An alcohol treatment program advertises they have a cure for alcoholism. If it were only that simple! Unfortunately alcoholism is a disease for which no known cure exists today. This is not exclusive to alcoholism: there is no cure for the common cold or for hypertension. There are only ways to treat the diseases. Similarly, there are proven ways to treat alcoholism so that the alcoholic may lead a useful and productive, happy life.
Types of Treatment
The most well known treatment for alcoholism is Alcoholics Anonymous, a self-help program. Like any treatment, it is only as good as the alcoholic who participates in it. That said: Millions of alcoholics lead fruitful alcohol-free lives simply by participating in Alcoholics Anonymous’ 12 Step program. What does “participation” mean?
Alcoholics Anonymous is a book. It suggests a program of recovery that requires daily practices based upon 12 Step work. Those who earnestly “work” the steps, attend meetings, study the book and work with sponsors and help others work the steps normally find freedom from the disease on a daily basis.
Whenever I hear someone say “AA doesn’t work for me.” I ask: “Of course not – AA is a book and a book does not do anything for anyone.” Those who gain the most from any 12 Step program are those who thoroughly work all twelve steps with a sponsor, attend meetings and practice, practice, practice.
Another effective treatment is the SMART self-help recovery program. SMART is a four-point recovery program rather than twelve. SMART has meetings and emphasizes self-reliance and self-empowerment versus a reliance on a higher power used by AA. SMART is more therapy oriented than AA in that it actively promotes psychiatric and psychological care. It’s not that AA does not do that as well – it’s just that SMART is more overt in supporting outside professional help, whilst in AA it’s more hidden.
It is overly simplistic to say that the major differences in AA and SMART is that AA as an organization is quite traditional in its abstinence based approach rather than embracing advances in science as part of the 12 Step model, whereas SMART as an organization is more progressive in being open to new scientific research on addiction. I know many members of AA who are doctors, mental health professionals and scientists who continue to work their own 12 Step program of recovery while embracing advances in addiction medicine and research.
There are other recovery models, but these two are the most popular.
Since alcoholism (addiction) has been researched to prove it’s disease hypothesis, it is unfortunate that some continue to sell a “cure” for it. There are genetic components, physical components, psychological and emotional components and a spiritual element as well. But having a disease with no known cure is no reason to become hopeless. On the contrary – there is much reason to find hope in treating and arresting the disease.
The Alcoholics Anonymous book tells us: “We are 100 men and women who have recovered from a seemingly hopeless state of mind and body.” If 100 can recover, then a 100 billion may recover.
Those who promote a “cure” for alcoholism provide false hope for those who suffer from this dreadful disease. But the good news is that millions of recovered alcoholics live happy, joyous lives free of the ravishes of the disease. There is no guarantee of recovery through treatment, but there is hope that one need not drink today. And if one can not drink for today for enough days, one does recover.