A reader writes in and says “I hate AA but can’t stop drinking.”
This is more common than you think, actually. A lot of people do not like the program of AA and in fact, AA census data reveals that almost 80 percent of everyone who attends their first AA meeting will leave the program within a year and never return. So they are effectively saying that the program has an 80 percent drop out rate across the board. Now whether or not these people all “hate” AA is up for debate, but certainly they have rejected it as a recovery solution for themselves.
Bottom line here: Are there alternatives?
There are some alternatives out there, though probably none of them are as organized and widespread as AA. For example, there are many different religious based programs for recovery from alcoholism, but they are not going to have meetings in every city in the world like AA does.
And there are other programs of recovery that are not based on the 12 steps, such as Rational Recovery.
But you have to ask yourself at some point: what do I really need here? Do I need a program of recovery, or do I need some networking and support?
Nobody actually needs a program of recovery. That is a bold statement so let me explain.
Recovery is abstinence based. How can a person really screw that up? Do we really need a program that says “don’t use drugs and alcohol?” No we do not. We can all remember that one simple step.
All of these programs out there are a design for living. They are designed to produce a mental shift in the mind of the alcoholic so that they can live a better life and not resort to drinking. They are designed to help manage relationships so that the alcoholic does not live in anger and resentment all the time.
Do you really need a program of recovery for that? Probably not. But you might need some support to make it work in your life. Especially in early recovery.
After you have been sober for a few years, the emphasis on networking is greatly diminished. You should no longer need to rely on other people for your sobriety. But in early recovery, having support from other alcoholics is probably pretty important. Without it, you are going to be in greater danger of relapse.
Later in your recovery, you will do well to find a way to help others addicts and alcoholics. Do you need AA for that? Not necessarily. But you will have to find a way to connect.
Basically, AA is a shortcut that fills in some key needs for the recovering alcoholic. If you are going to do without AA, you still need to find ways to fill those needs. It is possible but you still have to put in a ton of effort and footwork for your sobriety.