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Rational Recovery

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Rational Recovery is a program that helps with addiction to drugs and alcohol by providing counseling, guidance and direct instruction to help individuals maintain permanent abstinence from drugs and alcohol. This program provides instruction for self recovery which is a direct counterpoint to the various 12-step programs that focus on spiritual improvement such as Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous.

Rational Recovery was first developed by Jack Trimpey in the mid 1980s to treat alcoholism and other forms of addiction. Jack Trimpey was a licensed clinical social worker in California at that time. He admits to having been an alcoholic who suffered from alcoholism for 25 years which is how he touts having developed his own unique system of self recovery that is now known as “Rational Recovery.”

The Rational Recovery Program

The Rational Recovery program is available in a variety of formats via the internet and various other media including books, videos and worldwide lectures. It is based on the idea that the individual addicted to drugs or alcohol wants to be free from their addiction and is capable of abstaining from drugs and alcohol permanently with proper planning. It also recognizes that despite the ability for an addict to abstain from drugs or alcohol, they also “want” to continue using. This paradox results from the belief that the drugs or alcohol help an individual with their anxiety which is partially substance induced and is also enhanced by the substance. The fact that anxiety is produced by the use of drugs or alcohol and is also the reason for people to use drugs or alcohol defines the Rational Recovery program.

Jack Trimpey refers to the anxiety situation as the “addictive voice,” which is physiologically understood as being related to the part of the human brain which also controls core survival functions such as hunger, sex, and even bowel control. When the “addictive voice” is not dealt with and the desires not fulfilled the individual experiences anxiety, restlessness, irritability and depression as well as the inability to feel pleasure.

Rational Recovery is a way for an individual to plan a permanent abstinence from the substance abuse and then to learn the ways to maintain the commitment mentally. The addict must recognize the “addictive voice” and be determined to remain abstinent from drugs and alcohol by constantly reminding themselves that they have a rational basis to want to quit. The goal is that over time the benefits of rationalizing with themselves and their minds versus the bodily impulse to use drugs will result in long term abstinence from drugs and alcohol.

In Rational Recovery, the individual must recognize the “addictive voice” and effectively beat the voice within their heads which causes them to use drugs or alcohol. Internal thoughts of self intoxication and the ability of an individual to disassociate from such thoughts provides the ground for a Rational Recovery from addiction.

Both Rational Recovery and AA focus on abstinence from drugs and alcohol but they offer different strategies of overcome the addiction and maintaining the sobriety. With traditional 12-step programs, a higher power is sought and the strength to recover is found in a spiritual realm whereas with Rational Recovery, like other non 12-step programs looks to focus on the long term not the “one day at a time” focus such as in 12-step programs.

What Rational Recovery Is and Is Not

  • Rational Recovery (RR) is not a 12-step program for recovery from addiction.
  • Rational Recovery is a self guided recovery process.
  • Rational Recovery does not look at alcoholism or drug addiction as a disease.
  • Rational Recovery views addiction as a voluntary behavior which can be overcome.
  • Rational Recovery does not adopt the “forever” recovering model in which an addict is always in recovery despite having been sober for many years.
  • Rational Recovery does not have individual groups or meetings the way 12-step programs do.
  • Self efficacy is greatly emphasized in the Rational Recovery program.
  • Religious matters are not addressed or even considered in Rational Recovery, it is not a spiritual model of recovery.
  • Rational Recovery is not a series of steps that must be followed.

How Rational Recovery is Different from 12-Step Recovery

It’s important to note that Rational Recovery is a complete opposite recovery process from the traditional 12-step program. In fact, the two types or recovery are polar opposites, each point in the recovery program is totally different and they do not work in conjunction or hand in hand with one another. Here’s a look at the differences between the two:

  • 12-Step recovery programs are family addict centered programs whereas Rational Recovery is family centered meaning that Rational Recovery focuses on the family as a whole and on their entire recovery.
  • Rational Recovery is the responsibility of the individual to overcome their “addictive voice” whereas 12-Step recovery is a group process by which the responsibility of recovery is on the group.
  • 12-Step programs view relapse as a symptom of the disease of addiction while Rational Recovery views relapse or the mere act of self-intoxication as an immoral conduct that should never be done.
  • 12-Step recovery program expect family members to allow and work with you on a one day at a time sobriety plan in which each day is a new day and the future of sobriety is not known. Rational Recovery teaches you to accommodate your family’s demand for immediate and permanent abstinence from drugs or alcohol with a secure outlook on your future sobriety. One day at a time is not good enough!