- What is the Abstinence Model?
- How To Define The Abstinence Model
- Advantages Of The Abstinence Model
- Unrestricted Personal Autonomy
- Maintenance Of Personal Rhythms
- Faster Recovery Journey
- Disadvantages Of The Abstinence Model
- High lihood Of Relapse
- The Abstinence Violation Effect (AVE)
- Not Addressing Root Causes Or Underlying Problems
- Alternatives To The Abstinence Model
- 12-Step Programs
- Outpatient Therapy
- Harm Reduction Treatment
- How To Determine If The Abstinence Model Is Right For You
- Abstinence vs. Moderation – SMART Recovery
- Why abstinence?
- When will I be ready?
- Is abstinence the only way?
- How do I make the commitment?
- What if I lapse or relapse?
- What can I expect?
- Will the urges go away forever?
What is the Abstinence Model?
In recovery circles, you might hear the term “abstinence model.” The abstinence model implies that a person stops using any and all substances. Some treatment centers might require abstinence. Even prior to getting treatment. Some people might be able to swing that. But what about the rest of us?
In this article, you will learn:
- How to define the abstinence model
- Advantages of the abstinence model
- Disadvantages of the abstinence model
- Alternatives to the abstinence model
- How to determine if the abstinence model is right for you
How To Define The Abstinence Model
Merriam-Webster defines abstinence as, “the practice of abstaining from something: the practice of not doing or having something that is wanted or enjoyable.” To abstain means, ”to choose not to do or have something: to refrain deliberately and often with an effort of self-denial from an action or practice.”
You decide to quit. You quit. You pull yourself up by your bootstraps. Dig your way out. You make a plan. You stick to the plan. You succeed. All you need is some willpower. Seems easy, right?
For some people, the abstinence model might work. Let’s explore a few advantages of the abstinence model.
Advantages Of The Abstinence Model
Perhaps you can muster the strength. Perhaps abstinence lies within your grasp. If you can abstain alone.
Let us explore a few advantages of the abstinence model. Advantages include:
- Unrestricted personal autonomy
- Maintenance of personal rhythms
- Faster recovery journey
Unrestricted Personal Autonomy
Let’s face it. Most forms of treatment demand a lot. You have to surrender. Your time. Your schedule. Maybe even your money. Who wants to give all that?
The abstinence model has no restrictions. Or rather, it only places those restrictions which you set for yourself. You’ve decided that it’s time to quit. And so, you quit. You’re an adult. As such, you make your own choices about your life.
Maintenance Of Personal Rhythms
Your life has a rhythm to it. ly several rhythms. You have patterns and routines in place. And you’ve set them exactly as you want them. Treatment plans interrupt those rhythms. Providers ask you to put new rhythms in place. Rhythms that you must agree to in order to participate in recovery.
But adhering to the abstinence model lets you have the final say-so. You elect where and when your life’s obligations are.
Faster Recovery Journey
You don’t have weeks and months to spend trying to recover. You know best. If you can wake up tomorrow and quit, do it. Today was the last day. This time was the last. Tomorrow, you’re done. It’ll be a new day. Your recovery will see completion.
Disadvantages Of The Abstinence Model
any recovery tool, the abstinence model has advantages. But it also comes with some distinct disadvantages. Disadvantages include:
- High lihood of relapse
- The abstinence violation effect (AVE)
- Not addressing root causes or underlying problems
High lihood Of Relapse
Success will vary from person to person. For some people, quitting cold turkey has potential. But relapse remains common. Even among those who seek treatment. In an abstinence-only model, you bear all responsibility. You provide all the resources.
But perhaps we shouldn’t trust in willpower alone. Recent research suggests that willpower might not be all we thought. How willpower works seems to vary on our motivations for using it. Abstinence might make for a noble endgame goal.
But the journey to abstinence involves more than one single decision.
The Abstinence Violation Effect (AVE)
Most recovery journeys don’t turn on a dime. Treatment providers expect those enrolled to struggle.
If everyone could simply choose to quit, why would we need treatment centers? The abstinence violation effect occurs when a person attributes their relapse to a personal moral failure. Typically, shame and guilt result.
In binge-eaters, AVE remained the most stable predictor of future relapse. In other words, people who felt the most responsible felt the worst. As a result, they tended to relapse faster.
Not Addressing Root Causes Or Underlying Problems
Substance use disorder (SUD) doesn’t occur in a vacuum. Granted, not everyone who uses drugs develops SUD. But often, SUD develops alongside a mental illness. Researchers refer to this as comorbidity. If you stop consuming a substance, you’ve done well. But abstinence isn’t the goal. In recovery, wholeness is the goal. Abstinence doesn’t make you whole. It doesn’t heal you by itself.
Alternatives To The Abstinence Model
For most people, the strengths of the abstinence model also comprise inherent weaknesses. Treatment models demand a lot of you. They set their standards quite high. But you’ll find that abstinence sets impossibly high standards. Therefore, familiarize yourself with alternatives to the abstinence model. Alternatives include:
- 12-step programs
- Outpatient therapy
- Harm reduction treatment
If you choose abstinence, at least don’t abstain alone. Seek the support of 12-step programs. 12-step programs Alcoholics Anonymous have been helping people for a long time. In these settings, you’ll at least have the company of others on a similar journey. Though AA and NA advocate for abstinence, they don’t require it.
