For years, I was never a fan of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). I never knew much about it, other than my sister had tried it and said it sucked, and when you lose a sibling to addiction it’s remarkably easy to point the finger at anyone and anything that didn’t fix the problem. But as time went on and I got to know more people who were successful with AA, or at least could explain the basic tenets of the program to me, I realized it has a significant place in the treatment of addictions.
To date, however, there remains a massive contingency who are against AA, both addicts and teetotalers, as well as everyone in between. Most people point to the religious aspect of the program as a major deterrent. But this aversion is based on ignorance. Below I have a quote from a highly successful member of the program. I’ve highlighted some points I found particularly poignant. If you or someone you know is struggling with a substance abuse issue, take this person’s words to heart before dismissing the AA approach.
AA is more than seven decades old and has helped millions of alcoholics get sober. It has also spawned many other 12 step groups that have helped countless people overcome their particular addictions. The “proof is in the pudding,” so to speak. Yes, AA does have a high attrition rate, but it’s not for the people who need it, it’s for the people who want it. Most people who stay in AA for the long term — one day at a time — feel that it is a highly positive influence in their lives, perhaps the most positive influence.
The “God” thing is a sticking point for some people, but it’s really not a big deal when you go to the meetings or read the literature. You can think of God as anything you want. Some people think of it as “Group Of Drunks.” Some people have a traditional God that they grew up with. Some people have a tree. It doesn’t matter. We don’t care. All we care about is helping another alcoholic get sober. Because AA is not officially an “organization” and all groups are independent, some groups might “feel” more religious than others depending on where you live. If that bothers someone, then try another group. NA is also a very good option in some places if the recovering person doesn’t like what’s going on in AA. All meetings and each group have a slightly different “culture.”
AA is not religious at all. The word “God” is tossed around a lot because that’s what’s in The Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous and that’s the guideline that we use to run meetings and groups, but on the individual level it’s acceptable to believe anything you want. If the word “God” is what’s preventing someone from getting sober, then they don’t really want to get sober, simple as that. In our literature we say “we are willing to go to any lengths” to get sober. ANY LENGTHS. This means perhaps not liking one or more aspects of the program or the meetings, but putting that aside to help yourself continue living. Alcoholism is a progressive and fatal disease. The founders of AA determined that there’s a “spiritual solution” for it. That’s much better than taking a pill or having a medical procedure. And it works.
AA is a simple program for complicated people, is what we say, and that’s correct. Alcoholics — using and recovering alike — can make a big deal out of anything and resist help. That’s one of our commonalities, which makes it hard for some people to get sober, but once someone can put aside their ego and take the leap, there’s water in the pool, we promise. You can literally come into a meeting and say “Fuck your God, I hate him, I hate all of you, you suck, your AA sucks, this doesn’t work, I like to fuck ducks in the springtime,” and people will just nod their heads and tell you to keep coming back, and some people will give you their phone numbers and invite you to coffee. Where else can you do that and not get thrown out or put in a mental institution?
The most important person in any AA meeting is the newcomer. Newcomers are welcomed warmly. Usually, in an established group anywhere else the person who has been there longest is the most important person. Where else can you just show up and be not only welcomed, but regarded as the most important person in the room, and have everyone really mean it?
Nothing else but AA has been proven as a successful long term treatment for alcoholism.
You can learn more about AA here and, as always, share your agreement/disagreement in the Comments thread.