The disease model of addiction is supported by The National Institute on Drug Abuse and the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism – two of the most scientifically backed, reputable, and medically renowned addiction-related organizations in the world. Numerous studies conducted on both humans and animals have repeatedly proven that critical brain structures and behaviors are severely interrupted (and eventually damaged) by repeated exposure to chemical substances. It has long-since been understood that drugs and alcohol effect crucial brain functions such as compulsion, control, memory, and inhibition. The process of these discoveries within a disease framework has lead to an increased ability to treat substance abuse disorders, and has resulted in a widespread and positive impact on public policy.
When it comes to addiction recovery, the vast majority of specialists and medical professionals suggest total abstinence. When Alcoholics Anonymous was first developed in 1936, it was developed as a program designed to stand on its own – an effective and exclusive method of treatment for those afflicted with alcoholism. Some individuals struggled with additional addictive disorders, and depending on the severity of their specific cases, they were encouraged to ‘dry out’ in the present equivalent of medical detox facilities. Still, the most important factor of Alcoholics Anonymous was maintaining total abstinence no matter what. Since then, significant evidence has been accrued pointing towards the chronic and relapsing nature of addiction. Alcoholics Anonymous is, today, the most commonly utilized and widely successful method of addiction recovery – internationally. Of course, what with the recent increase in the circulation of hard (and highly addictive) drugs – such as meth, painkillers, and heroin – medically monitored detox combined with an extended stay at an inpatient treatment center is often a crucial first step.
What I have found over the course of my own recovery is that I will always be an alcoholic on some level – but not in the way that I was. Not even close. Eventually, the obsession to use and to drink is truly lifted, and at that point in time, we can safely say that we are recovered. What does this mean? It means that our alcoholism is lying dormant, and so long as we stay spiritually fit and do what we know we need to do, we will not exemplify the emotional, mental, physical, and behavioral symptoms that once ruled our lives. I now feel as if I am a human being who chooses not to drink, rather than a ‘sober person’. I used to define myself by my sobriety alone – and of course I did, because I had no idea who I was. Now my life is full and rich and truly beautiful, and I would never risk all that I have gained to test the waters. What would be the point? I don’t need alcohol anymore. My reality is finally worth living.
Being an alcoholic no longer feels like a death sentence. In fact… it is nothing but a blessing.