Arguing for Abstinence

Today’s industry of recovery is full of controversial topics: twelve step versus non-twelve step, medically assisted detox versus naturally assisted detox, talk therapy versus motivational interviewing, and more. Of the debates that drives the recovery community in different directions there is one that has multifaceted impact: abstinence versus moderation.

What is the debate?

“Recovery” and “Sobriety” have not been clinically defined. What constitutes recovery and sobriety? The answer is subjective and unregulated. Each community, treatment center and practitioner make up the rules as they see fit. Unlike diagnoses in the medical industry, addiction and alcoholism, along with mental health conditions, are without specific metrics. Both abstinence and moderation are backed with evidence based proof of their successes. However, they cannot seem to exist as mutual paths in recovery.

The critical issue

The critical issue at the heart of the abstinence versus moderation debate is what constitutes sobriety. Take for example the popular problem with drug replacement therapy. Suboxone and Methadone are widely prescribed medications. These drugs contain trace amounts of opioid, but are meant to wean addicted individuals off of opioid drugs. Countless stories of success have come from drug replacement therapy. An individual no longer abuses their opiate drug of choice and sees a return to normalcy in their daily lives. However, because there are still addictive chemicals present, it is possible to develop a dependency upon them. Some abuse the drugs, truly as a replacement. Without their daily dose, they face fierce cravings and even symptoms of withdrawal. Many argue that this is not true sobriety.

Abstaining is not punishment

How important is it to be able to drink alcohol moderately or be able to use drugs recreationally? Abstinence should not be stigmatized as a punishment. Scientifically sound or not, the argument for abstinence has led millions of people for dozens of years toward happy lives. There are plenty of teetotallers in the world- people who abstain from drinking. The truth is that alcohol and drugs are not necessary parts of life. They are accessories to a lifestyle. Abstinence based lifestyles are still full of fun, mystery, and adventure. Staying away from alcohol and drugs reaps a wealth of health benefits as well as mental clarity.

Perhaps it is time to change the approach to how abstinence is argued. “Never” is a frightening word without agency. Abstinence is empowering because it is a personal choice.

Refuge Recovery promotes abstinence in recovery. We teach our patients how to live a full life without the presence of drugs and alcohol. Call us today for more information on our programs of treatment and recovery 323-207-0276.

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