The Recovery Alternatives. Going on the OffensiveAgainst Alcoholism.

Ready to get better? Then you need recovery alternatives. No two situations are the same, and one size does not necessarily fit all. The disease of alcoholism is an ominous foe, but

it absolutely can be defeated.

There are definite stages of alcoholism, and where you fall in this continuum will determine the recovery alternatives to consider.

As a recovering alcoholic myself, I know the game. Most of us play it. It took me a lot of years and three trips to Alcoholics Anonymous to recover from this disease.

I don't remember exactly when I made my first resolution to quit drinking. I was probably in my twenties. It would have been on one of those horrible mornings when I woke up, head pounding, piecing together memories of the night before, wanting to crawl under a rock from the humiliation and shame.

"That's it! I've had it. No more drinking for me," I'd say.

But we know how long that lasted. Three days seemed to be my magic number. Someone would push a beer my way, and I'd pop the top and be off and running again - until the next time I swore it off.

During those years when I should have been considering recovery alternatives,

I chose to believe that there was only one recovery option for me: Resolve to quit drinking and do it on my own. I just needed more willpower.

A Hut in a Hurricane

Match up the Disease of Alcoholism against Willpower, and the Disease of Alcoholism will kick butt every time!

The Hut and the Hurricane

Here's an analogy for you. Think of your Willpower like a beach hut with no real foundation except the sands of the sea. Now imagine the Disease of Alcoholism like a Category Five Hurricane crashing onto the shore where that beach hut sits. What would happen to your Willpower??

Relying on your own willpower is simply not an option. But the good news is there are lots of other recovery alternatives available.

recovery alternatives

So What Are Your Recovery Choices?

First, consider whether you can "start small". A doctor would not consider a heart transplant at the first sign of chest pains. Likewise, you may not need an inpatient treatment program. Hundreds of alcoholics, including myself, commit to meetings of Alcoholics Anonymous to recover from this disease. The success of this program relies squarely on how diligent you are in your meeting attendance and willingness to work through the Twelve Steps.

So what's my favorite of all the recovery alternatives? Alcoholics Anonymous.

Because most residential treatment programs are A.A. focused, chances are you'll land there anyway once your treatment program ends and you need ongoing support.

Find a good Home Group. This is A.A.'s term for the group you attend most of the time. It is, just as it says, your HOME. Hopefully, it will become your Home Sweet Home, your Home Away From Home, and the people will become like your Family. This is the experience for most A.A. members.

Other recovery alternatives include various types of professional help. The first step for all alcoholics seeking treatment is to have a complete physical assessment by a medical doctor. He or she will advise you from there.

This should include a psychiatric assessment. Doctors will want to be sure there are no other psychological factors at work in conjunction with alcoholism.

You may need hospital detox before any further treatment can take place. You will have round-the-clock supervision and care which in many cases is absolutely necessary.

Many hospitals have prior arrangements with certain treatment facilities to transfer patients following detox. Remember, though, that this is your life and your recovery, and you do have choices.

Other recovery alternatives to consider are whether to seek treatment in a residential treatment facility or on an outpatient basis.

Obviously, a residential program is more controlled and intensive. Most are known as Minnesota Model treatment programs. They usually require a 10-to-28-day inpatient stay emphasizing 12-Step recovery. Examples are Hazelden Center in Minnesota and the Betty Ford Center in California.

There are also many good Christian inpatient programs or religious treatment centers, some that do not espouse the classic Twelve Steps (even though the Steps are based on biblical principles), but rather principles and teachings from the Bible.

My Experience with Recovery Alternatives

In 1995 when I got sober, I did not go to a residential treatment facility against advice from my doctor. As it turned out, I was able to recover with outpatient care and lots of meetings of Alcoholics Anonymous. There again, it was my choice.

