Lately, I keep getting asked if Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) is the only path to recovery from alcohol and drug addiction. While AA has been the best solution to my former life of addictions, I honestly believe there are many other paths to recovery, just as much as I believe there are many paths to God.
I’ve frequently inquired those who’ve said AA didn’t work for them on why it didn’t. The answer has usually been the AA meetings are too boring, they’ve tried it before and it didn’t work, the meetings trigger them too much, or they don’t feel comfortable talking about the drug part of their addiction lives there. While my ego often wants to judge those answers, I know I can’t because I’ve experienced each of them at some point on my own journey to recovery from addiction. The fact is, AA may not be for everyone, but there are tons of other paths to follow to establish a life of recovery from addiction. Some are 12-Step based, some are spiritual-based and some are religious-based. And I mustn’t forget those who simply choose paths of recovery by devoting themselves to more selfless existences where volunteering at places of need become the center of their lives.
While I can only speak to how AA has successfully worked for me, I have personally met others where AA didn’t work, yet another program did. I had one sponsee once who just couldn’t put any length of time together of sobriety under my 12-Step AA guidance, but eventually they found a program called “Racing for Recovery” that totally changed their life. Now, they have several years of sobriety under their belt and a very strong program of recovery.
One of the places I find the most resistance to the AA 12-Step way of life lately is when I bring an AA meeting to the Toledo jail on Monday nights. Most of the guys there have suffered more from drug addiction than alcohol. While I’m actually supposed to be there only representing AA, I have chosen to open the meeting up to talk about any and all addictions, as well as any and all paths to recovery. Because frankly, what’s more important to me is helping every individual find the most suited path of recovery from addiction for them.
There were many years that I tried countless other paths of recovery. I tried other 12-Step programs like Narcotics Anonymous (NA). I tried immersing myself in meditation retreats and long hours of meditation sessions. I tried one religious path that included becoming a Deacon. And I tried another that involved chanting long hours of the day. None of them worked in the long run unfortunately, or maybe I should say fortunately, because it’s what ultimately led me to try AA. Today I attend two 12-Step programs, AA and SLAA. Each has kept me sober, balanced, and focused on recovery from two very former difficult addictions.
All in all, I really don’t think it’s for me to say what the best path is for recovery for anyone. I think that can only come by doing what I did, which is exploring ones that are suggested to finally find the one that works. I have to say though that if someone does not find any path of recovery from addiction after trying a good number of options out there, there’s a good chance they just haven’t found enough willingness yet to do the work necessary to be on ANY PATH to recovery.
And of course, there will always be those who say that remaining clean and sober is enough, but as Bill Wilson, the founder of AA once said, alcohol is but a symptom of a greater problem, which is precisely why I’m glad I finally found my own path of recovery, because I’m far healthier today than when I was a dry drunk and addict following no path of recovery.
The bottom line is that while AA may not be for everyone on the journey to recovery from addiction, I believe it’s crucial to find at least one path of recovery, because remaining clean and sober and doing nothing else usually only leaves a person as sick as they were when they were active in their addiction, or quite possibly even worse…
Peace, love, light, and joy,
Andrew Arthur Dawson