Day 113. Why does recovery have to look one way, as some programs will lead us to believe? Why can’t we do what works for us, our lives, our families? Are we less recovered if we don’t follow a certain protocol?
I often get asked what program I follow in my recovery. Am I a 12 step gal or is SMART Recovery more of my thing? Have I attended a Refuge Recovery meeting? etc. My answer is always the same…the program that I work is MINE. What this means is that I pull from all programs what works for me and leave the rest of the shit that doesn’t.
I recognize that I am in very early recovery and that there are many who are much more experienced and educated on this topic than I am. But this post serves as my opinion, based on my experiences.
AA is an international fellowship. It is based in 12 steps that help move and keep people in recovery. Their Big Book serves as a trusted guideline for navigating life without drugs or alcohol. This program has helped millions of people get sober. If you are one of those millions, awesome. WHATEVER it takes for you to live your best sober life is great. Work those steps, go to those meetings.
Butttttt, here’s the thing for me. When I was sober curious, I joined some Facebook groups and I asked about programs. I wanted to know what was out there and what worked for others. Oh BOY did I get an earful from the AA crowd. AA people are like Vegans and Cross Fitters- they are firm believers in what they do. They love to share their message and shame those who don’t believe. (OF COURSE these are all generalizations and do not apply to everyone in AA, every Vegan or every member of Cross Fit nation.)
When I reached out, people from the AA community had one message: get to a meeting or die. I am fucking serious. They told me that I was ignorant for considering any other path. They told me that my only solution was to get to a meeting- like, NOW. Order the Big Book and get to work. Um, WHAT? I did some digging and it seemed that I wasn’t the only one who thought this sounded a bit, um, cult-y.
This from DrugAbuse.com: ‘One of the keys to keeping cult members in line is to strip them of any personal power. As such, AA teaches that its members are powerless, weak and unprepared to take on the beast of addiction.’
Let me provide you with a real life example of this. I have a friend who is in recovery- about 5 months clean. She struggled with drugs and alcohol and fell hard. Her story has a low bottom. Or, really, a series of low bottoms. She did detox and rehab and is in now sober living. She is wise as fuck and deeply in touch with her soul in a way that amazes me. As she gets ready to transition out of sober living on into her own place, she is starting to doubt herself. Can she do this without all of these tools in place? What will she do/be without them having such a big part of her life? WHY is this intelligent, educated, bad ass human doubting herself? Because the program has told her over and over again that she can’t do it. Again from DrugAbuse. com, ‘Guilt and fear are powerful motivators for people in recovery. AA’s 12-step thinking instills a unique fear of the outside world. You’re programmed to believe that, if you leave the safety of the group or buck the rules, you’ll be shunned and destined to fail’.
I think the lower your bottom, the fewer options you have to get on your sober path. I was lucky to not have to go to detox. I was blessed to be able to stay put and make the same environment that made me sick the one that made me well. Not everyone can do that. I get that. But while AA has helped so many, people in AA still relapse. All. The. Time. People in AA die from their addictions too. Although I will recognize that AA’s long term success rate is higher than those of non- AA goers.
Let me be crystal clear, I am not suggesting that anyone give up what is working to keep them sober and living their best lives– I just think there are many ways to do that. THIS is the time in history to stand up and say NO when things don’t feel right to you and that is all I am doing here. AA doesn’t feel right to me. Will that change? Maybe. I reserve the right to transform at any point in my life. None of us know what’s coming down the line for us. I recognize and respect that.
For me, currently, I have a plethora of tools in my recovery toolbox that are not AA. (Although the whole ‘one day at a time’ message really does strike a chord with me.) My tools include: a therapist, family, friends in recovery, an online community, exercise, meditation, yoga and earth-based spirituality. I am also working on creating Sober Sister Circles for women to come and connect with each other in a very open-minded, safe space. These are the tools that feel right in my soul. Tools I believe will help me stay not only sober, but living in my light as the most authentic version of myself.
If any of this resonates with you, please know that there are MANY of us doing our own version of recovery and we’re here. We’re alive. And we’re sober as fuck.