In mainstream addiction treatment throughout Canada, a popular idea is that it is pass/fail. Either a person successfully completes treatment and abstains from substances/alcohol or they return to using, having not learned anything at all (which is usually not the case, but that’s a tangent for another blog). Drug and alcohol treatment centres throughout Canada usually measure their success rates based on this concept. Success equals people who stay sober after treatment, while failure is those who return to substance use (also referred to as relapse).
Is There Any Problem With This Type of Measurement or Assessment?
This extreme way of viewing a person’s treatment experience reflects popular, ever-lasting black and white (or good vs. bad) attitudes towards people with addictions. These attitudes are unhelpful in helping people transcend past addictions. “Pass/fail”, “rehabilitated”, “relapsed” are all terms and ideas that continue to promote addiction as a black and white condition, which moralizes people’s behaviour and character in harmful, stigmatizing ways that can directly and indirectly prevent them from accessing support and working towards a live without problematic substance or alcohol use.
The other major problem is that most treatment centre success rates are not reliable. There are no national standards in Canada to create objective, across-the-board metrics for drug rehabilitation and alcohol treatment centres. This can be for a number of reasons, such as they performed data in-house (not through an objective, secondary organization), didn’t account for biases, used small study samples, received funding from organizations that present conflicts of interest and more. This is why we encourage people and families seeking for treatment to ask questions that look at more than just success rates.
Treatment of Drugs, Alcohol, and Other Addictions isn’t About Abstinence
It’s not that you shouldn’t assess how clients are doing in treatment and recovery. It’s questioning whether length of abstinence is an accurate, consistent indicator of successful recovery or, rather, if a person in recovery associates abstinence with improved quality of life.
Our leading non 12 step program stems from Viktor Frankl’s research and means we see addiction as a response to a lack of meaning in life, with substances and alcohol being used as replacements for this shortage.
For us, this means in order to overcome addiction, authentic personal meaning must exist. As Viktor Frankl noted, when personal meaning is achieved, abstinence is a by-product. In other words, when we find something that matches our values and is important and meaningful to us (in addition to other meaningful living principles), drugs, alcohols, or certain behaviours no longer perform their original role of providing meaning and intensity.
A Different Kind of Success Rate, a Different Kind of Drug Rehab and Alcohol Treatment Centre
At SCHC, we focus on qualitative reflection from our clients and alumni to measure the effectiveness of our drug rehab and alcohol treatment programs. That’s not to say that we ignore abstinence, it’s just not #1.
We ask questions like:
- Have you secured employment or transitioned into a more meaningful career? (If these areas were of issue)
- How are you relationships?
- How is your mental, emotional, and physical health? Have they improved, worsened, or remained the same?
These are just examples. There are many more areas that we look at. What’s important is that the responses our clients give us help to show how helpful and effective their stay with us was. It also allows us to see if we can direct more alumni support or offer additional treatment (another common and healthy part of the recovery process) towards clients who report areas of life that have not improved or worsened.
Why is This Better (for us)?
While we believe abstinence is a byproduct of a meaningful life, abstinence doesn’t necessarily meaning 100% refrain. For some, it may mean occasional drinks during important family events or milestones. Approaching recovery in this way, is not only realistic for many, but also less stigmatizing. Seeing the goal of recovery as maintaining a life that aligns with what’s important to you rather than how we you avoid alcohol or drugs has been much more effective for us.
Recovery is about getting on with the process of living. It’s not about being “recovered”, but about living well and flourishing. If you or a loved one is suffering from drugs, alcohol, or other addictions, contact us for a private consultation. Our Centre, based in Powell River, BC, treats men in a residential setting to work against drug, alcohol, and other forms of addiction.