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.
I couldn't get myself out of bed in the morning without dope, let alone do anything other than find money for drugs, get drugs and then do said drugs. That was my life, and it was a hell I thought I was to be stuck in forever. I truly believed I was just too far gone.
Then I found Methadone, and it saved my life.
Methadone patients are a really great example that generates conflicting views about sobriety. Some strongly believe that an addict being treated with methadone is by no means sober. Methadone, like heroin or Oxycontin, is in fact an opiate. Therefore, many hold the view that taking Methadone daily in place of the drug of abuse is simply swapping one addiction for another.
That’s why a methadone patient is far from being in a sober state, regardless if they've stopped using needles and snorting or abusing their drug of choice. They are still on an opiate; therefore they are dirty. No ifs, ands or buts about it.
To compare the state of my life when I was using to where I am now, there is just no way you can tell me that I have not achieved sobriety. The changes are absolutely astonishing, and I am able to live a life free of IV drug use, drug abuse and the pain of an active addiction.
What it means to be sober is always going to be a debatable topic. People hold conflicting views on what sobriety really means and are often extremely passionate about it.
The strictest definition seems to be the belief that abstinence from any and all altering substances is required to hold that golden title of sobriety.
In all honesty though, is that even a realistic expectation? Absolutely no altering substances. None. Think about that for a second.
So many different things could be tossed into that extremely broad definition. By that standard, only a very small group of people would be able to consider themselves sober.
Drink Coffee? Take ANY medications at all? Smoke? Drink? Well according to this stance, you're all just as dirty as I am.
Of course, not everyone agrees that moving away from the abstinence only definition of sobriety is a good idea. Approaches such as methadone maintenance, treatment of alcoholism through daily regulated dispensing of booze to addicts and various other harm reduction approaches are often viewed as highly controversial, even though reports indicate they’re effective.
So, why are we as a society so stuck in this outdated and stigmatizing view of addiction and its various treatment methods?
When highly effective options are available to help give addicts their lives back, we should in no way be stigmatizing their use, nor holding such negative views and unrealistic expectations.
Whatever you believe to be the true meaning of sobriety, you need only hold yourself to that standard and not everyone else around you.
Such an unattainable definition of sobriety only damages and repels those who desperately need treatment from seeking the proper and necessary help, as it feels like a hopelessly impossible task. Effective treatment methods are available that have the potential to change the lives of addicts in drastic and positive ways.
Let's stop guilting and shaming them away from accessing these life-saving treatment options and give them hope that a sober, functional life is within reach.
K. Lanktree is a NewsOK contributor, Freelance Writer, Former IV Drug User, Methadone Patient and Harm Reduction Advocate. For more information, check out her blog.
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