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All or Nothing: Complete Abstinence in Recovery

In recovery from addiction, “Just having a few” is not okay

Too often, one of the biggest problems facing a person in recovery is experienced when they get too confident in their sobriety. Many begin to believe that they are “cured”, and that they now have the strength to have a couple of drinks or use just a little of their drug of choice without worrying about backsliding into their old mindset and way of living. Nothing could be further from the truth.

The program at Best Drug Rehabilitation is designed to give our patients a strong foundation in recovery, with the tools they need to face life head-on without resorting to using drugs or alcohol. Our patients discover a sense of confidence in themselves and in their recovery, with the understanding that they have a personal responsibility in their continued sobriety.

In absolutely no way does this mean that our program has “fixed” or “cured” them. For a person in recovery, the idea that they can have “just a few” is not their strength and resolve giving them power over their addiction. It is their addiction talking to them, trying to take control over their minds and lives again. Complete abstinence is the only path to take in overcoming addiction and staying clean and sober.

There is also the idea that a person can use a different drug than the one that they might have had an addiction to. For example, a person might say, “Well, as long as it’s not heroin, I can smoke pot and I’ll be okay.” But, marijuana is a mood-altering drug, and using it or any other drugs can and will lead the person back to a full-blown addiction. The simple fact is, while they might have been addicted to heroin, cocaine, meth or alcohol when they got treatment, their addiction is not restricted to just that one substance. Addiction is, in large part, a result of an uncontrollable desire to “escape from reality”, and in that aspect, any drug will do.

The Science Behind Abstinence

An analysis of a 2014 Addiction Health Evaluation and Disease Management study, conducted by the Department of Community Health Services at Boston University’s School of Public Health, found an association between marijuana use and the ability to abstain from the use of other drugs. In short, the results showed that using marijuana led to a 27% increase in the odds of a person in recovery going back to heavy drug or alcohol use. And marijuana isn’t the only culprit.

Often, heroin users who quit without treatment attempt to find some solace in alcohol. It seems to help stave off the cravings and, at least for a while, keeps them from using. This is because of the similarities between the effects of alcohol and heroin on the brain. Both of these substances affect the neurological pathways in the brain that regulate the flow of dopamine, a chemical that, in large doses, gives the user feelings of pleasure, euphoria and sedation. In fact, all addictive substances affect dopamine levels in the brain, but none are as similar in their effects and processes as alcohol and heroin.

But, ask any drug abuser who has tried this method, and almost without exception, you will find that this did not work and that eventually they went out and used again. Drug replacement in recovery doesn’t actually address the causes of addiction, but rather tries to “fix” the symptoms. This is true even in the medical world, when doctors or clinics prescribe other drugs to treat addiction, such as methadone or buprenorphine.

Clean Living: Completely Removing Substance Abuse From Our Lives

In order to remain on the path to recovery, it is critical that a person abstain completely from using any drugs or alcohol at all. There must be a complete lifestyle change. Often, this means that a person can’t hang out at the same places with the same people that they were hanging out with before. For many, this may require completely removing themselves from that environment. Many of the patients that come to Best Drug Rehabilitation for help in overcoming their addictions move to a different town or even a different state after they have graduated our program. But, above all, the patient must understand that “just having a few” is never going to be okay. Complete abstinence is the only option for a person in recovery to stay clean, sober and free from addiction.

The recovery program at Best Drug Rehabilitation is designed to help our patients discover the strength and abilities that they hold within to remain free from the bonds of addiction after they graduate from our treatment center. Understanding that there is much more to recovery than just getting clean, we help them to address the underlying causes of their addictive behaviors. Beginning with a thorough detox process under medical supervision, we show our patients that they have the ability to solve problems in their lives without depending on drugs or alcohol. We help them to discover that they can lead a healthier and more productive lifestyle with the promise of a brighter and more fulfilling future.


  • Angie

    I completely agree with this article. Full abstinence is needed to keep yourself clean and sober. If you have an addictive personality, just “having a few” or “having one” can really hurt you, a “few” once turns into a “few” again, and then again, and before you know it, your addiction is in full swing. You need to commit to great after-care. This means that any time you feel any temptation, you need to turn to whatever support group you have available to help you stay in recovery. In order to live your life to your fullest potential, it is very important that you stay clean and sober. So if you are feeling the desire to just “have one”, locate your local support groups and try to stay away from whatever your addicted to.

  • Amanda

    I agree with the Best Drug Rehabilitation view on abstinence. If a person is having a hard time or has been addicted, then I do believe that the best way is staying away from something that could suck them right back in. There is no reason to temp fate at that point, especially after such a battle to get clean in the first place. Life should be about your loved ones and your passion and mixing drugs and alcohol into that can ultimately take it all way. I think think that a place like the Best Drug Rehabilitation center has the right idea in getting a person sober and keeping them that way.

  • Walter

    I completely agree with this. I am a firm proponent to the total abstinence programs. I do not believe that substituting one drug for another will really do anything to help the situation, as at the end of the day, they are still addicted to a substance. It is also very true that completely removing yourself from the triggers that will set you into another phase of addiction is the most important step in my opinion. I have seen to many people give me the “it’s only a few” excuse, and many of those people wound up having the same problems that pushed them to drugs in the first place, because by having those “few” they put that many triggers back into their present environment.

    The only way I can see them staying off is to totally change their behaviors and then lead them to having substance free life.

  • Jonathan

    It is quite shocking how some people can have this idea of “well I have been sober for a while, it won’t effect me to have another one”. It is your life that you are trying to turn around and if you are going to make a drastic change in your life, go for broke in doing so, so that you are able to really make a change a positive one at that, in your life.

    I understand the idea of trying to replace one thing with another but just looking at it from a complete exterior viewpoint, if you are trying to get clean from one substance, what sense does it make to exchange your current addiction for something else. That just puts tacit consent into play and will make it likely for you to be “ok” with trying other things. Now you end up with a situation that is worse than what you started with.

    The point that the article goes over about changing the environment is probably one of the most key points that a person has to do when making any change in their life, not only in addiction. For example: if a person is trying to get out of a gang and stop stealing and doing other criminal things, the best thing would be to move out of that area, that way they aren’t near that group and aren’t tempted with doing those actions.

    I love the way this program works as it restores the person’s self determinism to make survival decisions on their own. Thus leaving them to live prosperous lives.

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