Challenging the Expectation of Failure
History is helpful to us in many ways. We can learn from what hasn’t worked as we continue to pursue solutions, for example. Our ‘failures’ can point us in new directions if we use them as ‘research’ rather than reasons to stagnate or give up. Like Edison said before finding his famous solution: I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work. That’s a good lesson for addiction treatment and recovery. That we need to keep looking has been clear for a very long time.
The Concept of Failure in Recovery
We’ve been burdened with expectations of failure in addiction treatment and recovery. We have thought addiction to be an incurable disease, and we have accepted relapse as a reasonable expectation. On both sides of the clinical fence, we have accepted poor results as the best results possible.
With good intentions and hard work, we thought ourselves to be realistic. We believed we were confronting the illness head on, staying ahead of denial and complacency, and doing the right things. Sometimes they were the right things for the right people and so we kept at it. You’d be hard-pressed to find a more earnest, diligent or hardworking group of people mobilized around a single cause anywhere.
However, despite best efforts, we sadly expected our most common treatment practices to fail 50% of the time. Lots of people left treatment early not equipped even for short term sobriety. Many never made it from detox into a treatment program. Or, people relapsed--unable to sustain sobriety past a few months. Naturally, everyone hoped that each and every treatment episode would be the last, but it wasn’t, not by a long shot, and not for many, many people. Tragically, we resigned ourselves to maybe this time it will work and maybe it won’t. This has long been the best prognosis programs have to offer, and the most addicts and their loved ones could hope for.
Healing Our Vision of Treatment and Recovery
We’ve long known that those exposed to another’s addictive illness become vulnerable to many forms of distress. Family members suffer immensely when living with their addicted loved ones, for example. The illness wears them down, altering their worldview, health, beliefs and behavior. It’s very possible that our treatment paradigms, along the way of our best efforts, have also been affected by the nature of the illness, too.
If we look at the bigger picture, we can find evidence of it. For example, the expectation of failure is a powerful dilemma in addiction and recovery. It echoes what active addiction ‘tells’ us: even though you want to stop using, you have to continue. I am in charge, you’re not.
Unfortunately, there are other parallels between the illness and a paradigm that gave us poor overall results.
Some of these are:
• Feelings of helplessness and hopelessness—we’ve come to expect relapse and the revolving rehab door phenomenon.
• Attempts to control the problem rather than resolve it—we’ve focused on remission and symptom management rather than upon a full and sustained recovery.• Compulsive repetition of the same strategies even when they don’t work—even though individuals weren’t helped with a particular treatment approach, it has been offered again and again if they continue to seek help.
• Projection of blame and shaming—just as active addicts dodge responsibility, we have historically assumed unsuccessful treatment and relapse to be the addict’s fault, not the inadequacy of treatment methods. Relapsing addicts were shamed instead of successfully treated.
Getting Back to Solutions
A paradigm shift has been sorely needed in addiction treatment and recovery for a long time. People have been desperate for better help and greater hope. Treatment philosophies needed a new perspective and a broader view. Methods needed greater flexibility and a more penetrating, long lasting effect. In short, we needed to seal up the cracks through which far too many have fallen and continue to fall.
That’s happened at the Sanctuary at Sedona, and it continues to evolve, not satisfied with sitting still. From the bottom up, the traditional paradigm has been transformed through a new perspective and new methods:
• Addiction is not an incurable disease. Full recovery is possible.
• What you receive here is not available anywhere else.
• Integrated, intensive and multidisciplinary interventions address every addiction-involved system of an individual’s life.
• Methods incorporate science-based fact, methodology and technology.
• Treatment plans flex daily to target changing needs.
• The underlying causes of addiction are resolved.
• People are prepared to establish and sustain a healthy, substance-free lifestyle without expectations of failure.
Dean Taraborelli: He is the Founder, Administrator, Counselor at the Sanctuary at Sedona. He has a BA in Political Science and is currently Senior teaching staff at Four Winds Society, an international school of energy medicine. His credentials also include being an Ordained Minister; a Certified Shamanic Breathwork® Facilitator; a Founding Member Society for Shamanic Practitioners; a Member of Association for Comprehensive Energy Psychology; a Member of National Institute for Holistic Addiction Studies. Dean has traveled extensively to sacred sites in over 60 countries to study world mythology, religion, spirituality, wisdom traditions and indigenous healing and wellness practices.