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Is abstinence the only solution? / How much treatment is enough?

answered 08:09 PM EST, Sun May 13, 2012
anonymous anonymous
I have been to three alcohol treatment programs in the last 6 years. 2 were outpatient programs (1 was court ordered) and 1 was a 28 day rehab program. All programs focused on abstinence as the only possible goal worth working for.

I am not abstinent, in fact I am currently quite far from it (haha). Should I take my repeated inability to maintain abstinence as a sign that this type of treatment doesn’t work for me? My drinking is getting out of control again so I think I need to get things in check but I am tired of beating my head against this same brick wall over and over again and expecting different results to come of it. If abstinence based hasn’t worked for me 3 times now should I accept that it’s probably never going to and try to find someone to help me just get things more under control?

Scott Graham Says...

There are three questions in your question.  The first is whether alternate strategies beside abstinence work for treating alcohol addiction.  Let me address this by asking you if controlled drinking has worked for you?  I would hazard a guess that it has not.  (I only observe this because you write that your "drinking has gotten out of control again."  That tells me that there was a period between the time you were not drinking at all and when it was "out of control" that you tried to control it -- 1 or 2 -- or only on the weekends -- or getting a buzz not getting drunk -- or getting drunk but not blacking out....).  You probably have had as many -- if not more -- attempts of controlling your drinking as you have had periods of abstinence.

The second question is how much treatment is enough?  Let me address this by comparing alcohol treatment with cancer treatment.  If have a friend who went through 5 treatments.  The first seemed to work but less than a year later, she had indications that the cancer returned.  This has gone on and on and she hopes that this last time the chemotherapy will be successful and her cancer with never return.  She continues to hope. 

I hold out to you that you continue to hope.  But like the fully informed cancer patient, make sure you fully understand your treatment options and hold the counselors that are working for you and your recovery accountable to full and complete treatment.

That bridges to the third aspect of your question:  what comprises good treatment and good counseling?  I am not sure what the quality of the programs you attended were or how fully they worked to engage you in those programs.  Nor am I clear what their therapeutic approach was nor how consistently the counselors practiced the approach that the agency espouses.  These are BIG questions and questions you might find more effective beyond the abstinence vs. controlled drinking concern you have.


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