I believe that an alcoholic can achieve and maintain sobriety through self reliance, without participation in Alcoholics Anonymous. As a recovering alcoholic, I am familiar with the decision to quit drinking, the commitment to sobriety, and the resources available to assist one on his/her journey. Though I do accept that AA helps some tremendously, I have not found AA meetings helpful on my quest for ‘clean and sober’ and a saner, more productive life.
AA stresses slogans, spirituality, and a strong belief in God. Though I do believe in God and I do believe that practicing forms of spirituality can only enhance a balanced life, I do not perceive AA as having a ‘corner on this market.’ I love the Serenity Prayer (“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference”) as I find it a healthy tool for approaching life. I am also amused by a ‘take-off’ on this prayer which goes, “God, grant me the senility to forget the people I never liked anyway, the good fortune to run into the ones I do, and the eyesight to recognize the difference!”
Though there exists a wide variety of AA meetings, providing different approaches and emphases, the meetings are still run and attended by lay people, many who have no counseling experience. One can find volumes of good material proposing alternatives to AA. The resource I’ve found most helpful is Charlotte Kasl’s “Many Roads, One Journey.” For each person who purports “AA’s the only way,” I can identify alcoholic friends and family members who have remained sober without it. My closest friend’s young son, who went through treatment twice followed by probation and ’90 meetings in 90 days,’ hated AA and has now remained sober for five years. My brother-in-law, who also experienced AA-endorsed inpatient treatment, has been sober for 12 years without attending another meeting.
For some the repetition os slogans is helpful. For others it is monotonous and ineffective. AA is free, and for many that factor may be essential to their recovery. For those of us who are fortunate to possess health insurance and reasonable copays, a good therapist can be far more effective in understanding one’s individual needs and supporting their lifestyle changes.
The commitment to sobriety is very personal. Though one may turn to a higher power for assistance, one can also achieve one’s goal through sefl reliance. Spirituality is very idivividual, and a close recovering friend and/or and effective therapist can be far more supportive than an inept AA sponsor (which is what I had). I found it very hard to buy into AA’s Twelve Steps, which stressed shaming words like ‘humility, character defects, and shortcomings’, yet amazingly helpful to practice Kasl’s “Sixteen Steps For Discovery And Empowerment.” I believe there are effectibve secular approaches to sobriety, and that individual commitment far surpasses group support.
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