The recovery alternatives that were offered to me were:

  • Residential Treatment
  • Outpatient Counseling with an Addiction Specialist
  • Alcoholics Anonymous
  • The medication, Naltrexone*

    (*By the way, I did not stay on this drug for long. It is designed to reduce cravings for alcohol, but for me I chose to hang on to the spiritual aspects offered in A.A.'s Twelve Steps, and that was all I needed. The Power of God runs deep, after all! Besides, the medication made me feel dizzy and "drugged", the very feeling I was trying to avoid. This is not to say that Naltrexone is not a good recovery option for you. It just wasn't for me.)

Counseling: An Excellent Recovery Choice

While attending meetings of Alcoholics Anonymous (giving my best shot at 90 meetings in 90 days), I continued to see a psychologist specialized in addictions therapy. I was fortunate to have the insurance and financial resources to see her twice a month for nine months. I had the most wonderful counselor who had the uncanny ability to hardly say a word. I seemed to do all the talking, and she was somehow skilled at drawing out just what I needed to say and feel to move through the grief process. 

Grief Process??

Yes, that's exactly what it was. Alcohol was my reliable friend and the love of my life for many, many years. It was only toward the end that it started to turn on me. I had to grieve the loss in order to get to a place where I could accept that I could never drink again.

Of course, my counselor and I talked about other things that had happened in my life. I had, in fact, suffered many, many losses - the death of both my parents and my grandmother to whom I was very close. I had gone through one divorce and was at this time separated and about to go through the loss of this marriage relationship as well. But the most devastating of all was the loss of my children who were taken from me in a custody fight. Even though I picked them up each and every weekend that I was allowed, it was still something I had not grieved or dealt with. I buried all this pain, sadness, anger and shame under layers and layers of alcoholic numbness. Alcohol effectively deadened the pain, and with the help of a counselor, I was feeling it all, alcohol-free, for the first time in my life.

So . . . If you are considering your recovery alternatives, do think about seeing a psychologist along with whatever treatment option you choose. 

The Best Recovery Websites

Other Options 

For Your Information Only 
and not necessarily recommended by me

  • Rational Recovery (RR)

    Another A.A. alternative, also founded in the late 1980's. This organization does not believe that total abstinence or a belief in a higher power is necessary for recovery. If you've read much of the content on my website, you know how I feel about this philosophy. They even have a book called The Small Book, a take-off on A.A.'s "handbook" affectionately called "The Big Book" by A.A. members. Let's move on...
  • SMART Recovery (Self Management And Recovery Training)

    This program also does not have a spiritual foundation. It teaches self-reliance rather than powerlessness and that the ability to control drinking rests on the alcoholic's self-honesty and determination.
  • Women For Sobriety (WFS)

    A program strictly for women with addictions that helps women develop feelings of value and self-worth through self-care, positive-thinking strategies and affirmations.

Celebrate Recovery (CR)

CR is a Christian twelve-step recovery program and something for Christians to consider when looking at recovery alternatives. The program was developed by a recovering alcoholic named John Baker in conjunction with Rick Warren, the pastor of Saddleback Church in California. The program has spread throughout churches all across the U.S. and the world. I have had the privilege of being involved in this program both as a participant and as a leader. In 2006, I was blessed to be able to attend the annual "Summit" at Saddleback Church. That was an experience I will never forget.

My personal opinion is that Celebrate Recovery and my recommended starting point, Alcoholics Anonymous, are most effective for alcoholics. Of all the recovery alternatives,

AA and CR have made a lasting and meaningful imprint on my life and my recovery. They have truly given me a new life.

Part of that new life has been to realize that alcoholism recovery requires a complete and sustained lifestyle change. That was more than I could fathom in the beginning, so I took it one day at a time. I could not imagine going a lifetime without a drink of alcohol. What about special occasions, vacations, holidays . . . Friday nights?!

As it turned out, I just had to change my thinking on the matter. I could imagine going TODAY without a drink of alcohol, so that's what I worked on. Just today. Pretty soon, I had strung together a bunch of "Todays", days that even included special occasions, vacations, holidays - and Friday nights! 

This is a wonderful website. It's worth a visit!

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READ MORE: Treatment Information

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READ MORE: Fun In Sobriety 

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