Treatment for Alcohol
Treatment for Alcohol: Why 12 Step Won’t Work
By Ned Wicker
One of the most common complaints about the 12 Step recovery process is simply that it doesn’t work, or that the results of the process have diminished over the years from an over 50% success rate claimed in the early years, to a minuscule 5-10% in recent years.
The 12 Step program as a Treatment for Alcohol Addiction, as rolled out by Alcoholics Anonymous in the late 1930’s, has always been under attack. Why would this process not work? Combing through dozens of internet articles, I have found at least one commonality among the stories of people who tried 12 Step and did not succeed with it. They all tried hard.
In our society we all tend to honor hard work. “He worked tirelessly through the years to achieve his goals,” says the master of ceremonies at an awards banquet. People love the idea of a self-made man, one who sheer determination and willpower pulled himself “up by his own bootstraps.”
After all, it’s the American way, that pioneering spirit, the rugged individualist, the one who made it to the top. Frank Sinatra sang “I did it MY way.” Not only do we, as a people, want to do it our way, we want instant gratification, and anything that does not fit those two important criteria will not be accepted.
When hard work is not rewarded by positive results it is because the plan didn’t work. There can be no other acceptable explanation. We labor under the premise that we are all basically good and that anything bad that happens is not our fault. If I am basically good, then all of the tedium of the 12 Step is a waste of time.
But what if we changed the paradigm? Instead of insisting that we are all basically good, what if we, for sake of a new perspective, assumed that we were basically bad? Bad, in this case would mean flawed, or not perfect, capable of error, small and large. What if we were the ones who didn’t work?
Actually, the very first step gives us some insight into this change of paradigm. “We admitted that we were powerless over our addiction--that our lives had become unmanageable.” Instead of placing the blame elsewhere, we admit that we have the problem. Moreover, we admit that we are powerless over the addiction, which is huge because without knowing that we have a problem we cannot fix, there is no solution.
I have seen a seemingly endless chain of people going in the front door of the treatment center, getting “something” and then walking out the back door, only to repeat the experience. Why? They don’t have a problem, they’re just in need at the moment.
Perhaps you think this is much ado about nothing. Hardly! Once we not only acknowledge our own pain, brokenness and limitation, but embrace that state of being, we are on the road to recovery because we can, for the very first time, begin to see the solution.
If a person can’t solve the problem by his/her own intellect and effort, then someone or something else is going to have to carry the load. If my own willpower and determination are not the driving force behind my recovery, then I can either choose to ignore the solution, or find another way.
There was once a well-educated man, a scholar, who said he did not believe in Darwin’s theory of evolution. However, because he steadfastly refused to believe in God, or even the possibility of Intelligent Design, regardless of any evidence or even his own spiritual inclination, he chose to embrace that which he did not believe in.
You see, in order to put aside evolutionary theory, the professor would have had to accept the alternative, and that was something he would not do.
As for dealing with a solution to the problem of addiction, there are of course alternatives to the 12 Step process. In the book “The Cure for Alcoholism,” author Roy Eskapa, PhD, sets out five steps of his own. There are:
1. Understand and think about addiction in an entirely new way;
2. Check the severity of the problem and find out if you need help;
3. Word with your doctor and obtain a prescription for naltrexone;
4. Learn about alcoholic beverage measures and keep a record of your drinking and cravings as you begin your journey through de-addiction. Now you are taking naltrexone before drinking alcohol. You become de-addicted your craving and drinking levels decline gradually;
5. After three to four months, in some cases up to six months, you will be cured. Now your goal is to stay cured once you have completed the program. As you notice, there is a medical intervention to the problem.
Medical interventions are not recovery, they are treatment. 12 Step is not treatment, it is recovery. There is an important distinction. 12 Step deals with the whole person and, if one allows the process to move forward at its deepest levels, there is a transformation, not only in terms of health and vitality, but in terms of a renewed spirit as well.
If an alternative solution is effective, so be it and believe me, I will celebrate any cure or any recovery. However, the root of the problem is still sitting there—human nature. What about the damage that addictions cause to families, careers and social standing?
From my view of the world, I see so many alcoholics looking for a solution to their problem that will allow them to keep drinking. How can I enjoy alcohol and not get sick? If you can, great, but the problem is deep within us, it’s not just the alcohol.
Step two implies process when it states, “Came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.” That goes beyond a medical intervention, or merely cutting back on that which has caused us so much pain and suffering.
