Sept. 19: There are many pathways to recovery – and only one proven solution

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Two days ago, I lost a friend to overdose. 

That’s a sentence I could have written dozens times over my time at Hope Recovery. I could also write of the thousand or so people I’ve met here who are still in recovery. They go to meetings, work a program of some kind and stay away from drugs and alcohol. Still, the losses mount and my heart gets broken.

There is one proven solution for quitting drug and alcohol use. It is 100% effective, with no relapse or reoccurrence worries at all. This solution guarantees the drinker or drugger will never, ever use again. Not only that, it is easily available to all who use, and for many is the ultimate goal of addiction—even if the drug or alcohol user isn’t ever consciously aiming toward it. This solution has no side effects for the user and requires nothing—no change in attitude nor behavior—it is completely effective.

The solution? The method? The unconscious goal?


Please, please, please, don’t follow that prescription and die. Please!

Instead. . . let’s look at alternatives.

In meetings of various kinds over the years, I’ve referred to myself and those around me as “lucky retired Russian roulette players,” and I think that’s accurate. When I used, whether swallowing pills, snorting powders of any kind, shooting meth or dope or drinking, I knew I was courting death, playing tag with eternity. 

I choose life today, but I couldn’t have made that transformation without a program of recovery, the support of recovering others—both in and out of my particular pathway—and a faith that life can be better, that the world can be better, that I can be better. Somehow, little by slowly, I came to believe and embody these goals. 

In the 16 years since I last took a drink or used any mind- or emotion-altering substances, I’ve been to a lot of different meetings. Some were in church basements. Some were in tiny cabins. Some were in classrooms or jails or around campfires or in homeless shelters. Some were Recovery Dharma meetings. Some were 12-step meetings. Some were SMART Recovery or All Recovery or Three Principles meetings. They all had, unspoken, the same message to me: we’ve found recovery from addiction and want to tread the path of life—you come too. 

I’ve been at Hope for New Hampshire Recovery five years now, but I’d never been involved with large-scale recovery before that. A sojourner, I’d experienced a lot over my previous years in recovery, but never a single space offering so many different ways to explore and experience recovery. In the time I’ve been at Hope, I’ve come, I like to think, to a deeper appreciation of these different pathways. Appreciation is not equal to understanding, of course, so my brief explanations below may be riddled with mistakes, large or small. If so, I’d ask folks with deeper understanding for patience and for a gentle explanation of where I’m wrong. Promise I’ll correct my mistakes in updates. 

Looking at the pathways offered at Hope, I’ll put them in alphabetical order to avoid any implication that some are better or more effective than others. I think practitioners of any of them would agree that no single program has a monopoly on the truth. As above, only death provides a guaranteed effective cure for addiction; here, we focus on ways to live, not on Russian roulette. In alphabetical order, and with advance apologies for any misunderstandings on my part, here are the pathways offered at Hope.

Recovery Dharma—As the name implies, Recovery Dharma uses Buddhist practices and principles to overcome addiction. Using traditional Buddhist teaching (dharma), meditation, the Four Noble Truths (suffering, the cause of suffering, the end of suffering and the path to the end of suffering) and living in community, Recovery Dharma provides a middle path to recovery. 

SMART (Self-Management and Recovery Training) Recovery—A completely secular program, SMART draws upon cognitive behavioral therapy and its emphasis on maintaining a locus of control, rational thinking and an understanding of stages of change. SMART views addiction as a dysfunctional habit rather than a disease, and helps members change their behavior by recognizing their power rather than their powerlessness.

Twelve Step Programs—Whether Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, Heroin Anonymous, Overeaters Anonymous or Al-Anon, all the Twelve Step groups draw upon the work of Bill Wilson in the book, Alcoholics Anonymous. Viewing alcoholism—and by extension other addictive or obsessive behaviors—as a disease that is physical, mental and spiritual, each with its own challenges and solutions. Twelve Step groups rely upon self-examination, self-exposure and a reliance upon a Higher Power of one’s understanding. An emphasis is placed on the importance of gathering with others in similar circumstances, prayer/meditation and development of a relationship with a trusted mentor or sponsor.

Hope also offers regular All Recovery meetings, a sort of ecumenical gathering of folks whose primary recovery pathway is elsewhere. These meetings don’t espouse any particular way to find recovery but offer encouragement and support to all.

Wherever you stand in your life journey, please, please, please know: if your drinking or drugging is causing problems, or if you’re afraid it might, help is available, help is free, help offers hope.

And Hope offers help. Come see us.


About this Author

Keith Howard

Executive DirectorHope Recovery

Keith Howard is Executive Director of Hope for NH Recovery and author of Tiny White Box