Making the choice to overcome addiction and begin living a life of sobriety is a major, life-changing decision. Once you make the decision to get clean, you will then need to decide how you are going to make it happen. Because substance use disorders are chronic and relapsing medical conditions, it is generally a good idea to reach out for help as soon as possible. Many people who decide to get sober will begin by entering into a medical detox program, and following this up with a higher level of care once they undergo drug or alcohol withdrawal. In most cases, detox is followed with inpatient treatment, where a person stays engaged in daily therapeutic sessions for between 30 and 90 days. It is not uncommon for inpatient treatment centers to introduce clients to the 12 Step model of recovery. The most common and widespread 12 Step program is Alcoholics Anonymous (AA).
How do you know if AA is right for you?
Only you can decide whether or not to pursue sobriety, and only you can decide whether or not to give Alcoholics Anonymous a try. Some people find that AA is a great supplement to other treatment options, including individual therapy, intensive outpatient treatment, or ongoing psychiatric care. Some people find that AA is sufficient as a standalone option, and still others find that AA is not a great fit for them. If you would like to learn more about 12 Step programs or if you are interested in learning more about which treatment options are available to you, contact us today.
What is Alcoholics Anonymous?
First of all, what is Alcoholics Anonymous? According to the official AA website, “Alcoholics Anonymous is a fellowship of people who come together to solve their drinking problem. It doesn’t cost anything to attend AA meetings. There are no age or education requirements to participate. Membership is open to anyone who wants to do something about their drinking problem. AA’s primary purpose is to help alcoholics to achieve sobriety.”
This mutual-aid fellowship was fir4st developed in 1935 by two men — Bill Wilson, a stockbroker, and Dr. Bob, a surgeon. Both men suffered from severe alcoholism, and ultimately found relief in the process of spiritual development, working through resentments, and carrying the message to other men who were struggling with similar issues. The program quickly evolved to include people of all ages and walks of life struggling with any kind of substance use issue, and has effectively helped millions achieve long-term sobriety.
Do I Need AA?
How do you know if you need AA? As a general rule of thumb, if you are questioning whether or not your relationship with alcohol has become unhealthy, there is a good chance that your inclination is correct. However, there are numerous routes to sobriety, and AA is not right for everyone. The best way to decide whether or not a 12 Step program is a good fit is by checking out a few local meetings and seeing how you feel. It is important to consider the fact that not every AA meeting is going to feel like a good fit. Some meetings are smaller than others, some are large and extremely diverse, and some follow specific formats, like a Step Study, an Open Discussion Meeting, or a Speaker Meeting. Because meetings are so varied, it is a good idea to check out as many different meetings as possible before making a definitive decision.
Testing the Waters
If you are still on the fence after attending several meetings, we recommend looking for a sponsor — a mentor who has already been through the 12 Steps, and who will guide you through the Steps should you choose to progress. Your sponsor will also be able to answer any questions you have about the process. Remember — choosing a sponsor does not mean you are “locked in.” At any point in time you can decide to stop engaging with the program. The ball is always in your court. Testing the waters is a completely normal part of the process. There are many quotes from the Big Book (the AA literature) that are regularly referenced, one of them being, “Contempt prior to investigation.” This essentially means that it is a good idea to avoid drawing conclusions about something before exploring it for yourself.
Why Commit to a 12 Step Program?
There are many benefits that go hand-in-hand with committing to a 12 Step program. Of course, the most obvious is staying sober. For a great number of individuals, AA is a fundamental component of an effective recovery program, and many have maintained long-term sobriety by remaining active program members.
Fellowship & Community
One of the biggest benefits of AA and other 12 Step programs is the aspect of fellowship. Active addiction can be extremely isolating. Over time you distance yourself from the people you love, prioritizing your substance of choice by whatever means necessary. You burn bridges, ignore friends who once meant the world to you, and consistently lie to, steal from, and disappoint your family members. As you work to rebuild these relationships in recovery, it is nice to have a big community of like-minded men and women who truly understand what you have been going through, and who are available to support and encourage you no matter what.
Accountability is another added bonus to 12 Step program involvement. When you start showing up to the same meeting week after week, people take notice. You develop a network of sober peers, and when you don’t show up for a meeting you’d better believe they’ll check in to see where you are! Having this level of accountability is very important in early sobriety.
Free & Easily Accessible
Not only is AA free, but it can be easily accessed anywhere in the country, as well as internationally. If you are traveling out-of-town, it is nice to know that all you have to do is conduct a quick internet search and you will have a list of meetings at your fingertips.
Because active addiction looks different for everyone, no two programs of recovery will be identical. As mentioned before, some people benefit immensely from ongoing 12 Step program involvement, while others might find alternative routes to long-term sobriety. If you or someone you love has been battling addiction, the first step on the road to recovery is always reaching out for help. Once you take this initial step you will be put in touch with someone who can offer you advice on how to proceed. Contact us today to learn more.