What is Substance Abuse?

Body, Mind and Spirit Affected

Substance abuse isn’t just about the physical symptoms. It’s also about the underlying issue.

Recovery is Possible

As defined by Encarta, substance abuse is “the excessive consumption or misuse of any substance for the sake of its non-therapeutic effects on the mind or body, especially drugs or alcohol.”

However, that’s not the whole answer. If it were, treatment of alcoholism or drug addiction would be much simpler. If it were as simple as drying someone out after over consumption, there would be little that a 12-step recovery program could teach.

Only A Symptom

If it was only about the drug or the alcohol, or their “non-therapeutic effects” on the mind, there would be little that would help about probing character defects, self-examination, or even admitting that there is a powerlessness over alcohol, the very first step needed to become a member of Alcoholics Anonymous, one of the largest organizations in the world of people who did not want to become members at all.

The more generally understood definition of substance abuse is “continuing to use alcohol or another drug despite negative consequences.” However, substance abuse is more than just picking up a bottle, a pill or a pipe over and over again. It is about picking up whatever substance is there instead of facing something else.

You know how to stop using, but how do you stop starting again?

In the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous, it talks about how addiction is driven by “100 forms of fear,” and that fear is what leads to the drinking. It is why simply stopping is never enough, because it leaves the alcoholic or addict without coping or defense mechanisms; it leaves the person with a desire to drown the emotion that they are too afraid to experience, but without the resources to know what other choices there are, or even the awareness to know what sparked the fear in the first place.

Holistic Healing

Although it’s a new word applied to a concept that has been around since AA’s inception in the 1930’s, 12-step recovery is truly a holistic rehabilitation approach: it does not simply give the alcoholic a place to go instead of to the bar, although the frequent meetings also serve that need as well. Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, Al-Anon, Overeaters Anonymous, Nicotine Anonymous – all of the 12-step programs – encourage their members to look inside, at what is driving their addiction, their need to pick up something beside the phone to call for help or support, and to examine what is causing the addiction in the first place.

This does not mean that addicts and alcoholics can simply face their fears, leave the program and never come back again, having reached enlightenment and no longer being a problem drinker. The program also teaches that alcoholism and addiction is a disease, one that tells its victims that they do not have a problem and that membership in this anonymous fellowship is necessary to maintain a life of serenity, and even happiness.

Where others could know that the answer does not lie in drinking, the alcoholic looks for peace and finds only chaos in the bottle. Shutting off the fear is their reason to seek the substance of choice; seeking serenity and survival is often what brings men and women through the door; peace, happiness and learning the advantage of facing the fear is what many find through staying.

Substance abuse is about more than just imbibing; it is about more than the physical deterioration that comes from over-consumption. Much as addiction destroys the flesh, it also tears at the framework of healthy relationships with the self and others. Because of this, the answer also has to lie in treating not just the physical removal of the drug: it also must help clear away the emotional pain and anger, and the spiritual blocks, in order to heal the whole person: body, mind, and spirit.

Recovery is Possible

Using the Hazelden model, Serenity Vista Addiction treatment center in Boquete, Panama focuses on holistic rehabilitation, offering a luxury treatment facility at affordable rehabilitation prices. Serenity Vista offers its guests the opportunity to recover from addiction by focusing on the underlying problems that sparked the addiction in the first place. Their approach is one that treats all levels of the addict, not just the physical removal of the substance.

Serenity Vista: Recover. Discover. Transform.

12 step sober retreat panama treating substance abuse


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