“Quitting Addiction on your Own aka Natural Recovery”

Did you ever hear the story of the faithful guards of the royal palace?  Apparently, they were on 24/7 watch, guarding a patch of ground way out in the middle of the grounds where nobody ever went.  They had been doing it for as long as anyone could remember.  Nobody ever questioned why.  But they should have, because there was nothing special there to guard and it really seemed like such a waste.  Finally, upon inquiry, they figured out the reason for the guards.  Long ago, the queen had a beautiful bed of roses there that she wanted protected.  So, she posted the guards there.  The roses had long since died and the patch of ground became weeds.  But, for all those years, those guards continued to keep watch–not even knowing why.

It seems like we can be so faithful to things without ever stopping to think or second guess our reasons.  I believe we all have convictions and feelings that are not based on solid truth.  (We would never admit it though.)

I’ve recently started to research something that I think is very interesting and needs to be figured out.  Way back when I used to help people quit smoking, there was a statistic I came across that said that only 5% of smokers were able to quit on their own.  When I started my recovery from porn, I came across the same statistic but only applied to addiction (not just smoking).  Celebrate Recovery taught me that I need a group to be successful.  I was sold on that idea.  I’ve even shared that in my blog posts many times and in comments I’ve posted on others blogs.

Well, I’m started to wonder about the validity of that statistic.  I don’t have any data to support it–I’ve always just accepted it because I read it.

Recently, I have been researching what is called “Natural Recovery”.  If you study it, you will find out that there have been quite a few studies done stretching back into the 40’s (many in the 70’s).  It appears that there is good evidence that more people end up quitting addictions on their own than by getting help (either through groups or therapy or rehab).  But, we don’t tend to hear as much about it because those people who quit aren’t part of a group trying to sell materials or sell rehab, etc.

I think this is very interesting and it has kind of given me a new perspective on this.  I have felt for a while that the only possibility of overcoming addiction (for most) was through joining some kind of group.  However, I’m now no longer sure that is true.  I’m finding quite a bit of solid scientific statistical evidence that says that is not true.  In fact, the facts seem to show that the opposite may be true–that you are less likely to be successful in a group or rehab.

However, I haven’t formed any solid conclusions yet.  One article I read was very balanced and seemed most reasonable.  There are some types of people who seem to have better odds in a group, some who do well in rehab, and some who are more cut out to be successful on their own.  Maturity is a large factor in overcoming on your own, etc.

So, it may not be so simple as to say that this is better or that.  It may actually be that one thing is better for some and another thing is better for others.

The good news is that many, many, many people simply just kind of grow out of their addictions–from heroine addicts, to smokers, to alcoholics, to porn addicts.  It happens.  Studies show that it happens a lot!  I think that offers a lot of hope to anyone who may be struggling and wondering if they will ever overcome.  Don’t give up!

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6 Responses to “Quitting Addiction on your Own aka Natural Recovery”

  1. The thing I wonder however is, where is the accountability. When you try to recover on your own, there is little to no accountability. So…then what? If you’re tempted who do you go to? It would be an unfair burden to put upon your wife. If you slip, who do you go to? If your standing on the edge of the cliff who do you reach out to? I understand that you are a man of faith, but sometimes God puts people in our lives to help us, which I fully believe why there needs to be others to help with accountability, especially since you’ve had difficulty with slips and relapses in the past.

    • Yes, you’re right. The accountability becomes completely personal on your own. I agree that putting the burden on a spouse is not a good idea–at all. They are too close to the situation and get hurt. So, it really does take away some of the “perceived” advantages of group recovery. I’m not necessary endorsing any approach. I just find it interesting that the STATISTICS show group recovery approaches to be less successful than those who go at it on their own.

  2. torik89 says:

    I think that statistic makes sense. Most of the groups that I have heard of for recovery are not necessarily telling you that Jesus really is the answer to ending addictions for any and all of our sins. It would be pretty easy to start to depend upon the people in those groups or the group in and of itself rather than the Savior. On the other hand…like Samantha said, without fellow believers pushing you and cheering you on, sharing in your sorrows and your joys, you run the risk of idolizing your own capabilities and not leaning on the one who can bring your addiction to an end.

    I think it is really awesome that you are researching on this topic though. I pray that God reveals himself to you in this search.

    • I agree. Jesus should be first. I’m still trying to figure out the nitty gritty on that. I was on my own for a lot of years. It was hard and I wasn’t always successful. When I tried the group thing, I got burned and it felt kind of “icky” in the group. The people were weird. I didn’t fit. But, I could see a group where you felt comfortable possibly being helpful. I just haven’t found that group. Recovery programs don’t have the greatest success rate and I could never afford one, so I’ve never really considered that option too much. Anyway, good comment!

  3. Sydney says:

    That research is so interesting. Recently I’ve been thinking about the idea of recovery groups for porn addicts (I’m about to start co-leading one) and I’ve wondered if being in a group is really that much more helpful than not being in one. I was never a part of a group during my recovery journey, but I had close friends who were aware of my struggles and I was seeing a counselor for a few years. Also, I found that the best people to talk with about my addiction were people who did not struggle with porn and masturbation. Sick people trying to help sick people just feels like a recipe for disaster to me and I’ve heard a number of negative stories resulting from those types of relationships (either one-on-one or group).

    I wonder what qualifies as quitting an addiction “on your own” in these studies you’re reading. Does that mean that absolutely no one knows about your addiction or you’re not seeing a counselor or something else. Or does it simply mean you’re not participating in a formal recovery group.

    • I think it means that you didn’t formally join a group or a recovery program. You just kind of grew out of it naturally.

      I think that groups are helpful for some. Recovery programs are helpful for others (who can afford them). But, each of those is also proven to not be helpful to many. The statistics are showing that a majority will do fine on their own and, statistically, more people will quit on their own than in groups and programs. I think it’s important to look at those facts. Good luck with your efforts to help those struggling. I’m sure you’ll learn a lot and will help.

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