AA and NA meetings have long been a staple of addiction recovery programs. In many ways they form the foundation of what has become the world of addiction treatment these days, and we have to credit those programs with launching what has become the recovery movement in the modern world. In many ways it was AA that really got the ball rolling in terms of helping addicts and alcoholics to find a new life.
However, that doesn’t mean that every person in recovery today should plant themselves in AA meetings every single day just because they were told to “keep coming back.” Recovery is more than AA, and some people are actually doing themselves a disservice by clinging to the daily meetings as their main “outlet” in recovery.
It may sound as if I am arguing against AA meetings, or suggesting that they should be avoided. This is not the case at all. What I am really saying is that having a dependency on daily AA meetings in the long run is not a good thing for some people, and I have seen it lead to relapse.
Can someone with multiple years sober still go to AA meetings and benefit from it? Sure. But at some point they are going in order to give back rather than to maintain their sobriety.
I would argue that if you absolutely need an AA meeting in order to maintain sobriety then you have missed something in terms of working your program. Nobody in long term recovery should be dependent on daily meetings to maintain abstinence.
That is not to say that you can completely quit going to all AA meetings and do nothing in your life to work any sort of program. You still have to push yourself in order to learn, to grow, and to progress in your recovery journey. All I am saying is that going to an AA meeting every single day should not be the one thing that determines your success in sobriety.
I can understand if you are dependent on daily meetings in your first year of sobriety. I get that. We need an awful lot of help and support when we are early in recovery. But later on we need to get to the point where we can spread our wings a bit and achieve some personal growth outside of the program as well.
Recovery is about living clean and sober, not about going to AA meetings every day. I think there are some people who come to equate sobriety with daily AA, and this pattern comes to define their recovery.
Now there are certainly exceptions to this. Take, for example, a homegroup that you have established in which the people who are share are actually holding each other accountable in terms of personal growth. So instead of just saying “I am here to help you remain sober” they are really saying “what are you working on this week in terms of personal growth? What have you accomplished since last week, and what are you planning for the coming week?” It is that push for personal growth that moves this into the realm of usefulness.
Most people who are attending AA meetings after a year or two are just sort of there to give back to the newcomer, but they are don’t really challenge themselves to make any real progress. They are just maintaining without really pushing themselves for anything. Which is another way of saying that they are stagnant, they are complacent. And complacency is a dangerous place to be in recovery.
So what I am really cautioning you against is not about going to AA meetings forever….that is not the issue. You can go to AA forever and there is no real danger in that. The danger is in complacency, in just showing up and telling the same story over and over again, and not really moving forward in your own growth experiences. That is the real danger, and I see a lot of people in AA who have been there for a long time and they are no longer pushing themselves to grow.
Finding a home group can be one solution to this, but you have to introduce the concept of personal accountability when it comes to personal growth. You need to find a way to use a meeting in a more active way, to challenge yourself and others to actually be pursuing personal growth, not just sitting around telling the same stories over and over again.
So I would challenge everyone who is reading this to really think about your recovery–not just whether you attend AA meetings or not, but if you might be a bit complacent lately in your approach to personal growth. What is your latest project in life, what are you seeking to learn about yourself, or what are you seeking to improve upon? If you don’t have any answers for those questions then you may be complacent in your recovery, and that is just too dangerous in terms of relapse potential.
The problem with addiction treatment is that eventually the disease of addiction is going to shift strategy and try to find a new way to get you to relapse. The solution for this cannot be static; it must be dynamic. Which means that whatever you were doing 6 months ago for your recovery is probably not good enough any longer; you must adapt and learn and grow and change if you want to stay ahead of your disease. Complacency means that you are just chugging along, doing the same things over and over for your recovery. Personal growth means that you are facing new challenges and finding new solutions.
If you are evaluating your meetings and whether or not they are helping your recovery, ask yourself this question: Are you finding new solutions by going to AA meetings? Certainly when you are new in recovery you are discovering several new things each and every meeting. You are learning very rapidly at first.
But after a while you start to hear the same things over and over again, and the value is starting to dwindle a bit. You want to keep challenging yourself to discover new solutions in life.
Successful addiction recovery is about adopting new and healthy habits in your life. Ask yourself when the last time you eliminated a bad habit or adopted a positive and healthy habit. If the answer is “it has been a long time” then you are too complacent in your recovery.
Successful treatment is all about finding positive solutions. Our old way was to self medicate and this led us to misery and chaos. The new paradigm in recovery is about finding new solutions that actually work for us. In order to do that we need to keep challenging ourselves and finding new information. You may get stuck in a rut if you are just going to the same exact meetings over and over, hearing the same people speak over and over, and not really challenging yourself or others to learn and to grow. This is the kind of complacency that you want to avoid in recovery.
So it is not about the meetings at all, really. It is only about the tendency to get complacent if you just keep going to the same meetings. So take an honest look at your program and at your life, and figure out if you need to light a spark under yourself to get moving again in terms of personal growth. This could be the wake up call that will help you to avoid relapse in the future. Help to secure your sobriety in the long run by adopting a policy of personal growth and self improvement for yourself.