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Perspective: The New Sober

A new and innovative take on what it means to be sober and how strict abstinence-only treatment approaches can be stigmatizing and detrimental to addicts in need of help.
by K. Lanktree Modified: May 8, 2014 at 10:02 am •  Published: May 8, 2014

When it comes to addiction treatment, achieving sobriety and a functional life is of course the ultimate goal. However depending on where treatment is sought, definitions and views on sobriety can vary tremendously.

A new ideology is gaining traction by disregarding the strict and often alienating abstinence-only approach to sobriety and replacing it with a somewhat controversial definition.

Here is one of those definitions:

"Sobriety is really a psychological or emotional state of self-management - not really having to do with abstinence. Sobriety is available to drinkers and non-drinkers alike, and is seen when people relate to their world in a rational, calm, and mature manner.” - Addiction Alternatives.

With addiction and drug abuse becoming such an epidemic, effective and safe treatment options are needed more than ever. But many of the most well-known treatment centers and support groups are actually alienating addicts from seeking treatment by accepting nothing less than 100-percent abstinence from participants.

These often unattainable and unrealistic approaches to sobriety can give addicts the false idea that full abstinence is the only way to a sober life and absolutely nothing less is acceptable.

That is most certainly not the case, as there are many effective treatment options and approaches to sobriety, not all of them requiring perfection.

The focus is on the difference between abstinence (the avoidance of consumption) and sobriety (the condition of control).

The new definition of sobriety I'm referring to emphasizes self-management and avoiding excess.

Speaking from personal experience, the traditional recovery options focusing on abstinence can be limiting. When I initially sought help, I entered a rehab center that gave me no other options than full detox and abstinence of all drugs. Methadone wasn't seen as an option for someone seeking a life of sobriety.

Guess what happened? I failed, miserably.

Barely two days after check-in, I was already checking out and heading right back into a life of addiction, one that spiraled even further out of control.

Prior to entering rehab, I was only snorting pills. Not long after leaving, I had become a full blown IV drug user. The complete and utter failure of my attempt at sobriety just made me feel a million times worse. I felt absolutely pathetic and totally out of options.

I was beginning to feel as though I was trapped for good. I truly did not believe I would ever be able to stop using. I just could not manage to kick the habit; whether I went cold turkey or I tried naively to wean myself off, it always ended in failure.

And each time I failed, the possibility of sobriety slipped even further away to a point where I truly believed it was completely unreachable.

When I went on trips to get dope, I can remember seeing people out for a jog, out biking or playing sports, and I remember thinking to myself that I am never again going to be able to do those things. I was not at all ignorant to the fact that I was a complete and utter slave to the needle, and sadly that was just the way it was going to be from now on.

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by K. Lanktree
NewsOK Contributor
K. Lanktree is a Freelance Writer, Former IV Drug User, Methadone Patient & Harm Reduction Advocate. She is dedicated to reducing the stigma and discrimination of Addiction and IV Drug Users through education, writing and poetry.
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