The Two Main Approaches
First, let’s note that there are different ways to deal with substance abuse, but mindful awareness is a component of all of them. Along with meditation, mindful awareness is taught in every substance abuse recovery program. It’s the thing they all have in common. After that, they can vary quite dramatically.
There Are Two Main Types of Recovery Programs
There are lots of tips for quitting weed, and are lots of ways people overcome addictions in general, but we can put all of them into one of two categories: abstinence or harm reduction. Abstinence approaches have subcategories. Some claim abstinence adherents must practice total abstinence while others require abstinence from only the problem substance.
All twelve step programs adhere to the total abstinence model, including Marijuana Anonymous. And as popular as twelve-step programs are, lots of folks aren’t comfortable with the total abstinence model. There are many reasons for this. One reason is that some feel AA, NA, MA, and the other twelve-step programs are hypocritical because they don’t include tobacco in their total abstinence stance. When compared to the general population, an abnormally high proportion of twelve step members are addicted to and eventually die from tobacco use. According to the article “AA and NA Tobacco Mortality,” this may be because “they do not consider nicotine addiction to be an issue as important as recovery from the other addictions they joined AA and NA to recover from.” But the main reason people don’t want to work a twelve-step program is because they aren’t allowed to use their drug of choice in moderation.
Which way should I go?
Why Should Tips for Quitting Weed Include a Non-Abstinent Model?
Because if you can moderate, you can quit eventually. Moderation is for quitters. (It’s how I was able to eventually quit weed, which I’ll explain later.) Nowadays there are substance abuse programs that teach moderation. An article by Hunter R. Slaton called “The Rehab That Teaches You to Drink Safely” explains this particular approach by taking a look at a rehab that offers it, an outpatient drug rehab in California aptly named Alternatives. Slaton’s article notes Alternatives isn’t just teaching moderation prescriptively; the executive and clinical directors of Alternatives, Dr. Adi Jaffe and Dr. Marc Kern, have both dealt with substance abuse issues. Both have re-introduced alcohol into their lives. (Jaffe used to be a crystal meth addict, and Kern used to be a “daily drinker and a pill popper.”)
Using moderately is in direct opposition to the total abstinence approach. For example MA (Marijuana Anonymous) would label someone a relapsed addict if that person went from immoderate to moderate use. The Big Book (the bible for 12-step programs) has no rubric for interpreting this scenario other than failure. In twelve-step culture, members who use moderately are a threat to the continued sobriety of the other members. In fact, the first step forces you to admit your powerlessness. This outlook doesn’t suit everyone, and Jaffe points out that “the people who come to us believe the notion that their use—even inappropriate use—is at least in some measure under their control, and they want to regain that control.” Upshot: Marijuana Anonymous is off the table if you don’t feel powerless over weed and don’t want total abstinence from it. Pro tips for quitting weed include not attempting to work a program if you’re totally against its philosophy.
Most People Struggling with Substance Abuse Don’t Seek Help
Not fitting into a twelve-step program isn’t a tragedy, but having some sort of support is important. You need some kind of program in place even if it’s DIY-style. We can see how important it is to create alternatives to abstinence-only programs when we consider the following statement by Jaffe: “Fifteen percent of people who meet the criteria for substance use disorder seek treatment—and only 10% enter treatment. That leaves 80% to 85% of people who struggle to some degree with substances who are not being served by the system.”
Dr. Marc Kern and Dr. Stanton Peele Slam AA
Is the goal to cut your weed usage down to moderate levels? Does abstaining from weed but not alcohol (or other drugs) sound like the best option for you? What about total abstinence? The next article goes over these options.