For many years people believed the way to cure an alcohol addiction was to remove the drink from the alcoholic by having them enter a detox clinic, then overcome the addiction by sheer willpower alone.
Those who could not beat the addiction in this way were considered weak and were often shunned by the community. Some were even admitted to mental institutions where they had to share space with people suffering from schizophrenia and other mental illness.
Recovering from alcohol addiction, however, requires more than only willpower. It is now recognised as a brain disease that affects the person physically, mentally and spiritually, and modern alcohol rehabilitation facilities understand that the best results for patient’s sobriety are achieved through approaching treatment holistically. This will empower alcoholics to regain control of their lives.
One can say that this change in approach was accelerated in 1949 when Hazelden had its beginning. This was only one of a number of alcohol rehabilitation facilities that started out as a guest house that offered a haven to addicts, but it soon revolutionised the way in which many alcohol rehabilitation facilities approach the treatment of this addiction. In fact, their specific approached flowered into the prevailing method of treating addiction: The Minnesota Model.
The idea behind the creation of Hazelden was to provide a humane and therapeutic community for alcoholics and addicts. It started out small and the programme offered was basic – addicts were required to behave responsibly, attend lectures on the Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous, talk with other patients, make their bed and stay sober.
While it doesn’t sound like much, these simple rules were based on a wealth of clinical wisdom. People addicted to alcohol can be secretive, self-centered, and filled with resentment. Instead, Hazelden’s founders insisted that patients attend to the details of daily life, tell their stories, and listen to each other. The aim was to help alcoholics shift from a life of isolation and self centeredness to a life of dialogue and being open to sharing their collective experience to benefit each other. This led to a heartening discovery: Alcoholics and addicts connect in a way that few can.
The shared experience of having struggled with alcoholism, and despite their best intentions, all the willpower they could muster and not inferior intelligence, alcoholics could not stay sober on their own. When banded together, sharing honestly with each other about their struggles, they allowed another force, a higher power to enter their relationships and with this new found power flowing into their lives were able to change their behaviour. In AA (Alcoholics Anonymous) it’s often said, ‘Bring the body and the mind will follow.’ The culture and language used in AA is essentially CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy) and it costs substantially less, in fact it’s free of charge.
Alcoholics in AA are self supporting, passing a hat around at the end of each meeting to raise money for rent and coffee. Who’s ever heard of self supporting alcoholics! AA is an amazing organisation.
The AA meeting rooms are full of sharing their experience of what’s “worked” for them, their strength gained through getting honest with another alcoholic and the hope that as long as they follow some simple guidelines outlined in the 12-steps they need never drink again. Any addictions counsellor or other mental health professional would quickly realise that 12-step meetings are full of quality cognitive and behavioural interventions, nicely wrapped up in the cloak of a ‘suggestion’.
It’s important to understand that AA is a fine tool used in conjunction with individual and group therapy, not a replacement for professional services found in Alcohol Rehabilitation Facilities.
For free advice and information on the leading private alcohol rehabilitation facilities, contact We Do Recover. We have the necessary expertise to help you choose the treatment centre that will be best suited to your needs.
South Africa: 082-74-REHAB (73422)
UK Freephone: 0808-26-REHAB (73422)