For people attending twelve step support groups, they may have heard or read the phrase "half measures availed us nothing." This is part of passage in the Big Book providing people instructions on how to have a more successful recovery.
The phrase simply means that recovery has to be all or nothing otherwise it will not work effectively. Half measures can mean not being fully committed to recovery or not being completely sober in all respects.
Someone who is taking half measures might be substituting their alcohol addiction for another substance or activity that is addictive to them. They may feel it is the lesser of two evils but the twelve step program requires complete and total sobriety of its members.
Substitute addictions can be seen as half measures because it means a person is only partially sober and it not putting all their effort into changing their lifestyle.
It is never easy to go "cold turkey" off of something that you have been severely addicted to for years of your life. For drug users or alcoholics, it is common for them to seek a substitute to alleviate some of their emotional distress.
The need to escape from painful feelings or experiences is deeply ingrained in most addicts and it is not surprising then that they might begin smoking cigarettes, using marijuana, overeating, gambling or engaging in other addictive activities to ease the pain of being newly sober. Although it is understandable that an addict might consciously or unconsciously choose another addiction after giving up alcohol or illicit drugs, it is dangerous for the success of their recovery.
When a person begins smoking marijuana for example after quitting drinking, it may seem as though they have found a "safer" alternative. They might feel that marijuana helps them fight alcohol cravings and prevent them from relapsing but in the end it is not the right choice for people in recovery.
Many myths exist that marijuana is not an addictive drug but the reality is that people who use it regularly experience tolerance and withdrawal symptoms which are clear signs of addiction.
Half Measures and Marijuana Maintenance
When someone in recovery smokes marijuana to help them cope with quitting their main addiction it is known as "marijuana maintenance". This type of drug use usually means a person is not completely ready to recover and is still in the mindset of addiction.
Marijuana maintenance can fall into the category of half measures because it means that an addict is not completely and fully sober. They have not yet embraced the sober lifestyle and are not taking recovery seriously enough to be fully committed to abstinence from any and all drug use.
In spite of what some people believe, marijuana maintenance will not help anyone with their recovery. It will only lead them down the same path and the cycle of addiction will start over again. Half measures or substituting addictions will yield no results and ultimately will "avail us nothing".
The only true way to recover from an addiction, especially when you are involved in a twelve step program is to be sober in all aspects of your life. Be cautious about any activities that you know you can become addicted to.
This could include more than just other drugs but things like eating, shopping, sex or gambling which are all known to be addictions in certain individuals. People with addictive personalities tend to find ways to continue their patterns of excess and unhealthy compulsions.
Keeping all addictive activities in check and being mentally and physically sober is the most effective form of recovery that exists.