Addiction Recovery – Multiple Pathways?
Having been in recovery and studying addiction for the past 18 years, I can tell you with absolute certainty what the AMA and Surgeon General say – that drug and alcohol addiction is a brain disease, and it is chronic.
Last year I attended a Recovery Coaching Training Workshop and found the material fascinating. I discovered that I was in no position, nor is anyone, to claim that only one pathway to recovery will work.
Keep in mind that for thousands of years people suffering from addiction got well, though it was rare. From what we understand, something happened to them, spiritually or otherwise. They learned to live in an entirely different manner and to change their mind set.
For example, Dr. William White advocates for a Recovery Oriented Systems of Care model (R.O.S.C). The treatment centers that implement R.O.S.C. do their best to ensure basic client needs are met for the longer term.
Today we have a better scientific understanding of what happens in the mind of an addict when suffering and as they grow towards recovery. Thoughts are simply millions of neurons firing off in a series of sequences. When a person thinks in a healthy manner, numerous areas of the brain are accessed and reasonably sound decisions take place. Healthy neuropathways become carved into the brain.
However, when a person is in the depths of their addiction, the brain becomes literally scrambled and high-jacked by the disease. The homeostatic environment in the brain becomes completely disrupted – serotonin and dopamine production is negatively impacted. These chemicals called neurotransmitters are necessary for the brain to function normally and for a person to feel well.
That’s hitting the bottom, but when a person is truly willing to get well, their thinking slowly begins to change. They go through detox and the brain begins to heal slowly.
The recovering addict then makes a decision to follow the advice and suggestions of the power that they deem greater than themselves.
It is different when the person returns home or even goes to a sober living facility. Many have been suffering from addiction for years, and their life skills are minimal. They can become easily overwhelmed.
There are often many similarities within the different pathways to recovery. Most of these aim to halt the destructive thinking and manner of living practiced by the suffering addict and to replace it with healthy thinking and living skills.
The AIDS epidemic was largely resolved by people coming together and removing unhealthy stigma. It is my hope and prayer that very soon the same thing can happen with addiction.