Thursday, March 26, 2015

Nope, I'm not "bashing" AA and 12 steps

Funny week. I commented on Gabrielle Glaser's excellent piece about AA in The Atlantic.

Suddenly, Amazon sales for 'Lose the Booze' showed an unusual dip. Whoops. It seems like expressing an opinion that if AA works for you, you should stick with it, AND that if it does not work for you, there are other great paths to recovery, made some folks mad.

One star reviews from people who haven't read a book (or even seen it, I'm guessing in one case) are an occasional fact of bothering to write a book, these days. No harm, no-foul.

But wait, that's not enough. It turns out I'm now accused, in the form of a review, of "bashing AA" to sell books. I could sell far more books if I wrote one of those inspiration-a-day 'positive' books, or even invented a nifty workbook for step meetings.

 'Lose The Booze' is about following where the research leads and determining what evidence-based program will work for YOU to Lose The Booze. Or the drugs. Or the gambling habit. Or whatever is keeping you from being the best 'you' that you can be.

If the 12 step program works for you--that is, it makes it possible for you to achieve and maintain your sobriety goals--then 12-step is the perfect program for you. Keep doing what works for you!

My message, and I do admit that I repeat it every chance I get, is that you are not a failure if you are not among the 4% for whom AA works over the long haul. If you have failed to find long-term sobriety by using the traditional 12 step program, there are other tools in the modern recovery shed to get you out of failure, sober, secure, and on with your life.

If you are failing at 12 steps, it is time to look at other alternatives to support you in finding and maintaining a sober, sane, life.  There are options. SMART Recovery works for some. Harm reduction models, work for others. Women for Sobriety rocks for those who find resonance in their message. Cognitive behavioral therapy wins the research bake-off hands down. Want blinking lights and sound with your CBT? Maybe EMDR is the route for you.

There are also new tools to help you maintain your own commitment to sobriety. Soberlink is the latest tool we have added at North Star Guides, the recovery management monitoring and mentoring organization that I work for. Soberlink is a handheld device that allows real-time alcohol testing in a quick, easy, discreet way that keeps you accountable, rebuilds trust with family and colleagues, and makes a proven difference in relapse prevention. It's a real innovation in recovery monitoring, and even the AA folks hating on those who mention new treatments are using it, because Hazeldon/BettyFord does.

Again, 12 step programs are the perfect program for those who achieve long-term abstinence using 12 steps. But even the most enthusiastic step advocates generally agree that adding modern touches--like supportive therapy, coaching, sober lifestyle training, case management with accountability, Soberlink testing, and other tools--can amp up the odds that your 12-step program will remain successful for you over the long-term.

There are plenty of committed anti-12-step folks out there. If you're looking for someone who truly detests the 12 step model, Jack Trimpey and other people who have genuinely ugly words for AA have plenty of online sites for you to visit to share any anger you feel toward the program. Perhaps the AA folks could stop through those sites, if they need to see what bashing AA looks like.

My message, my reason for working in recovery, my motivation for writing the little book, Lose The Booze is that everyone with an alcohol problem deserves to find the right path for them, to a positive and genuinely sustainable place of sobriety, without shame, guilt, or the constant fear that you will fail.

I believe that we are all powerful, beautiful, and intelligent people who can benefit from decades of advances in research-based treatment alternatives.

I believe my clients and friends did their very best to work the AA program. I know that they are brave heroes for deciding to move on to other research-based, alternatives when they didn't achieve success with the steps. 

Isn't it wonderful that we have learned so much since 1935? We have new tools and methods that can help people achieve long-term victory over their substance abuse, even if they have failed in the past. That's great, and if you're angry about it, there's probably a step for you to loop back to for further examination.

Margaret Gold

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