I was having lunch with a friend last week and we were discussing AA. Rather, we were talking about the chatter on the internet and the press about how AA and 12-Step programs do not work. My friend has done a lot of research about addictions and mental health, and I wanted to get his thoughts on the statistics I kept hearing – that AA only works for about 5% of the people. His response was, “AA is not treatment. Let me repeat, AA is NOT treatment. AA is NOT TREATMENT. This get’s me so angry – AA IS NOT TREATMENT!” OK, I get it. AA is a Fellowship. AA is a support network of like-minded individuals. AA is a great place to follow-up AFTER treatment. AA is NOT TREATMENT. The other night, I read an article in Forbes titled, “Inside the $35 Billion Addiction Treatment Industry” – contributed by Dan Munro, and there was a quote from Lance Dodes, MD that states, “Almost all residential treatment programs in the United States are 12-Step based, so their effectiveness will depend entirely on whether 12-Step programs work and the statistics for AA are not good. It is helpful 5 – 10% and that’s a good thing.” AA is not treatment. But saying that AA does not work is WRONG! It’s like saying that going to the gym to get fit doesn’t work. We know that it does for some. There is a saying in AA that, “It works if you work it.” Same with the gym. Some folks have the fanciest work-out clothes, but they go to the gym to socialize. They never break a sweat. Are we saying the gym doesn’t work? You can’t stay fit if you don’t go to the gym? Or is going to the gym a waste of time?! I know people who stay fit by climbing mountains. Some folks like to run – on a track, the side of the road, a treadmill. Some people swim for exercise. Some watch programs on their TV’s and exercise at home. Do we then say that people who are swimmers are doing it wrong? Do we say that the Cross-Fit rage is the ONLY way to get in shape? There are some folks who HATE to exercise. Do we say that it’s exercises fault for not growing with the times, and that gyms just don’t work? No – we leave them alone to suffer the health consequences of their actions (or inactions, if you will!) I know, I know. It’s different for those using drugs and alcohol. Families involved. Impaired drivers having accidents and killing someone. People die. That discussion is for another blog. What I’m saying is that we all have a choice. I have been in and around 12-step programs for over 28 years. I have worked in the addictions and behavioral health field for 20 years. I have seen many, many people get and remain sober. I’ve seen people come into a 12-step program, stay for a while, and chose to use again. I’ve also seen folks give the 12-steps a try, discover it’s not for them, leave, and stay sober!! Some go to church. Some follow-up with therapy or psychiatrists. Some exercise, eat right, get plenty of sleep, and work on their relationships. Whatever works for them! I’m saying that there isn’t one way to get sober. Or get fit. Or climb a mountain! Find what works for you. We know healthy is better than not healthy. And sober is probably better than not sober. How you get there is your choice.
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