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Monitoring Substance Use: Shame vs. Empowerment


Relapse Prevention

Monitoring Substance Use: Shame vs. Empowerment

Using monitoring systems to help with recovery has become more valuable as a recovery tool. While some see the value of this testing, others may feel embarrassed or shameful for utilizing it. And while shame is prevalent with those struggling with addictions and other mental health conditions, we need to put shame in its place.

Shame Lies

As those of us in the field understand, shame is a feeling that lies. Shame, unlike guilt, teaches us that we are somehow bad to our core, that we are horrible, useless, morally decrepit individuals. Shame is feeling we are wrong to the depths of our souls, and is something that we must work through in our journeys to recovery. And for alcoholics and their loved ones, we must learn that we are decent human beings, and that learning and healing comes through meetings; medical treatment; treatment programs with a variety of techniques such as group and individual therapy, acupuncture, medical management, yoga, and other coping skills; counseling; family support; support groups; and utilizing monitoring systems. All of these recovery techniques lead to healing and letting go of stigma and shame.

Addiction as a Chronic Medical Condition

The major premise about addiction is that it is a health issue on individual/familial and community/societal levels. When treated as such, the stigma of addictions lessons for addiction is a health problem such as diabetes, HIV, heart disease, or mental illness.  Illnesses happen, including addiction, and there should be no stigma regarding having a medical condition. Treating alcoholism as an illness allows us to use various medical tools for recovery just as tools such as x-rays, MRIs, and diabetes monitoring aid in recovery from other medical illnesses. Such tools for alcoholism recovery include monitoring systems for feedback and empowerment.


Empowerment allows us to look at recovery and recovery tools as a way to become sober and stay sober. Empowerment is about finding our strengths, our supports, and ways to better our lives and the lives of others. Just as AA and other support groups focus on taking responsibility, thereby empowering transformation, monitoring systems can also empower recovery by utilizing a system that gives direct feedback to the user as well as to others who may be monitoring the substance use.

Monitoring Systems

Dr. Michel Sucher, one of the pioneers in addiction medicine, expands on the value of monitoring systems in three YouTube presentations. He notes that alcohol is the biggest relapsing substance, and utilizing lab partners for monitoring, aids in the treatment of this brain disease. He indicates that this monitoring is “the wave of the future” for it not only helps empower the individual, but can offer relief to families, help doctors treat the individual, and for businesses to monitor their employees (i.e., such as airline pilots). Noting that this is a “duty to the public,” he indicates that testing helps to tell you what is going on with the patient.

Reach Out Recovery Exclusive by  Carol Anderson

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Carol Anderson, D.Min., ACSW, LMSW, is a licensed clinical social worker with over 25 years of experience in the fields of mental health, addictions, and co-occurring disorders. Her other specialties include grief and trauma, women’s issues, chronic pain management, holistic healing, GLBTQ concerns, and spirituality and transpersonal psychology. Dr. Anderson has been educated and trained in the fields of education, social work, and spirituality, and she holds a Doctor of Ministry degree (non-denominational/interfaith) specializing in spirituality.

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