Since those who just read the blog might not notice otherwise, I figured I should make a post letting you know that I put up a new and extremely important static page under the “Self-Change” menu bar section of the site titled Substance Dependence Recovery Rates: With and Without Treatment. It’s a lengthy page that presents information from and my analysis of an important NIAAA study. In short, the study shows that 75% end their substance use problems on their own, without treatment, and that in some regards, we may be better off not attending treatment at all. There are 2 reasons why I put all this information up.
- I’m constantly referring to it in my blog posts – so instead of explaining it every time, I can just point my readers to the link, and they’ll know I’m not making a random baseless assertion, but that there is ample data to back it up.
- This information can be a powerful impetus for current substance users to change their behavior.
Point 1 is easy, so let’s move on to discuss point 2 a little bit. When I worked at the St Jude Retreat House (soberforever.net), I had an interesting conversation with my friend and boss, Mark Scheeren who started that program. He told me that in the early days of the program he made all the phone calls to program graduates and their family members to find out if they were still sober so that he could come up with a success rate for the program (side note: for the past several years, the surveys have been carried out by an independent firm). We were talking about some drastic changes to the curriculum I would be implementing with my teaching staff (and teaching myself), and I was worried about the changes. Basically, we were dropping some elements of our program which were similar to the 12-steps (and which I had personally enthusiastically embraced and been teaching), and would eventually prove to be completely unnecessary although I didn’t realize it at the time. I’ve digressed though. He told me that when he talked to successful alumni and asked them what they remembered from the program, or what they thought was most important and useful to them, that the number one answer, by far, was “I learned that I had a choice, and that I could change”.
In the first couple classes there, we would go through a debunking of the disease model of addiction and common knowledge of the recovery culture, and teach our clients in no uncertain terms that they could change, that people are better off without treatment or meetings, and above all that they have been choosing their own behavior all along, and that they could choose differently – with or without treatment, with or without our educational program they were capable of ending their addiction. When you’re into all the self-help stuff you’re teaching people and think it’s all so poignant, it can be a little crushing professionally to learn that people just need to be told that they’ll be alright and that they can choose to change, but that’s the truth of the matter for most people. I heard Mark reiterate this message in a recent interview, where he said that throughout his 20 years at SJRH he had revised the program materials countless times, but that the one constant was that they always told people that they would be alright, that it was their choice, and that they would succeed.
With that said, there was much more we did at SJRH, and I think we had many tough cases of people who had been “addicted” and “in recovery” for so long that they had no idea how to just live a happy life – and we gave them the tools to do that with our focus on actionable goals. We gave them an alternative to drugs, behaviors that are far more satisfying than substance abuse could ever be. But back to this message of being capable of change – there’s more to SJRH than just telling people they have a choice – we convinced them of it at a deep level. Every other authority on addiction has taught them that they couldn’t change, and as we know from famous social psychology experiments, when someone with the authority of a doctor, professor, or even just the perceived authority gained by donning a lab coat tells you something, most people take it to heart – even when they’re telling you to push a button delivering potentially fatal electrical shocks to another innocent person!
This effect is damaging to people, they spend countless hours in rehabs & meetings (and watching A&E’s Intervention!) with authority figures telling them that they can’t change, that they’ll be addicts for life, that they will need treatment again and again for the rest of time, that every day will be a struggle – and of course they eventually believe this stuff, and they live up to the expectations it creates. But then you arrive at the St Jude Retreat House, and while there are no doctors or people in lab coats there (by design), they still have a good amount of authority, (what with years of experience helping thousands of people, a research arm, a few facilities, a very professional staff, and plenty of clients who have travelled intercontinentally to get to this one of a kind program) and they’re telling you for 6 weeks straight that you can change, and you can be done with addiction forever. It’s a powerful experience.
What’s more, beyond seeing the power of this message with my own eyes at SJRH, I also found a study several years ago which found that just giving people the message “75% of people change their drinking on their own” in a tiny newspaper ad was enough to help many people to end their addictions. So that’s what I try to do here on this site, I try to spread the message that you can change, I try to be convincing by backing up this claim with evidence, I want people to know that they are not doomed to a lifetime of treatment, addiction, meetings, or “recovery“. This is the first issue I address with my addiction coaching clients (I still need to come up with a better name for this service, I refuse to use the word recovery), and this is why I say that the new page I posted, which contains a study and discussion most people would find boring, is still extremely important. It’s important that people know the FACT that they can and most likely will end their addiction. I want people to stop recovering, and start living – that is, I want them to put a permanent end to their substance abuse and move on with their lives. Knowledge is key in this quest, you can learn it now by looking at the facts, and see the effects of that knowledge in your life much sooner – or you can do it the hard way, wasting another decade or more trying to find your rock bottom point until you have some sort of epiphany. Make the epiphany happen now! Read my new page on the NESARC study! Do it now!