Recovery from addiction to drugs and alcohol has gone through many era’s through the last century. Over the past decade, however, a few exciting things have happened. A shift from treatment for alcohol to an adoption of health, wellness, and fitness. A decline in college drinking and a rise in gym memberships. In addition, we are starting to see things like sober bars, sober gyms, sober nightclubs. Take Wildcrafters in Jacksonville, Florida for insta
nce. Looks like a bar, feels like a bar, drinks like an AA meeting with a hip crowd!
Why? Where is this all coming from? It's great that it is, but there are still a lot out there suffering. So, how can we draw on this movement and further impact a population that is still in dire need of help? In this article, I give a brief overview of the history of the views and treatment of addiction and how we have gotten to where we are today. I'll then close it up with a few words on my mission with my program Integrity Endurance and my Boca Raton-Palm Beach County, Florida based Coaching and personal training is contributing to the new movement of addiction (or not) in 2021.
The Dawning of Alcoholics Anonymous
Historically, treatment has always had a harrowing tone and ill fate attached. At First, came a punitive, social isolation approach and that spawned from religious abnegation and social castigation. Treatment came with great punishment and legislation. Then came the idea that it was a spiritual problem and at the same time a medicalization approach was dawning. The spiritual Groups took to prayer and moral-based lifestyle changes to address the problem. Other groups began seeing addiction as a disease with medical solutions. Neither of these groups thrived alone because some don’t connect as well with prayer and others can’t seem to grasp the notion of addiction being a biochemical process. So out of these roots came the Alcoholics Anonymous model, which modified the spiritual axiom while opening its doors to people who didn’t affiliate with a God at all but could stomach the medical approach. They still taught them to pray, just to a “God of our own understanding.” They applied the medicalization principles of disease by calling the ingestion, and subsequent aberrant behaviors, an allergy to alcohol and other mind-altering substances. Alcoholics Anonymous is by far the most prevalent and longstanding approach to drug and alcohol addiction. The principals seem to work so well that they are used to help people with sex addiction, eating addiction, shopaholics and so on and so on. There really is an AA for everything.
The privatization and institutionalization to AA and Rehab
A third variable that Alcoholics Anonymous tagged onto the addiction model has sociological flavor, and this helps us greatly in the present times. They saw that change is most likely to occur in a group context. This helped Alcoholics Anonymous spread like wildfire, but a downside came quickly when the medical field saw an opportunity. Unfortunately, it took a turn towards institutionalization in the 70’s and the construction of large rehab centers that taught and prescribed alcoholics anonymous through intensive therapy were erected. Good thing it wasn’t a complete paradigm shift because through the 80’s and 90’s we saw the emergence of wrap-around care enter the entire medical field.
Wrap-around care model saves the day...
The institutions that were federally funded to treat addiction were not immune to this shift, so they began offering wrap-around services out of necessity. The wrap-around services include involvement with family, community, housing, employment and legal help. As such, the addict was back in the community, speaking about his problem and helping other addicts get sober, the original sociological principle that seemed to make Alcoholics Anonymous so very successful in the first place.
Over the past two decades, the prevailing treatment approach has been a wrap-around service model. An addict follows this path: 1) inpatient rehab 2) comes out and lives in a sober house (AKA halfway house) while attending Outpatient rehab to help adaptation into society with legal, behavioral, relational help and 3) successfully maintains sobriety through ongoing meetings with AA or NA or some other micro-community addiction-based involvement.
Something new entirely!
Interestingly, although the wrap-around care model still exists and seems to be the default, between 2010-2020 we are seeing something new entirely and it’s very exciting! Instead of addiction as a deviation from the norm, a medical melody, or a spiritual inadequacy people are beginning to see it more as a societal, cultural, and personal burden. Our generation is literally moving towards abstinence as a form of health and sustainability for a better society in which we live. But, it's happening in little places not really seen by the naked eye
Three of those giants- pharmaceutical, alcohol, and tobacco are spending more than ever on advertising! They are fighting against this movement with all they have: money. Good thing we have something more: Community!
Hopefully, these micro-communities will continue gaining steam and begin to exist large-scale and sobriety will begin to be seen by more and more people as something not only for an addict. However threatening it may be to Alcoholics Anonymous and large rehab centers, this new approach is sweeping the streets and shaking the big pharmaceutical, alcohol, and cigarette companies at the very foundation upon which they stand. This is why all three of those giants- pharmaceutical, alcohol, and tobacco are spending more than ever on advertising! They are fighting against this movement with all they have: money. Good thing we have something more: Community.
I personally believe the founders of alcoholics anonymous would be happy, if not thrilled. We are starting to see sobriety quake the pillars of our very society as we know it and I believe this is largely because of all the people who were speaking their experience, strength, and hope that they learned through the community focused care model brought on by alcoholics anonymous.
The good thing about this approach is that it is so very natural and it only has two requirements. First, it requires a distaste of the societal and personal health burden drugs and alcohol cause, and second, it requires community. It doesn’t take thought; it doesn’t really even take individual sacrifice. It doesn’t beckon God or religion, it doesn’t require million dollar facilities and most importantly it doesn’t require pain, heartache and the proverbial “bottom” required in the late treatment of addiction. Just like healthy food. It’s starting to become easier to eat out and find healthy alternatives. Not only that, it’s beginning to look better on a person. People are proud of making healthy decisions. Likewise with sobriety it’s just better and people are really catching on, largely due to community.
This is why I created the curriculum of the 4-phase model of Recovery Charged Fitness. The goal is to bring an approach to fitness that incorporates recovery principles that have been proven to work through time, based on the history above, and I believe it's at the perfect moment. Alcohol-free life is getting widespread recognition with sober bars and nightclubs popping up (in face it has it's own hastag! #AF). It’s engaging the community through attraction. Instead of people drinking alcohol they go to sober nightclubs that have juice bars. We see gyms that have strong communities like FTX Wellness (where I train) and Temperance in Boca Raton Florida and nationwide The Pheonix ... It’s amazing! Look at people standing around these bars or at these gyms and you see pride and a genuine happiness. You see heads held high. You see smiles and you see authenticity and you see health. This, my friend is a model that will last.
I believe so firmly that if an addict feels involved with this societal shift the changes will not only occur, but they will last. This means I call on everyone who has faced challenges with becoming healthy to share their experience, strength, and hope- not just the addict as we have seen in the past. This will help others see the attraction in exercise and healthy living. Since sobriety may not be only about an addiction or bottom per-say, it’s about becoming healthy and about becoming a stronger community. It’s time to start standing up as one. No matter what you face and the reason you are sober, we are all one-in-the-same with the rest of the burgeoning health conscious community. Together, we will make a change, and we don’t even have to try too hard to do it!
All you have to do to help is stick around in social media be proud of your health and exercise programs and flaunt it. If we continue to spread our experiences, we’ll gain the strength, and we’ll widen the hope while we push the envelop of this new paradigm shift. We will see our kids not needing a D.A.R.E program in school. How wonderful would that be, if addiction and alcohol became the non-norm? Think about how may things would change in our world, relationships, and our inner life?