Abstinence. Personal Empowerment. Support. Inclusiveness. www.freestylerecovery.org.
The Freestyle Recovery Program
What is the Freestyle Recovery Program? The short answer is, we don't offer one. The reason we don't offer one is because we believe that each individual has her own background and history, her own motivations and goals and dreams, and will necessarily follow her own unique path. There are commonalities, of course. Common (but certainly not universal) background themes are, some genetic susceptibility to chemical dependency, a dysfunctional home environment (past and/or present), and possibly trauma. Most of us have similar stories about addiction, including the progression, the good times turning bad, the desperation and anxiety when we are not using, the lies, the secretiveness, the negative consequences. But there are also differences that may be profound. We have different personalities, different belief and value systems, different willingness to be led, different age and wisdom. There are indeed unique snowflakes, and we are all unique individuals
There are commonalities in most addiction recovery programs, too, and it's worth looking at some of these.
1. Abstinence. Freestyle Recovery, AA, AA Agnostica, Lifering, NA, Rational Recovery, SMART, SOS, WFS, all of these organizations advocate abstinence for excellent reasons. If you join a medical treatment program, inpatient or outpatient, you will almost certainly need to abstain completely and you will probably be tested regularly for compliance, and perhaps kicked out if you continue to relapse. These programs all offer various ways to help motivate you to make the decision to stop completely, but the decision is yours to make and there is no substitute for clean and sober time, even if you view it as a temporary period. Almost universally, abstinence is part of addiction recovery programs.
2. Group support. With the exception of Rational Recovery, all the organizations listed above offer support groups, face to face and/or online, and emphasize their value. There is no substitute for group support, and even many followers of Rational Recovery use support groups including online forums like Sober Recovery. We gain personal strength from support, we learn about our commonalities with other addicts and former addicts, we gain accountablity, the list goes on. Beyond a point in the progression from use to abuse to chemical dependency, "Just Say No!" in isolation simply does not work. If we are unwilling to attend face to face groups for whatever reasons, there are many online options. Almost universally, group support is part of addiction recovery programs.
3. Urge Surfing Tools. With addiction recovery comes triggers and cravings, they are part of the brain dysfunctionality that is chemical dependency, and nearly everyone has them. All of the programs listed above, including most treatment programs, offer tools to cope with or "surf" these urges when they come up (and they will). Many of these tips and tools, which come from many sources, are listed under How Do I Stop The Madness and Sustained Recovery. AA and NA might emphasize going to more meetings and calling your sponsor or someone else in your group (there are more tips in Living Sober), LifeRing has many tips and tools in its workbook, Rational Recovery offers books on recognizing the addict voice and making long-term "Big Plans", SMART provides coping tools in its Point 2, and every recovered former addict has personal suggestions that you can pick up in support group meetings. Almost universally, urge surfing tools are part of addiction recovery programs.
4. Personal Growth. Different organizations view personal growth in different ways, but many view addiction recovery as a process that does not end when you decide to quit. 12-step programs like AA and NA might emphasize moral inventories and fixing "character defects", making amends, service, and humility, and are perhaps the clearest example of programs that emphasize personal growth. SMART teaches life coping tools rooted in rational emotive behavioral therapy, intended to help resolve emotional and behavioral disturbances that might have led us to addiction in the first place. Rational Recovery might emphasize abject apologies and confrontational self-criticism as a way to move past the pull of addiction. Medical treatment programs might offer dual-diagnosis support groups as after-care following solid clean and sober time. But other organizations like SOS and LifeRing tend not to speak about this aspect of long-term addiction recovery, and tend to view abstinence as the end-goal, just don't drink or use no matter what. Personal growth is a common but not universal part of addiction recovery programs, and tends to be viewed in different ways by different organizations.
Beyond here, addiction recovery programs begin to show their differences, and one split is between external-power philosophies (typically 12-step programs like AA) and internal-power philosophies (most of the secular organizations). Broadly, if you find strength and comfort in being a follower, you may gravitate towards 12-step and other religion-based organizations and philosophies, whether or not you have religious beliefs. If you find strength and comfort in being a leader or an independent, you may gravitate towards other philosophies and the secular groups, whether or not you have religious beliefs. Freestyle Recovery views this holistically; the end result is Personal Empowerment, a foundation stone, however you achieve it. Ultimately you are responsible for getting and staying clean and sober, no matter who or what you draw your strength from, so the split can be viewed as arbitrary and unnecessary.
So the short answer is, there is no Freestyle Recovery Program. The longer answer is, we support any and all programs, including the "Just Say No!" non-program, that work for you. The more philosophical answer is, the foundations of nearly all major addiction recovery programs are very similar, and any one can work if it is a good fit for you. But since we are all unique individuals, perhaps the one that will work the best for you is the one that takes aspects of multiple programs that are best suited to you as a unique individual. We can attend AA or NA meetings but never get a sponsor or work the steps, and we can attend other meetings like Freestyle Recovery for non-dogmatic kinds of support. We can learn all about the addict voice from Rational Recovery, but not follow the rest of the philosophy, and we can pick up many additional tips listed here under How Do I Stop The Madness?, Sustained Recovery, and Long-Term Recovery. We can take aspects of REBT from SMART, but in conjunction with other kinds of support. We can attend LifeRing or SOS meetings, while we are in medical treatment outpatient or dual-diagnosis groups and perhaps after inpatient treatment. We get to piece together what we need to get and stay clean and sober, and the most important thing is, choice in recovery.
The metaphor is quite appropriate for addiction recovery programs. If you do not fit into the bed, you simply do not fit into the bed, and nothing that does not destroy you will make you fit. You need to find a bed that fits.
The Procrustean Bed
Procrustes: "Procrustes, also called Polypemon, Damastes, or Procoptas, in Greek legend, a robber dwelling somewhere in Attica—in some versions, in the neighbourhood of Eleusis. His father was said to be Poseidon. Procrustes had an iron bed (or, according to some accounts, two beds) on which he compelled his victims to lie. Here, if a victim was shorter than the bed, he stretched him by hammering or racking the body to fit. Alternatively, if the victim was longer than the bed, he cut off the legs to make the body fit the bed’s length. In either event the victim died. Ultimately Procrustes was slain by his own method by the young Attic hero Theseus, who as a young man slayed robbers and monsters whom he encountered while traveling from Trozen to Athens. The “bed of Procrustes,” or “Procrustean bed,” has become proverbial for arbitrarily—and perhaps ruthlessly—forcing someone or something to fit into an unnatural scheme or pattern."
What is a Recovery Program?
When we read the term "Recovery Program", we usually think of some kind of stepwise process that runs from A (you're addicted and you're miserable) to B (you're not addicted and you're happy). The 12-step program is one example, follow this process and it will lead you out of the hole, but there are others including medical treatment programs, both inpatient and outpatient. And for some people, following a defined program does lead them out of the hole, if you pick the right program and are able to follow it willingly.
The key is, "willingly", because few addicts are able to stop the process and recover if they don't want to. And often, we don't really want to stop drinking or using, at least not early on, we only want to stop the negative consequences. Beyond a point, it is not possible to keep drinking or using at all without increasingly severe negative consequences, but our addict voice wants us to believe it is still possible. As long as we continue feeling this way, sustained recovery is not going to be possible no matter what program we half-heartedly follow. But once we see this, and accept the need to stop drinking and using entirely at least temporarily until we can think straight, then it doesn't much matter what program we follow as long as we are able to follow it willingly.