Should I go to AA or NA meetings?

Should I go to AA or NA meetings?


A reader writes in and asks: “Should I go to AA or NA meetings?”

If you think that they might be for you, or even if you are not sure on what you need to do for your recovery, then I would suggest that people in early recovery go to some meetings.  Now when you go to meetings you will notice that you become part of a self selecting group, and that the people there in the meetings tend to see them as the only possible solution for recovery.  It can become a bit cult-like in that the popular line of thinking is that anyone who stops going to meetings is going to relapse and die.  That is a very common viewpoint that you will hear over and over again if you keep attending meetings.

In reality, this is a fear based response that comes from the fact that it is a self selecting group.  What that means is that people in AA and NA meetings never hear about the success stories from people who leave the program and find other ways to stay clean.  They never hear those stories because those of us who have left and found success by other means have not bothered to go back to meetings and tell them.  It would be a bit rude and arrogant and uninvited to do so, and so people just don’t do it.  But people do leave the fellowship all the time and many of them relapse and many of them stay clean and sober.

Alcoholics Anonymous - Keep Coming Back
Creative Commons License photo credit: Chris Yarzab

Likewise, you will also note that many people who stay in the fellowship continue to relapse over and over again. And of course, many of them stay clean and sober as well.

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Does this mean that you should not go to meetings?  No…it just means that you should not rely on them as being your ultimate solution as you stay clean and sober.  If they start you out in early recovery with a strong foundation of support then that is great.  But if you are in a position at 3 years clean and sober where you will relapse if you stop going to meeting, then you are doing something wrong.  you should not depend on 12 step meetings for your sobriety.  If you follow any kind of program of recovery or push yourself to grow in any way then you should progress beyond a dependency on meetings.

So if you are struggling to find sobriety, by all means, go to meetings.  Just remember to keep pushing yourself to grow in recovery and not to get stuck in a pattern.

Meetings are not your ultimate answer in recovery.  They will not save you from yourself.  You still have to put in the work of doing soul searching, pushing yourself to grow, and so on.  That is why you hear people in meetings say “The answer is in the steps” but not necessarily in coming to meetings every single day.

Group therapy without action is nothing.  You have to put in the effort.


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