Is 12-Step Recovery Right For Me?
Although this question may seem simple, it isn’t. Trust me when I say entire books, entire libraries probably, have been written because of this seemingly innocuous question.
Is twelve-step recovery right for me? Is AA the only way to get sober? Do I have to believe in God? Is there another way? Why should I go to those meetings for the rest of my life?
There are literally hundreds more examples of these types of questions. I think you all get the point I’m trying to make though. It boils down to the age-old debate of “spiritual” recovery vs. “rational” recovery.
Fortunately for the entire world, I’ve figured out the answer! I kid, but with earnest intentions. As a man in long-term recovery from substance abuse, I do have some first-hand experience and insight to share.
So, join me as I breakdown the benefits and drawbacks of twelve-step recovery. Join me as I set out to answer, once and for all, whether AA is right for you!
Do I Have to Believe in Spiritual Principles?
The issue most people have with Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, Cocaine Anonymous, et al. is their insistence that members rely on spiritual principles to live a sober life.
Introducing a Higher Power into the equation is a major sticking point for many people, addicted or not. When you take a hardheaded alcoholic or addict, though, and say they have to trust in God…well, naturally, tempers rise.
Based on my experience attempting to quit drinking and drugging, I can say with absolute confidence that a spiritual way of life isn’t hard to grasp. In fact, it’s been much simpler for me to implement and maintain spirituality than it has to keep a costly therapist or addiction specialist.
Now don’t get me wrong, therapy is a vital part of recovery from just about anything. What I’m saying is that the big deal most addicts make about a Higher Power is pretty out of proportion.
After all, it’s easier to say, “maybe there’s something out there that’ll help me” than it is to fight drugs and booze on our own. Speaking for myself, trying to stay sober on my own led to headaches, stress, angry outbursts, and back to the bottle.
Another thing to keep in mind is that AA, NA, and the like don’t require members to believe in anything. Don’t believe me? Google “atheist AA meetings” and see what comes up!
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Do I Have to Go to Meetings Forever?
Much like believing in a Higher Power, no one in a twelve-step fellowship will say you have to go to meetings forever. It’s suggested, but that’s it. A suggestion is just that – a suggestion and nothing more.
I’ve found that meetings become more valuable the longer I stay sober. They offer a safe haven from booze and drugs during early-sobriety, but down the road they offer something even greater. They offer me the chance to stay emotionally stable and on keel.
So, for me, meetings have become a source of serenity and healing. I’ll probably go to them forever because the benefits far outweigh the drawbacks. The benefits are seemingly endless. The drawbacks include having to drive all over and actually reach out to other human beings. When you think about it, those aren’t really even drawbacks!
The cool thing about twelve-step recovery is that you can go to meetings for awhile and then decide for yourself if you want to keep on going. There’s a saying in the rooms of recovery. It goes a little something like – take what you like and leave the rest. Maybe meetings are one of the things you’ll leave. I don’t recommend it, but hey, it’s 100% up to you.
Drawbacks of 12-Step Recovery
Okay, if believing in a Higher Power and going to meetings aren’t drawbacks (remember, they’re optional), then what are the drawbacks of twelve-step recovery?
Well, simply put, it’s uncomfortable. Being an active member of a twelve-step fellowship forces you to take a good long look at yourself. It forces you to challenge entrenched modes of thought and behavior that, quite frankly, are hard to change.
Twelve-step recovery is uncomfortable. It’s that simple. You have to reach out to another human being you don’t know (also known as getting a sponsor) and tell them your darkest secrets. It’s tough.
Then, down the road, you have to sponsor other people. While this isn’t directly uncomfortable (in fact, it’s actually pretty awesome!), it does take up time and interfere with your personal life.
Benefits of 12-Step Recovery
Those drawbacks didn’t sound too bad, right? Okay, yeah, you’re right. They sounded pretty bad! Well, there’s good news too!
The major benefit of twelve-step recovery is just as simple as the major drawback. Twelve-step recovery, if practiced like it’s laid out in the Big Book or the Basic Text, guarantees sobriety.
It’s not an if, and, or but situation. Twelve-step recovery will 100% keep you sober. It’s that simple. It also guarantees that the obsession to use drugs or drink alcohol is removed. Again, this is only if its practiced like recovery literature lays out.
The price of 100% guaranteed sobriety is, as mentioned above, doing some uncomfortable things. Twelve-step recovery takes us out of our comfort zone and transports us to something much, much better. Still, it requires a period of intense discomfort.
So, to get back to the original question, is AA (NA, etc.) the only way to get sober? No. It’s the best though. It’s the only one that offers guaranteed sobriety.
Is twelve-step recovery right for you? Well, it depends. If taking direct and uncomfortable action, which results in sobriety, is right for you, then twelve-step recovery is right for you. If you’re not ready for that, then twelve-step recovery isn’t right for you.
It really is that simple.