Models & Concepts

People like to have ways to organize, understand, and explain information. This is done by using a model (or theory or concept). Many people operate as if theories were reality. A theory or concept is only a model of reality, a “portrait” of reality that may be more or less accurate.

Looking at the process A good model will explain what really happens in as simple a way as possible, while still predicting what may happen.

Example A table can be seen as a solid object. Most of the time this model is sufficient. We can set things on it and they don’t fall through. But there are alternatives:

  • A carpenter might look at the table, seeing the various woods and techniques used in making it. The table might look very different to her than to you.
  • If we were looking at the chemistry of the table, we might need to think of the chemical bonds and interactions that are going on all the time.
  • Biologically, we might see the table as a platform for all kinds of microscopic plant and animal life.
  • A nuclear physicist might see it as composed of atoms and subatomic particles separated by lots of empty space, or even as mathematical formulas of quantum physics.

Which is correct? It depends on your needs. Actually, we don’t know the reality of a table at all, only several models, each of which serves a particular purpose. The models help us approach an understanding of the table.

All or none? We create models to represent reality. They are not reality themselves. Addicts with dichotomous thinking often accept or reject all parts of a model. They may also try to fit themselves into a model rather than seeing what parts of the model fit their experience.

As an illustration, adult children of alcoholics often think they have to fit into one of Sharon Wegscheider-Cruse’s survival roles — hero, scapegoat, lost child, or mascot. While you may have a tendency toward one role, you probably have characteristics of more than one of them.

Openmindedness Understanding models can help you avoid a closed mind, dogma, and attitudes that resemble cultism. Here are a few examples of models that are very helpful when used to describe addicts’ experience, but may be confusing and limiting if you think they apply universally:

  • Alcoholics need the Twelve Steps to stop drinking.
  • Children of alcoholics don’t think, don’t trust, and don’t feel.
  • Addiction fits into certain stages of progression.
  • Shame causes addictive behavior.

Models for Recovery

There are many models for recovering addicts. In this manual we have tried to present some of the most useful. An example is the PEMS (physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual) model to describe addiction and recovery.

Another is the combination of the Abstinence and the Moderation models for use in virtually all addictive patterns. Thinking of addictive patterns is another model.

You have the opportunity to choose what you can use from the models available. Even the suggested Steps are a model for recovery. We recommend them because they are so effective for so many.

Models & concepts, see also: Addiction model (PEMS), Affirmations, Attitudes, Beliefs, Disease concept, Mental aspects, PEMS model, Paradoxes in addiction, Steps of AA, Visualizations.

Updated 1 Sep 2015


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Addictionary 2 by Jan & Judy Wilson

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