Self-Help: Not The Answer For Addiction

man with a computer

“Surely this was the answer,” Bill Wilson writes about his story in the primary text for Alcoholics Anonymous, The Big Book, “self-knowledge.” During the course of his rampant alcoholism, Bill had a period where he discovered what he thought was understanding of himself. Armed with this self-knowledge, he felt, he could not be defeated by alcoholism again. Of course, he was.


The term “self-knowledge” appears just four times in The Big Book. In the chapter “More About Alcoholism” the authors write, “the actual or potential alcoholic, with hardly an exception, will be absolutely unable to stop drinking on the basis of self-knowledge.” Later on in the chapter, they recount the story of a man named Fred who felt that for his problem of alcoholism, “Self-knowledge would fix it.” After Fred finally gets sober, he reflects that he “saw that willpower and self-knowledge would not help in those strange mental blank spots.” The strange mental blank spots Fred refers to are those moments of what many alcoholics call “insanity”. When, despite repeated lessons and consequences, even after months of sobriety, the alcoholic returns to pick up the drink, thinking that they will be able to have just one.

Self-knowledge is a big part of treatment and recovery. Through the therapeutic process in treatment, we learn a lot about ourselves. Getting an in-depth understanding of who we are, why we are the way we are, and how we become who we want to be is priceless knowledge about the self. However, the knowledge itself is not enough. Simply knowing without doing will never be enough.

Reasons for Treatment

In her article titled, Why Self-Help Doesn’t Help Addiction Treatment, author DeAna Jordan explains four reasons why treatment for addiction outside of a treatment center is ineffective:

  • Addiction and the addicted mind are illogical
  • Addiction is complex with many layers
  • Being removed from one’s normal addiction environment is often necessary
  • Addiction is a block to connection

“Self-help methods are only effective when the participant can approach treatment logically, articulate the problem, dedicate time and mental energy to achieving the desired outcome,” she writes. “Effective addiction treatment,” she continues, “require a combination of detoxification, individual therapy, group therapy and aftercare support to address physical dependency, trauma, absence of connection and long-term abstinence, respectively.”


Part of recovery is learning how to (and the necessity of) ask for help. We know that you’re used to figuring things out on your own. You’ve felt alone for quite some time and the truth is, you’ve survived. Here at Refuge Recovery Center, we want you to know that you don’t have to do this alone. You’re not alone. For more information on our programs for addiction and alcoholism call 323-207-0276.


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