Why have an alternative to 12 Step if it helps so many people? Good question. It does help many people stop drinking and drugging, but it also has not helped countless others. The 12 Step approach is quite specific with its focus and quite narrow in its scope. Addiction is an intensely complex problem that needs a broader, more holistic approach. The Bio-Psycho-Social model of addiction brings just that – a broader, multidisciplinary approach to the treatment of one very complex problem.
There is no one-size-fits-all approach to treating addcition because everyone has different needs and different history and different personality constructs. The whole idea of a one-size-fits-all approach is very modern in its philosophical orientation, and our times have changed. Our world and our thinking is much more complex, with many more options, and new problems, that we’ve had to grow out of a modern way of thinking to a postmodern way of thinking. Life is not as simple as it was in the 50s, where a simple approach like the 12 Steps may have worked just fine. Life has changed, and so too has our problems. With this, we need to see the importance of more holistic approaches to life’s issues, and a broader understanding of our lives today.
The Bio-Psycho-Social (which will be referred to as BPS from now on) approach says there are biological reasons for addiction, psychological reasons, and sociological reasons as well. Taking this into consideration, we must attack this problem multidimensionally. We cannot just look at someone’s drinking, or drugging. We cannot just look at someone’s emotional life. We cannot just look at someone’s relationships. We need to look at all these major aspects of human life for some answers to our issues, whether they be addiction issues, or other life problems.
At the present time, it is still a mystery whether or not there are specific genes passed down that determine whether or not someone will develop a substance abuse problem. We do know that there are likenesses among the chemical makeup of people with addictions. We also know that we are chemical people, and that the chemical addiction can become quite strong for an addict. So whether it’s hereditary or not, doesn’t really matter. What matters is that we respect the fact that we have natural chemicals in our bodies and messing with that can become harmful. Also, not taking care of our physical bodies, can lead to relapse, as we may become fatiqued, stressed, or malnourished. Biological explanations can neither be worshipped, nor ignored.
For a long time, the focus on applying psychological principles to the problem of addiction, has been minimal, if not scarce. Because many have believed addiction to be a disease, the idea that some of our psychological construct might contribute to addiction has been missed.
A large percentage of the clients I see everyday have experienced either serious to severe abuse in their childhoods, or, at the very least, a problem of overall family dysfunction to the point of pain. It can easily be followed that these very individuals eventually turned subconsciously to drugs or alcohol to cope with, or adapt to, the inner pain they felt. Many people have “stuffed” their emotions, or found ways to block out their pain. These same people also developed irrational beliefs from the abuse and dysfunction since they were only children and did not know any other reality. It is to be followed, that one would need to look at the way they have processed emotions, and the way they have developed their core beliefs, in order to better understand themselves. When they better understand themselves, they can better deal with some of the reasons why they may be using.
We are also very social beings. Whether we hate society and groups of people, or find ourselves craving the attention of others, we are affected by people. One of the biggest “frustrators”, or stressors, for clients dealing with addictions, is their relationships. A bad argument, or relationship in general can leave one with a substance abuse very frustrated and exhausted at running into the same “wall,” taking them out to use.
We all see ourselves differently within the society which we are a part. Some identify as minorities, some as women, some as men, some as lower class, some as upper class, some as outsiders, some as different, some as special, and some as just being a part. How we see ourselves within the society around us has a very heavy influence on our self-esteem; and our level of self-esteem has a very heavy influence on the contribution to using substances in order to cope or adapt.
As we can see, life in general for human beings is complex. Substance abuse is complex. Therefore, the treatment and understanding of addiction should be complex, or multidisciplinary.
Again, it is not my point to put down 12 Step philosophy, but to express the need for this very effective alternative in an age of ever growing complexity. The 12 Steps have many helpful steps, and their overall focus of community is extremely important. There are though, some fundamental and philosophical problems with certain Steps, and I will go further into these as we go along.
Until then, let the idea of an alternative approach sink in for those of you looking for one.