Traditional Rehab with a Twist

Bradley J. Korer I Adding Addiction I

After overdosing I did what a typical addict seeking sobriety would do. The day after I arrived I enrolled in Narcotics Anonymous, Alcoholics Anonymous, and one-on-one counseling sessions. Although many of the AA and NA tactics are outdated, they are still extremely resourceful. When an addict reaches the point of rock bottom, it is hard for them to relate to friends and family members. With that said, both AA and NA are extremely helpful in finding empathy from normal human beings who somehow found themselves in the same situation you are in, and more importantly, many of them are recovering as living proof that sobriety is possible.

The process of recovery typically involves the twelve-step program (whether that is NA or AA), and for me this was only a base to start with. Obviously step one, admitting, is necessary. Or step six, patch up grievances, is an extremely helpful tool to receive forgiveness from your loved ones and yourself. However, I did see some problems with the program.

Once again, this is an extraordinary tool, but I do not believe it can be the primary assistance to recovery, and several recovering addicts use the twelve steps as their primary “medicine” for recovery. The biggest issue is a lot of these 12 step meeting fail to deliver a strategy to sobriety.. Despite this fact, a large portion of addicts only attempt 12 step programs and meetings. I believe this is a huge factor in our country’s low recovery rate and high recidivism rate.

To reiterate, these programs are insufficient simply because there is not enough collaboration on recovering tactics; instead you hear people’s stories that you can relate to. Rarely in AA and NA did I hear how people were recovering, although I heard an array of stories about how people hit rock bottom. The primary purpose of these programs is to obtain support, but a solution this simple cannot solve a complex problem such as addiction. Being able to relate to a support group cannot single-handedly help save an addict. This is precisely why people can go to AA, remain in the program, follow the twelve steps, and can also find themselves reliving their nightmare of addiction.

Remember, addiction is a sickness. For metaphorical purposes - is a cancer patient going to rely on a support group to cure the illness? No, of course not, so why would an addict? With that said, I see AA like a cancer support group. The support group was established to realize you have support and you are not alone, but it is not there to cure or regress the disease.

I used another resource that many recovering addicts use as well: a counselor. I started seeing a one-on-one psychiatrist to help me find the root of my coping and poly-substance abuse issues. The original counselor I was seeing was very conservative, religious, and dedicating to helping people. Overall, he was a wonderful professional and a delightful human being with good intentions. He was an elderly Hebrew gentleman. I’m Jewish by affiliation, although it was not a huge part of my daily ritual. My father believed he’d found the right counselor since the professional worked with a temple that my father was associated with. On the other hand, I found the psychiatric session problematic, and I was the one that needed recovery…

If you are a parent, make sure the counselor is right for your child, not you. Refer to Good Will Hunting and how Will (Matt Damon) acted toward a psychiatrist that he could not relate to. Although they were prestigious, had achieved an admirable amount of education, and had helped a plethora of other individuals something was problematic. He took therapy as a complete joke until he found the psychiatrist played by Robin Williams. This fictional movie truly makes my point regarding therapy and the relationship required by the client and the addict to be successful. It is extremely hard for an addict to wrap their mind around the fact that people think talking to someone is going to make the addict “normal” again. The addict needs to find someone that is compatible with them specifically, and if they do not find that the counseling sessions will be pointless.

My personal dilemma with my first psychiatrist was that the psychiatric sessions consisted purely of religion, as many addiction programs do. The primary base of the doctor’s solution was that the addict needed to place his fate in the hands of God. The addict had to turn away from drugs, and the only way that was possible was to place their fate into God. I am not an atheist, but I believe that YOU must overcome addiction, YOU are to thank for your success, YOU are to blame for your failure, and ultimately God gives YOU the free will to determine a recovery or a relapse. It was YOU who got yourself into drugs, accompanied by psycho-sociological factors, and recovery will depend on YOU and an improved psycho-sociological environment. My opinion was, and still is, that God only helps those who help themselves. If you have a strong religious affiliation, a program like the one above will potentially bring you the best results.

But if you are not religious, you will not have the common ground that the entire program is based on. With that said, you are lying to the program and yourself. I expressed my view to the counselor, and he looked at me with disapproval. This doctor could not disagree with me more, and this was a sign that his services were not right for me. I needed a cure whose base was self-empowerment. This was crucial, and something every addict needs back — the ability of self-empowering. These two opposite attributes (religion and self-empowerment) of curing addiction are not right or wrong, but they are not aligned or compatible with one another.

The twelve steps can involve anywhere from a little to a lot of religious affiliation; it varies. This is because each group that is configured can range in gender, age, background, affiliation, severity of addiction, etc. I believe the twelve steps is the best support group; therefore, if you’re not religious, still stick through the pain of listening to the aspects of the program you do not believe in. Take out what you do believe, but do not disrespect the sections that help other people. If you are like me and believe God only helps those who help themselves, or believe in a self-empowerment based theory, then listen to the sections that you disagree with. You can listen to a contradicting belief, but if it doesn’t resonate with you then disregard it. You are there for support, opinions, options, and empathy — not to cure the addiction.

Let’s use the cancer support group for another metaphor. In this cancer support group (compared to AA), a woman gives her reasoning on why she chose radiation rather than chemotherapy (compare this to religion rather than self-empowerment). Is the man who decided to do chemo going to disassociate from the support group because they disagreed?

Highly doubtful.

He will more than likely determine why the woman decided differently than he did, internalize the information, and optimize his knowledge and compassion through this support group. It should be the same principle for twelve-step groups. On the other hand, I believe the opposite about one-on-one counseling. You need to find someone who shares the same religion, values, and thought process . The counselor should share these foundational values since it is only you two in the group. His wisdom is the only wisdom you hear, and he hears only the insight you share with him. Therefore, you will optimize results if there is a strong common ground from the get-go.

I hope this sheds some light on some of the traditional and most common forms of recovery. These attributes are overlooked a lot of the time. They are viewed as pass/fail, or works/doesn’t. They are the same black-and-white attitudes that most people have toward addiction in its entirety. Addicts and loved ones should really put a considerable amount of time into developing a strategy when it comes to AA/NA and counseling — your traditional rehabilitation outlets.

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