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Is It time For People With Drink or Drug Problems To Put AA and NA Behind Them, in the Past?

Updated: Oct 17, 2020

1935, the year that brought us Porky Pig, the first parking meters, Adolf Hitler announcing German re-armament in violation of the 1919 Treaty of Versailles, and... AA, or Alcoholics Anonymous.

Is it hard to believe that now, in 2017, more than eighty years later, that millions of people around the world still use AA meetings in desperation because they don't know where else to turn?

The 12 steps, a rehashed religious Christian movement that preaches giving in and turning yourself over to a "higher power", is still one of the frontline available places where people seek help when experiencing problems with drink or drug problems , but is it really helping people get better ?

The steps, (that are listed below), are so ingrained into the people who attend the groups by "sponsors", and "old timers" who take "newcomers" under their knowledgeable and wise wings and teach them, what in their minds, is the only way to stop addictive behaviours.

When I was trying to explore and engage with support networks for my drinking problems, I found that AA meetings actually made me feel worse about myself, and my negative, irrational thoughts and behaviours were amplified after attending meetings, ultimately leaving me feeling more hopeless and vulnerable.

The problem that I had with AA groups wasn't that most of the meetings were in churches (although it bothered me initially, but then everything bothered me when I was in active addiction). It wasn't the references to God, or having to listen to people reliving how bad everything was when they were drinking or using (the war stories).

It wasn't even the fact that everybody who "shared" their war stories had to start their sharing with "Hi, my name is..... , and I'm an alcoholic", which was closely followed with an unnerving, slightly condescending mumble of "Hi .........." from the rest of the room.

(Fortunately, now most UK drug and alcohol services don't label people seeking help as "addicts" or "alcoholics", due to labelling being detrimental to the individuals recovery).

It wasn't the archaic banners with "The 12 steps", and "The 12 traditions" written in red on a white cloth backgrounds hung at the front of the room, and it wasn't the fact that nobody in the meetings (that I attended) had any scientific, clinical or counselling based professional training around alcohol or substance misuse.

It was, for me, the realisation that these people who were attending these meetings on a regular basis, didn't seem to be moving forwards with their lives, they were kind of stuck in a "looped limbo state" of cross addiction and misguided, outdated, psuedo psychotherapy.

We do however, have a lot to thank the history and legacy of the AA for, most notably for pushing the acceptance of the "disease model" to the medical community, which allows funding to be distributed in the Western world to help people with drug and alcohol problems.

Whether you subscribe to the idea of the disease model is almost irrelevant, the fact that addiction is recognised by the medical community and politicians is enough.

I do subscribe to group work being a fundamentally important, positive and helpful part of the process in recovery, its just that, in the 21st century I think we have much better, and more scientifically informed options.

The Twelve Steps

  • We admitted we were powerless over alcohol - that our lives had become unmanageable.

  • Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.

  • Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.

  • Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.

  • Admitted to God, to ourselves and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.

  • Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.

  • Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.

  • Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.

  • Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.

  • Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.

  • Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.

  • Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics and to practice these principles in all our affairs.

I think this is a question we should ask ourselves if thinking about looking for help with drink or drug issues......Would we walk into a Dr's surgery that hadn't changed their working practice or views since 1935?

*Please note - The author of this blog has expressed that this feature is based upon their own personal experiences that they wished to share, and does not reflect the sole views of Start Recovery UK. The author would like to remain anonymous.

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