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Real World Solutions To Addiction

Updated on May 27, 2016

There's an old cliche' in recovery: "The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over expecting different results."

It's actually an Albert Einstein quote, although I think most people in 12 step meetings are under the impression webster's dictionary actually says that. Others think it originated from old wise men who came before them. In a way it did I guess.

It makes a lot of sense for newly sober addicts and alcoholics. Unfortunately, it doesn't seem that the addiction treatment community ever caught wind of that quote. The medical community wants to continue to pushing medications on them, the counselors want to keep them talking and the religious community wants to keep them praying.

Don't get me wrong, all of these have their place. I'd also like to point out that 12 step programs (spiritually based) are supposed to be about doing the steps. This is an action based program in it's true form. Unfortunately, the true intent gets lost in the "meeting makers make it" mentality.

Selling more addicts on replacement drugs.
Selling more addicts on replacement drugs.

What Is Rehabilitation?

The best way I can think of to explain my views on a solution to addiction is to explain what I do. I run a program in Baltimore, Maryland called Man Up. Our primary purpose is to rehabilitate men who have struggled with addiction and alcoholism. Let's look at that word before we move on.

rehabilitate (v) to bring (someone or something) back to a normal, healthy condition after an illness, injury, drug problem, etc.

Notice it doesn't say anything about masking their problem, taking advantage of their problem, prolonging their problem, enabling their problem, telling them they will never be able to solve their problem, or tricking into believing after a little medication the problem is no longer there. (This is what they call treatment.)

An addict who has run out of people to enable them loves the disease model. I believe that the biggest part of treatment ends after detox or even a 28 day program. After that it's time to rehabilitate. Therapy serves it's purpose as well as medication for some, but having people stick you in a circle for months on end to talk about the past is at best redundant and counter productive. Speaking from the prospective of a former addict, it kept me stuck in the past for many years and absorbed in self-pity. I needed to look at the reality of now and start working on tomorrow.

Below is the basic outline of a program that is not only self sufficient, but pays back into the system and community. We had a small fundraiser to get the doors open and took a few donations of furniture in the beginning. From that point on we have been completely self sustaining.

Challenge Everything You Believe About Addiction

The 7 Components To Rehabilitation

1. Stability - We start by providing a structured and sober living environment. Most people in active addiction have burned bridges and run out of resources. Any housing available to them generally isn't conducive to their recovery.

2. Monitoring - For us this includes drug and alcohol screening, daily interaction and accountability.

3. Mental Health and Physical Health - I refer my clients out to receive counseling elsewhere from an approved facility. The same with primary care. We only refer clients to a facility who has their best interest in mind. By not having these facilities in house there is no conflict of interest or room for corruption. We are completely autonomous.

4. Spiritual and Moral Health - When an addict gets sober, they are bombarded with guilt, shame and remorse. This is an immediate trigger to use yet again. Getting high (or drunk) is the go-to for washing away these feelings. That option now being removed, they are directed to the 12-step meetings to face their problems head on.

5. Employment - We require clients to secure employment immediately after their black out phase. More often than not, we find employment for them. They then start paying weekly program fees. Because of this model, Man Up is completely self-sustaining. After they start working and catch up a little bit they have a boost in confidence. They realize they can live a normal life and provide for themselves. This is something some of them have never experienced. This leads us to our next component and one that a lot of programs seem to be lacking.

6. Goals Coaching - It is at this phase in their development we sit them down and ask what they want out of recovery. Why are they sober? It can’t be just to stay sober. There is no motivation or hope behind that – just to stay sober and exist.

Viktor E Frankl, an Austrian Neurologist and Psychiatrist founded logotherapy which is based on the belief that striving to find a meaning in one's life is the primary, most powerful motivating and driving force in all humans. Without a meaningful purpose what’s the point?

You see, when addicts start using (as teenagers usually) we have goals, dreams and aspirations. All that becomes lost and forgotten in addiction. When we get sober it doesn’t usually just resurface, so we have our clients write down new goals. We then reverse engineer individual goals into action plans, so they know the first step they need to take today in order to attain them. Now having found a new sense of self-worth, they have a tangible sense of purpose.

Meanwhile, during this entire process the client has been developing new coping mechanisms and habits that have replaced drug use. In the beginning everything is a trigger. These triggers will slowly start to fade away and become fewer and further in between. The one-on-one counseling they receive aids in identifying these triggers. Then they are more equipped to deal with them as they arise.

Also, over time, they are naturally developing problem solving skills. Small problems that use to baffle them become easier to solve.

As they start to progress we throw in some of the useful real world things that should be required in every 12th grade senior curriculum. The list includes things like setting up bank accounts, learning about credit and setting up automatic bill payments. We will often times pull credit reports for them and teach them how to read them. We set up email addresses for clients and help them with resumes. This list goes on.

Men Receiving Job Training.
Men Receiving Job Training.

My Proposal

The war on drugs has proven itself ineffective. We're just flushing billions of drug dollars down the toilet. Imagine if instead of paying for lengthy prison sentences, we sentenced addicts and alcoholics to state ran 28 day programs followed by mandatory time at programs like Man Up; programs with practical solutions that pay for themselves.

Imagine putting a halt to the "band-aide solution" programs who rely on soaking up government funded insurance money only to provide more addictive medications, sketchy counselors and false hope; programs who penalize people for getting a job because it contradicts their profit model.

Take a second, look at what we're doing and ask yourself "Is it working?" I think you'll come to the same conclusion I did if your honest with yourself.


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