Comparing abstinence and moderation in recovery
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When it comes to recovery, from either drugs or alcohol, there are a number of factors that contribute to a successful journey of self-management. While a consistent and focused attention to one’s goals is indeed important, the overall structure of recovery is not clearly defined. This is primarily because individuals react to treatment and post-addiction care in unique ways. Despite this variance from case to case, specific support groups and organizations have established larger systems of more consolidated and broader guidelines in order to recover from a serious dependency.

One method of recovery is accomplished by practicing an abstinent lifestyle. Abstinence is refraining from drug or alcohol use in its entirety. Its definition is applicable to dietary and sexual restrictions as well. In terms of treatment, abstinence-based methods of drug and alcohol addiction subscribe to a belief that addiction is a disease. In accordance with the model’s unique perspective, the disease of addiction is not a curable condition. The only way an addicted person can recover is through a combination of counseling and a lifetime of continued support.

The most popular application of this model is classified as 12-step recovery, such as Alcoholics Anonymous. With new substance and behavioral health problems developing over the years, 12-step programs now encompass a host of specific topics. Within these programs, addicts begin a progressive transformation through each step. As a whole, a person in recovery will accept a powerless relationship to their respective substance and trusting in a greater power to guide the individual to a stable state. Other important steps include taking personal inventory and making amends with others the addict had directly wronged in the past.

An alternative recovery strategy is based on moderation. As the name implies, this model of managing one’s addiction does not completely cut out the targeted substance from the individual’s life, it aims to find a healthy balance. The most prominent form of this is an organization known as Moderation Management. Although the group has had its fair share of negative publicity, especially in the case of the former founder’s fatal drunk driving collision in 2000, the program’s philosophy is still a beneficial tool for many others. It is a better choice for those who do not agree with the powerlessness and strictness of 12-step guidelines.

This does not mean that 12-step recovery is without its own flaws. Among online forums for former abusers, various proponents and opponents of both abstinence and moderation plead their case for why a specific program did not work for them, all with valid reasons. Revised and separated versions of abstinence-based modalities have even been founded, such as the rising SMART Recovery program that focuses on the thoughts, emotions and behaviors that warp a person toward addiction. In addition, the HAMS Harm Reduction Network and Drink/Link Moderate Drinking programs are also viable options for maintaining more balanced habits.

Many people may ask the question as to which recovery method is more effective. However, its answer lacks consensus. Scientific research has offered some evidence and research regarding this comparison as well. When measuring the choices made by alcoholics, a 1972 study found that a dominant proportion of participants chose a path of moderation. The authors suggest that alcoholics are more positively reinforced by the possibility of controlling their addiction, rather than suppressing it.

Overall, the notable disagreement between these various ideologies of recovery reinforces the concept of specialized, individualized treatment. Depending on a person’s history with drugs or alcohol, developmental background, personality and a long list of other factors, he or she may respond to a particular treatment in a different manner than someone else. The ideal recovery strategy should use an adapted combination of options to determine which remedies work best for one’s specific circumstances.

Sovereign Health of California offers high quality and comprehensive treatment programs for adults and adolescents, which also cater to a person’s unique circumstances. Sovereign Health’s programs specialize in uncovering underlying addiction, psychological conditions or even both in a process known as dual diagnosis. Call (866) 819-0427 or live chat with a representative online for more information.

Written by Lee Yates, Sovereign Health Group writer

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