Monday, December 16, 2013

Steve's Theory of Addiction and Recovery

Steve Timmer’s Addiction & Recovery Theory
I.                   What is addiction, alcoholism, chemical or substance dependency?
Addiction (Substance dependency) and alcoholism is a disease of the brain.  It is a disease because it meets the criteria for all diseases:
1.      It is Primary – not the result of another disease or other factors.
2.     It is Chronic – may progress slowly and subtlety, is constant and lasts for a long period of time.  Other chronic diseases include diabetes, heart disease, emphysema and arthritis.
3.     It is Progressive – left unchecked and untreated, the dependent person moves from an early stage where the substance appears helpful and seductive to an uncontrollable craving.  Over time, the person’s condition becomes more severe and mental, physical, emotional and spiritual problems occur.
4.     It is eventually Fatal – if the dependent person continues to abuse her or her substance, the addiction will eventually lead to a shorter life span. Death may occur due to the following:

                                                            a.      Liver, heart, kidney, pancreas, lung or other organ failure.
                                                            b.      Overdose.
                                                             c.      Suicide.
                                                            d.      Auto, fire, water or other kind of accident.

II.                 What is the cause of addiction or alcoholism?

There is no known specific cause why some people become addicted and others due not.  However, the vast majority of people have one or most the four basic reasons for becoming chemically dependent:

1.      Chemical imbalances in the brain or body,

2.      Past, unresolved trauma.

3.      Poor coping skills.

4.      Perceptions and beliefs that cause the person discomfort, sadness, anger or pain.

Factors such as a family history of alcoholism or addiction, family dynamics, environmental factors, and head trauma also have a high correlation with susceptibility to chemical dependence.

III.              What is the cure?

This causes and conditions can be very complex and subtle.  The cure is what has been driving pharmaceutical companies, medical schools, treatment centers, psychiatrists, psychologists, addiction physicians, addiction researchers and therapists for decades.  By far, the 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, and other 12 step programs have been the most successful in the treatment of alcoholism and addiction.  Other therapies have also been shown to be effective, including cognitive behavioral therapies, secular and religious programs that seek to adjust perceptions and coping skills while addressing trauma, and some medical therapies.

In an interviewed study, Anne Fletcher, in Sober for Good (Houghton Mifflin, 2001) examined 222 people who had “alcohol problems” and who have abstained from alcohol for over 20 years.  The following was how each one did it:

Recovery Method
No. of People
     Traditional 12 Steps
     Nontraditional Recovery Methods
            Sober on their own
            Multiple Paths
            Secular Organization for Sobriety (SOS)
            Women for Sobriety
            SMART Recovery
            Went to AA, but quit after some years
            Treatment Center, then on their own
            Rational Recovery
            Psychological Counseling
            Moderation Management

As a treatment provider, I look to the bio-psycho-social assessment and other evidence-based diagnostic tools to create treatment plans and to help determine the best course of treatment.  However, since this paper is my theory of addiction treatment, I will share with you my fundamental belief on each individual’s recovery – you do it yourself.  Somehow, some way, you hear the right words or experience the right experience to find the motivation or to perceive a new way of thinking or envisioning your world. 

I have an aunt who wrote a book called By Monomoy Light, in which she describes her experience living alone on an island for several months:

Living simple and in solitude is difficult, admittedly, since it strips you of distraction and defense.  You find out the gravest danger you face – always – is yourself, and that you are your own way out of trouble, the doorway to your own hard-sought freedom.  These are truths not everyone wants to know.  But they can stay at home.

As for me, I plan to remember Monomoy and face the really scary business of day-to-day living with purpose and a sense of my own necessity, as the birds and animals do.

With me I can a page torn out of Crossing Antarctica, the journal of Will Steger, the leader of a six-man international team that crossed the vast southern continent on skis and dogsleds – and faced dangers more tangible and extreme than I probably will ever know.  In the long polar night, in the midst of his expedition of hardships, he recalled the earlier difficult and rewarding times:  ‘During the struggle to raise money to go to the North Pole,’ he writes, ‘we had an ardent supporter in Duluth, Minn., an 85 year old woman named Julia Marshall, whose family owned a hardware story.  At a time when we were desperate for cash, I remember getting a check in the mail from her for $5,000.  Accompanying the check was a nearly illegible note, which took me four or five readings to decipher.  It said simply “WE NEED ADVENTURE NOW.”’

And we can have it.

Of course, adventure, like everything else worth having has its price: I’ve had the discomfort of poison ivy for weeks; I know what it means to be cold, drenched to the skin, and squirrelly from cabin fever.  But a little risk has its undeniable payoffs, too; being awakened at midnight by the eerie, lone cry of a great horned owl; being stopped dead in one’s tracks by a doe diving through bay berry for cover; finding all vital hungers filled.

Talk about fear.  You could move without love, forget how it feels to live.  You could think you were safe – and never know the danger of deep joy, the pitfalls of beauty, and the passion of being free. – North Cairn.

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