Can you actually stay sober without AA? Absolutely! AA is only of many ways to achieve and maintain sobriety. In fact, AA has a pretty dismal success rate. Addiction treatment professionals peg its average long-term effectiveness (meaning maintaining sobriety with no relapses for at least one full year) at somewhere between 8 and 12 percent. This is terrible and probably not much better than no program at all. Many people have indeed managed to defeat an addiction and maintain sobriety on their own for many years. True, this is not the norm. Most people will need help to quit, especially for drugs with severe withdrawal syndromes like the opioids. For sure, stopping even a 30-milligram daily oxycodone habit would produce powerful withdrawal symptoms that most people simply couldn’t endure. Higher addiction levels would be far worse and even more difficult to withstand.
AA isn’t for everyone. If you decide after reading this article that it’s not for you, either, there is nothing wrong with that. There are plenty of alternatives and many, many treatment facilities offer these alternatives. Some of them offer AA but don’t force participation in it because they also offer other programs. Others will compel you to participate in their AA program whether you want to or not. If you don’t like the principles of AA, look for rehabs that won’t make you attend their meetings if you don’t want to or better yet, don’t offer AA at all.
The 12 Steps
AA is based on a foundation of 12 escalating steps. It starts out with Step One, where you must admit that your life has become unmanageable because of your alcohol or drug use. This part is acceptable because if you’re addicted to drugs or alcohol, this is almost certainly a fact. Next, you must appeal to your higher power to help you get sober. This requires turning over control of your life to your higher power, although you are allowed to define the term higher power any way you wish. It could be Jesus Christ, Allah, Buddah, Ra the sun god, a pineapple or the neighbor’s Abbysinian cat.
What’s a Thirteenth Stepper?
Many people have a problem with turning over this control. They feel that while their higher power could help them, it’s still within their own will and power to change their lives. After you have renounced control over your life, the following steps will require you to admit your faults, list every person you ever wronged due to your drug or alcohol use and make amends to such persons, unless doing so would cause even more harm. AA will provide you with a preferably same-sex sponsor and worksheets to help you work the 12 steps. Opposite-sex sponsors are discouraged or even prohibited in some groups. This is thought to avoid a situation with a “thirteenth stepper,” a derogatory term for an established AA member of the opposite sex, usually a male, who makes it a habit to prey on new and vulnerable female members for purposes of emotional, financial and more commonly, sexual exploitation.
Your sponsor must be a member is good standing and who has already completed the steps. AA gives out chips for varying periods of sobriety, for example, thirty days, six months, a year and so on. These chips are highly prized by members. It’s understandable, though. Sobriety is definitely something to be proud of.
The last step calls for you to carry the AA message out into the world. In other words, to help others with their addiction.
Problems with AA
AA is highly judgmental when it comes to MAT or medication-assisted treatment. They do not believe in using any kind of medication to help you stay sober, even though statistics tell us these drugs do work. In fact, many opioid addicts cannot feel normal without them. This is probably due to permanent changes in their brains that occurred as a result of long-term exposure to powerful opioids. Even CBD, which isn’t psychoactive, is prohibited. If you’re using THC in any form for pain, anxiety, insomnia or what have you, you can forget it. It’s not allowed.
However, in a highly curious duality, AA has no problem with tobacco. You can puff away all you like, suck in some 4000-plus toxic chemicals, expose your brain to the highly addictive nicotine, and it’s perfectly acceptable. It just makes no sense, but that’s AA.
You will also be required to participate in the group and talk about intimate and painful details of your life in front of strangers. Not everyone is comfortable with this, either.
Do you Need Help?
There are a myriad of ways to get sober and stay that way. AA is only one of many options. Call us anytime at 954-523-1167 for hope and help finding AA groups or other treatment options available in your area. We’re here to help.