Choices In Recovery

If there are many pathways to addiction, there must be many pathways to recovery. I started drinking for the same reasons everyone else did, but it just didn’t work out for me.  So whether or not you believed addiction is a disease- you knew it wasn’t working out for you. What did you do about it?  How did you quit?

We are about to introduce an idea that requires a bit of a perspective change, a paradigm shift if you will.  If I started drinking for the same reasons everyone else drank and it didn’t work out for me, does that mean I have the genetic predisposition for addiction?  Or does it mean it is likely I was abused, neglected or otherwise traumatized?  Or does it simply mean that I had some life stressors at that point which caused my drinking to get “out of control”?  So the answer is “maybe” to all of that.  Some of us identify with the group of people in recovery that believe it’s a life long journey and that “I will always be an alcoholic or addict”.  Others do not.  There is a group of people in recovery that say that the very idea of saying “I’m an alcoholic” is unnecessary and not helpful.  This demonstrates that there are many groups of people in recovery with like-minded goals but with differing approaches. We hear of many different recovery stories. All should be told and all should be heard.

Recovery Allies trains recovery coaches.  One of the things in particular that we focus on is being aware of and understanding different pathways.  On day three of the Recovery Coach Academy we spend three hours discussing this topic.  After a few trainings we realized something.  We looked around and said “where are they?”  We realized we had an opportunity to help grow this aspect of recovery supports.

This is not in response to AA being effective for only a certain percentage of people.  Lets just say the percentage is somewhere near 30% (the % is not the important part here so bear with me). No one pathway boasts much more- if any more.  This is in hopes of creating more mutual aid groups that have a similar success rate.  Imagine if we had five mutual aid groups that had 30%?  Imagine how many people would be grateful for additional options in the quest to get well.

One more benefit of starting more mutual aid support groups is on the advocacy front.  When not bound by traditions that keep us from talking about addiction recovery, we can create an advocacy base that can dramatically influence things like policy, stigma, and marketing (we have a bit of a problem with the million’s of dollars the beer industry spends on marketing their product to the young and poor.  Have you seen the advertisement for Natural Lite that says “family pack”? ).

This issue is dedicated to pathways.  You’ll find information about a few of the pathways our readers have shared as well as mutual aid groups from across the nation and cultures.

Recovery Allies is happy to report to our community that we have received a grant from the State’s Office of Recovery Oriented System of Care (OROSC) to start additional mutual aid support groups.  We have been tasked with starting meetings “other than A’s” in a 15 county region from Coldwater, to Benton Harbor to Ludington. The goal is to start the meetings, market the meetings to treatment centers, courts, the recovery community and other places that want additional options to recommend to someone seeking support in recovery. We have until September 30th to help start them and hand them off to the communities. If you are interested in helping with the project please contact us. Without you this won’t happen!

Again, this is not about one pathway not working; it’s about offering choices. Those that have great affection for Alcoholics Anonymous will be happy to know that about 40% of those that report using a different pathway, report also using AA. And to address one more question I have been asked about LifeRing specifically; LifeRing is not anti God, just like Weight Watchers is not anti God. Again it’s about choices.

We think the time is right for this. The North Alano Club of Kent County is demonstrating that. We have included the meeting list for the club in this issue. Note the category “other”. The fact that individuals in Grand Rapids that are very loyal and passionate about the 12 steps, are embracing “other” pathways, under the same roof, is incredible. We are very fortunate.

I might be overstepping here, but I think it is just the way Bill Wilson (let’s not forget Dr. Bob…) would want it!

The New Face of Recovery and The Age of Multiple Pathways

By Tom McHale – Recovery Supports Coordinator, Northern Michigan Substance Abuse Services, Recovery Center, Gaylord MI

In recent years research has painted a very different picture of what recovery looks like, not in terms of its visual appearance, but in how people gain access to and define their recovery. The old picture of a single recovery pathway has evolved into a broad range of diverse pathways and an expanding definition of what recovery means. Examples of diverse  pathways include medication assisted recovery, harm reduction, secular recovery, faith based recovery, twelve step  programs, spontaneous remission and the list goes on.  Whether a person sees this new face of recovery as positive or negative doesn’t change the fact that 23 million Americans have recognized their alcohol/drug use as a problem and took corrective action. This is a reason to celebrate. It is also a time to express gratitude for the efforts of individuals and groups that forged the initial recovery path. The message emanating from the face of recovery is clear, however there  is  no single pathway.

I had hoped treatment facilities in the private and public sectors would begin offering clients support options based on this new picture of recovery and the diverse pathways now available, but I continue to see a great deal of reluctance to get on board with multiple pathways and I have even read affirmations from treatment facilities expressing loyalty to the one pathway. I fully understand that there are people working in the treatment industry, who are in recovery, and maintain  their recovery by using a 12 step pathway. This is great for that individual. I am concerned however with insistence on  guiding everyone down the same recovery path. It is disheartening that clients unwilling to embrace a prescribed  pathway are identified as recovery resistant or worse dismissed until they get so sick they will accept a program of recovery they didn’t accept during better times. I believe as the field of addiction treatment moves toward the implementation of evidence based practices, the pathways introduced to an individual will represent the diversity now available. Choosing a pathway is a personal decision based on the person’s beliefs, values, culture, and other extenuating  circumstances. The role of the therapist is to help the individual find his or her own personal pathway. The treatment industry has an ethical obligation to support multiple pathways until the research tells us different.

Personally, I believe that we’ve been totally unfair to the initial pathway by creating an unrealistic expectation that this  pathway alone could  help EVERYONE. As a result, this pathway became a dumping ground for individuals that society  did not want or could not serve, and the practice of forcing people to attend, compromised the supportive atmosphere for those who want to attend.

The solution to addiction and maintaining recovery is not likely to come in one nice neat package. By supporting  and  facilitating multiple pathways  we stand a much better chance of growing the number of people who stabilize in an addiction free lifestyle. Just think of how many more lives we can reach by being open to multiple pathways that all work toward a common goal: to afford everyone the opportunity to recover from his or her addiction. I  suspect that treatment facilities that learn this lesson will be the first to come out on top

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