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  health > story page AIDSAlternative MedicineCancerDiet & FitnessHeartMenSeniorsWomen

Substance abuse recovery programs: Which one is right for you?

May 19, 1999
Web posted at: 11:13 AM EDT (1513 GMT)

In this story:

Relying on a "higher power"

Depending on yourself

Cutting back instead of quitting

For women only


By Theresa A. Reed

(WebMD) - Beating an addiction on your own is a tall order, and one which few people can achieve for any length of time. One of your best chances for a successful, long-term recovery is to seek help from a program designed to help you cope with the physical and psychological pressures of kicking a substance dependency. And there are a number of programs to choose from. Whichever program you settle on, keep in mind that what matters most is not the cost of the program (low-cost programs have been found just as effective as expensive ones) or how much publicity it has received, but how well it works for you.

Relying on a "higher power"

Perhaps the best-known recovery program is Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), synonymous with the Twelve Steps of recovery and the longest existing self-help program in the United States and Canada. During its 60 years of existence, AA has become so well-respected that judges doling out punishments for crimes committed "under the influence" often mandate attendance. AA asks that its members attend meetings regularly and seek out sponsors -- people who have successfully stayed sober. AA is not a religious organization, but many AA members relinquish so-called control of their addiction over to a "Higher Power."

Narcotics Anonymous (NA), which sprang out of the Alcoholics Anonymous movement in the late 1940s, uses many of the same premises as AA and is open to anyone with a drug problem.

Depending on yourself

Secular Organizations for Sobriety (SOS), a smaller, less formal network than AA, was created in 1985 to provide a purely secular, or non-religious, alternative to AA. SOS uses many of the same tools as AA, such as strict abstinence and regular meetings, but instead emphasizes the individual's ability to control his or her addiction. SOS encourages members to try different methods to find one that works for them.

Another secular abstinence program, Rational Recovery (RR), begun in 1986, is based on the Addictive Voice Recognition Technique (AVRT), which encourages the addict to use a problem-solving approach with addiction and simply make a pledge to stay abstinent. RR members liken it to "getting fed up and simply quitting." RR also contends that participation in recovery groups is not necessary once one has learned AVRT, and they view perpetual attendance of such groups, particularly AA, as addiction in and of itself.

Self Management and Recovery Training (SMART), founded in 1994, is based on the principles of Rational Emotive Therapy, a methodology that teaches that addictions are learned behaviors caused by faulty, self-defeating ways of thinking. SMART contends that you can change your thinking, and therefore change your destructive behaviors.

Cutting back instead of quitting

Although total abstinence is demanded of most recovery programs, there are a few, such as Moderation Management (MM), which believe that complete abstinence is neither appropriate nor totally effective. Moderate Drinking, by Audrey Kishline, founder of Moderation Management, is the handbook MM and sets out the nine steps necessary to modify drinking and balance other areas of your life, as well. Important to MM's philosophy is the belief that there is no biological basis for alcoholism; Kishline believes instead that alcoholism is a learned behavior which can be unlearned, to the point of total abstinence, if desired. MM encourages members to cut back or quit drinking before it become severe. MM is not designed for chronic drinkers or those who experience significant withdrawal symptoms when they stop drinking.

For women only

It became clear in the mid 1970s that recovery rates for male alcoholics were higher than those for women, which convinced experts that women needed a different approach than ones which were being offered. One of the results of this new awareness was the founding of Women For Sobriety (WFS), now the oldest non-12-step program in existence. WFS is based on the Positive Thinking, Metaphysics, Meditation, Group Dynamics and Pursuit of Health Through Nutrition, by founder Dr. Jean Kirkpatrick. Its approach emphasizes the unique problems women grapple with in recovery, such as the need for increased self-esteem. WFS believe that addiction results from attempts to cope with stress and emotional deprivation and that recovery occurs from self-knowledge and abstinence.

Copyright 1999 by WebMD, Inc. All rights reserved.

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