Personal Views Page

(This page will carry from time to time the personal views of some of our members on issues which they believe are important in the recovery process. Our present policy is that these authors will remain anonymous and will be limited to members of the Washington, D.C. Area SMART groups. They do not necessarily reflect positions either of the Washington, D.C. Area SMART groups, nor its National Headquarters. Comments are welcomed.)

Recovery is Not a Four-Day Course

As a general rule, I favor a policy of not criticizing other alternative (to AA, that is) programs for recovery from drugs and alcohol. I favor this approach for two reasons: first, there are few of us around anyway to face the overwhelming force of AA claiming to be the only road to recovery, and we need to nurture virtually all non-AA forms for this reason. Second, our very philosophy suggests that there is no one single road the recovery for everyone, and therefore different approaches can work for different people.
There are some exceptions to this rule. Obviously, if we favor a sensible rational approach to recovery, we cannot endorse or support quack claims claiming mystic or irrational means to recovery (a good example would be, say, using the signs of the Zodiac). Another is our need to reject the "quick fix" approach, regardless of the philosophy which might underpin it. If you believe, as we do, that recovery is essentially a process which requires changing habits acquired over years, perhaps decades, then acquiring the new behaviors will require a considerable investment of effort over an extended period of time.
So I reluctantly conclude that Rational Recovery's latest philosophical turn, particularly since they will now be holding a seminar later this month in our area, deserves a passing salvo. Their brochure I have in my hand flatly promises "Complete recovery from addiction to any substance in less than one week." The brochure goes on to put an exclamation point on this approach by identifying "recovery groups as a prime cause of insecurity," saying attendance at these is to be discouraged.
It seems to me that, while there may be an insignificant few who actually could recover from addiction in a matter of days---maybe Bill Wilson having his blinding vision in 1935 is an example---the overwhelming bulk of those with an addiction will require much, much more time. Recovery groups---I would call them self-help groups and not support groups---can provide a highly useful tool for recovery during this period. While sharing RR's skepticism about spending a lifetime of recovery in them, a la AA, I don't doubt their usefulness for an extended period of time after the individual stops (or even is attempting to stop) using.
Having taken the matter this far, I will much more reluctantly add a few more reasons why I think RR is no longer particularly helpful for those seeking a recovery path in a non-12 Step program. RR has become pre-eminently a business proposition, rather than a mutual self-help organization. The course I mentioned above sells for $1,800, and a perusal of RR's site on the Internet will quickly reveal further aspects of its commercialism. While I do not denigrate people trying to make a buck, it seems to me that the advantage our and others' (i.e., SOS, WFS, and many others) non-profit volunteer approach has is that it is by definition motivated by the desire to help people recover, with no other goals to confuse those looking for help.
I also have considerable doubts about a program which emphasizes The Addictive Voice (copyrighted!) to the exclusion of every other motivational factor. It seems to me that, as SMART Recovery emphasizes, there are a lot of irrational thoughts and beliefs circulating within our heads, with irrational thoughts of using only one component part, albeit a highly significant one. We prefer to deal with the whole chorus of irrational "voices," which we call irrational beliefs and thoughts. It also seems to me that, in this connection, exclusive emphasis on the Addictive Voice and the simplistic neurological analysis (the "Structural Model") which accompanies it, very much puts RR in the same category as its hated opponent AA---suggesting that alcohol addiction is a physical disease. It seems to be saying, like AA, that addiction is a medical and not a psychological problem. In doing so, RR has by and large taken the "rational" part out of recovery.
In conclusion, let me repeat that these comments are made with great reluctance, because we all know that there are many roads to recovery and the RR program has some useful elements which can help successful recovery. But everyone should know---including those using the Addictive Voice---that the struggle to break free of habits ingrained for years and decades is a difficult one requiring something more than a few days' attention.

This is Essay No. 9, issued March, 1999.

Previous Essays

January, 1999--SMART Recovery in a Nutshell

November, 1998--Other Roads to Recovery

September, 1998--How I Re-Thought My Beliefs on My "Alcoholism"

July, 1998--Why Do People Join SMART Recovery?

May, 1998--A Critique of PBS' Bill Moyers on Addiction

March, 1998--Should People With Gambling or Overeating Disorders Be Welcome At SMART Meetings?

January, 1998--Differences Between SMART and AA

November, 1997--Fifty Ways to Recover

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