And the third step states,
“Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God, as we understood him.”
Like Step 2, this implies a partnership. Eskapa talks of a partnership with your physician, but the 12 Step process is about so many partnerships, and the repairing broken relationships and your place in the community. To me, the 12 Step is far more difficult, but the reward is far greater.
Regardless of the solution, if a person can stop drinking, or learn to drink responsibly, it is foolishness to pick away at the approach. Having said that, I remain a staunch advocate of the 12 Step, in its original form, as it is a gateway to self-discovery and spiritual renewal.
Regardless of one’s religious orientation, or lack of religious orientation, the 12 Step, if approached with honesty, openness and willingness, touches not only the body and the mind, but the spirit of the journeying addict.
Introduction to Treatment for Alcohol and 12-Step
Alcoholism/Addiction is a tragic and lonely disease!
Like other forms of addiction, as people they become more dependent on alcohol, they isolate themselves, cutting themselves off from family, friends and activities they used to enjoy. Even when they want to come out of that world, they think they can or must do it alone.
The last thing a person needs at the very beginning of recovery is to be alone. The alcoholic will say, “I’ll cut back,” or “I just have to have the will power to stop doing drugs.”
One alcoholic told me that the only way for him to get clean was for him to do all of the work, there was no other way. What he was not considering is that as human beings, we are not wired that way. We are wired for relationship. We are not meant for isolation. Moreover, what if I told you that you can’t do it all on your own strength, that you need something from somebody else? The Treatment for Alcohol and the 12-Step process for recovery was first created in the 1930’s, by Treatment for Alcohol, but over the last 70 plus years, over 250 self-help groups have adopted these steps.
Why? Because they work!
In my group discussions at a residential drug and alcohol rehab center, we discuss how people are body, mind and spirit. Granted, our spirits can be strong and our determination staunch, but the greater power is outside of us. That is the power that only God can provide.
Treatment for Alcohol and the 12-Steps -- What is it like?
Imagine yourself in the kitchen to make a piece of toast. You have everything you need. But when you push down the lever to lower the bread into the toaster, nothing happens. You have done every correctly, so you double check -- bread, butter, jam, knife, plate – and you see that everything is in place. But there is one item missing. You have no power to make the toaster work. After a brief “ah ha” moment you plug the toaster in and shortly thereafter enjoy your toast.
The 12-Step process is similar to making toast in one respect, you have to plug into a power source, and when you do, everything can start to work. We believe that people are not meant to be alone, to handle the everyday challenges of life. It follows that people are certainly not meant to be alone during the very hard times. Whatever the power source, it is vital to the process.
Treatment for Alcohol/Addiction and the 12-Step History
To appreciate the roots of the Treatment for Alcohol/Addiction and the 12-Step program we need to spend a moment to look into the personal history of Treatment for Alcohol/Addiction founder Bill Wilson. Click here for History of the Treatment for Alcohol and the 12-Step program
Please consider using the Treatment for Alcohol/Addiction and the 12-Step program
There are an abundance of web sites and books written about the alcohol programs, and we’ll share a few of them with you to give you a broader base of understanding and point you to a few excellence resources. The 12-Step program is steeped in tradition and firmly supported by spiritual truth, give us all a model of humanity that points us to a better life, a stronger relationship with our neighbors, and an eternal loving relationship with the one who made us.
As you look through this program, think of them as a process. Like a path you walk on to go from A to Z, only you must take all of the steps and go through each in order, otherwise the path does not lead to your final destination. You go at your own pace and move forward as you see fit. Along the way, remember that these steps were written by people just like you, who needed help and had the courage to accept the help. Regardless of your addiction, 12-Step offers improvement for the human condition. Enjoy your reading. Maybe you like Rev. Buchman and Bill Wilson will go through a spiritual experience of your own. If you do, please share it with us.
The 12-Step Program
Please review each step and try to either begin following them yourself or enroll in a local program. Let’s take a look at the steps. You will see quickly that the process includes others and that we are not meant to go through this alone.
We admitted that we were powerless over alcohol--that our lives had become unmanageable.
Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
Make a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God, as we understand Him.
Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.
Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.
Made direct amends to such people whenever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong, promptly admitted it.
Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.
Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics and to practice these principles in our affairs.
Treatment for Alcohol Treatment for Alcohol Treatment for Alcohol Treatment for Alcohol Treatment for Alcohol Treatment for Alcohol Treatment for Alcohol Treatment for Alcohol
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