Because I tend to advocate for creative, non traditional recovery solutions, people often ask me: “Do non 12 step recovery programs really work as well as AA and NA?”
My answer to that is “yes. They most definitely do work as well, but only if you put massive effort into them.”
Now here is the catch: AA and NA only work well when you put massive effort into them, too.
The bottom line is that it does not really matter what approach you use to stay clean and sober, so long as you are trying your guts out. The thing that keeps you clean and sober is not the mystical power of the steps or anything secretive like that–it is the “trying your guts out” part that does the trick.
About ten years ago I elected to drift away from AA and NA meetings in order to follow my own path in recovery. This consisted of a single idea and a single step:
“Don’t use drugs or alcohol, and take positive action every single day.”
To be more specific about it, I was going to simply push myself to keep making real growth in my life, outside of the 12 step program.
Why did I decide this?
Basically, I did it because the meetings were a colossal waste of my time. I found myself sitting in meetings every day, listening to the same stuff, over and over again. I happen to be a voracious learner and a fairly quick study. I memorized much of the literature and could quote it at will without really trying. I was good at writing and I was good at self exploration through writing in the steps. These things did not seem to help me much, though other people in AA meetings were saying that they were the key to their salvation in recovery.
What I found was that what worked for others did not necessarily work for me. I was not struggling to stay clean and sober, but I was pretty darn bored with the meeting circuit, sponsorship, and stepwork.
And so I decided to drift away from the fellowship and start doing my own thing.
I noticed a couple of key points in doing so as the years went by. (By the way, I left AA and NA over 9 years ago now, and I am still clean and sober to this day):
* Many of my heroes in the 12 step programs relapsed.
* Those who remain clean and sober seem to be those who are passionate about recovery. What program they use does not matter one bit.
* Intensity, passion, and dedication to recovery are what matter. If you make it work in AA, then you do so due to massive action. The steps themselves contain no mystery, no special power. The only success comes from hard work. Simply working the steps in a lazy fashion results in relapse.
* Many people in recovery branch out and drift away from 12 step programs, finding unique and personal ways to recover over the long haul.
* AA and NA is a self-reinforcing group. So the people who drift away and find success do not come back and brag about it. But the people in AA assume that they would, if they were successful. This is evidenced when they point out how “people always come back to AA after leaving and they relapse, saying how they never should have left.” But some do leave and find success. They just don’t tell AA about it.
* Many drift away from AA into religion. They find success, but do not return to try and convert others.
To each his own. You can recover with or without AA.
Either way, you have to work darn hard for it. That is the whole secret of recovery right there…..