We get it. Recovery programs are not perfect and often seem flawed. The people in recovery programs can be also flawed. So, why it is encouraged to attend meetings of Alcoholics Anonymous and the like? How exactly does a meeting of Alcoholics Anonymous work to keep someone sober? How can someone as messed up as me help me out? If you have these questions kicking around, you may be questioning the twelve step programs as a viable means of help.
Ok. These are legitimate questions. They really are, and you are not alone for having them.
This article could go on to ‘prove’ how AA is successful, even during a pandemic, or, for that matter how it is not successful. There are lots of pieces published that endeavour to either reify or make defunct the program as a whole. Honestly, you can easily land on either side of the fence with the program’s success rates and failures simply by doing some online research. There are literally hundreds of accounts from individuals who found real help, and hundreds of accounts coming from those who didn’t find the twelve step programs to work at all. The measurement of AA’s success is rather enigmatic. The debate goes on forever. What this writing hopes to do, is look at the kernels of real goodness that can come out of attending AA meetings regularly, leaving alone the larger questions.
Let’s say that you are on your way to an AA meeting, and you are genuinely wondering how attending meetings and following the twelve steps might actually help with abstinence and sobriety. Let’s say this is you. Here is a list of reasons why it might be smart to ‘quit the debating society’ and give the rooms a fair chance:
- Well, firstly, it is free and widely available in person or online. There is a lot to be said about free help. There is not much of it around—and while there are other recovery gigs in town, AA is honestly everywhere. Most places that you travel, you will find an AA meeting. It is virtually in every city and town in North America, Europe and many other countries.
So, there is that.
- Attending AA changes your social network and encourages peer support for abstinence. Let’s face it, one of the most difficult things to look at post-treatment is that you have surrounded yourself with others who use and drink just like you. It can be daunting to even consider changing old friends and environments, especially during this covid period. Simply attending AA meetings daily can completely reboot your social network, literally flooding it with others who are successfully staying sober. It is like a hard restart in your social sphere. For many this alone can make attendance at AA meetings successful.
- AA is one alcoholic helping another. Former drinkers/users are our people. Honestly, we have homing devices and bullshit meters that only each other seem to be able to home in on. We trust each other. We know that wars have been won and extremely difficult terrain has been crossed in order for a person to be willing to attend an AA meeting. There is something special about this. There is something safe about having been in similar places. It is easier to build trust and to listen to one another from this level playing field. Honestly, it is a rare thing to find a person that wants to help you for the sole purpose of helping themselves. The trip with AA is that help is freely given and is passed on. We keep what we have when we share it. There are no hooks. Wow. Go try to find that somewhere else.
- Regularly attending meetings enhances your ability to handle the challenges of recovery. Handling the ins and outs of recovery alone can be daunting. There is something to be said about the ability to share the struggles and triumphs of this process with a group of like-minded individuals. It is a giant pool of experience that you can immediately draw from. If you haven’t faced it yet, you can be rest assured that lots of others at the meetings have.
- It is cognitive change. Hey, whether being spiritual is your thing, or you simply rely on the group, having something larger than you to rely on is pretty reassuring. Having the opportunity to feel hope is a big relief after so much time spent feeling hopeless. It raises the spirits. It motivates. And there’s always someone with less sobriety than your or me who we can help!
- It is a simple set of instructions. Really. The twelve steps are not difficult. Maybe wrapping your mind around the reasons why the twelve steps are done…might be a little bit of work. But following the instructions involved in the ‘work’ of the program is a piece of cake. And the benefits of doing these steps is that if you follow them, you will likely not drink. They will likely make you a better person as well.
AA and other twelve step programs are not going to work for everybody. But there are very few solutions that will. Addiction is a complex set of issues all individually rolled up into differing experiences and stories. But it can work on these levels, if you are willing. If you are serious about stopping, they will certainly not hurt the cause.
Here is a list of the twelve steps of Alcoholics Anonymous:
- Step 1: We admitted we were powerless over alcohol—that our lives had become unmanageable.
- Step 2: Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
- Step 3: Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.
- Step 4: Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
- Step 5: Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
- Step 6: Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
- Step 7: Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.
- Step 8: Made a list of all persons we had harmed and became willing to make amends to them all.
- Step 9: Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
- Step 10: Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.
- Step 11: 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.
- Step 12: 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.
To find an in person, virtual or hybrid meeting in your area, search online using your city and Alcoholics Anonymous in your search, or call 411 for a local number. It is as easy as that. There is also a meeting app, aptly called Meeting Guide that you can download onto your phone free of charge (geolocate is used).