Seek out a therapist or counselor. Make scheduled visits. If for nothing else, just to check-in. Even quarterly visits will help you continue your abstinence.
Harm Reduction Treatment
For many people, complete and total abstinence presents an impossibility. Harm reduction treatment works in degrees. Let’s say that last month, you consumed once a day. Every day. For thirty days. You enroll in harm reduction treatment. Thirty days after you begin treatment, you’ve only consumed twenty-five times. We call that progress. That’s how harm reduction treatment works.
How To Determine If The Abstinence Model Is Right For You
Abstinence may indeed work for some people. The severity of dependence seems a strong predictor of future relapse. Harmony Treatment And Wellness supports evidence-based treatment models. We’re here to help you recover. We offer treatment plans customized to fit your unique situation. No single treatment model works the same for everyone. But recovery is possible and hope is real.
Call Harmony today at 772-247-6180 for more information!
Abstinence vs. Moderation – SMART Recovery
This word “abstinence” can be an intimidating word to many, especially those in the early stages of recovery.
Your whole body may convulse saying, “I’ll do anything, just don’t ask me or tell me that I have to stop forever.” This is normal.
If this is how you feel, commit yourself to being open to new ideals and beliefs that may result in a healthier and more fulfilling lifestyle. Here are some answers to your questions.
What we know is that after one has developed a severe addiction, the simplest, easiest, safest and surest way to keep from repeating past behaviors is total abstinence. This is not to say one may not go thorough a period of “day at a time,” or “week at a time,” or even try a “harm reduction” approach.
Still, if you want the easiest way to minimize the problems in your life, go for abstinence eventually. It actually is much easier to just give it up entirely than punish yourself trying to moderate or control your addictive behavior.
Studies have shown that regardless of the method employed to become sober, the number one factor for sobriety success is a permanent commitment to discontinue use permanently; a commitment to abstinence.
When will I be ready?
Some of you are ready right now. You have experienced enough consequences in your life that no one needs to tell you that you are fed up with your addictive behavior. You just need some tools to help you.
If you are just starting your recovery program it may take time to make a decision on a commitment to abstinence before it is really firm in your heart. It needs to be something that you are really committed to and not just something you would to do.
Stick with the program and let the decision build in your heart. When you are ready, you’ll know it.
Is abstinence the only way?
Studies have shown that in some cultures there are a small percentage of people who can return to moderate drinking. Still, the chance of being successful is unclear.
Attempts at moderation may not be worth the effort or the risk when considering the consequences.
If your own life has been a mess because of your addictive behavior, why chance it? What has the empirical evidence in your own life been? Have you tried to moderate and not been successful? Then that’s your answer.
Abstinence may not be a realistic solution with some addictions, such as eating and in some cases sexual addictions. For these addictions moderation is the prescribed course of action. Even in these instances commitment to moderation is an important factor for success.
How do I make the commitment?
First of all, as mentioned earlier, don’t make a commitment until you are firm in your path to sobriety. Second, realize a commitment to sobriety is not a commitment to be forever perfect. Before you consider that to be a SMART Recovery®
license to relapse, it is not.
The reality for alcohol addictions, for example, is that people have an average of two and a half relapses in their ultimate turn to permanent sobriety. Many never have a relapse and that can be you.
A commitment to sobriety means that you are committed to a course of action, understanding that it is not an easy task and one that takes a great deal of patience, persistence and practice. You may be tempted and many succumb to the urges.
We are not perfect beings, we are fallible and breaking a commitment is not the same as giving up on one. A permanent commitment means we are committed to a course of action for the future and we will do every thing in our power to fulfill and maintain that commitment.
What if I lapse or relapse?
Learn from it and don’t beat yourself up. Ask what events led up to the lapse/relapse. Ask yourself what were the excuses you gave yourself to use and dispute them. Your commitment isn’t broken and you can renew your resolve.
If you do slip, the outcome does not have to be an experience without worth, it can be a powerful learning experience. It does not mean that you will repeat this behavior in the future.
Forgive yourself, learn from it and remember that a commitment applies to what we plan for the future.
When you are ready, say to yourself, “I am not going to use again!” Reinforce that commitment in any way possible and rational. One of the best ways is to remember why you are making the commitment.
The consequences of using should be remembered, not with a guilty conscience, but in a realistic portrayal of why you have chosen sobriety.
The addictive behavior just is not worth it anymore! Also to be remembered are the experiences and feelings that come from abstinence. A balance of both experiences has proven to be a powerful tool.
What can I expect?
If you continue to use, your past may dictate your outcome. A permanent commitment to abstinence means we no longer have to fight a battle with moderation; but rather devote ourselves to sobriety permanently.
Ours is a “no excuses” program, we are responsible for our decisions and behaviors; we have a choice. There is a feeling of freedom that results from this commitment where one does not feel hopeless or without choices. You know what our commitment is.
Combined with a consistent and aggressive disputing of urges to use, most find their messages to use either decrease to nothing or become infrequent and easily handled.
It may not be easy to see now, but your life can be restored to where you are in control, your addiction and the urges will recede to an unpleasant memory. You don’t have to live in a constant battle with these painful, nagging urges.
Will the urges go away forever?
Possibly, but one will benefit from being on guard for them, as they can reappear years later. Be ever vigilant, but ever hopeful and know that you can control your outcome; the choice is yours.
Originally authored by Michael Werner
Edited by a SMART Recovery Volunteer