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Why AA, NA & 12 Step Efforts Matter Far More than Professional Efforts

Lance & Zachary Dodes made news this week with their new book, The Sober Truth: Debunking the Bad Science Behind 12-Step Programs and the Rehab Industry. In my experience, Addictions professionals tend to fall into two camps regarding AA & NA

– Those of us who have profound respect for the work of 12 step programs and see it as infinitely more valuable than our work alone. – Those of us who have never attended a meeting, never read the literature, and are pissed off because 12 step programs are viewed as competition to their livelihood.

For Lance and Zachary Dodes to attack AA as “bad science” or as a form of treatment is simply a proud display of ignorance. 12 step programs are not based in scientific approaches. They’re based in spiritual principles and what’s been anecdotally proven to work for millions of people.

For all that has been said for and against 12 step programs, there are a few things conspicuously missing from the debate. First and foremost, the program is um, well, FREE. Yeah, they’re giving the stuff away. Now, can we compare that to…EVERYTHING ELSE designed to promote Recovery and sobriety?

Right. Nobody’s getting paid. We can’t say that of even the most altruistic of non profits.

Availability is the next missing issue in the debate. In greater Bangor for example, several meetings are available every day. You can attend morning, noon, evening, and even some late nights. You can hit a meeting all weekend long and on holidays they do extra ones! Let’s contrast this to the office hours of professionals.

Support is the biggest missing piece of the debate. Because I write so much about addiction and Recovery, most folks assume that I’m a Recovering addict or alcoholic. I’m not, but you know, I really would love to be a member of both AA & NA. I would love to know that I can show up unannounced and up to my ass in alligators and great people I’ve never even met in thousands of towns and cities throughout the country will welcome me with open arms.

When I attend a meeting (most often to celebrate the anniversary of sobriety for someone I care about) I introduce myself as a visitor. In so doing I am identifying that I am not a member. Yet I am consistently and enthusiastically welcomed. I am infinitely more at home and engaged in an AA or NA meeting than I have ever been amongst meetings of professionals in my field.

See, people in 12 step programs are REAL people. They’re the best kind of people. They’re people who are just like me – highly imperfect, carrying scars, working hard to get better, supporting each other fiercely and lovingly, laughing hard and fully living life.

Whatdya got that’s better than that?

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