Dr. Adi Jaffe Busts the Abstinence Myth

Do you or someone you know struggle with addiction? Dr. Adi Jaffe wrote The Abstinence Myth to help the millions of people struggling today to discover hope.

In it, Dr. Jaffe exposes and deconstructs myths surrounding abstinence that are not only outdated, but also limiting and damaging. Jaffe’s approach to recovery is truly radical, expanding, and evolutionary for society’s current view on abstinence.

A few of the outdated myths surrounding abstinence that Jaffe discusses are:

Your lifelong identity does not need to be shaped by the stigmas society holds around addiction.

You are not your addiction.

There is more than one explanation on what addiction is and how to stop it.

While Jaffe’s book was insightful for me as a wellness professional, and anyone can take positives away from it whether they experience or work with addiction or not, I especially think it is and will be helpful to men. In my nearly two decades consulting, low self-worth is at the heart of the addiction issues most of the men I consult with experience. Many men admit they aren’t even sure how to feel worthy to experience joy and love in their lives and how to confidently find their way because of where the social stigmas surrounding addiction and traditional male societal roles intersect.

Jaffe makes clear from the beginning of The Abstinence Myth that too much of what we have been told about addiction is, “wrong, misleading and holding you back.” He debunks one of addictions greatest myths when he states that recovery doesn’t require, or have to begin with, abstinence.

Our outdated model for recovery says success equals abstinence and failure is anything else. Jaffe disagrees however, and rather believes “true recovery is not about abstaining, but about flourishing.” He shows that recovery should be about recalibrating your own personal compass by thinking about where you are now and where you would like to go.

Jaffe backs his claims with research, showing current success rates reflecting abstinence as a cure-all are at a dismal 10-35 percent. Additionally, a recent study discovered that while 97 percent actually consumed alcohol only 30-40 percent truthfully reported doing so. Overcome by the pressure to “look good” during treatment based on abstinence, people tend to lie — something Jaffe calls social desirability bias (where participants feel compelled to give the therapist the response they believe he/she desires).

If abstinence as a cure actually worked, Jaffe wonders, why then would so many people feel the social pressure to lie? He wants his readers to understand that “truth is a catalyst” and where we need to lead the new model of recovery. “Once a belief is established, our brains selectively pay attention to information that falls in line with our beliefs rather than information that contradicts — or expands — it,” he says.

The author and addiction expert invites his readers to sit with the information he lends and process it at their own speed. He knows his reader is here to do work and wants him or her to feel supported.

As someone who specializes in epigenetics, I found his included questionnaire that covers biology, psychology, environment, and spirituality tremendously helpful considerations that reaffirm the idea that “people are not fixed — nor is addiction.” These revelations help provide the framework for redefining goals and creating a personal recovery toolkit.

What is so approachable about this book (and Jaffe’s work in general) is how it invites everyone to exchange guilt for freedom and to break into a new level of self-love and self-care through the sharing of his own personal experiences, as well as tangible solutions to embrace a new model.

Men want to be their best selves as partners, fathers, and humans, and Jaffe’s contribution here is undeniably the handbook on doing it, upgraded.

Christine Dionese, co-founder of flavor ID is an integrative, epigenetic health and food therapy specialist, as well as a wellness, lifestyle, and food journalist. She has dedicated her career to helping others understand the science of happiness and its powerful effects on everyday human health by harnessing the power of the epigenetic landscape. Christine lives, works, and plays with her family in Southern California.

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