This chapter has two main objectives. The first is to establish that three-quarters of all addicts recover on their own, or with minimal help. The second is to assure you that you are not powerless over your addiction. The men and women represented below weren’t powerless, and neither are you.
The evidence comes from published, peer-reviewed, scientific studies, and many of them are available to anyone with a computer. It would be impossible to present all of the studies supporting this contention in a book this size, so I’m providing some representative studies in this chapter, and many more in the appendix. These are multiple, repeatable, detailed studies, over several decades, documenting successful recoveries of men and women diagnosed with substance abuse or dependence, according to the guidelines of the American Psychiatric Association, (APA).
If we’re exploring “natural recovery,” it makes sense for us to begin by defining what it is that people are naturally recovering from. The APA publishes a reference volume called the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, or DSM. They release a new one every few years, and the current one is the DSM-IV. It is by no means a perfect document, but it represents a consensus view of the criteria for diagnosing the various disorders it covers.
We need a benchmark, a ruler, a set of criteria, so we’re all speaking the same language throughout the rest of the book. The DSM, as imperfect as it is, will at least provide that set of criteria. It separates people into three distinct, mutually exclusive categories’: no substance abuse disorder, substance abuse only, or substance dependence. The DSM treats substance abuse disorders as a continuum, (like a volume control), varying from no abuse to severe dependence, based upon the number and relative severity of the criteria that are present. The following is quoted from the DSM-IV:
|DSM-IV Substance Abuse Criteria:Substance abuse is defined as a maladaptive pattern of substance use leading to clinically significant impairment or distress as manifested by one (or more) of the following, occurring within a 12-month period:
|DSM-IV Substance Dependence Criteria:Substance dependence is defined as a maladaptive pattern of substance use leading to clinically significant impairment or distress, as manifested by three (or more) of the following, occurring any time in the same 12-month period:
Not all addicts display all of the criteria, not even the most severely addicted. For instance, although I exhibited almost all of the other criteria for substance dependence and abuse, I never had any legal problems related to my drinking, nor did I ever try to cut down or quit.