Is Complete Abstinence the Only Option in Addiction Recovery?
When a person is in addiction recovery, most people think that complete abstinence from any kind of substance is the only option. This is certainly a nonnegotiable fact for people who are early in recovery. For them, even the slightest hint of a mind-altering substance will send them right back into the darkest depths of addiction.
Addiction Recovery Takes a Lot of Work
When a person is in addiction recovery, it requires complete focus and persistence. This goes for any kind of addiction, to any kind of drug or alcohol. Addiction is defined as “a strong and harmful need to regularly have something (such as a drug) or do something (such as gamble).” As much as an addict may deny it, once they have even just a few days in recovery, they should be able to recognize that they have an addiction problem. The choice is theirs whether they decide to do something about it or stay in their ways.
If a person has ever been addicted, they know they have a hard time regulating their drug of choice. Therefore, what makes it ok to try it again in the future? Addiction recovery is so fragile and elusive, but at the same time, it is possible. The only thing that needs to happen is that the desire to be sober and healthy has to be stronger than the desire to use or drink.
If recovering were easy, more people would succeed. More people would be able to toss back a few beers without it leading to shots and alcohol poisoning, or to shooting heroin and overdosing. So, what is the point of playing with fire by indulging here and there if it could end up being your death sentence?
Abstinence is Ultimately the Addict’s Choice
It goes without saying that someone who is addicted to illegal drugs should never pick them up again under any circumstances. But, is it ok for that same person to indulge in a few drinks? There isn’t a clear answer to this question, but it is a very gray area that can be fine for some and terrible for others.
Treatment centers and people who partake in twelve-step programs will tell you that no, it is by no means ok to pick up anything. Others think that strict moderation is ok down the line, once a person has enough sense of self-control. At that point, user needs to decide when things are getting out of control, and to get help. Getting help isn’t easy to do, especially after a decent amount of sober time.
Addiction, Guilt, and the Lack of Ability to Say No
The danger of slipping up with alcohol or another substance like marijuana is that it carries a sense of guilt. This guilt manifests into thinking that since you are already under the influence, you may as well “go big or go home”. This can easily lead to a person picking up a heavier drug, or drinking a dangerous amount.
Alternatively, some people get so triggered by any mind-altering substances that they immediately begin to crave more. The pleasure receptors of the brain start firing off, and the desire to use can become completely overwhelming.
Just being under the influence of alcohol can make a person weaker. For some, this leads to something less harmful, like eating a bucket of french fries you normally wouldn’t have. To others, it can lead to hard drugs or huge amounts of alcohol. The self-control and determination you fought so hard for in treatment are immediately out the window.
Addiction Recovery is a Personal Journey
While there is no clear and definite answer to the debate between complete abstinence and moderation, it seems like to choose abstinence is to choose the path with more promise. There are people who have beers on the weekend and are fine. Others spiral into a deadly relapse as soon as they start drinking. They end up back in rehab, or worse, in jail or dead.
In the end, only the person in recovery can determine what is right for them. It’s a big decision and one that they definitely should not act impulsively on. They should discuss ideas with their sober network, and weigh the impacts of potentially bad decisions.
It is also important for the person to think deeply about why they want to pick up a drink. Answering this requires honesty and truly thinking about their motives and needs. Is it because everyone around them is drinking? If this is the case, it is a good idea to get a new group of friends or move away from their current situation. If there is a healthier, better reason they can give, maybe a beer is worth considering.
However, with the potential consequences and everything they have been through, is it worth it?