Addiction is the only disease in which the primary symptom of the disease is that it tells you that you don’t have a disease. Its goals are to continue the cycle of using and to isolate the individuals to avoid the shame, embarrassment, and humiliation of having others see them at their worst. And, hence, perpetuating the abuse of substances. While trapped in the obsession of using, all semblance of life balance and structure is destroyed and the individuals’ lives become ones of chaos and destruction.
Addiction study data, and personal experience, have shown that success rates in addiction recovery increase with a focus on the components of Time, Community, and Structure. An individual who accrues an initial 2 years of Time in the recovery process – defined as sustained, uninterrupted abstinence from mind-altering substances – is 66% more likely to remain abstinent over their life time. (NAIDA, May 2011). Also well accepted is that when an individual is accumulating Time in a Community – defined as a group or groups of peers who are working together towards a common purpose – it further reduces the recidivism rate for that individual. This has been demonstrated in the Oxford House Living Model, 12 Step Fellowships and other Peer Recovery Communities for many years. Further, when Structure – defined as goals, milestones, and accountability in a distinct program – is incorporated with Time and Community, it enriches the behavioral change required for long term recovery. Consistent examples of this are evident in our program as well as other intensive recovery curriculums.
My personal experience was that I needed 90 days of residential treatment and then another year and a half of sober living in a home with five other gentlemen who were engaged in the same program of recovery that I was. Who helped me when things were difficult. Who supported me through my challenges in early recovery. Who celebrated my successes. And who held me accountable to a structured, recovery-oriented life style. They instilled in me the philosophy that ‘together, we can overcome what individually we were incapable of’. The additional period in sober living provided me the Time that I needed to establish a consistent recovery program, the Community of others facing the same challenge to assist in my efforts – that kept me from feeling as though I was alone in my recovery, and the Structure to rebuild the life balance, accountability and personal responsibility that had been lost in the chaos of addiction. I am not sure that I would have been successful without that experience. The acute treatment experience was important, necessary. It stemmed my drug and alcohol use in an environment that separated me from the ability to use in the early period when the cravings and obsession were at their worst. It gave me the opportunity to talk through my issues and feelings with a clinical professional. But the most substantive part of the recovery process began when I left the clinical environment and had the opportunity to apply the things I was taught in treatment. Time, Community and Structure were ultimately the components that provided me the long term, sustained recovery that I enjoy today. And I continue to incorporate those facets into my everyday life to ensure that I keep my disease of addiction in remission.
Paul L. Scudo is the Executive Director of Step Denver and is in recovery from the disease of addiction.