When people talk about recovery from addiction, this usually implies that the individual has managed to get their life back on track. If things continue in much the same as they always were, then it would not be honest to describe the person as recovered. This is true even if that individual is no longer using alcohol or drugs. The most productive path that people can follow is towards complete freedom from addiction. This involves creating a life that is really worth living.
Generally speaking recovery from addiction refers to the situation where the individual is completely abstinent from a substance they formerly abused. Partial recovery could then imply that the individual is still using alcohol or drugs but has managed to significantly reduce the impact of these substances on their life. It can also be the case that an individual has managed to stop abusing a substance, but their life continues to be a mess. This is because there is much more to full recovery than just ceasing to use alcohol or drugs.
Harm reduction programs are an attempt to create some improvement in the life of the addict. The philosophy behind such projects is that some improvement is better than no improvement. Addiction not only harms the addict. On average, five other people who are close to them are also negatively affected. Just insisting that all of these individuals become abstinent is not an effective solution, because some of them are unlikely to ever achieve this. If people cannot be cured of their addiction, there are still things that can be done to reduce the harm caused by their behavior.
There are many examples of harm reduction programs, including:
* Safe injection sites for IV drug users
* Education programs to teach alcoholics about safer drinking practices
* Methadone clinics
* The provision of free nutritional supplements or substance abusers
* Free condoms to promote safe sex
* Wet shelters where alcoholics are allowed to drink alcohol in safety
* Bars providing a free ride home service to discourage drunk driving
* Alcohol harm reduction programs such as moderation management
* Legalization of soft drugs
There have been some criticisms leveled against harm reduction programs. The worry is that these could encourage further substance abuse. In reality, there is no evidence to suggest that such programs are harmful. Many substance abusers find that harm reduction gently guides them into full recovery from their addiction. This is because it gives them a taste of what is possible if they fully recovery from such damaging behavior.
When an alcoholic manages to give up alcohol but continues to live their life much as they always did, this is referred to as dry drunk syndrome. Such individuals can live their life away from addiction as if they were serving time in prison. Not only do they make their own lives miserable, but also the people who are close to them. It would therefore not seem appropriate to consider such individuals as fully recovered. Most people who experience dry drunk syndrome will only do so for a period of their recovery. Unfortunately, there are some individuals who never seem to be able to get beyond this stage.
Partial recovery is better than no recovery, but it is unlikely to mean that the individual’s problems are over. These are some of the dangers associated with only half-dealing with partial recovery:
* Moderating alcohol or drug use requires plenty of effort. Most substance abusers can manage to do this for months or even years at a time, but eventually they run out of steam. This means that they will eventually return to the full suffering of the addiction. Remaining abstinent becomes a habit and is easy to maintain. It is much simpler for the addict to quit the substance altogether than to try to moderate their usage.
* Many of the benefits of sobriety are only available if the individual completely escapes their addiction and puts effort into their new life. The ultimate payoff for sober living is complete serenity. This is the peace of mind that the addict was really looking for when they began abusing alcohol and drugs.
* Partial recovery could be considered partial misery. It is unfortunate that people are prepared to settle for less than what they could actually get.
* Those individuals who are dealing with dry drunk syndrome will probably continue to make life miserable for other people around them. It is unfair to continue to be a cause of suffering and worry to others.
Partial recovery does not need to be a final destination. Hopefully, it will give the individual a taste of what is possible if they fully commit to sobriety. These are useful steps for making the move to full recovery:
* The individual should try to spend time with other people who have made a success of full recovery. These individuals will inspire and be able to provide practical advice. Humans tend to be heavily influenced by the people in their life. This is why 12 Step groups recommend sticking with the winners.
* A recovery journal is a useful tool for charting progress towards full sobriety. At the start of this journal, the person can document their hopes and desires for the future. They can then chart their progress as they move towards fulfilling these dreams. People can get to know themselves much better when they allow the contents of their mind to pour out onto paper.
* Getting the help of an addiction therapist is another effective way to move into full recovery from addiction. This professional will be able to provide an honest appraisal of the current situation and guide the individual towards success.
* There is no requirement for people to be currently at rock bottom in order to benefit from rehab. It is even possible for people who have already quit alcohol or drugs to attend these facilities. This can be a good option if people are currently struggling in early recovery and feel that they need a bit of extra help.
* One of the real difficulties facing people with a partial recovery is that they may not even realize that they are settling for second-best. Such lack of insight is often a problem for those dealing with dry drunk syndrome. They fail to see that life could be so much better. It is recommended that people take an honest look at their recovery to see if they are heading in the right direction.