
On the bright side, there are healthy habits you could be cultivating in your sobriety that will have you enjoying life on a whole new level.
Here are 7 healthy habits for winning at life. The first three habits have to do with independence, specifically, self-mastery. The next three of the 7 healthy habits for winning at life have to do with interdependence, meaning how you go about working with others. And then the last healthy habit is all about continuous improvements that you make regarding yourself and your relationships.
#1. Be Proactive
Take initiative in life and think of yourself as the author of your own story. Nothing is happening to you (victim stance). Instead, empower yourself by being accountable and taking responsibility for your choices and the resulting consequences. Also, keep in mind that only you can control your happiness (or misery, if you so choose).
#2. Set Personal Goals and Aspirations
You’ve probably heard about ‘playing the tape through’ as a coping tool with regards to your recovery. Well, it can also apply to other aspects of your life. Discover and get clear on the person you want to aspire to be, by living a life aligned with your values. Picture ideal you and the ideal relationships you want to have in life. This will help with boundary-setting because you will get clear on who you want to keep in your life and to what extent. Remember, it’s OK to leave behind toxic people.
Using the guidelines you’ve set for yourself in habit #2 above, engage in actions that will set you up to achieve these. If the second habit is about the mental creation, habit three is the physical creation.
Interdependence: Working with Others
#4. Think Win-Win
Often times, we think that there can only be one winner and therefore the other person, by default, is the loser. This is not necessarily so. Adjust your perspective to consider the possibility that you can set up win-win situations in your relationships, whether it’s personal relationships, work relationships, and so on. Value and respect people by understanding a “win” for all is ultimately a better long-term solution than if only one person in the situation gets their way.
#5. Seek First to Understand, Then to be Understood
There’s a difference between listening and hearing in that one simply means that your sense of hearing was engaged while others were talking. The other means that you are actually listening to understand what is being said. Also, you are not just waiting your turn to talk.
By listening empathetically with an open mind, you are encouraging the other person to do the same. This creates an atmosphere of caring, and positive problem solving.
By combining strengths with others through positive teamwork, in order to achieve amazing outcomes and fulfill goals that no one could have accomplished on their own.
Continuous Improvements: Sharpen the Saw
#7. Be Better Than You Were Yesterday
This one is a lot like Steps 10 and 11 in which we continue to take personal inventory and seek to improve our conscious contact with a Higher Power, respectively. In doing so, we will continue to work on ourselves and strive to live and grow along spiritual lines. Mediation, yoga, and prayer can support us in achieving this.
Also a part of the 7th healthy habit is service to others for spiritual renewal. Again, something familiar since Step 12 reminds us to carry our spiritual principles in all our affairs to help our fellows.
It’s hard, if not impossible, to improve yourself and your circumstances in life while feeling buried under a substance abuse disorder like addiction. But, helping yourself and recovering from a life in active addiction is possible. And things only get better from there. Call toll-free 1-800-951-6135 to speak with an Addiction Specialist, day or night.
By Cheryl Steinberg
Idle hands are the Devil’s Workshop. Having too much time on your hands can lead to trouble. We’ve probably heard these ideas before.
Since getting clean and sober over two years ago, I’ve heard one thing echoed quite often, “I just need to stay busy.” This seems to be an approach by many people – usually in early sobriety – as a way of staying sober. And every time I hear it, I cringe a little.
As a sponsor, I often hear my sponsees saying much the same thing. That they plan to stay as busy as possible, believing that this is the answer to their drinking or drug-using problem. And, whenever I hear this, I tell them that that’s not necessarily enough and, in fact, it might more harmful to their sobriety than they think.
I lay several tools at each of my sponsee’s feet: 1. Go to a meeting; 2. Call your sponsor; 3. Pray; 4. Make a daily gratitude list; 5. Help another alcoholic/addict. And if these things keep them busy, then, OK. But, simply trying to fill your day up with the “doing-ness” of lots of activities isn’t going to keep you clean or sober.
Here’s why staying busy won’t help you stay sober:
#1. Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired (H.A.L.T.)
You might have been warned about HALT in your rehab or IOP. If you haven’t heard about this, or if you need a refresher course, here it is. Allowing yourself to become too hungry, too angry, too lonely, or too tired – or a combination of these – is like wearing down your defenses towards that drink or drug.
So, by staying busy, you might forget to eat (therefore becoming hungry), spend too much energy, therefore becoming tired; you might also end up isolating yourself for others if you get caught up in working or doing other activities that involve just you, therefore becoming lonely. And then, feeling any one or all of these can lead you to become angry. That’s when you can find yourself on shaky ground.
Doing 5 things at once doesn’t mean that you’re doing 5 things well; in fact, it usually means that you’re f*cking up 5 things at the same time because you’re dividing your attention among several different things rather than focusing on just one or two. And, if your sobriety is one of those five things, guess what? You’re not giving it the much-needed attention it deserves. And that’s a problem.
#3. Doing it Your Own Way
By staying busy, you’re simply trying to distract yourself from your thoughts. That’s no way to deal with the alcoholic mind or addict mind. If you want to drink or use, you will. And, no matter how busy you might be, you’ll definitely find time to get your hands on that drink or drug.
The whole point to having a program of recovery – and that can be any number of things – is that you actually heal and – get this – recover. What that means is this: you won’t have to run away or hide from your thoughts because recovering means that your old thought patterns and therefore behaviors will change – for the better – over time and with work.
#4. Being Busy Equals No Fun
Lastly, being busy seems to me like you’re not leaving yourself any time to relax and have fun. You might not realize this but, there’s fun to be had in sobriety and, if you’re not having fun, you’re not doing it right.
Being sober means living a full life and living it to the fullest. There’s a whole lot out there to discover and experience. When we were trapped in our active addiction, we were merely struggling to survive; recovering means actually thriving.
If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, there is a better way. Recovery is possible and life in recovery can be wonderful. Please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135 to speak directly with an Addiction Specialist. We are available around the clock to answer your questions.